Zion’s Rock-Solid Foundations

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Oudtestamentische Studiën
Old Testament Studies
published on behalf of the Societies for
Old Testament Studies in the Netherlands and
Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom
and Ireland
Editor
B. Becking
Utrecht
Editorial Board
H.G.M. Williamson
Oxford
H.F. Van Rooy
Potchefstroom
M. Vervenne
Leuven
VOLUME 54
dekker_f1_prelims.indd ii 2/12/2007 4:10:56 PM
Zion’s Rock-Solid Foundations
An Exegetical Study of the Zion Text
in Isaiah 28:16
by
Jaap Dekker
LEIDEN • BOSTON
2007
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Translated by Brian Doyle with financial support from the
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dekker, Jaap.
[Rotsvaste fundering van Sion. English]
Zion’s rock-solid foundations : an exegetical study of the Zion text in Isaiah 28:16 /
by Jaap Dekker.
p. cm. — (Oudtestamentische Studiën, ISSN 0169-7226 ; 54)
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15665-4 (hard : alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 90-04-15665-8 (hard : alk. paper) 1. Bible. O.T. Isaiah XXVIII, 16—
Criticism, interpretation, etc. I. Title. II. Series.
BS1515.52.D4513 2007
224'.106—dc22
2006050012
ISSN 0169-7226
ISBN 978 90 04 15665 4
Copyright 2007 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing,
IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored
in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written
permission from the publisher.
Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by
Brill provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to
The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive,
Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA.
Fees are subject to change.
printed in the netherlands
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CONTENTS
Foreword ..................................................................................... ix
List of Abbreviations .................................................................. xiii
Chapter 1. Introduction ............................................................. 1
1.1. Situating the issue ............................................................ 1
1.2. Relevance ......................................................................... 2
1.3. Goals and methodology .................................................. 6
Chapter 2. The Zion Text of Isaiah 28:16 in the History of
Exegesis ...................................................................................... 9
2.1. Introduction ..................................................................... 9
2.2. Septuagint ........................................................................ 11
2.3. New Testament ................................................................ 13
2.3.1. Romans 9:32b –33 and 10:11 ............................... 13
2.3.2. 1 Peter 2:6 ............................................................. 17
2.3.3. Evaluation ............................................................... 22
2.4. Judaism ............................................................................ 24
2.4.1. Qumran ................................................................. 25
2.4.2. Targum .................................................................. 28
2.4.3. Talmud .................................................................. 30
2.4.4. Evaluation ............................................................. 33
2.5. Early Church ................................................................... 34
2.5.1. The Letter of Barnabas ....................................... 34
2.5.2. Tertullian and Cyprian ......................................... 37
2.5.3. Jerome and Augustine ........................................... 40
2.5.4. Cyril and Theodoret ............................................. 45
2.5.5. Evaluation ............................................................. 47
2.6. Middle Ages .................................................................... 48
2.7. Reformation .................................................................... 51
2.8. Modern biblical research ................................................ 54
2.8.1. The future kingdom of God ................................ 56
2.8.2. The new Israel ...................................................... 56
2.8.3. The true religion of yhwh ................................... 57
2.8.4. The new temple / new Zion ................................ 58
2.8.5. Metaphorical interpretation ................................. 58
2.8.6. The existing temple / Zion .................................. 59
2.9. Conclusions ....................................................................... 60
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Chapter 3. The Literary and Historical Context of the Zion
Text of Isaiah 28:16 ............................................................... 65
3.1. Introduction ..................................................................... 65
3.2. Colometric subdivision of Isaiah 28 .............................. 66
3.3. Pericope delineation within Isaiah 28 ............................ 73
3.4. Isaiah 28:14–22 as original unity ................................... 78
3.5. Isaiah 28:14–22 as Isaianic prophecy ............................. 83
3.6. Dating Isaiah 28:14–22 ................................................... 86
3.7. Dating the reign of Hezekiah ......................................... 90
3.8. Hezekiah’s revolt and Sennacherib’s campaign ............. 94
Excursus 1: Prophetic historiography in 2 Kings
18–19 ............................................................................. 101
Chapter 4. Exegesis of Individual Pericopes within Isaiah 28
and their Reciprocal Relationships ........................................ 109
4.1. Introduction ..................................................................... 109
4.2. Isa. 28:14–22 ................................................................... 110
4.2.1. Isa. 28:14–15: Complaint ..................................... 112
4.2.2. Isa. 28:16: Salvation-historical retrospective ........ 124
4.2.3. Isa. 28:17a: The benchmarks of justice ............... 144
4.2.4. Isa. 28:17b–18: Actual announcement of
judgement ............................................................. 147
4.2.5. Isa. 28:19–21: Twofold conclusion to the
announcement of judgement ............................... 153
4.2.6. Isa. 28:22: Exhortation ......................................... 163
Excursus 2: The ‘covenant with death’ and
necromancy ....................................................... 166
4.3. Isa. 28:7–13 ..................................................................... 177
4.3.1. Isa. 28:7–8: Accusation ......................................... 177
4.3.2. Isa. 28:9–10: Rejoinder ........................................ 182
4.3.3. Isa. 28:11–13: Announcement of judgement ...... 189
4.4. Evaluation ........................................................................ 197
4.5. Isa. 28:1–6 and 28:23–29 ............................................... 203
4.5.1. Isa. 28:1–6: Prophecy of judgement and promise
of salvation ............................................................ 204
4.5.2. Isa. 28:23–29: Prophetic instruction .................... 218
4.5.3. Evaluation ............................................................. 234
vi contents

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Chapter 5. The Place and Function of Isaiah 28:14–22 in the
Context of Isaiah 28–33 ........................................................ 243
5.1. Introduction ..................................................................... 243
5.2. Isaiah 28–33 as a redactional unit ................................. 245
5.2.1. Structural cohesion ............................................... 245
5.2.2. Content based cohesion ........................................ 249
5.2.2.1. Themes .................................................... 249
5.2.2.2. Metaphors ................................................ 255
5.2.3. Evaluation ............................................................. 257
5.3. Isaiah 28 as overture ....................................................... 258
5.4. Isaiah 28:14–22 as key text and guide ........................... 262
Chapter 6. The Zion Text of Isaiah 28:16 and the Zion
Tradition in Isaiah .................................................................. 265
6.1. Introduction ..................................................................... 265
6.2. Zion in the first part of the book of Isaiah (1–39) ........ 266
6.3. Results of the exegesis of the Zion text of Isaiah
28:16 ................................................................................ 275
6.4. The place of the Zion tradition in the preaching of
Isaiah ............................................................................... 282
6.4.1. Research into the Zion tradition .......................... 283
6.4.1.1. Identification of an independent Zion
tradition ................................................... 283
6.4.1.2. The Zion tradition and the Jebusite
cultic tradition ......................................... 299
6.4.1.3. The Zion tradition and the Ark
tradition ................................................... 303
6.4.1.4. The Zion tradition as a specifically
Israelite election tradition ........................ 317
6.4.2. Further research into the Zion preaching of
Isaiah ..................................................................... 318
6.4.2.1. Isaiah and the Zion tradition .................. 318
6.4.2.2. Zion and Isaiah’s preaching of judgement
and salvation ............................................ 325
contents vii
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Chapter 7. Summary and Conclusions ..................................... 339
1. The Zion Text of Isa. 28:16 in the Septuagint, the
New Testament and Judaism .......................................... 339
2. The Zion Text of Isa. 28:16 in the History of
Interpretation ................................................................... 340
3. The Zion Text of Isa. 28:16 in its Literary and
Historical Context ........................................................... 342
4. Exegetical Conclusions with Respect to the Zion Text
of Isa. 28:16 .................................................................... 343
5. The Covenant with Death .............................................. 345
6. Isa. 28:14–22 in the Context of Isaiah 28 and Isaiah
28–33 ............................................................................... 346
7. Zion in Isaiah 1–39 ......................................................... 347
8. Research into the Zion Tradition and its Origins .......... 348
9. Isaiah and the Zion Tradition ........................................ 349
10. Zion and Isaiah’s Preaching of Judgement and
Salvation .......................................................................... 351
Appendix: The Zion text of Isaiah 28:16 and the New
Testament ................................................................................ 355
Bibliography ................................................................................ 367
Index of Authors ........................................................................ 391
Index of Biblical Texts ............................................................... 397
viii contents
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FOREWORD
In the prologue to his Latin translation of the book of Isaiah, Jerome
writes: “Isaiah deserves to be called an evangelist more than a prophet.
He offers such a clear description of all the mysteries of Christ and
the Church that one would think he was writing about recent history
rather than prophesying about the future.”
1
For the same reason, the
book of the prophet Isaiah came to be referred to in later centuries
as the fifth gospel. If one bears in mind the significant place the book
has enjoyed since New Testament times in both Christian preaching
and Christian art, the aforementioned qualification is understandable
in every respect.
2
With the possible exception of the book of Psalms,
no other Old Testament book has provided such inspiration for our
reflection on the gospels and our understanding of the works of Jesus
Christ than that of Isaiah. Jesus’ allusion to the scribe, trained for the
kingdom of heaven, who brings out of his treasure what is new and
what is old (see Mt. 13:52), certainly applies in equal measure to the
book of Isaiah. The treasures to be found in the book and the prophetic
preaching that forms its foundations serve as a guarantee that those
who devote themselves to the study of Isaiah are sure to encounter the
Lord and his wondrous deeds.
The present study focuses its attention on the statement referring to
the ‘stone in Zion’ to be found in Isa. 28:16. The statement represents
just one of many drawn from the book of Isaiah that came to enjoy
an important place in New Testament preaching by being brought
into association with the advent of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 9:32b–33;
10:11 and 1 Pet. 2:6). In the first instance, however, our research will
address the interpretation of Isa. 28:16 in its Old Testament context.
Employing this Zion statement as point of access, I have endeavoured
to establish a picture of the prophetic preaching of Isaiah and the place
ascribed to Zion therein.
1
See B. Fischer et al. (eds.), Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, Stuttgart 1994
4
,
p. 1096: “Deinde etiam hoc adiciendum, quod non tam propheta dicendus sit quam
evangelista. Ita enim universa Christi Ecclesiaeque mysteria ad liquidum persecutus
est, ut non eum putes de futuro vaticinari, sed de praeteritis historiam texere.”
2
Cf. J.F.A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel. Isaiah in the History of Christianity, Cambridge
1996.
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Given the fact that available literature on the book of Isaiah is vir-
tually endless and that my study thereof had to run parallel with my
other daily activities, the present research project has been roughly ten
years in the making. While there were difficult moments during this
period, when it appeared that my research was stagnating, hindsight
reveals that these were moments of genuine maturation. With gratitude
to God for the gift of health and strength, however, I am now able to
present the results of my research in the awareness “that no prophecy of
scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came
by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
(2 Pet. 1:20–21 NRSV) The same can be said with respect to the ref-
erence to the ‘stone in Zion’ in Isa. 28:16. My exegetical research has
its roots in a desire to understand this word of God concerning Zion,
which later came to be of such significance for the church. Grounded
in a tradition that endeavours to hold theology and church community,
academic study and preaching in close relationship with one another,
I genuinely hope that the present volume, including those passages
where I have been obliged at times to call the traditional interpreta-
tion of Isa. 28:16 into question, does not merely represent my ‘own
interpretation’, and I hope that it will ultimately be of service to the
continuing witness of the church.
A number of individuals deserve recognition for their unfailing sup-
port during the years of research and writing. Particular gratitude is due
to my respected teacher and promoter, H.G.L. Peels, who guided the
entire process with kindness and expertise. While my enthusiasm for the
Old Testament, and for the prophetic literature in particular, was first
aroused under the watchful eye of the late B.J. Oosterhoff, his successor
Prof. Peels was ultimately responsible for ensuring that this enthusiasm
was sustained and that my research could bear its present fruit under
his tutelage. Without the stimulating discussions that nourished the
genesis and evolution of the present work, I would not have been able
to muster the necessary courage to stay on track, especially when faced
with often lengthy interruptions. The willingness of W.A.M. Beuken,
an internationally renowned authority on the book of Isaiah, to serve
as the co-promoter of my dissertation came as a pleasant surprise and
an added bonus. His valued contribution and amicable engagement in
the final phase of this study served to expedite its completion consider-
ably. On January 23rd, 2004, my dissertation was defended cum laude
at Apeldoorn Theological University.
K.R. Veenhof and M.C. Mulder deserve recognition for their will-
ingness to read and comment on a number of passages from the per-
x foreword
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spective of their own field of specialisation (Veenhof for the material
relating to Hezekiah and Sennacherib’s military campaign, Mulder for
the material relating to the interpretation of Isa. 28:16 in the Targum
and the Talmud, together with the appendix on the Zion text of Isa.
28:16 in the New Testament). I am likewise grateful to J. Hoftijzer and
J.P. Lettinga for the linguistic observations they provided during the
early stages of my research.
Particular gratitude is due to H. de Jong, my teacher and predecessor
at the Theological Study Advice Service, for his willingness to review
my exegesis and refine it with his critical observations. (The Theological
Study Advice Service, Theologische Studiebegeleiding —TSB, has
recently been transformed into a theological seminary for the Dutch
Reformed Churches and is accommodated at Apeldoorn Theological
University.) De Jong also deserves thanks for the fact that his courses
were ultimately responsible for convincing me of the importance of
‘Zion’ as one of the two core salvific themes in the Old Testament (the
other being ‘David’). The recent publication of this material (Van oud naar
nieuw. De ontwikkelingsgang van het Oude naar het Nieuwe Testament, Kampen
2002) has facilitated reference thereto in the present publication.
My work on the present publication would not have been possible
without the willingness of the church council and community of the
Dutch Reformed Churches in Nijverdal and Amstelveen to grant me
an annual period of study leave. Given the fact that research, preach-
ing and the preparation of lectures were not always easy to combine,
I came to depend on these moments of freedom from other duties to
focus on research. I am also grateful to the Board of Trustees of the
TSB and to my colleagues for affording me extra liberty to concentrate
on the completion of my work.
For translating this present study into English I wish to thank B.
Doyle (K.U. Leuven). His work was carried out with considerable care
and he was always more than willing to improve my often amateurish
suggestions in achieving a readable text. Furthermore, the success of
this project was also partly due to the substantial financial support made
available from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
(NWO). I also feel sincerely privileged that the editors of Oudtestamentische
Studiën (OTS) were willing to accept my study in their renowned series,
and that Brill was willing to offer their professional services in the
publication of this book.
The primary environment that was necessary for my work was ulti-
mately created by my wife Gerda. Her selfless care and engagement
on behalf of our growing family made it possible for me to devote
foreword xi
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myself to study. The knowledge that we could also rely on the practical
support of our parents, especially during the more hectic moments at
home and at work, likewise provided for some welcome moments of
rest and relaxation. Our children Jolanda, Irene, Pieter Dirk and Henri
each in their own way expressed an interest in the ‘book’ their father
was writing, although it may have taken up more of his time than they
would have preferred. We share the joy of completing this work as a
family and with all who are close to us.
Amstelveen, October 2006
xii foreword
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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
The list provided has made use where possible of the collection of
abbreviations found in S.M. Schwertner in Theologische Realenzyklopädie.
Abkürzungsverzeichnis, Berlin-New York 1994
2
.
AB Analecta Bruxellensia, Brussels
ACEBT Amsterdamse Cahiers voor Exegese en Bijbelse Theologie,
Kampen
AfO.B Archiv für Orientforschung, Beiheft, Graz
AnB The Anchor Bible, New York
AnBib Analec tica Biblica, Rome
AJSL American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures,
Chicago
AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Kevelaer-Neukirchen
ATD Das Alte Testament Deutsch, Göttingen
BA The Biblical Archaeologist, New Haven
BASOR Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research,
Jerusalem-Baghdad-New Haven
BAT Die Botschaft des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart
BBB Bonner Biblische Beiträge, Weinheim
BEThL Bibliotheca Epheme ri dum Theologicarum Lovaniensium,
Leuven
BEvTh Beiträge zur Evangelischen Theologie, Munich
BHK Biblia Hebraica Kittel, 3rd

edition
BHS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
BHTh Beiträge zur Historischen Theologie, Tübingen
Bib. Biblica. Commentarii periodici ad rem biblicam scienti-
fice investigandam, Rome
BibOr Biblica et Orientalia, Rome
BJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Manchester
BKAT Biblischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament, Neukirchen
BN Biblische Notizen. Beiträge zur exegetischen Diskussion,
Bamberg
BOT De Boeken van het Oude Testament, Roermond
BrSyn C. Brockelmann, Hebräische Syntax, Neukirchen 1956
BS Bibliotheca Sacra, London
BTB Biblical Theology Bulletin, Jamaica
dekker_f1_prelims.indd xiii 2/12/2007 4:10:58 PM
BWANT Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament,
Stuttgart
BZ Biblische Zeitschrift, Paderborn
BZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissen-
schaft, Berlin
CNEB Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible,
Cambridge
CB.OT Coniectanea Biblica —Old Testament Series, Lund
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Washington, D.C.
CChr.SL Corpus Christianorum—Series Latina, Turnhout
COHP Contributions to Oriental History and Philology of the
Columbia University, New York
CRBS Currents in Research: Biblical Studies, Sheffield
DCH D.J.A. Clines et al. (eds.), The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew,
Sheffield 1993ff
DDD K. van der Toorn et al. (eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons
in the Bible, Leiden 1999
2
EB Études Bibliques, Paris
EdF Erträge der Forschung, Darmstadt
EeT Eglise et Theologie, Paris
ET The Expository Times, Edinburgh
EThL Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniences, Leuven
EvTh Evangelische Theologie, Munich
FAT Forschungen zum Alten Testament, Tübingen
FZB Forschung zur Bibel, Würzburg
FOTL The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, Grand Rapids
FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und
Neuen Testaments, Göttingen
Fs Festschrift
GAT Grundrisse zum Alten Testament. Das Alte Testament
Deutsch, Ergänzungsreihe, Göttingen
GKG E. Kautzsch et al., Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Oxford 1910
2
GrTS Grazer Theologische Studien , Graz
HAHAT R. Meyer et al., Wilhelm Gesenius Hebräisches und Aramäisches
Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 18. Auflage, Berlin
1987ff
HALAT L. Köhler, W. Baumgartner and J. Stamm, Hebräisches und
Aramäisches Lexikon zum Alten Testament, Leiden 1967–1996
HAR Hebrew Annual Review, Columbus, Ohio
HBS Herders Biblische Studien, Freiburg
xiv list of abbreviations
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HCOT Historical Commentary on the Old Testament, Leuven
HSAT Die Heilige Schrift des Alten Testamentes, Bonn
HSM Harvard Semitic Monographs, Cambridge
HThKAT Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament,
Freiburg
HThR Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge
HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual, Cincinnati, Ohio
IDS In die Skriflig, Potchefstroom
Interp. Interpretation. A Journal of Bible and Theology, Richmond,
VA
IntBCTP Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and
Preaching, Louisville
JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society, Baltimore
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature, Philadelphia
JES Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Philadelphia
JETS Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Wheaton
J-M P. Joüon & T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew I–II,
SubBi 14/I–II, Rome 1991
JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Chicago
JNWSL Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, Leiden
JPOS Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, Jerusalem
JRT Journal of Religious Thought, Washington, D.C.
JSJ Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic
and Roman Period, Leiden
JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Sheffield
JSOT.S Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement
Series, Sheffield
JSNT.S Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement
Series, Sheffield
JSP Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Sheffield
JSP.S Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Supplement
Series, Sheffield
JSSt Journal of Semitic Studies, Manchester
JThS The Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford
KAT Kommentar zum Alten Testament, Leipzig
KBL L. Köhler & W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti
libros, Leiden 1985
KHC Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament, Tübingen
KTU M. Dietrich et al., Die keilalphabetische Texte aus Ugarit, AOAT
24, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1976
list of abbreviations xv
dekker_f1_prelims.indd xv 2/12/2007 4:10:58 PM
KVHS Korte Verklaring der Heilige Schrift, Kampen
LXX Septuagint
MSSNTS Monograph Series—Society for New Testament Studies,
Cambridge
MT Masoretic Text
MThA Münsteraner Theologische Abhandlungen, Altenberge
NBG Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap, Haarlem
NCBC The New Century Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids
NEB Neue Echter Bibel, Würzburg
NICOT New International Commentary on the Old Testament,
London
NSKAT Neuer Stuttgarter Kommentar Altes Testament, Stuttgart
NT.S Novum Testamentum, Supplements, Leiden
NTS New Testament Studies, Cambridge
OBO Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, Freiburg
OTL Old Testament Library, London
OTS Oudtestamentische Studiën, Leiden
PCC.PG J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Patrologiae Graecae,
Paris
PEQ Palestine Exploration Quarterly, London
PJ Palästinajahrbuch des Deutschen Evangelischen Instituts für
Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes zu Jerusalem,
Berlin
POT De Prediking van het Oude Testament, Nijkerk
PThMS Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series, Pittsburgh
RB Revue Biblique, Paris
REJ Revue des Études Juives, Paris
RHPhR Revue d’Histoire et de Philosophie Religieu ses, Strasbourg
RNBC Readings: A New Biblical Commentary, Sheffield
RdQ Revue de Qumran, Paris
(N)RSV (New) Revised Standard Version
SAT Die Schriften des Alten Testaments in Auswahl, Göttingen
SBB Stuttgarter Biblische Beiträge, Stuttgart
SBL.SPS Society of Biblical Literature—Seminar Papers Series,
Missoula
SBS Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, Stuttgart
SBT Studies in Biblical Theology, London
ScrB Scripture Bulletin, Birmingham
SDPI Schriften des Deutschen Palästina-Instituts, Gütersloh
xvi list of abbreviations
dekker_f1_prelims.indd xvi 2/12/2007 4:10:58 PM
SHCANE Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near
East, Leiden
SJOT Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, Åarhus
SJT Scottish Journal of Theology, Edinburgh
StANT Studien zum Alten und Neuen Testament, Munich
StTh Studia Theologica. Scandinavian Journal of Theology,
Lund
STL Studia Theologica Lundensia, Lund
StrB H.L. Strack & P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament
aus Talmud und Midrasch, Band I–IV, Munich 1926–1928
SubBi Subsidia Biblica, Rome
TA Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv
TBST The Bible Speaks Today, Leicester
TB Theologische Bücherei. Nachdrücke und Berichte aus dem
20. Jahrhundert, Munich
THAT E. Jenni & C. Westermann (eds.), Theologisches Handwörterbuch
zum Alten Testament, 2 volumes, Munich 1978
3
and 1979
2

(first edition: 1971 and 1976 resp.)
ThLZ Theologische Literaturzeitung, Leipzig
ThSt Theologische Studien, Zurich
TR Theologia Reformata, Woerden
ThR Theologische Rundschau, Tübingen
TRE Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Berlin
TTh Tijdschrift voor Theologie, Nijmegen
TTZ Trierer Theologische Zeitschrift, Trier
TWAT G.J. Botterweck & H. Ringgren (eds.), Theologisches Wörter-
buch zum Alten Testament, Stuttgart 1970–2000
TWNT G. Kittel (ed.), Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament,
Stuttgart 1933–1979
TynB Tyndale Bulletin, London
TZ(W) Theologische Zeitschrift, Vienna
UF Ugarit-Forschungen, Neukirchen
VF Verkündigung und Forschung. Beiheft zu Evangelische
Theolog ie, Munich
VIKJ Veröffentlichungen aus dem Institut Kirche und Judentum,
Berlin
VL De Voorzeide Leer, Barendrecht
VR Vox Reformata. Faculty of the Reformed Theological
College, Geelong, Victoria
list of abbreviations xvii
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VT Vetus Testamentum, Leiden
VT.S Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, Leiden
VWGT Veröffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für
Theologie, Gütersloh
WA D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Weimar
WBC World Biblical Commentary, Waco
WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen
Testament, Neukirchen
WStB Wuppertaler Studienbibel, Wuppertal
WTJ Westminster Theological Journal, Philadelphia
WuD Wort und Dienst, Jahrbuch der Theologischen Schule
Bethel, Bielefeld
WUNT Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament,
Tübingen
ZAH Zeitschrift für Althebräistik, Stuttgart
ZAW Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin
ZBK Zürcher Bibelkommentare, Zurich
ZDMG Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft,
Wiesbaden
ZDPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, Wiesbaden
ZNW Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin
ZRGG Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, Cologne
ZThK Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, Tübingen
1QIs
a
First Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 of Qumran
1QIs
b
Second Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 Qumran

xviii list of abbreviations
dekker_f1_prelims.indd xviii 2/12/2007 4:10:59 PM
CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1. Situating the issue
No other biblical book ascribes such a prominent place to the theme of
‘Zion’ than the book of Isaiah. Any endeavour to provide a reasonable
explanation for this fact is obliged to presume that its inspiration must
ultimately be sought in the original preaching of the prophet Isaiah
himself. While it remains difficult for the exegete to establish a precise
distinction between the prophet’s original preaching and the work of
later redactors, it is likewise unimaginable that Zion would have been
afforded such prominence in the present canonical form of the book
of Isaiah if it had not been occasioned by Isaiah of Jerusalem himself.
Old Testament scholars tend to share this hypothesis with a significant
degree of unanimity.
1
Major differences of opinion emerge, however,
when one is required to determine what place the theme of Zion had
in Isaiah’s preaching and the extent, moreover, to which the prophet
was dependent on an already existent Zion tradition.
One of the most important statements regarding Zion is to be
found in Isa. 28:16, a text that speaks of the laying of a foundation
stone in Zion: “thus says the Lord God: See, I am laying in Zion a foundation
stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: ‘One who trusts
will not panic’.” (NRSV 1991) This statement, which the remainder of
the present study will refer to as a ‘Zion text’, enjoys a place of some
importance in Isaiah 28 as a whole. It is explicitly introduced as a
word of the Lord YHWH via the use of the so-called messenger formula
‘thus says . . .’ whereby the statement that follows is ascribed additional
1
Becker (1999:5–6) laments the fact that recent research has been inclined to ascribe
more theological weight to the statements of the prophet Isaiah than to the contribution
furnished by the redactors of the book of Isaiah. While it is indeed correct to insist
that the theological deposit established by the redactors should not be underestimated
and that the meaning of the text should not be forced to depend on the question of
authorship, it is difficult to imagine how the book of Isaiah could have acquired the
name of the prophet and retained it throughout the process of transmission if the
impulses rooted in the preaching of the prophet Isaiah himself were not substantial.
This is certainly the case with respect to the theme of Zion.
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 1 1/18/2007 10:07:53 AM
2 chapter one
accentuation. Furthermore, the Zion text of 28:16 gives the impression
of being a promise of salvation, while the immediate context resounds
with nothing more than words of judgement. The publishers of the
NRSV provide the said segment of Isaiah 28 with the superscription
‘Judgement on corrupt rulers, priests and prophets’. The average Bible reader
would thus be surprised to encounter an explicitly accentuated promise
of salvation. In the context of Isaiah 28, therefore, the reader’s atten-
tion is unavoidably drawn to the Zion text of 28:16.
It is thus hardly surprising that the Zion text of 28:16 drew the atten-
tion of the writers of the New Testament. Indeed, both the Letter of
Paul to the Romans (see Rom. 9:32b–33 and 10:11) and the First Letter
of Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:6) explicitly refer thereto. This, together with the
continued influence of Isa. 28:16 in the Christian church (see § 2.5.–
§ 2.7.), serves to provide the background against which the importance
of the Zion text can be measured. The scholarly endeavour to explain
Isa. 28:16 is nevertheless faced with a number of difficulties on the level
of translation and exegesis. The results of exegetical research up to the
present have been and remain a source of significant dispute.
2
Never-
theless, the critical degree of scholarly consensus concerning the authen-
ticity of this Zion text, together with the importance ascribed thereto
in later tradition, tends to raise the expectation that a correct under-
standing of the message of Isa. 28:16 is likely to shed significant light on
the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in the preaching of Isaiah.
3

Summary: The issue at stake in the present study is exegetical in nature.
It can be described in short as an endeavour to determine the mean-
ing of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 and the significance of the latter for
our understanding of the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in the
preaching of Isaiah.
1.2. Relevance
Towards the end of the last century an important shift in accent was
to be observed in the arena of biblical studies. Since the emergence of
2
Lindblom 1955:125 already sighted a “große Uneinigkeit betreffs der Erklärung
des wichtigen Jesajaworts vom Eckstein.” Roberts 1987:27 even refers to Isa. 28:16 as
“one of the most notable cruxes in the Hebrew Bible.”
3
Cf. Roberts 1987:27: “. . . in the case of Isa 28:16 the struggle to resolve the tech-
nical difficulties is at the same time a struggle to understand one of Isaiah’s central
theological affirmations.”
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 2 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM
introduction 3
historical-critical research, diachronic analysis tended to dominate the
scholarly study of the Old Testament for the best part of a century.
The advent, however, of structuralism and literary criticism on the one
hand, and the approaches that have placed the canonical form of the
text centre stage on the other, have brought about a radical change in
the overall situation. More than ever before, the attention of exegetes
is currently focused on a synchronic approach to a particular segment
of the Bible (c.q. an entire book of the Bible) in its present textual
form.
4
The consequences of this accent shift are perhaps most evident
with respect to the study of the prophet Isaiah.
5
The history of the
latter can be divided in broad terms into three distinct periods. In the
period prior to the emergence of historical-critical research, interpreters
generally accepted the view that the entire book was to be ascribed to
the prophet Isaiah who had been active in the eighth century BCE.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, most scholars were inclined to
regard the present book of Isaiah as having been constructed on the
basis of three independent works stemming from three different peri-
ods in time. The first part (1–39) eventually acquired the designation
Proto-Isaiah and was ascribed for the most part to the prophet him-
self; the second part (40–55) was designated Deutero-Isaiah and was
dated to the period of the Babylonian exile; the third part (56–66)
was designated Trito-Isaiah and was considered to have been written
against the background of the post-exilic period.
6
Characteristic of this
second phase in Isaiah research was the appearance of commentaries
written by individual authors that focused on each of the three afore-
mentioned segments independently. During the last decades of the
twentieth century, however, the book of Isaiah came to be seen as a
literary unity and, as a consequence, prevailing opinion has tended to
suggest that the book should be studied as a single work and no longer
as an amalgamation of three distinct and independent parts.
7
It should
4
Cf. Barton 1999:348: “On all sides today we are told that we should be attending
to the final form of Old Testament texts, not to the earlier stages in their development
that interested people in the heyday of historical criticism.” “Synthesis, rather than
analysis, is the watchword now.” The volume De Bijbel Literair (Fokkelman & Weren
2003) represents a recent example of such an accent shift/paradigm change.
5
For an outline of developments in Isaiah research see Hardmeier 1986:3–31, Sweeney
1993(A):141–162, Tate 1996:22–56, Becker 1999:1–37, 117–152 and Höffken 2004.
6
This threefold division has its roots in the work of Duhm 1914
3
(1st edition:
1892).
7
Berges 2003:203 describes the current motto as giving priority to the prophetic
books as a whole before the individual words of the prophets.
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 3 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM
4 chapter one
be noted, nevertheless, that this development did not signify a return
to the pre-critical period in which the entire book of Isaiah had been
ascribed to the prophet himself. The historical figure of the prophet in
this third period of Isaiah research has more or less disappeared into
the background since it is no longer considered possible to distil the
original words of the prophet from the tradition as a whole. Attention
now tends to be focused on the one book of Isaiah and the significance
of its present redactional composition rather than on the prophet Isaiah
as an historical figure.
8

It cannot be denied that recent interest in the present literary unity
of the book of Isaiah has given rise to important and valuable research.
At the very least this makes a welcome change when considered against
the background of a lengthy period in the history of Isaiah research
in which attention tended to be focused one-sidedly on the diachronic
analysis of individual textual units that had frequently left the book of
Isaiah in exegetical tatters.
9
The advantages and results of recent studies,
however, cannot eliminate the fact that contemporary approaches to
the book of Isaiah as a redactional composition also exhibit a degree
of one-sidedness. The synchronic approach characteristic of literary
criticism tends to maintain an a-historical attitude to the text when it
considers the ‘Sitz im Buch’ to be more important for our understand-
ing of a biblical text than the ‘Sitz im Leben’. Indeed, there is even
a tendency to be anti-historical, especially when the historical roots
of a prophetic word are considered to be irrelevant for our present
understanding thereof.
10
In such instances, the historical figure of the
prophet Isaiah disappears from view and the original content of his
8
Cf. Rendtorff 1984:295–320. Tate 1996:22–25 tersely characterises these three
successive periods in the history of Isaiah research as ‘The One-Prophet Interpretation’,
‘The Three-Book Interpretation’ and ‘The One-Book Interpretation’. The two-volume
commentary of Watts 1985/1987 on the complete book of Isaiah can be seen as one
of the first examples of the said accent shift. Childs’ recent 2001 commentary on the
entire book of Isaiah represents a further illustration of this trend.
9
Cf. Rendtorff 1999:153: “Die wissenschaftliche Auslegung hat sich überwiegend
darauf konzentriert und sich auch damit begnügt, die unterschiedlichen ‘ursprünglichen’
Bestandteile des Jesajabuches zu rekonstruieren und je für sich auszulegen.”
10
Conrad 1991:27ff argues in favour of reading the book of Isaiah as an aesthetic
monument. Becker 1999:10 gives expression to this tendency as follows: “Die Frage
nach der Entstehung wird dabei nicht grundsätzlich abgelehnt, aber doch als unnötig
eingestuft, weil sie an der Intention des Buches vorbeigeht.” In addition to this literary-
aesthetic motif, Becker has also identified a religious background and a growing aversion
towards the results of historical-critical research, both of which have contributed to
the predominance of a synchronic approach to the book of Isaiah.
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 4 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM
introduction 5
preaching is no longer considered to be of any particular interest.
11
In
order to avoid such bias, which is essentially docetic in nature, it is vital
that the synchronic approach be allowed to interact with a thorough
diachronic analysis.
12
The present work will focus on the preaching of the historical prophet
Isaiah and the role of Zion therein. Our aim is thus to offer a con-
tribution to present day understanding of one of the most important
elements in the preaching of Isaiah. Throughout the history of Isaiah
research, scholars have struggled with the specific character of Isaiah’s
preaching, especially with respect to the relationship between his words
of judgement and his words of salvation. It almost goes without saying
that an enormous variety of positions have been adopted in this regard.
The understanding of the element of ‘obduracy’ in Isaiah’s call vision
(Isaiah 6) has also tended to occupy an important place in the discus-
sion. While interest in the character of Isaiah’s preaching has clearly
diminished as a result of the contemporary predominance of literary
and book-redactional approaches, the present author is convinced nev-
ertheless that the contours of our understanding of the message of the
book of Isaiah will become more apparent against the background of
a study of the message of the prophet Isaiah. It is likewise the author’s
expectation that a study of the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in
the preaching of Isaiah can provide an important contribution to our
understanding of the relationship between words of judgement and
words of salvation in general and in the book of Isaiah in particular.
Summary: Against the background of the shift in accent evident in
biblical research, whereby attention is focused one-sidedly on the book
of Isaiah and the historical figure of the prophet himself is inclined
to disappear beyond the horizon, the significance of the present con-
tribution lies in its endeavour to assist our understanding of the role
played by Zion in the preaching of the prophet Isaiah, in particular
with respect to the relationship between his words of judgement and
his words of salvation.
11
Perhaps the most explicit example of an anti-historical approach to the book of
Isaiah can be found in the postmodern exegesis of Brueggemann in which the emphasis
is placed squarely on the power of rhetoric. Perdue 1994 characterises this accent shift
in Old Testament exegesis, with its particular consequences for biblical theology, as a
result of the ‘collapse of history’.
12
Cf. Rendtorff 1991:8–20 and Talstra 2002:112–117.
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 5 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM
6 chapter one
1.3. Goals and methodology
The present study takes the important Zion text of Isa. 28:16 as its point
of departure with a view to establishing a clear picture of the place
of the Zion tradition in the prophet Isaiah. The following chapter (2)
provides a survey of the various ways in which this Zion text has been
understood in the course of history. We begin with the Septuagint
reading of 28:16 (§ 2.2.), followed by the interpretation thereof in the
New Testament (§ 2.3.) and by a number of prominent exegetes in the
early church (§ 2.5.). The reception of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 within
Judaism is treated separately (§ 2.4.). After a brief review of pertinent
medieval exegesis (§ 2.6.), we focus our attention on the interpreta-
tion of Luther and Calvin, bearing in mind that one of the goals of
the Reformation movement had been to realign Christianity with the
Scriptures (§ 2.7.). We conclude our survey of the history of exegesis of
Isa. 28:16 with a review of twentieth century interpretations (§ 2.8.).
The third chapter focuses on a number of important preliminary
issues as a necessary foundation for our own exegetical study of the
text: colometric analysis of Isaiah 28 (§ 3.2.), delineation of pericopes
within Isaiah 28 (§ 3.3.), the unity of the pericope in which the Zion
text of 28:16 is to be found (§ 3.4.), the authenticity and date of the
said prophecy (§ 3.5. and § 3.6.) together with a sketch of the histori-
cal situation coinciding with the proposed date (§ 3.7. and § 3.8.). An
excursus dealing with the prophetic historiography of 2 Kings 18–19
is added at this juncture (Excursus 1).
The fourth chapter is devoted in its entirety to our own exegesis of
Isa. 28:16 within the immediate context of the pericope in which it is
located (§ 4.2.) and against the broader background of Isaiah 28 as a
whole (§ 4.3.–§ 4.5.). A further excursus related to the exegesis of the text
follows § 4.2. and deals in particular with the relationship between the
‘covenant with death’ referred to in 28:15, 18 and necromancy (Excursus
2). This fourth chapter represents a pivotal stage in our research since
it endeavours to provide an adequate answer to the question regarding
the exegesis of the Zion text in 28:16.
Having offered an exegetical analysis of the individual pericopes of
Isaiah 28 and their relationship with one another, we then widen the
circle in the fifth chapter to focus on the place of Isaiah 28 as a whole
and 28:14–22 in particular within the redactional unit Isaiah 28–33
(§ 5.2.–§ 5.4.).
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 6 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM
introduction 7
Following a survey of the place of the ‘Zion’ theme in Isaiah 1–39
(§ 6.2.), chapter six endeavours to draw a number of conclusions based
on the results of our exegesis (§ 6.3.). We then turn our attention to
the question of the potential significance of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16
for our understanding of the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in
the preaching of Isaiah. While a comprehensive investigation of the
Zion tradition would take us beyond the established boundaries of the
present study, it remains our conviction nevertheless that a number of
elements important for further research into the Zion preaching of the
prophet Isaiah can be derived from the exegesis of 28:16 (§ 6.4.).
The seventh and final chapter of the present study offers a summary
of the main conclusions that represent the results of our research.
In light of the fact that Isa. 28:16 plays an important role in a vari-
ety of New Testament texts, we conclude the present volume with an
appendix in which the results of our research are further examined
from a New Testament perspective.
Summary: The primary goal of our study is to offer an exegesis of the
Zion text of Isa. 28:16 in its present context. Based on the results of
this study, we endeavour to determine the extent to which an adequate
understanding of the said text can contribute to contemporary research
into the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in the preaching of
Isaiah.
dekker_f2_1-7.indd 7 1/18/2007 10:07:54 AM

dekker_f3_8-64.indd 8 1/18/2007 10:08:34 AM
CHAPTER TWO
THE ZION TEXT OF ISAIAH 28:16 IN THE
HISTORY OF EXEGESIS
2.1. Introduction
If one accepts the hypothesis that every new study of the Bible or a
part thereof rests on the shoulders of its predecessors, then it makes
sense to explore the way in which Isa. 28:16 has been explained in the
course of history before endeavouring our own exegesis of the text in
question. The reception history of a biblical text also has a place among
the exegete’s areas of interest since it raises the questions and hypoth-
eses necessary to enter into dialogue with the various religious reading
traditions and thereby provides the foundations for one’s own exegeti-
cal perspective. The importance of such a dialogue is aptly expressed
by Talstra: “The exegesis of the Old Testament is not about trying to
explain a recently discovered work from the ancient past. Academic
institutions are not likely to do themselves much of a service should
they pretend that such is indeed the case. Exegesis, rather, is about
explaining texts that have been ascribed a fundamental value as they
passed through the hands of many generations up to and including the
contemporary faith community.”
1
In order to obtain an adequate picture of the history of exegesis,
one is obliged to focus one’s attention on a cross-section thereof, tak-
ing a number of standard benchmarks as one’s point of departure.
Given the necessary limits of space, the said benchmarks have to be
chosen with care in order to avoid any potential misrepresentation or
distortion. The most appropriate point of departure with respect to the
text of Isaiah is the Septuagint, bearing in mind that every translation
already contains an element of exegesis.
2
The Greek translation of the
1
Talstra 2002:73.
2
I am aware of the dif ficulties surrounding the idea of ‘the’ Septuagint, as if the
latter can be understood as a unified translation, while in fact it is more of a collec-
tion of Greek translations stemming from a variety of different places and dates. I will
maintain the use of the term, nevertheless, for the sake of ease and because it has long
been the convention to do so.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 9 1/18/2007 10:08:34 AM
10 chapter two
Old Testament might even be considered as one of the earliest wit-
nesses in the history of exegesis.
3
This is certainly the case with respect
to the Greek translation of the book of Isaiah, which is well-known
for its relatively free rendition. Furthermore, the Septuagint extends
backwards into pre-Christian times and is of major significance from a
variety of perspectives for the way in which the New Testament dealt
with the Old Testament in terms of both text and content.
4
A second
benchmark in our exploration of the history of exegesis can be found in
the New Testament’s interpretation of the Isaiah text. New Testament
allusions to the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 are to be found in the Letter
of Paul to the Romans (Rom. 9:32b–33; 10:11) and in the First Letter
of Peter (1 Pet. 2:6). Prior to continuing the line of Christian exegesis
from the New Testament to the early church, however, it makes sense
to include Jewish exegesis of the Isaiah text in our survey, beginning
with the function of the Zion text within the community of Qumran
and further discussing the information found in the Targum and the
Talmud.
A third benchmark in our exploratory survey has its roots in the
early church (2nd to 5th century). After a brief intermezzo in the
Middle Ages, in which we will focus on the Glossa Ordinaria and Thomas
Aquinas, we will turn our attention to the period of the Reformation
(16th century). Influenced by the Renaissance and by Humanism, the
Reformation was determined to return to the original sources. Luther
and Calvin will serve as our representatives of the exegesis characteristic
of the Reformation and their explanation of Isa. 28:16 as the fourth
benchmark in our historical survey. Our fifth and final benchmark con-
sists of the highly diverse contributions of modern biblical research. Our
discussion of the latter will be thematic and summarising in character,
given that the contributions in question cannot strictly speaking be
considered a part of the reception history of Isa. 28:16. With a view
to our own exegesis of the text, however, and within the framework of
the present chapter, we consider it relevant to offer a brief overview of
the various interpretations of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 provided by
modern biblical research.
3
See Jobes/Silva 2000:146: “. . . the LXX may be regarded as the earliest surviving
interpretation of the Bible, and the exegesis of the translators, even when wrong, can
be very valuable in our own exegetical process.” (cf. p. 89)
4
Cf. Jobes/Silva 2000:23: “The Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible, was the primary
theological and literary context within which the writers of the New Testament and
most early Christians worked.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 10 1/18/2007 10:08:35 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 11
2.2. Septuagint
The Septuagint translation of the book of Isaiah evidently introduced
its own exegesis of the text in the process of translation. This becomes
immediately clear when one compares the Greek text of Isa. 28:16 with
the Hebrew of the Masoretic text:
¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬: ˆ:: διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος
ˆ:≤s ˆ.: ¬: ::“¬ ᾽Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων
¬:: ¬:: ¬¬, ¬:c ˆ¬: ˆ:s λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον
:¬ s: ˆ:s:¬ ἔντιμον εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς
καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ
Basing itself on the Masoretic text as found in the Biblia Hebraica
Stuttgartensia (1977; second emended edition 1983), the NRSV translates
the Zion text of 28:16 as follows: “therefore thus says the Lord GOD: See, I
am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure
foundation: ‘One who trusts will not panic’.”
It should be evident from the text provided in parallel form above
that the Septuagint contains a number of unusual readings, two of
which are of particular interest with respect to the present chapter.
The reader’s attention is to be drawn in the first instance to the expres-
sion ᾽Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ. The verb ἐμβάλλω in the Septuagint takes the
form of a future (1st person), while the Masoretic text employs a piel
perfect (3rd person) for the corresponding Hebrew verb. It is reason-
able to assume that the Greek translators read the Hebrew construction
¬: ::¬ as ¬: ::“¬ , whereby the piel perfect of the Masoretic text is
understood as a qal participle. Such a reading is hardly surprising since
a construction combining ::¬ with a participial form is fairly common
(cf. the same ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ as the translation of ˆ¬: ::“¬ in 37:7).
As a consequence, however, and with respect to content, the Greek
translation now advocates an interpretation of the Zion text of 28:16
as a promise for the future: ‘See, I shall lay a stone . . .’.
The second major point upon which important Septuagint manu-
scripts differ from the Masoretic text has to do with the plus in the final
clause of 28:16,
5
namely the expression ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ,
6
whereby the verb
5
In line with a variety of Septuagint researchers I speak here of a ‘plus’ rather
than an ‘addition’ since the latter term is not without prejudice. Indeed, one cannot
insist in advance that the Vorlage of the Septuagint was the same as the Hebrew text
established by the Masoretes. See Jobes/Silva 2000:52n.
6
The words ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ are lacking in the Codex Vaticanus and in the translations of
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 11 1/18/2007 10:08:35 AM
12 chapter two
πιστεύω is immediately provided with an object in contrast to ˆ:s:¬
in the Hebrew Masoretic text which is employed in the absolute sense.
While it remains difficult to determine the precise origin of the plus in
question, it seems reasonable to assume that the addition of the words
ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ was intended as a means to clarify the text.
7
As a consequence,
however, the expression ‘one who trusts’ must now be directly associated
with the stone referred to in the first half of the verse since the said
stone functions in the Greek text as the antecedent of ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ and
as such can be personified.
8
In summary, it seems fair to argue that the Septuagint has passed on
a more unequivocal text of Isa. 28:16. If the same Hebrew text version
lay at the basis of this tradition as that of the Masoretic text then we
are even at liberty to speak of an important exegetical decision on the
part of the Septuagint translators. Where the syntax employed in the
Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, cf. Stanley 1992:124. The translations of Aquila,
Symmachus and Theodotion serve as Jewish recensions aimed at bringing the text of
the Septuagint closer to the original Hebrew text. An explanation can be offered as to
why they lack the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ. In comparison with Codex Alexandrinus, Codex
Vaticanus is generally considered the most reliable manuscript. With respect to the book
of Isaiah, however, the Codex Alexandrinus would appear to be the better witness. The
Greek translation of the book of Isaiah found in the Codex Vaticanus is representa-
tive of the Hexaplaric recension (the text of Codex Sinaiticus agrees for the most part
with Codex Vaticanus, although it occasionally contains Hexaplaric readings; Ziegler
1939:32f signals traces of an Egyptian recension). For this reason, the text of Isa. 28:16
found in the Codex Vaticanus cannot be considered a witness to the original LXX text.
See Jobes/Silva 2000:59f, 190. Bearing these considerations in mind, the presupposition
of K.H. Schelkle, Die Petrusbriefe—Der Judasbrief, Freiburg 1976/2002:61, that the plus
in the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus) should be understood as a Christian gloss (cf.
Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6), must be rejected.
7
Van der Kooij 1977:91 considers the Septuagint of Isaiah to be an important
pre-Christian witness to Jewish exegesis. He insists (1997[B]:24) that the interpretations
and actualisations of the book of Isaiah in both the Septuagint and the Isaiah Scrolls
from Qumran stem from the same Hellenistic period and that both text witnesses,
therefore, are of importance in acquiring a picture of the exegetical tradition which
the New Testament writers may also have employed.
8
Oss 1989:186f draws attention to the shift in faith perspective implied by the text
of the Septuagint. The translation of :¬ by καταισχυνθῇ associates faith with the
avoidance of risking being put to shame on the day of judgement rather than stability
in one’s daily life. The question remains, however, as to whether we must interpret the
verb καταισχύνω as found in the Septuagint in a strictly eschatological sense. This is
clearly not the case elsewhere in the book of Isaiah (see 3:15 and 54:4). As a matter
of fact, the Septuagint of Isaiah makes more frequent use of the verb αἰσχύνω (eight-
een times), usually as the translation of ::. It is probable that the Septuagint read
:: s: in 28:16, which means ‘he shall not be put to shame’ (cf. 29:22). The translation
provided by the Septuagint may have been inspired by the emphasis on the theme of
‘being ashamed’ in relation to the covenant with Egypt so detested by the prophet in
30:1–5 (cf. 20:5).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 12 1/18/2007 10:08:35 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 13
Hebrew text allows for a degree of ambiguity in terms of temporal
aspect (the construction ¬: ::: can be read in a variety of ways; see
exegesis § 4.2.2.), the Septuagint has clearly understood the Zion text
of 28:16 as a promise for the future. Moreover, where the Hebrew
text leaves a certain openness with respect to the interpretation of the
expression ‘one who trusts’, the Septuagint would appear to have made
an unequivocal decision in this regard by alluding explicitly to the
aforementioned stone. While a definitive decision in the matter remains
difficult to achieve, it is nevertheless possible that the Septuagint transla-
tion already presupposed a Messianic interpretation of the stone referred
to in 28:16.
9
Whatever the truth may be, the Septuagint’s addition of
the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ has evidently facilitated a Messianic interpretation
of the said biblical text.
10
2.3. New Testament
Isa. 28:16 is cited in three places in the New Testament, twice in the
Letter of Paul to the Romans and once in the First Letter of Peter. We
will examine each of these witnesses and their interpretation of the
Zion text in turn.
2.3.1. Romans 9:32b –33 and 10:11
The apostle Paul makes reference to Isa. 28:16 on two occasions in his
Letter to the Romans: Rom. 9:32b–33 and Rom. 10:11. In order to
facilitate an adequate comparison with the Septuagint translation of
28:16 (see above), we will first provide both texts in Greek together
with an English translation:
11
9
Cf. Jeremias 1942:276.
10
Cf. Snodgrass 1977:100: “With regard to the LXX, if the ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ of Isa. xxviii.16
is not messianic, it is at least personal.” Jobes/Silva 2000:97 suggest with caution: “It
is very dif ficult to decide, for instance, if a rendering that could be read as evidence
of a developing messianism actually reflected the state of messianic thinking when
the translation was made or was simply the result of happenstance, a result that later
during the Christian era was congenial to a messianic reading.” In general, Jobes/Silva
2000:300 conclude that the Messianic expectation did not acquire a prominent place
in the Septuagint when compared with contemporary texts from Palestine itself.
11
In both this and the following sub-paragraph I will make use of the NRSV
(1991).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 13 1/18/2007 10:08:35 AM
14 chapter two
Rom. 9:32b–33:
προσέκοψαν τῷ λίθῳ τοῦ They have stumbled over the stumbling
προσκόμματος, καθὼς γέγραπται, stone, as it is written:
᾽Ιδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that
προσκόμματος καὶ πέτραν σκανδάλου, will make people stumble, a rock that will
καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ make them fall, and whoever believes in him
οὐ καταισχυνθήσεταὶ will not be put to shame.”
Rom. 10:11:
λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή, The scripture says:
Πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ “No one who believes in him will be put
οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται to shame.”
Aside from the remarkable intermingling of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16
with the text concerning the stumbling stone found in Isa. 8:14, the
reader is immediately struck by the fact that Paul only follows the text
of the Septuagint in part. Instead of ᾽Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια
Σιων λίθον in 28:16, Rom. 9:33 reads ᾽Ιδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον.
Paul thus employs a different verb (τίθημι instead of ἐμβάλλω) and
exhibits a preference for the present rather than the future. The verb
form employed at the conclusion of the text (καταισχυνθήσεται, indic.
fut.) likewise differs to a degree from that employed by the Septuagint
(καταισχυνθῇ, conj. aor.). It is possible that Paul either had a different
version of the Greek text at his disposal or that he deliberately adapted
the text with a view to his own interpretation thereof. Given the fact
that the text of the quotation of 28:16 as found in 1 Pet. 2:6 agrees to
a significant degree with the text of Rom. 9:33 (1 Pet. 2:6 also reads
᾽Ιδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον) while mutual dependence is dif ficult to
determine, it would thus appear that the former possibility deserves
preference with respect to the Zion text of Isa. 28:16.
12
This does
not exclude the possibility that Paul also had a theological preference
for the verb τίθημι, namely as a description of the deeds of God.
13

Similarly, the text version employed would appear to fit in well with
Paul’s intentions from an alternative perspective: the expression ἐν Σιὼν
12
Wilk 1998:33–34 thinks of “eine dem hebräischen Text angenäherte LXX-Ver-
sion.” Cf. Wagner 2002:128–131.
13
Cf. Maurer 1969:157 (in relation to Rom. 9:33): “Darin zeigt sich, wie sehr Paulus
diese Vokabel für geeignet hält, das Handeln Gottes in seiner Vielschichtigkeit auszu-
drucken.” Muller 1969:81 suggests the possibility that the choice of the verb τίθημι may
have been influenced by the Greek translation of Isa. 50:7. It is striking that the latter
text also makes reference to not being put to shame (ἔγνων ὅτι οὐ μὴ αἰσχυνθῶ).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 14 1/18/2007 10:08:36 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 15
offers more opportunity to identify the stone mentioned in 28:16 with
the stumbling stone of 8:14 than the foundation stone terminology
employed by the Septuagint in εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων.
With respect to content, one is immediately aware of the fact that
the quotations of 28:16 in Rom. 9:33 and 10:11 are both incomplete.
Of greater importance, however, is the fact that the text version
employed by Paul agrees with the major Septuagint manuscripts with
respect to the additional ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ.
14
The plus in question made it pos-
sible for Paul to interpret the Zion text of 28:16 in Messianic terms.
While Christ is not mentioned by name in the immediate context of
Rom. 9:32b–33, the suggestion that the stone ought to be related to
the coming of Christ is already unmistakable.
15
Given that Rom. 10:11
only quotes the conclusion of 28:16 without mention of the stone in
Zion, the originally intended antecedent of ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ would
appear in this instance to be lacking.
16
In the context of Rom. 10:11,
however, the place of the lacking antecedent is taken by the κύριον
᾽Ιησοῦν referred to in 10:9.
While the quotation from 28:16 functions as a core text in Rom.
9:33, the context that occasioned Paul’s use of the Zion text is to be
found in his polemical exposition with respect to Israel in which the
stumbling stone of 8:14 was already introduced into the argument in
the preceding verse. It remains surprising, however, that Paul’s ingenuity
allowed him to introduce this allusion to 8:14 into his quotation of the
Zion text of 28:16. Isa. 8:14 speaks of a stone one strikes against and
a rock one stumbles over.
17
The text version of this verse found in the
14
Cf. Stanley 1992:124. Jobes/Silva 2000:190 consider Rom. 9:33 as the oldest
evidence that the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ belonged to the original text of the Septuagint from
the very beginning.
15
With respect to Rom. 9:33 Wagner 2005:122f (see also 2002:155–157) suggests
the possibility of an intentional polyvalence of the stone metaphor. The stone could
refer to God, Christ or the law. Arriving at Rom. 10:11, however, it is clear that the
stone should be identified with Christ.
16
Paul adds the word Πᾶς at the beginning of the quotation because it fits his
argument that there can be no distinction between Jew and Greek. See also the
quotation from Joel 3:5 (LXX; NRSV 2:32) in Rom. 10:13. It is worthy of note that
Paul apparently considered himself free to render the same scriptural text in two dif-
ferent versions in short succession. Cf. Koch 1986:133–134, Stanley 1992:133f and
Jobes/Silva 2000:192f.
17
According to Stanley 1992:120–124, this interpolation does not hark back to an
earlier tradition but has its roots rather in Paul himself. See also Koch 1980:180.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 15 1/18/2007 10:08:36 AM
16 chapter two
Septuagint, however, differs considerably from that of the Masoretes.
In order to facilitate comparison we once again provide both text ver-
sions (the Masoretic text followed by the Septuagint) together with an
English translation:
:¬,:: ¬¬“ He will become a sanctuary,
:::: ¬.: π:: ˆ:s: a stone one strikes against,
:s¬: ¬: ::: for both houses of Israel he will become a
:,:: ¬c: rock one stumbles over,
μ::¬“ ::: a trap and a snare
for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
καὶ ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς And if you trust in him,
ἔσται σοι εἰς ἁγίασμα he will be a sanctuary for you
καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι and you shall not encounter him as a stone
συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας one strikes against nor as a stumbling block,
πτώματι but the house of Jacob ( falls) in a trap
ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ ἐν παγίδι and the inhabitants of Jerusalem in a snare.
καὶ ἐν κοιλάσματι ἐγκαθήμενοι ἐν
Ιερουσαλημ
It is evident that Paul has mixed his quotations at this juncture, melt-
ing 8:14 and 28:16 together.
18
Given that Paul’s use of 8:14 is closer
in terms of content to the Masoretic text than to the Septuagint,
which has cast the stumbling stone in a strikingly negative statement,
19

it is probable that he made use of a revised Greek text.
20
While it is
18
The use of the Old Testament in the form of mixed quotations is found only
sporadically in the rabbinic literature. Muller 1969:71f concludes from this “daß
Mischzitate keine lehramtliche Billigung erfuhren” and is surprised that Paul explicitly
appeals to the authority of scriptural revelation for his mixed quotation. The combina-
tion of various scriptural quotations, however, would appear to be fairly common in the
Qumran documents. See Stanley 1992:296–306. Cf. Oss 1989:183–184: “It is a creative
use of the Biblical text quite in conformity with the LXX, targums and Qumran.” See
also Oss 1989:188: “The use of textual variants to fit the text to one’s interpretation
was a common method in Qumran exegesis. Thus by his very inclusion or rejection of
the LXX modifications, by substituting one word for another, perhaps by his omission
of other material from the MT/LXX-text, and certainly by combining two texts in
a merged quotation, the NT author is doing theology.” Generally speaking, one can
argue that the freedom with which Paul quoted the Old Testament was in line with
the way people of his day quoted texts (see Stanley 1992:338–360).
19
According to Oss 1989:185f, the theological motivation of the translator is evident
here in his effort to present yhwh more as the protector of faithful Israel than as the
judge of unfaithful Israel. He refers in this regard to LXX 6:9–12 and 8:21–23.
20
Wilk 1998:23. There are numerous indications that would make the existence
of such text revisions plausible, both in order to bring the text into agreement with a
Hebrew source and to correct the Greek (see Stanley 1992:44–48). Stanley (1992:73–79)
explains the diversity of the text versions employed by Paul on the basis of a sort of
florilegium of written texts that had come into existence during Paul’s journeys and
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 16 1/18/2007 10:08:36 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 17
not certain whether the words ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ‘If you trust in
him . . .’ formed a part of the text version employed by Paul, it seems
reasonable to suggest that his merging of quotations from the book of
Isaiah came about, at least in part, as a result of this plus in the Greek
text of Isa. 8:14. On account of the said clause, which would appear
to have been borrowed from 8:17 (πεποιθὼς ἔσομαι ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ) and
which should be understood as a clarification, a clear af finity emerged
in the Septuagint with the final words of 28:16. The expressions ἐπ᾽
αὐτῷ πέποιθα and πιστεύω ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ came to function as more or less
synonymous expressions.
21
Since the antecedent of ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ in 8:14
would appear to be the term κύριον referred to in 8:13, Paul’s identi-
fication of the stone referred to in 28:16 with Christ thus seems to be
understandable. He saw the Zion text of 28:16 fulfilled in Christ.
Surprisingly enough, however, by merging the quotation of 28:16 with
the text alluding to the stumbling stone in 8:14 in the form of a mixed
quotation, Paul has ascribed to the former the primary significance of
an announcement of judgement.
2.3.2. 1 Peter 2:6
The Zion text of Isa. 28:16 has also been ascribed a place of significance
in 1 Pet. 2:6. The fact that the stone motif would also appear to play
an important role in the surrounding verses, however, suggests that a
review of the entire passage of 1 Pet. 2:4–8 might be appropriate at
this juncture. Once again we provide the Greek text together with an
English translation:
which the latter had put together in the course of his studies of the scriptures with a
view to his letters. Muller 1969:73 observes that where Isa. 8:14 is concerned, the text
of Rom. 9:33 exhibits similarities with the translation of Symmachus, according to
Eusebius’ version thereof. Given that an alternative version of Symmachus’ translation
exists, there can be no certainty as to the text version employed by Paul.
21
Snodgrass 1977:99 is of the opinion that the plus ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς in 8:14
came into existence under the influence of the Septuagint translation of 28:16 and
concludes that the New Testament tendency to associate prophetic texts concerning
faith with one another harks back to the early translations of the Old Testament: “The
connection of the two verses in Christian literature then is not an innovation based on
theological necessity, but follows Jewish tradition.” See also Betz 1987:95. The plus ἐὰν
ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς in 8:14, however, can also be explained on the basis of 8:17. See
Jobes/Silva 2000:198 and Wagner 2002:140ff. Compared to the opinion of Snodgrass
mentioned above, Wagner 2002:145 argues the other way round, supposing that the
LXX translator rendered 28:16 with 8:14, 17 in mind.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 17 1/18/2007 10:08:37 AM
18 chapter two
πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι λίθον ζῶντα 4 Come to him, a living stone,
ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον though rejected by mortals,
παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight,
καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες 5 and like living stones, let yourselves be
οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς built into a spiritual house, to be a holy
εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices
πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
[τῷ] θεῷ διὰ ᾽Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ, 6 For it stands in scripture:
᾽Ιδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a
ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον cornerstone chosen and precious;
καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ and whoever believes in him,
οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. will not be put to shame.”
ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, 7 To you then who believe, he is precious;
ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν but for those who do not believe,
οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, “The stone that the builders rejected has
οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας become the very head of the corner,”
καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα 8 and “A stone that makes them stumble,
σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ and a rock that makes them fall.” They
λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν. stumble because they disobey the word, as
they were destined to do.
Of the three New Testament texts in which reference is made to Isa.
28:16, 1 Pet. 2:6 would appear to be the most explicit in its Messianic
interpretation. The ‘stone in Zion’ is identified unequivocally with
Christ. The invitation ‘come to him’ in verse 4 enjoys an immediate
link with the previous verse, which concluded with the expression ὁ
κύριος, further explaining the said κύριος with the metaphor of the
living stone. And even though κύριος in the quotation from Ps. 34:9 in
verse 3 alludes to yhwh, it is impossible to deny that 1 Pet. 2:6 under-
stands the living stone to be Christ. It may even be possible that the
term χρηστός (χρηστὸς ὁ κύριος), stemming from the Greek translation
of Ps. 34:9 (LXX Ps. 33:9), already represents an allusion to Christ in
the context of 1 Peter 2.
The text version of 28:16 employed in 1 Pet. 2:6 agrees to a significant
extent with that found in Rom. 9:33.
22
In contrast to the text transmit-
ted by the Septuagint of 28:16 (᾽Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων
22
It would appear from the study of Ellis 1957:12 that Paul usually gives prefer-
ence to the Septuagint when quoting the Old Testament (see also Stanley 1992:67f ),
whereas Peter seems to prefer agreement with the Hebrew text. See also Voorwinde
1987:5–6. Peter’s quotation of the Zion text from Isa. 28:16, however, constitutes an
important exception in this regard.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 18 1/18/2007 10:08:37 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 19
λίθον), 1 Pet. 2:6 likewise makes use of the clause ᾽Ιδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν
λίθον. Given the fact that mutual dependence of one form or another
does not seem possible (in contrast to Rom. 9:33, 1 Pet. 2:6 does not
mix the quotations from 28:16 and 8:14) it is probable that both New
Testament texts were dependent in this instance on the same text
version.
23
While it is possible to argue that Paul exhibits a theological
preference for the verb τίθημι, it is equally arguable that the choice of
the same terminology in 1 Pet. 2:6 can be associated with the theme of
election (cf. the use of the same verb in 1 Pet. 2:8).
24
The plus ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ
in the second verse half of 28:16 is shared by all three New Testament
texts, but the use of οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ (conj. aor.) serves to associate 1
Pet. 2:6 more closely with the Septuagint than is the case with respect
to Rom. 9:33 and 10:11 (οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται, indic. fut.).
25
The cita-
tion of 28:16 in 1 Pet. 2:6 is also more extensive than in Rom. 9:33. In
reasonably close agreement with the Septuagint, the stone to be set in
Zion is further qualified as a chosen and precious cornerstone. When
compared with the Septuagint, the term πολυτελῆ is lacking in 1 Pet.
2:6 and the word order differs slightly: λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν
ἔντιμον instead of λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἔντιμον.
The reference to the Zion text of 28:16 in 1 Pet. 2:6 functions
more explicitly than in Rom. 9:33 as a salvific promise for the future.
Both the context and the form in which the Zion text is spoken of in
1 Peter differ from the Pauline references. While Paul employs the Zion
text of 28:16 in order to substantiate his argument with respect to the
mystery of Israel’s rejection of Christ, the text functions in 1 Peter 2
in the context of an invitation to come to Christ. As a consequence,
the Zion text of 28:16 is treated in more positive terms in 1 Pet. 2:6.
23
According to Muller 1969:74–75, this presupposition is confirmed by the fact that
the combination πιστεύειν ἐπι + dat. in the sense ‘to believe in’ does not occur in the
letters of Paul (Muller does not include the pastoral letters) or in 1 Peter beyond the
quotation of Isa. 28:16.
24
See Bauckham 1988:311: “τίθημι is a natural word to use for laying a foundation,
and so probably simply a variant translation, not originally designed for any special
interpretative purpose. But the author of 1 Peter has selected it for his purpose, because
it can also mean ‘appoint’, and so again stresses the theme of election at the outset
of his series of texts.”
25
Bauckham 1988:313 points to an interesting connection between 1 Pet. 2:6 and
Ps. 34:6, which boils down to the expression οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ in the Greek trans-
lation (LXX 33:6). Given that 1 Pet. 2:3–4 already alludes to Ps. 34:9 (and possibly
also to Ps. 34:5) and the psalm in question also has an important role to play in 1
Pet. 3:8–12, Bauckham presumes that the psalm must have been important for the
author of 1 Peter.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 19 1/18/2007 10:08:37 AM
20 chapter two
In contrast to Rom. 9:32b–33, which appears to employ a mixed
quotation, the various allusions to Old Testament texts in 1 Pet. 2:4–8
are more deftly woven together.
26
In addition to 28:16 references are
made to ( parts of ) Isa. 8:14 and Ps. 118:22. While the characterisa-
tion of the living stone as παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον already given
in verse 4 is borrowed from 28:16, the preceding ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν
ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον alludes to the stone mentioned in Ps. 118:22. Verse
7 quotes Ps. 118:22 in its entirety and in complete agreement with the
text of the Septuagint.
27
The reference to Isa. 8:14 in verse 8a, how-
ever, is more in line with the text as cited in Rom. 9:33 than with the
Septuagint.
28
This reinforces our argument that both New Testament
texts are dependent on the same Greek text version.
29
It is possible that the quotation from Ps. 118:22 has to do with a
proverb
30
in which reference is made to a stone rejected by the build-
ers that nevertheless became the cornerstone.
31
While the Septuagint
provides a more or less literal translation of the text, Symmachus dif-
fers from the Septuagint by translating the unique Hebrew construct
¬:c :s¬ with ἀκρογωνιαῖος instead of the literal κεφαλὴ γωνίας. The
term ἀκρογωνιαῖος, however, is only employed in the Septuagint in
the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 and is unknown to profane Greek litera-
ture. One is inclined to conclude, therefore, that even before the date
of Symmachus there may have been a Jewish tradition, independent
of the New Testament, that had already associated both ‘stone texts’
with one another.
32
26
Oss 1989:183 suggests that Paul and Peter employ different methods in their quo-
tation of the Old Testament, both of which were customary in their day. The method
employed by Paul whereby two biblical texts are mixed together is known as gĕzērâ
šāwâ and is particularly familiar to us from the documents of Qumran. The method
employed by Peter whereby various biblical texts are chained together is frequently
employed in the Talmud and is referred to as hārāz.
27
On the text and function of Ps. 118:22 in 1 Pet. 2:7, see Woan 2004:215–219.
28
The difference berween the two is minimal: 1 Pet. 2:8 employs a nominative
construction while Rom. 9:33 employs an accussative construction on account of the
close connection with the quotation from 28:16.
29
See Stanley 1992:121f.
30
Cf. Schröten 1995:82: “V.22 ist ein Sprichwort, das aufgrund seines allgemeinen
Charakters auch aus anderen Zusammenhängen entnommen sein kann.”
31
For reasons of logic and on account of the fact that ¬: c can also mean
‘corner turret’, Cahill 1999:345–357 is of the opinion that ¬:c :s¬ does not refer to the
cornerstone but rather to ‘the capstone of the castle’. The translation of the expression
as ‘cornerstone’ is the result of a later fusion of ‘stone texts’.
32
Cf. Berder 1996:169: “On peut sans doute comprendre le choix du mot par
Symmaque en référence à ce texte prophétique.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 20 1/18/2007 10:08:38 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 21
Acts 4:11 relates how Peter employed the ‘stone text’ from Ps. 118
in his confrontation with the Sanhedrin in order to provide the events
of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection with scriptural foundations.
33
This
application of Ps. 118:22 to the death and resurrection of Christ is
completely in line with the psalm’s own content as a song of deliverance
from death (cf. Ps. 118:17–18).
34
Nevertheless, the explicit identification
of the stone with Christ and the builders with the Jewish leaders in
Acts 4:11 is exceptional. The naturalness with which Peter alludes to
the text of the psalm and applies it to the person and work of Christ
makes it reasonable to assume that Ps. 118:22 had already been ascribed
a Messianic interpretation at an early date and that it had played an
important role among the first Christians.
35
Confirmation of the aforementioned assumption can be derived from
the synoptic gospels, all three of which have preserved a parable of
Jesus in which he himself alludes to the text in question. Jesus relates
how the owner of a vineyard finds himself in a conflict situation with
his leaseholders (Mk. 12:1–12; Mt. 21:33–46; Lk. 20:9–19)
36
employing
an image borrowed from the song of the vineyard in Isa. 5:1–7. At the
beginning of this song, the lord of the vineyard is qualified three times
as ‘my beloved’. By using the same qualification with respect to the
son of the vineyard owner in his parable (υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν) and relating
his death at the hands of the leaseholders, Jesus intentionally ascribes
a Messianic charge to his parable (cf. ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός in Mk.
33
The text of Acts 4:11 deviates to a degree from the Septuagint in terms of verb
forms: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ λίθος, ὁ ἐξουθενηθεὶς ὑφ᾽ ὑμῶν τῶν οἰκοδόμων, ὁ γενόμενος
εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας. On the text of Acts 4:11, see Berder 1996:306–309 and Doble
2004:97–105.
34
Some discussion exists as to whether the ‘I’ of the psalm refers to an individual
or to the people. Given the groups mentioned in vv. 2–4, the nature of the situation of
need, the kinship with Exodus 15 (see v. 14) and the liturgical character of the psalm,
Schröten 1995:76 suggests that we identify the ‘I’ with the people of Israel, although
the ‘I’ passages would probably have been recited by a soloist in the context of the
liturgy. Even understood as a collective subject, the cohesion between verse 22 and
the preceding description of need remains important. Cf. Schröten 1995:77 and 134:
“Das Sprichwort greift also das im Danklied Formulierte wieder auf und zeichnet die
Rettung aus der Not in der Geschichte Israels als etwas unendlich Kostbares, als die
Basis für Neues, das entstehen will und wird.” For a survey of the various possible
interpretations of the ‘I’ of Psalm 118, see Berder 1996:74–79.
35
It is possible that the explicit allusion in Ps. 118:23 to the wonderful event of a
rejected stone being transformed παρὰ κυρίου into a cornerstone may have contributed
to the association of this text with Christ.
36
For a comparison of the synoptic descriptions and a discussion of the function
of the psalm quotation, see Berder 1996:249–297.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 21 1/18/2007 10:08:38 AM
22 chapter two
1:11 and 9:7). Thus, in a context already laden with Messianic implica-
tions, the synoptic Jesus quotes Ps. 118:22–23 according to the text of
the Septuagint: “Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in
our eyes’? ” (Mk. 12:10–11; Mt. 21:42).
37
2.3.3. Evaluation
In the context of the present review of the history of exegesis of Isa.
28:16 a number of observations can be made with respect to the inter-
pretation of the text provided by the New Testament:
• The fact that the Zion text from 28:16 is associated with the stumbling
stone text from Isa. 8:14 in both Rom. 9:32b–33 and 1 Pet. 2:4–8,
implies that a Messianic interpretation of the various ‘stone texts’
already constituted an element of the early Christian tradition.
38

The significant degree of agreement at the level of terminology also
tends to point in this direction. While the quotations of Isa. 28:16
and 8:14 are more extensive in 1 Pet. 2:4–8 than in Rom. 9:32b–33,
neither text is in complete agreement with the Septuagint, although
they do agree for the most part with one another.
39
• One of the first ‘stone texts’ to acquire a Messianic interpretation in
the early Christian tradition was clearly Ps. 118:22. This is apparent
from the important place the text in question came to acquire in the
New Testament tradition as a whole (see Mk. 12:10–11; Mt. 21:42;
37
In contrast to the customary hypothesis that the quotation from Psalm 118 does
not stem from Jesus himself but was added to the parable by the community after the
Easter event, Noordegraaf 1987:251–255 defends the authenticity of the quotation. For
a recent survey of the different hypotheses in this regard together with the arguments
employed thereby, see Berder 1996:281–290. According to Oss 1989:183, Jesus himself
is also the source of the New Testament stone tradition. Cf. Snodgrass 1977:106: “I
would suggest that the Church was attracted to the stone testimonia through the use of
Psa. cxviii.22 at the conclusion to the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark xii.1–12//)
and in the early apologetic for the resurrection (Acts iv.11). Quite naturally and early
the already popular Isaiah passages were adapted for use alongside Psa. cxviii.22.”
38
According to Koch 1980:183, we should not only ascribe the interpolation of
8:14 into the Zion text of 28:16 to Paul, but we should also ascribe the Christological
explanation of 8:14 as such to him. While it is obvious that a Christological interpreta-
tion of 8:14 fits well within Paul’s theology, the present author is not convinced that
it can be considered a decisive argument.
39
Based on a comparative study, Snodgrass 1977:99–102 and Oss 1989:187, 189
conclude that Rom. 9:33 and 1 Pet. 2:6 probably hark back to a common tradition.
Cf. Snodgrass 1977:98n: “The form of the NT quotations apparently resulted from
the frequent use of Isa. xxviii.16 in the Jewish world.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 22 1/18/2007 10:08:38 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 23
Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:4–8). Furthermore, the Messianic
interpretation of Ps. 118:22 must have contributed to its use in
1 Pet. 2:4–8 in one and the same context with the ‘stone texts’ from
28:16 and 8:14.
40
The fact that reference is made in both 28:16 and
Ps. 118:22 to a cornerstone clearly facilitated the association of the
said ‘stone texts’ in the New Testament as well as possibly in early
Jewish tradition (cf. Eph. 2:20).
41
• When compared with the text of the Septuagint, the change of verb
and verb form found in Rom. 9:33 and 1 Pet. 2:6 remains striking
40
Cf. Merklein 1973:150: “Überhaupt scheint von den atl ‘Stein’-Worten ein Anreiz
zu messianischer oder eschatologischer Interpretation ausgegangen zu sein. Dieser
Usus der ‘Stein’-Theologie hat sich auch im NT niedergeschlagen.” Ellis 1957:98–107
describes the emergence of the hypothesis which claimed the existence of a so-called
Book of Testimonies that had preceded the documents of the New Testament. The
hypothesis in question, in which the ‘stone texts’ had an important role to play, was
propagated at the beginning of the last century primarily by J.R. Harris (Testimonies,
Cambridge 1916–1920). After achieving almost general acceptance, the hypothesis fell
subject to more and more doubt after the studies of Dodd 1952 and B. Lindars (New
Testament Apologetic, 1961), based, among other things, on the enormous textual diversity
between the Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament. It was considered
possible, nevertheless, that an oral tradition of Old Testament proof texts had come into
existence at an early stage and later acquired written form. Cf. Snodgrass 1977:105f:
“There was no testimony book but there were texts that were grouped thematically to
assist in worship, proclamation, teaching and defense of faith. The stone testimonia
are still the first witness to such collections.” Since the recognition of some sort Testi-
monia in the legacy of the Qumran community (4QFlorilegium and 4QTestimonia),
the possibility that such collections may also have existed in early Christianity in one
or other written form has gained credibility. See Snodgrass 1994:29–51. Albl 1999 has
recently argued anew in favour of the existence of so-called ‘Testimonia collections’
upon which the authors of the New Testament are said to have based themselves. See
also Moyise 2001:17–18. Skarsaune 1996:420 is much more cautious when he states:
“Very likely one should rather think of the ‘testimony tradition’ as part and parcel of
the growing theological heritage within early Christianity, which was transmitted within
the ‘mainstream’ of early Christian literature, in varying literary formats. Each author
within this tradition borrowed Old Testament quotations from his predecessors, but
only some of these are known to us.”
41
Based on the common appearance of θεμέλιος and ἀκρογωνιαῖος Merklein
1973:137 considers it possible that Eph. 2:20 was also dependent on Isa. 28:16. Cf.
Berder 1996:341: “Si renvoi il y a, il ne passe que par l’intermédiaire du vocabulaire
de la pierre angulaire, qui est manifestement emprunté Is 28,16 (ἀκρογωνιαῖος), mais
qui peut spontanément évoquer Ps. 118,22 dans la mesure où l’on admet, à l’arrière-
plan du texte, une tradition mettant en relation les deux passages vétérotestamentaires
appliqués au Christ.” Jeremias 1930:264–280 (see also 1933:792–793) understood
ἀκρογωνιαῖος in Eph. 2:20 and 1 Pet. 2:6 and κεφαλὴ γωνίας in Mk. 12:10 par.; Acts
4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:7 to be a keystone that was introduced above the gate. In his opinion
the term ἀκρογωνιαῖος means ‘cornerstone’ only in LXX Isa. 28:16. While Jeremias’
vision initially found significant following it has been abandoned in recent years. For
a critical discussion and rejection of Jeremias’ vision, see McKelvey 1962:352–359 and
Merklein 1973:144–152. Cf., however, Cahill 1999:345–357.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 23 1/18/2007 10:08:38 AM
24 chapter two
(τίθημι instead of ἐμβαλῶ εἰς). At the same time, however, the ver-
sion of the Zion text of 28:16 offered by Rom. 9:33 and 1 Pet. 2:6
presupposes a Hebrew text in which the verb ¬: in the construction
¬: ::¬ is understood as a participle.
• Rom. 9:33; 10:11 and 1 Pet. 2:6 have preserved the plus ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ
so characteristic of the Septuagint at the end of 28:16.
42
This plus
has an important role to play in the Messianic interpretation of the
Zion text of 28:16 ascribed to it by the New Testament.
• The Zion text of Isa 28:16 as quoted in 1 Pet. 2:6 is understood as
a promise of salvation for the future. The same text in Rom. 9:33,
on the other hand, has acquired the sense of an announcement of
judgement on account of its intermingling with the text concerning
the stumbling stone from Isa. 8:14.
• The context within which the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is quoted in
1 Pet. 2:6 is more notably determined by ecclesiological motifs than is
the case with respect to Rom. 9:33. This is clearly voiced in the appeal
in 1 Pet. 2:5 to let oneself be used as living stones in the construction
of a spiritual house and in the qualifications employed for the faithful
as people of God both in 1 Pet. 2:5 and in 1 Pet. 2:9.
2.4. Judaism
Before continuing our line of research from the New Testament to the
early church, it goes without saying that attention is due at the present
juncture to the Jewish explanation of our text. I will limit myself in
this instance to Jewish exegesis of Isa. 28:16 as found in Qumran, the
Targum and the Talmud. Since their discovery more than fifty years
ago, the writings of the community of Qumran have become our most
significant source of information concerning Judaism in the final centu-
ries before the Common Era. The importance of the Aramaic Targums
has its roots in the centuries old tradition of synagogue preaching that
ultimately evolved into a written form. The Talmud represents the most
important written material stemming from the late rabbinic period.
This work harks back for the most part to the originally oral rabbinic
tradition dating from the period following the exile. The core of the
Talmud is formed by the Mishnah, which provides further explanation
42
In addition to Isa. 28:16; Rom. 9:33; 10:11 and 1 Pet. 2:6, the expression πιστεύειν
ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ is only found elsewhere in 1 Tim. 1:16.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 24 1/18/2007 10:08:39 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 25
to the Torah. The Gemarah, which should be dated around the 3rd to
the 5th century CE, offer a commentary on the Mishnah based on the
Toseftah that constitute the oldest interpretation of the Mishnah. While
it is true that the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature make fre-
quent reference to the book of Isaiah
43
and similarly frequent allusion
to Zion and to the temple, there are no direct quotations of Isa. 28:16
or the elaboration thereof to be found in the material in question.
44

2.4.1. Qumran
Two scrolls of the book of Isaiah were found in the caves of Qumran.
45

It is striking with respect to the text of Isa. 28:16 found in both Isaiah
scrolls that the verb ¬: is rendered as a participial form. The First
Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa
a
) employs a piel participle ¬:: the Second (1QIsa
b
)
a qal participle ¬:.
46
While the First Isaiah Scroll itself already bears
something of an interpretative character and occasionally offers clear
expression to ideas current within the Qumran community,
47
we are nev-
ertheless directed in particular to two other documents bequeathed by
Qumran where the community’s interpretation of 28:16 is concerned.
Both the ‘Rule of the Community’ (1QS) and the ‘Thanksgiving Scroll’
(1QH
a
) make reference to the Zion text from Isa. 28:16, although
neither context provides it with a Messianic interpretation. Both texts
explain it, in fact, as a prophecy of the new eschatological community
that God is to establish in the future. While the book of Isaiah would
appear to have been popular in the community of Qumran and to
have been used as a basic text for the Pesharim,
48
not a single fragment
is available to us among the Pesher manuscripts in which allusion is
made to the Zion text of 28:16.
49
43
See Knibb 1997:633–650.
44
Ps. 118:22 is quoted in the Testament of Solomon 22–23, a document of Jewish
origin with a Christian final redaction. While allusion to Isa. 28:16 is possible, the
primary focus remains Ps. 118:22. See Berder 1996:170–180.
45
For a description of the smaller fragments of text from the book of Isaiah that
have been discovered, see Ulrich 1997:477–480 and Flint 1997:481–489.
46
See Burrows 1950: Plate XXII.
47
See Pulikottil 2001. At the end of his study on the textual transmission of 1QIsa
a

Pulikottil 2001:199 concludes among other things that: “The scroll has a definite con-
ceptual orientation, which is distinctly that of certain Qumran texts. This affinity reflects
the ideology of the Yachad documents. The cardinal themes of the Yachad documents
are attested in the interpretative readings of the scroll.”
48
See Brooke 1997:609–632.
49
A fragment has been discovered in which the characterisation found in 28:14
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 25 1/18/2007 10:08:39 AM
26 chapter two
The ‘Rule of the Community’ (Serek ha-yahad, 1st century BCE) sets
out the rules and regulations governing the life of the community and its
membership (1QS 1–7). From 1QS 8–9 onwards, however, we are offered
a draft design for the foundation of a future community, a spiritual
temple in the wilderness.
50
This part of the document dates from a
period prior to the actual formation of the community around 120
BCE and represents an originally independent document. It states,
among other things, that in Israel’s immediate future “the Community
council shall be founded on truth (. . .) to be an everlasting plantation, a holy house
for Israel and the foundation of the holy of holies for Aaron, true witnesses for
the judgement and chosen by the will (of God) to atone for the land and to render
the wicked their retribution.” A clear allusion to 28:16 follows: “This (the
Community) is the tested rampart, the precious cornerstone that does not (. . .) whose
foundations shake or tremble from their place. (It will be) the most holy dwelling
for Aaron . . .” (1QS 8,5–8).
51
According to this text, the community of
Qumran understood itself as the fulfilment of the prophecy in question.
It is striking in this regard that the designation ˆ.: ‘in Zion’ is dropped
from the quotation from 28:16, which is now effectively stripped of its
character as a Zion text. This reflects the difficulties evident within the
community of Qumran with respect to Jerusalem and its temple, which
was considered to have been desecrated by the priesthood.
The fact that the community of Qumran considered itself to be
God’s living temple is expressed in the ‘Thanksgiving Scroll’ (1QHodayot
a
,
1st century BCE), a document containing a collection of hymns that
were composed within the community and were profoundly inspired
reverberates (4QpIsa
b
= 4Q162: μ::¬: ¬:s ˆ.:¬ ::s). See Brooke 1997:625.
Of greater importance in this regard is a Pesher manuscript in which an explanation
is given of 54:11–12, which is related to 28:16 (4QpIsa
d
= 4Q164). The restoration
of Jerusalem described in this text is associated with the community of Qumran itself
and with its leaders. See Garcia Martínez & Tigchelaar 1997:319, 327 and Berder
1996:191.
50
For the community of Qumran’s understanding of itself as the spiritual temple,
see Dimant 1986:165–189. In a document known to us as 4QFlorilegium reference is
made to three temples in the context of a Pesher on 2 Samuel 7: the temple of Israel,
the temple of human persons and the temple of yhwh. The first of these is the temple
of Solomon and the last is the temple to be established in the future by yhwh himself.
The community identifies itself with the construction of the ‘temple of human persons’
(μ¬s :¬,:), dedicated by God, in which the works of Torah had to be offered because
the temple of Israel had been destroyed and the eschatological temple of yhwh still
had to be built (see 4QFlor 1,6–7 = 4Q174 1,6–7).
51
See Garcia Martínez & Tigchelaar 1997:89. For a short discussion of the text of
this passage see also Berder 1996:188–189.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 26 1/18/2007 10:08:39 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 27
by the language of the biblical Psalms. Allusion is made to 28:16 on
two occasions among the hymns of this document. The first is to be
found in 1QH
a
14,25–27: “I have become like someone who enters a fortified
city, and finds shelter on the high wall until salvation. My God, I le[an] on your
truth, for you place the foundation upon a rock, and beams to the correct size, and
a t[rue] plumb line to [str]etch out, tested stones to build a fortress which will not
shake. All those who enter there will not stagger, for a foreigner will not penetrate
it . . .”
52
In the hymn from which this passage is taken, the poet sings of
his liberation from ‘the assembly of futility’ and of the new life that he
has found in ‘the holy council’ (read: the community of Qumran) (cf.
14,5). In order to be able to stand up to the temptations and dangers
that he has experienced among his fellow people (who allow themselves
to be led by Belial, cf. 14,21–22), the poet seeks and finds security and
a sure footing in a fortified city (read: the community of Qumran).
The second allusion to 28:16 follows in 1QH
a
15,8–9 where the same
thematic elements are evident: “. . . You placed me like a sturdy tower, like a
high wall, you founded upon rock, my building and everlasting foundations as my
base, all my walls are like a tested unshakeable wall.”
53
We can thus argue, in summary, that the interpretation of 28:16 in the
documents of Qumran is eschatological in character, with the conviction
that the end time had already commenced taking centre stage.
54
The
Zion text of 28:16 is directly associated with the community as such.
While the name Zion appears to have been avoided, the community
in question is nevertheless spoken of as a spiritual house, employing
language (esp. in 1QS 8,5–8) that exhibits considerable kinship with
the way in which 28:16 has found its way into 1 Pet. 2:4–8.
55
52
See Garcia Martínez & Tigchelaar 1997:177.
53
See Garcia Martínez & Tigchelaar 1997:179. Cf. Merklein 1973:123, Betz
1987:95–96 and Tan 1997:37–38.
54
Cf. Brooke 1997:613: “. . . those responsible for the scrolls were certain that the
prophets had spoken predictively directly or indirectly about them and their contem-
porary situation in the first centuries BCE and CE.”
55
The technique whereby prophetic texts from the Old Testament were applied
directly to the community itself is characteristic of the community of Qumran. This
is particularly evident from the many fragments of biblical commentaries—the so-
called Peshers—that have been preserved. See Muszynski 1975:35–39 and Dohmen
1982:86–87.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 27 1/18/2007 10:08:39 AM
28 chapter two
2.4.2. Targum
In our discussion of the data provided by the New Testament it was
evident that the Messianic interpretation of the so-called ‘stone texts’
(Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14; 28:16) was relatively old. Indeed it is probable,
moreover, that such Messianic interpretations are pre-Christian in origin,
given the fact that the (Babylonian) Targum of the prophets (referred
to as Targum Jonathan after Jonathan ben Uzziel), which is rooted in
synagogue preaching, already offers a Messianic explanation of the stone
from Isa. 28:16. The expectation of Israel’s restoration evident in the
Isaiah Targum and already prominent in the tradition surrounding chapter
28 (to be dated around 70 CE),
56
is associated with the figure of the
Messiah (4:2; 9:5f; 11:1; 14:29b; 16:1,5; 28:5; 43:10; 52:13; 53:10).
57

While the Isaiah Targum does not employ the designation ‘Messiah’
with respect to the Zion text of 28:16, it nevertheless alludes explicitly
to a strong, mighty and terrible king whom God shall install on Mount
Zion.
58
It is noted, in addition, that the righteous ones who believe will
not be shaken.
59
The notion of ‘being shaken’ most likely refers to
the final judgement.
60
Elsewhere in the Targum we encounter further
examples whereby an important ‘stone text’ is clearly associated with
the kingship of David but not directly linked with the Messiah. With
56
Isaiah 28 plays an important role in the Isaiah Targum. Cf. Chilton 1983:15:
“Chapter twenty-eight in the Targum will figure prominently in our discussions of
several of the characteristic terms and phrases. In it, the meturgeman (a general des-
ignation for the various exegetes who had contributed explanations to the Targum,
JD) expresses his hope for Israel’s vindication even as he bitterly laments her apostasy
(especially in respect of Temple service). The ground of both his expectation and his
bitterness is his assurance that Israel has been chosen by God and that the law is the
seal of her election (vv. 9, 10).” See also Chilton 1983:39: “. . . a coherent and primitive
paraenesis is reflected in chapter 28 of the Targum.”
57
See Chilton 1983:86–96. With regard to the identification of the servant of yhwh
and the Messiah Chilton 1983:94 notes that “in his messianic reading of the Isaian ser-
vant, the meturgeman attests a primitive exegesis common to Judaism and Christianity.”
For Messianic readings in the Isaiah Targum see also Chilton 1997:547–562.
58
Cf. Chilton 1983:115f: “Understood as a metaphor for the Temple, ‘stone’ (and
similar words) is probably rendered by reference to the messiah because the messiah
is understood to build the Temple . . .” (cf. Targum Zech. 4:7 and 10:4).
59
Chilton 1987:56 translates the said passage as follows: “therefore thus says the
LORD God, ‘Behold I am appointing in Zion a king, a strong, mighty and terrible
king. I will strengthen him and harden him,’ says the prophet, ‘and the righteous who
believe in these things will not be shaken when distress comes’.” Cf. StrB III,276 and
593, Jeremias 1942:276, Wildberger 1982:1076 and Roberts 1987:33.
60
Betz 1987:95 argues that this eschatological interpretation of the Targum is
influenced by Hab. 2:4b.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 28 1/18/2007 10:08:40 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 29
regard to the stone mentioned in Ps. 118:22, the Targum speaks of a
young man among the sons of Jesse who had become king and ruler,
an unmistakeable allusion to the kingship of David.
61
A number of exegetes have expressed their suspicion that the fre-
quent allusion to God as a ‘rock’ in the Old Testament has contributed
to the Messianic interpretation of this and other ‘stone texts’.
62
While
this hypothesis is difficult to prove, a brief examination of the text of
8:14 will serve to illustrate the credibility of such a position. As we
observed in § 2.3., this text, which was associated with the Zion text
of 28:16 relatively early in the tradition, refers to yhwh with both the
word ˆ:s ‘stone’ as well as the word ¬. ‘rock’. In spite of the fact that
both terms are employed in a negative sense in 8:14—π:: ˆ:s ‘a stone
one strikes against’ and :::: ¬. ‘a rock one stumbles over’—, they both
refer nevertheless to yhwh. The designation of yhwh as ¬. ‘rock’ is
commonplace in the context of the Psalms where it serves to elicit a
sense of solidness and to inspire fidelity.
63
The prophet’s use of this
divine image in 8:14, however, clearly inverts the significance thereof in
a manner that would probably have shocked his audience. The word ˆ: s
‘stone’ likewise functions as a divine designation in a few Old Testament
passages. Gen. 49:24, for example, would appear to speak of the
:s¬: ˆ:s ‘the Rock of Israel ’.
64
Given the fact that the designation ˆ:s
‘stone’ stands in parallel to ¬. ‘rock’ in 8:14, and with the support of
evidence that the latter text was probably read in close association with
61
See Schröten 1995:144–146 and Berder 1996:204–213. An old apocryphal psalm
of David related to the psalms of Qumran was also discovered in the Cairo Geniza,
which explicitly associates Ps. 118:22 with David and ascribes the text a Messianic
explanation. See Berder 1996:193–203. Cf. Berder 1996:243: “Si le poème alphabétique
de la Geniza du Caire que nous avons étudié a vraiment été composé (. . .) au même
moment que les autres psaumes apocryphes connus sous le nom de David, il constituerait
le premier témoignage de l’interprétation messianique de ces versets, dans la tradition
juive.” For the Messianic interpretation of Ps. 118:22 within Judaism see also StrB I,876
and Berder 1996:213–245. The later rabbinic documents also associate the stone of
Ps. 118:22 with Abraham, Jacob, Joseph or the people of Israel.
62
Cf. Jeremias 1942:276–277 and Maiburg 1984:249.
63
See Ps. 18:3,32,47; 19:15; 28:1; 31:4; 42:10; 62:3,7,8; 71:3; 73:26; 78:35; 89:27;
92:16; 94:22; 95:1; 144:1; cf. Deut. 32:4,15,18,30,31; 1 Sam. 2:2; 22:3,32,47; 23:3 and
Isa. 17:10; 26:4; 30:29; 44:8; Hab. 1:12. Kraus 1979:36 presupposes that this divine
designation was borrowed from the Jerusalem cult and that the original notion had to
do with the sacred rock in the temple sanctuary (cf. Schmidt 1933). This is dif ficult to
prove, however, on the basis of the available texts.
64
According to Van der Woude 1979
2
:542, no divine designation is employed in
Gen. 49:24, but reference is made to ‘the children of Israel’.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 29 1/18/2007 10:08:40 AM
30 chapter two
the stone mentioned in 28:16, it is not unthinkable that the relatively
common allusion to yhwh as ‘rock’ may indeed have promoted the
Messianic interpretation of this and other ‘stone texts’.
2.4.3. Talmud
A relatively early Messianic interpretation is likewise identifiable in
the Rabbinic literature with respect to a number of ‘stone texts’ from
the Old Testament. This is certainly the case with regard to the stone
referred to in Dan. 2:34 (Midrash Tanchumah, cf. 4 Ezra 13:32–36),
as well as those referred to in Gen. 28:18 and Zech. 4:7,10 (see also
the Messianic explanation offered by Rashi with regard to the stone
mentioned in Ps. 118:22).
65
The Zion text of Isa. 28:16 similarly enjoys
a position of some significance in the Talmud. This is not so much due
to the frequency with which the latter ‘stone text’ is quoted or to the
fact that it is ascribed a Messianic interpretation, but rather because
the text contributed to the emergence of a complex of images relating
to the sacred rock on Mount Zion. The Jewish tradition speaks of the
sacred rock in question as the ¬¬: ˆ:s Sh
e
tiyyah.
It is said of the Sh
e
tiyyah, as early as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, that
God had used the said stone to close off access to the depths of the
primal sea and that his name is inscribed therein.
66
The customary
picture, which is already evident in a passage from the Mishnah (end
2nd century/beginning 3rd century; Yoma V,2)
67
and the Tosephtah
(redaction end 4th century; TYoma III,6),
68
represents the Sh
e
tiyyah as
65
See StrB III,506 and IV,879.
66
See Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (= Jerushalmi I) of Ex. 28:30, Le Déaut 1979:227:
“Car sur eux (Urim and Tummim, JD) se trouve gravé en toutes lettres le Nom grand
et saint par lequel ont été créés les trois cent dix mondes; (il est) aussi gravé en toutes
lettres sur la pierre fondamentale avec laquelle le Maître de l’univers scella la bouche
du grand abîme à l’origine.”
67
Meinhold 1913:53 translates Joma V,2 as follows: “Nach der Fortführung der
Lade, war dort seit den Tagen der ersten Propheten ein drei Finger breit aus der Erde
herausragender Stein, den man Schetijja nannte.” Cf. also Sanhedrin 26b in which
reference is made once again to the Sh
e
tiyyah in relation to the foundations referred
to in Ps. 11:3.
68
Schmidt 1933:97–98 translates TJoma III,6 as follows: “Ein Stein war dort (im
Allerheiligsten) seit den Tagen der ersten Propheten. Sch
e
tijja wurde er genannt. Er
ragte drei Finger breit aus der Erde hervor. An der Stelle hatte nämlich ursprünglich
die Lade gestanden. Seitdem nun die Lade fortgenommen war, pflegte man das
Räucheropfer des Allerheiligsten darauf darzubringen. Rabbi Jose sagt: Von ihm aus
wurde die Welt gegründet; denn es heißt: ‘Aus Zion, der Krone der Schönheit, strahlte
Gott auf ’ (Ps. 50:1f ).” Cf. Böhl 1974:257.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 30 1/18/2007 10:08:40 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 31
already having been present in the days prior to the exile in the place
where the temple later stood and that it only became visible when the
Ark was removed. The same Sh
e
tiyyah is later named in association with
representations of the ‘navel of the earth’.
69
The Palestinian Talmud ( beginning 5th century), for example, alludes
to the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 within the framework of the Sh
e
tiyyah
depictions referred to above and endeavours to explain the name
Sh
e
tiyyah with the help of the Zion text. Reference is made in pYoma
42c to the stone that became visible when the Ark was removed from
the temple. A rabbi then asks why the stone in question bears the name
Sh
e
tiyyah and the response states that the world was founded from out
of the said stone. Reference is thus made in this context to both Ps.
50:1–2 and Isa. 28:16.
70
From the etymological perspective it is possible
that the term ¬¬: has its semantic roots in the verb ¬¬: ‘to weave’.
71

Others take the notion of a ‘foundation stone’ as their point of departure.
72

Something similar is written of the Sh
e
tiyyah in the slightly younger but
no less authoritative Babylonian Talmud (6th century; cf. bYoma 54b),
referring explicitly to Zion as the place from which the world is founded
without, however, directly quoting the text of Isa. 28:16.
73
69
Böhl 1974:259ff.
70
See the translation by Avemarie 1995:135: “R. Yochanan sagte: Warum heißt er
‘Stein der Shetiyya’? Weil von ihm aus die Welt gegründet wurde (‘hushta’). R. Chiyya
lehrte: Und warum heißt er ‘Stein der Shetiyya’? Weil von ihm aus die Welt getränkt
wurde (‘hushta’). Es steht geschrieben: Ein Psalm Asafs. Gott, Gott, der Herr, spricht und ruft
die Erde usw., aus Zion, der vollkommnen Schönheit, leuchtet Gott auf (Ps 50,1–2), und heißt:
Darum (spricht Gott, der Herr:) Siehe, ich lege einen Grundstein in Zion usw. ( Jes. 28,16).”
71
See Böhl 1974:258.
72
Cf. Meinhold 1913:53 and Avemarie 1995:135.
73
See Epstein 1974: “And it was called shethiyah: A Tanna taught: [ It was so called]
because from it the world was founded. We were taught in accord with the view that
the world was started [created] from Zion on. For it was taught: R. Eliezer says: The
world was created from its centre, as it is said: When the dust runneth into a mass, and the
clods keep fast together ( Job 38,38). R. Joshua said: The world was created from its sides
on, as it is said: For He saith to the snow: ‘Fall thou on the earth’, likewise to the shower of rain,
and to the showers of His mighty rain ( Job 37,6). R. Isaac the Smith said: The Holy One,
blessed be He, cast a stone into the ocean, from which the world then was founded
as it is said: Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened, or who laid the corner-stone thereof ?
( Job 38,6) But the Sages said: The world was [started] created from Zion, as it is
said: A Psalm of Asaph, God, God, the Lord [ hath spoken], whereupon it reads on: Out of
Zion, the perfection of the world (Ps. 50,1–2), that means from Zion was the beauty of the
world perfected. It was taught: R. Eliezer the Great said: These are the generations of the
heavens and of the earth, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven (Gen. 2,4). The
generations [the creations] of heaven were made from the heaven and the generations
of the earth were made from the earth. But the Sages said: Both were created from
Zion, as it is said: ‘A Psalm of Asaph: God, God, the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 31 1/18/2007 10:08:40 AM
32 chapter two
The representations thus associated with the Sh
e
tiyyah are made clear
from a couple of passages stemming from a few later Midrashim.
Midrash Tanchumah (Qedoshim 10), for example, speaks of the central
location of the Sh
e
tiyyah. Just as Israel constitutes the centre of the world
and Jerusalem the centre of Israel, so the temple building is located
in the centre of Jerusalem and the Ark and the Sh
e
tiyyah are located in
the centre of the temple. The conviction is likewise expressed in this
context that the world is founded from out of the Sh
e
tiyyah. Elsewhere
in Midrash Tanchumah (Ach
a
reimot 3) further reference is made to
the Sh
e
tiyyah as having been present in this place since the days of the
first prophets. It could thus be said of the first temple that the Holy
One dwelt on the rock.
74
In addition to contexts in which the Sh
e
tiyyah is part of the discussion,
the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is also alluded to on a few other occasions
in the midrashic literature, in this instance more by way of association.
A midrash on Lev. 14:42, for example, offers stipulations concerning
the removal of stones from a house infected by a plague of leprosy
and their replacement with new stones. Reference is thus made to Isa.
28:16 in this regard.
75
In a midrash on Deut. 10:1, in which Moses is
given the charge to carve out two stone tablets, a reference is made to
Qoh. 3:5 with its application to emperor Hadrian and is followed with
a question asking when God shall rebuild the temple. The response to
the question is a quotation from the Zion text of Isa. 28:16.
76
It would appear from the Talmud passages referred to above that the
rabbis were not inclined to interpret Isa. 28:16 in association with the
Messiah but rather, and in particular, with the temple: as a component
in the complex of images surrounding the presentation of the Sh
e
tiyyah,
the sacred rock on Mount Zion, and as a promise concerning the future
reconstruction of the temple. It is not unimaginable that the significant
role played by the said ‘stone text’ of Isa. 28:16 in the conceptualisa-
tion of the Sh
e
tiyyah may have served to limit the space available for a
Messianic interpretation of the stone referred to in Isa. 28:16.
from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof.’ And Scripture further says: ‘Out of Zion,
the perfection of beauty, God has shined forth’, that means from it the beauty of the world
was perfected.”
74
See the text of this passage in Schmidt 1933:99–100.
75
See Israelstamm-Slotki 1961
3
:222.
76
See Rabbinowitz 1961
3
:82–83.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 32 1/18/2007 10:08:41 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 33
2.4.4. Evaluation
The following conclusions can be drawn from our brief survey of the
Jewish explanation of Isa. 28:16:
• The Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is interpreted within the Qumran com-
munity in ecclesiological terms and associated directly with the
community itself. The community of Qumran saw itself as the new
eschatological community that God was to establish at the end of
time. In like fashion to the New Testament community in 1 Pet.
2:4–8, the community of Qumran also understood itself as a spiri-
tual house. In neither the ‘Rule of the Community’ (1QS) nor the
‘Thanksgiving Scroll’ (1QH
a
), two extremely important documents
left to posterity by the Qumran community, is the stone referred to
in the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 given a Messianic interpretation.
• The rendition of Isa. 28:16 found in the Isaiah Targum (Targum
Jonathan), on the other hand, alludes explicitly to a strong, mighty
and terrible king whom yhwh shall install on Mount Zion. This is in
line with a tendency observable within the Isaiah Targum that associ-
ates the expectation of Israel’s restoration with the Messiah. Such a
Messianic interpretation of the stone referred to in Isa. 28:16 exhibits
a degree of kinship with the way in which the Targum is similarly
able to link the stone mentioned in Ps. 118:22 with the ascendance of
King David. Targumic explanations such as these serve to reinforce
the suspicion that the Messianic explanation of the Old Testament
‘stone texts’ already enjoyed a pre-Christian heritage. A number of
passages from the Midrash likewise point in this direction.
• In the Talmud we find reference to the Zion text of 28:16 primarily
with respect to the temple and almost exclusively within the frame-
work of explanations related to the Sh
e
tiyyah, the sacred stone or rock
on Mount Zion. The stone/rock in question served as the location
from which the world was founded and as the place upon which the
ark had stood in the days of the prophets. On one single occasion,
the Zion text of 28:16 is linked with the promise of a future restora-
tion of the temple. In light of the Messianic interpretation of other
‘stone texts’ found in a number of places in the Midrash (Gen. 28:18;
Dan. 2:34; Zech. 4:7,10), it is surprising that the Talmud contains
no Messianic interpretations of the stone referred to in 28:16. It is
possible that this coincides with the significant place occupied by
the said Zion text in the conceptualisation of the Sh
e
tiyyah. It is thus
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 33 1/18/2007 10:08:41 AM
34 chapter two
reasonable to argue that the space occupied by our ‘stone text’ in
the conceptualisation of the Sh
e
tiyyah limited the space available for
a Messianic interpretation of the stone referred to in 28:16.
2.5. Early Church
Having reviewed the Jewish exegesis of Isa. 28:16 as found in the docu-
ments of Qumran, in the Targum and in the Talmud, we will now
focus our attention on the Christian reception history of our text in
the early church. The Letter of Barnabas dates from the beginning of
the 2nd century and serves as one of the most important documents
related to the church’s beginnings. The first sub-paragraph will endea-
vour to determine the manner with which the document in question
interprets the Zion text of Isa. 28:16. In the second sub-paragraph we
will turn our attention to the explanations of Tertullian and Cyprian
as representatives of Christian exegesis from the 3rd century. The third
sub-paragraph will then address itself to relevant works of Jerome and
Augustine, two prominent Church Fathers from the 4th and 5th cen-
tury whose significance for the western (Latin) church is considerable.
The fourth sub-paragraph will be dedicated to the explanations found
in the work of two exegetes who came to be very significant for the
eastern (Greek) church, namely Cyril of Alexandria and Theodoret of
Cyrus, both from the 5th century. The final sub-paragraph will offer a
summary of our findings with respect to the explanation of the Zion
text of Isa. 28:16 in the early church.
2.5.1. The Letter of Barnabas
With its roots in the church’s earliest beginnings, the Letter of Barnabas
has proven its value for the study of this period time and again.
Probably written around 130 CE, the document alludes to a number
of Old Testament texts in the service of Christian preaching. A passage
on the soteriological significance of Christ’s work of suffering makes
reference to Isa. 28:16 as a proof text (Barn. 6:2b–3).
77
For the sake
77
Cf. Skarsaune 1996:386: “Barn. 5.1–6.7 is mainly a collection of Christological
proof-texts, most of which can be traced in Christian writers earlier than Barnabas,
and which recur in later writers. In other words: ‘Barnabas’ is here working with
Christological ‘mainstream’ testimonies.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 34 1/18/2007 10:08:41 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 35
of clarity we quote the entire passage from Barn. 6:1–4, together with
an English translation:
78
Ὅτε οὖν ἐποίησεν τὴν ἐντολήν, 1 And so, when he issued the commandment,
τί λέγει; what did he say?
Τίς ὁ κρινόμενός μοι; “Who is the one who takes me to court?
ἀντιστήτω μοι· Let him oppose me!
ἤ τίς ὁ δικαιούμενός μοι; Or who acquits himself before me?
ἐγγισάτω τῷ παιδὶ κυρίου. Let him approach the servant of the Lord!
οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὑμεῖς πάντες ὡς 2 Woe to you, for you will all grow old like a
ἱμάτιον παλαιωθήσεσθε, garment and a moth will devour you.”
καὶ σὴς καταφάγεται ὑμᾶς. And again, since he was set in place as a
καὶ πάλιν λέγει ὁ προφήτης, strong stone used for crushing, the prophet
ἐπεὶ ὡς λίθος ἰσχυρὸς ἐτέθη εἰς says,
συντριβήν, See, I will cast into Zion’s foundation a
᾽Ιδού, ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιὼν precious stone that is chosen, a cornerstone,
λίθον πολυτελῆ, ἐκλεκτόν, one to be valued.”
ἀκρογωνιαῖον, ἔντιμον. 3 Then what does he say?
εἰτα τί λέγει; “The one who believes in him will live for-
Καὶ ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν ζήσεται ever.”
εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. Is our hope then built on a stone? May it
ἐπὶ λίθον οὗν ἡμῶν ἡ ἐλπίς; never be!
μὴ γένοιτο· But he says this because the Lord has set his
ἀλλ᾽ ἐπεὶ ἐν ἰσχύϊ τέθεικεν τὴν flesh up in strength.
σάρκα αύτοῦ ὁ κύριος. For he says,
λέγει γάρ· “He set me up as a hard rock.”
Καὶ ἔθηκέ με ὡς στερεὰν πέτραν. 4 And again the prophet says,
λέγει δὲ πάλιν ὁ προπφήτης· “A stone that the builders rejected has become
λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ the very cornerstone.”
οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς And again he says,
κεφαλὴν γωνίας.
καὶ πάλιν λέγει· “This is the great and marvellous day the
Αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ μεγάλη καὶ Lord has made.”
θαυμαστή, ἣν ἐποίησεν ὁ κύριος.
In contrast to the quotations found in Rom. 9:33 and 1 Pet. 2:6, the
Zion text from Isa. 28:16 cited in the Letter of Barnabas is in almost
exact agreement with the Septuagint.
79
Only the concluding words of
the quotation as found in the letter would appear to differ to any degree
78
Ehrman 2003:31.
79
Of the almost 100 Old Testament quotations in the Letter of Barnabas, one quar-
ter are taken from the book of Isaiah. In contrast to quotations from the Pentateuch
and the other prophets, references to Isaiah exhibit strong af finity with the text of the
Septuagint. See Kraft 1960:337.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 35 1/18/2007 10:08:41 AM
36 chapter two
from the Septuagint (καὶ ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν instead of καὶ ὁ
πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ).
80
They are linked by way of allusion to Gen. 3:22b
(ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα instead of οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ). Surprisingly
enough, the quotation of 28:16 in Barn. 6:2–4 is likewise linked by
way of allusion to Isa. 50:6–8 (Barn. 5:13–14). Given the fact that this
Isaiah text also speaks of a stone, it would seem that one allusion/
quotation calls to mind the other. The link itself is somewhat associative.
Isa. 50:6–8 makes reference to the voluntary suffering of the servant
of yhwh, but also to the assistance of yhwh who did not allow his
servant to be put to shame. The allusion in question ends in Barn.
5:14 with the words:
81
και πάλιν λέγει· Again he says,
᾽Ιδού τέθεικά μου τὸν νῶτον εἰς “See! I have set my back to whips and my
μάστιγας ´ τὰς δὲ σιαγόνας εἰς cheeks to blows;
ῥαπίσματα·
τὸ δὲ πρόσωπόν μου ἔθηκα ὡς and I have set my face as a hard rock.”
στερεὰν πέτραν.
In light of the information garnered from New Testament sources,
it is hardly surprising that the stone referred to in Isa. 28:16 is like-
wise identified in the Letter of Barnabas with Christ, although it is
surprising that the said identification is borrowed in the first instance
from the already quoted segment (50:7b), which is repeated in Barn.
6:3 in direct association with the quotation of 28:16. With a view to
establishing a sound scriptural foundation for the salvific significance
of Christ’s death and resurrection, and in line with 1 Pet. 2:4–8, the
text goes on to speak of the rejected stone from Ps. 118:22 (Barn. 6:4).
The observant reader, however, will already have noted the indirect
allusion to the stone from 8:14 in the introduction to the quotation
from 28:16 (Barn. 6:2). The sequence of ‘stone texts’ in the Letter of
Barnabas provides further evidence in support of the hypothesis derived
from New Testament sources, namely that the various Old Testament
‘stone texts’ were already linked with one another at an exceptionally
early stage and that they enjoyed an established place in the Messianic
witness of the early church from the very beginning.
82
80
A single manuscript has: ὅς ἐλπίσει ἐπ᾽ αὐτὸν ‘those who hope in him’. See Barnard
1966:120.
81
See Ehrman 2003:29.
82
Cf. Prostmeier 1999:253: “Hierbei ist die Wahl der Segmente aus dem seman-
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 36 1/18/2007 10:08:41 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 37
2.5.2. Tertullian and Cyprian
Although Tertullian (circa 150–223) lived most of his life in the second
century, his exegesis of the Scriptures can be considered together with
that of Cyprian (circa 200–258) as representative of Christian exegesis
of the 3rd century.
Tertullian deals with the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 for the most part in
his five volume Adversus Marcionem,
83
an apologetic work in which the
Old Testament ‘stone texts’ pass in review on more than one occasion
in order to prove that the Christ promised by the Creator in the Old
Testament is none other than the Christ of the New Testament gos-
pels. In III,7,2–3, for example, he relates the stumbling stone referred
to in Isa. 8:14 to the first coming of Christ, a coming in lowliness, via
an allusion to Isa. 53:2–3. He then relates the rejected stone from Ps.
118:22, which subsequently became the cornerstone, with the second
coming of Christ. Tertullian immediately associates the said corner-
stone with the stone referred to in Dan. 2:34, which broke loose from
a mountain and crushed the image of the kingdoms of the earth.
84

Tertullian makes no explicit allusion to 28:16 in this passage, nor does
he do so in IV,35,14–15 in which he returns for a second time to the
Messianic explanation of Ps. 118:22. In V,17,16 he returns to Ps. 118:22
for the third time, in this instance as a source for Paul’s claim in Eph.
2:20 that Christ is the cornerstone.
The Zion text from Isa. 28:16 is dealt with for the first time in V,5,9.
On the occasion of Marcion’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 1, Tertullian
tischen Potential der Steinmetapher signifikant durch das Interesse geleitet, das Christus-
ereignis als die Erfüllung der Prophetien ad vocem πέτραν zu erweisen.” See also Albl
1999:279–281.
83
Tertullian published in total three editions of this work, the first possibly as early
as 198, the third in 208. See Evans 1972:xviii.
84
Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem III,7,3: “Quae ignobilitatis argumenta primo adven-
tui competunt, sicut sublimitatis secundo, cum fiet iam non lapis offensionis nec petra
scandali, sed lapis summus angularis post reprobationem adsumptus et sublimatus in
consummationem templi, ecclesiae scilicet, et petra sane illa apud Danielem de monte
praecisa, quae imaginem saecularium regnorum comminuet et conteret.” Translation
Evans 1972 I:189: “These tokens of ignobility apply to the first advent, as the tokens of
sublimity apply to the second, when he will become no longer a stone of stumbling or
a rock of offence, but the chief corner-stone, after rejection taken back again and set on
high at the summit of the temple—that is, the Church—that rock in fact mentioned by
Daniel, which was carved out of a mountain, which will break in pieces and grind to
powder the image of the kingdoms of the world.” This passage is more or less identical
to Tertullian’s Adversus Iudaeos XIV,2–3. See CChr.SL 2,1392 and Tränkle 1964.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 37 1/18/2007 10:08:42 AM
38 chapter two
remarks that even though the proclamation of Christ is a stumbling
block for the Jews, it can, however, still be understood as a guarantee
of a prophecy of the Creator. In this regard, Tertullian quotes the
Zion text of 28:16 in such a way that the text in question merges with
that of 8:14,
85
thereby giving rise to a striking agreement with the way
in which these texts are quoted in Rom. 9:33. The only, and at once
surprising difference is the fact that Tertullian quotes the text in the
perfect tense (‘posui’).
In V,6,10 Tertullian introduces 28:16 once again, this time in rela-
tion to 1 Cor. 2–3. While the combination with Isa. 8:14 is no longer
employed, we find a surprising combination with Isa. 3:3 in its place
in which it is announced that the Lord is about to remove every form
of support from Jerusalem and Judah. Tertullian explains this text as a
prediction of Paul’s break with Judaism, since the wise builder (‘sapi-
entem architectum’) was also to be removed from Judah. Paul was thus
taken away from Judaism in order to establish Christianity and to set
its foundations in Christ. With an allusion to 28:16, Tertullian goes on
to illustrate the fact that the creator had already spoken of this one
and only foundation. This time his quotation is in the present tense
(‘inicio’) and makes use of a verb that would appear to be more in line
with the Septuagint’s ἐμβάλλω than with the verb τίθημι as employed
in the New Testament. Tertullian also takes a text version as his point
of departure that contains the characteristic plus of the Septuagint in
the second half of 28:16 (‘in eum’).
86
85
Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem V,5,9: “Etiam quod scandalum Iudaeis praedicat
Christum, prophetiam super illo consignat creatoris, dicentis per Esaiam, Ecce posui in
Sion lapidem offensionis et petram scandali. Petra autem fuit Christus: etiam Marcion
servat.” Translation Evans 1972 II:539: “Even in saying that his preaching of Christ
is to the Jews an offence, he sets his seal on the Creator’s prophecy about that, who
speaks by Isaiah, Behold I have placed in Sion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. But
the rock was Christ. Even Marcion has kept that.”
86
Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem V,6,10: “Et numquid ipse tunc Paulus destinabatur,
de Iudaea, id est de Iudaismo, auferre habens in aedificationem Christianismi, positurus
unicum fundamentum, quod est Christus? Quia et de hoc per eundem prophetam
creator, Ecce ego, inquit, inicio in fundamenta Sionis lapidem pretiosum, honorabilem,
et qui in eum crediderit non confundetur.” Translation Evans 1972 II:547: “And was
that not a presage of Paul himself, who was destined to be taken away from Judaea,
which means Judaism, for the building up of Christendom? For he was to lay that one
and only foundation which is Christ. Indeed of this too the Creator speaks, by the
same prophet: Behold I insert into the foundations of Sion a stone precious and honourable, and
he that believeth in it shall not be put to shame.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 38 1/18/2007 10:08:42 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 39
Cyprian, who considered himself to be a pupil of Tertullian, deals
with the Zion text of 28:16 in Testimonia ad Quirinum addressed to his
son. This document contains a chapter entitled ‘Quod idem et lapis
dictus sit’ (liber II, caput XVI) in which Cyprian strings together all
sorts of scriptural quotations relating to a stone or to stones in the
plural. In addition to the now familiar texts of Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22ff
and Acts 4:8–12, allusion is also made to Zech. 3:8–9 (the stone with
seven eyes), Deut. 27:8 (the memorial stones on Mount Ebal) and
Jos. 24:26–27 (the memorial stone at Shechem).
87
The evident ease
with which such unrelated ‘stone texts’ are ascribed a Messianic inter-
pretation is apparent from the commentary Cyprian supplies to this
string of allusions in which the stone of Jacob at Bethel (Gen. 28:18),
the stone upon which Moses sat during Israel’s confrontation with
Amalek (Ex. 17:12), the stone at Beth-shemesh (1 Sam. 6:14), the stone
with which David knocked out the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49) and
the stone Ebenezer set up by Samuel between Mizpah and Jeshanah
(1 Sam. 7:12) are directly associated with one another.
88
Even though the work of Tertullian shows the anchoring of the
Messianic interpretation of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 firmly in place
in the early church, it is primarily in the work of Cyprian that we
encounter a considerable expansion of the number of ‘stone texts’, all
of which are interrelated. The possibilities created by the allegorical
method would appear to have provided the Messianic interpretation of
the Old Testament ‘stone texts’ with some extra stimulus.
87
Dan. 2:31–35 is treated by Cyprian separately in the following chapter (see caput
XVII).
88
See CChr.SL 3,51–53: “Hic est lapis in Genesi, quem ponit Iacob ad caput
suum, quia caput viri Christus, et dormiens videt scalam ad caelum pertingentem, in
quia constitutus erat Dominus, et anguli ascendebant et descedebant: quem lapidem
consecravit et unxit sacramento unctionis Christum significans. Hic est lapis in Exodo,
super quem sedit Moyses in cacumine collis, quando Iesus Naue contra Amalech dimi-
cabat, et sacramento lapidis et stabilitate sessionis Amalach superatus est ab Iesu, id
est diabolus a Christo victus est. Hic est lapis magnus in Basilion primo, super quem
posita est arca testamenti, quando eam ab allophylis remissam et redditam in plaustro
boves reportaverunt. Hic est lapis item in Basilion primo, quo David frontem Goliae
percussit et occidit, significans diabolum et servos eius inde prosterni victos scilicet ea
capitis parte, quam signatam non habent: quo signo nos et tuti summus semper et
vivimus. Hic est lapis, quem cum alienigenas Israhel vicisset, statuit Samuhel et appel-
lavit nomen ens Abbennezer id est lapis auxiliator.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 39 1/18/2007 10:08:42 AM
40 chapter two
2.5.3. Jerome and Augustine
In order to establish an accurate picture of the way in which the ancient
church understood the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 in later centuries, we
do well to turn our attention to the exegetical works of Jerome and
Augustine. There can be little doubt that Jerome (circa 347–420) and
Augustine (354–430) are the two most prominent exegetes of the 4th
and 5th centuries.
The ease with which Jerome associates all the Old Testament ‘stone
texts’ with Christ is apparent from a treatise on Ps. 134. In a fashion
highly reminiscent of Cyprian, Jerome speaks of Christ as cornerstone
in the context of his comments on verse 3 (“May the Lord . . . bless
you from Zion”). He alludes in detail to the dream of Jacob at Bethel
whereby he identifies the stone under Jacob’s head with Christ. He then
goes on to associate this stone with the cornerstone from Ps. 118:22
and ‘the Stone of Help (Ebenezer)’ from 1 Sam. 7:12.
89
Isa. 28:16 is
alluded to in the sermon In Dei Dominica Pascha, in which Jerome com-
plains about the Jews, for their rejection of Christ and their inability
to understand that the stone referred to in 28:16 is the Messiah and
Son of God.
90
Jerome’s interpretation of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is to be found
for the most part, however, in his Bible commentaries. It is evident in
this regard that the accent has shifted from the stone to be set in Zion
to the construction in which the stone is to function as a cornerstone.
The emphasis likewise shifts from a Messianic interpretation to an
ecclesiological one,
91
a shift that would appear to go hand in hand with
89
See CChr.SL 78,292: “Sub capite ipsius lapis erat Xpistus.” “Vultis scire quia
lapis ille, qui erat ad caput Iacob, Xpistus erat lapis angularis? Lapis quem reprobaverunt
aedificantes hic factus est in caput anguli. Lapis ille, qui scriptus est in Regnorum libro,
Abenezer. Lapis iste Xpistus est. Abenezer autem interpretatur lapis adiutorii. Consurrexit,
inquit, Iacob mane. Et quid dixit? Haec, inquit, domus Dei est. Et quid fecit? Tulit, inquit,
oleum, et inxit lapidem . . .”
90
See CChr.SL 78,549: “O vere infelices Iudaei, o vere miseri atque miserabiles,
qui non intellexistis lapidem, qui per Esaiam repromissus est, quod poneretur in fun-
damentis Sion, et populum utrumque coniungeret, esse Dominum Salvatorem, esse
Dei Filium. Hunc vos reprobastis aedificantes quondam congregationem Domini et
templi eius mysteria custodientes. Qui reprobatus a vobis, factus est in caput anguli,
et primam ecclesiam de Iudaeorum populo congregatam et credentes ex nationibus in
unum gregem et mysterium faederavit. A Domino factum est istud. . . .”
91
Cf. Maiburg 1984:252: “Wegen des zumeist ekklesiologischen Anliegens der Väter
interessieren die früheren Fragen nicht mehr, sondern das Bild vom Bau als Ganzem,
der Ekklesia, wird relevant, in das das Bild vom Eckstein als Bestandteil eingefügt
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 40 1/18/2007 10:08:42 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 41
the new status of the Christian faith as an established religion. The
defence of the truth of the Christian faith as opposed to the Jewish faith
is thus no longer the primary focus when interpreting the Old Testament.
Given the focus on the ecclesiological aspect at this juncture, it is strik-
ing how the imagery of the cornerstone comes to be elaborated further
and further and to acquire all sorts of associations, less and less related
to the original architectural intention of the cornerstone. As a mat-
ter of fact, Jerome merges together all the instances in the Scriptures
that have anything to do with a cornerstone, combining them into a
single whole in such a way that the texts serve to mutually interpret
one another.
92
In line with the tradition, Jerome combines Isa. 28:16 in his Commen-
tarium in Esaiam with texts such as Ps. 118:22 and Dan. 2:31–35. The
shift towards emphasis on the ecclesiological dimension only becomes
apparent, however, when he establishes an immediate link between 28:16
and the church foundational work of Paul who refers to himself in
1 Cor. 3:10–11 as an expert architect who has established the foundation
in Christ and in Christ alone. Reference to the cornerstone is then
explained on the basis of Eph. 2:20 in which the unity of the com-
munity is central and the cornerstone is ascribed a connective function
in the amalgamation of two walls, in casu the Jews and the Gentiles,
into one people of God: ‘angularis lapis, quia circumcisionis et gentium
populos copulavit’.
93
The New Testament community is built upon this
stone. Jerome likewise makes reference to the cornerstone in relation
to Isa. 54:11 whereby he alludes to the well-known ‘stone texts’. Once
wird. Nicht mehr das ‘Schicksal’ des Steins ist von Belang, sondern seine Funktion
im Gebäude der Kirche.” The shift in accent from a Messianic to an ecclesiological
interpretation is also evident in Eusebius (circa 265–339) who associates the stone
mentioned in 28:16 in the first instance with Mt. 16:18 in his commentary on Isaiah.
See Ziegler 1975:183: οὗτος δ᾽ ἂν εἴη ὁ λίθος, ὁ αὐτός τε πέτρα περὶ ὁ σωτὴρ ἔλεγεν·
>ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν<. τοῦτον δὲ τὸν λίθον ἐπαγγέλλεται
θήσειν εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιών, ὃ δὴ καὶ ἔργῳ πεποίηκεν εἰπὼν καὶ ἐπιτελέσας τό· >ἐπὶ
τὴν πέτραν οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν<. Σιὼν γὰρ ὄρος τὸ εὐαγγελικὸν κήρυγμα
καὶ τὴν ἐπὶ τούτῳ τεθεμελιωμένην ἐκκλησίαν πολλάκις ἐξειλήφαμεν. πολυτελῆ δὲ
ὄντα τὸν λίθον τοῦτον καὶ ἐκλεκτὸν καὶ τίμιον θησειν εἰς τὰ θεμέλια τῆς ἐκκλησίας
ἐπαγγέλλεται. ἐντεῦθεν γωνιαῖος καὶ ἀκρογωνιαῖος κέκληται.
92
Maiburg 1984:254. A highly unusual association is also to be found in a sermon
by Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna based on Lk. 17:1–2 in which he associates the
millstone to be hung round a person’s neck with the cornerstone, the stone of help
and the stone that freed itself from the mountains without human interference. See
CChr.SL 24,158–159 (Sermo XXVII).
93
See CChr.SL 73,363.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 41 1/18/2007 10:08:42 AM
42 chapter two
again, and with allusion to Eph. 2:20 and Hebr. 11:10, he places the
emphasis on the ecclesiological function of the cornerstone.
94
In his Commentarium in Hiezechielem, Jerome makes allusion to the stones
of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:19–20) and the precious stones on the
breastpiece of the High Priest (Ex. 28:9,17) in relation to the precious
stones mentioned in the lament concerning the king of Tyre (Ezek.
28:13). He then associates the latter with the living stones referred to
in 1 Pet. 2:5, the construction referred to in Eph. 2:20–21 and lapis
lazuli referred to in Isa. 54:11. Other now familiar ‘stone texts’ then
pass the review.
95
Against the background of the four tablets of hewn
stone referred to in Ezek. 40:42, Jerome even proposes an allegorical
explanation whereby the number four is associated with the four gos-
pels and the three equal measures with the mystery of the Trinity. The
stones themselves serve as symbols for the living stones, whereby the
cornerstone is mentioned as the stone that holds together the walls of
the old and new covenant.
96
Jerome’s specifically ecclesiological interests are also expressed in his
Commentarium in Zachariam Prophetam. In order to arrive at an adequate
explanation of the stone with seven eyes alluded to in Zech. 3:8–9 he
turns once again to Eph. 2:20.
97
Similarly, when he speaks of the cor-
nerstones from Ps. 118:22 and Isa. 28:16 in relation to the Corner Gate
referred to in Zech. 14:10–11, his explanation is completely determined
by the ecclesiological perspective of Eph. 2:14–22. The cornerstone
binds two walls and thereby two peoples.
98
The development evident in the work of Jerome, moving from an
originally Messianic to a more ecclesiological explanation of the corner-
stone, is also a characteristic feature of the writings of Augustine.
Indeed, where Augustine is concerned, both the Messianic and the eccle-
siological interpretations are bound together inseparably. Augustine’s
confrontation with the Manichean Faustus places particular emphasis
94
See CChr.SL 73,610: “Qui factus est in caput anguli, et duos populos continet,
gentium et Israel; qui aedificavit civitatem, cuius artifex et conditor Deus est.”
95
See CChr.SL 75,393.
96
See CChr.SL 75,582: “. . . isti sunt vivi lapides qui volvuntur super terram et habent
secum angularem lapidem quo veteris et novi testamenti parietes continuentur . . .”
97
See CChr.SL 76A,775.
98
See CChr.SL 76A,887: “Qui angularis lapis parietem utrumque connectit, et duos
populos in unum redigit, de quo et Deus loquitur per Esaiam: Ecce ponam in Sion lapidem
angularem, electum et pretiosum in fundamentis eius; et qui crediderit in eum, non confundetur.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 42 1/18/2007 10:08:43 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 43
on the Old Testament as a source of statements about Christ. Faustus
had considered it a sign of weakness in a person’s faith if he or she was
unable to believe in Christ apart from the search for Jewish witnesses.
While the Manicheans were even of the opinion that the New Testament
itself required a good deal of weeding out, their opinion on the Old
Testament was entirely negative: a corporal book that bore no relation-
ship whatsoever with Christ and deserved to be rejected.
99
For Augustine,
Christ was the fulfilment of the Old Testament and everything therein
had to be related to him: “if we desire to follow the path of right
judgement and wish to avoid deviation from the cornerstone and risk
suffering shipwreck in our judgement.” Augustine understands Christ
not only as Head, but when he thinks of Christ, he also thinks of the
body of Christ, his church on earth. This implies that his interpretation
of the Old Testament is both christocentric and ecclesiocentric.
100
If we turn in particular to Augustine’s explanation of the cornerstone
referred to in Isa. 28:16, it is striking that the identification of this stone
along with other ‘stones’ alluded to in the Old Testament, with Christ
functions as an obvious point of departure. In his commentary on Jn.
1:52, Augustine is able to draw a connection, in line with Cyprian
and Jerome, between the stone of 28:16 and the stone of Jacob at
Bethel (Gen. 28:18), which as a matter of fact was also anointed.
101
It
is evident from a significant portion of Augustine’s work that he found
the imagery of Christ as cornerstone attractive. When writing on par-
ticular biblical texts, he frequently alludes to the ‘lapis angularis’.
102
It
99
See Polman 1955:75–82.
100
Polman 1955:86–87.
101
See CChr.SL 36,80: “. . . et lapidem quem sibi posuerat ad caput, unxit. Audistis
quia Messias Christus est, audistis quia unctus Christus est. Non enim sic posuit lapidem
unctum, ut veniret et adoraret; alioquin idololatria esset, non significatio Christi. Facta
est ergo significatio, quo usque oportuit fieri significationem, et significatus est Christus.
Lapis unctus, sed non in idolum. Lapis unctus: lapis quare? Ecce pono in Sion lapidem
electum, pretiosum, et qui crediderit in illum, non confundetur. Quare unctus? Quia Christus a
charismate. Quid autem vidit tunc in scalis? Adscendentes et descendentes angelos.
Sic est et ecclesia, fratres; angeli Dei, boni praedicatores, praedicantes Christum . . .”
As a matter of fact, the same texts are effortlessly linked together by Augustine’s friend
and contemporary Quodvultdeus of Carthage. See his Liber Promissionum I, caput XXIII
in CChr.SL 60,40–41.
102
See, for example, CChr.SL 36 (Tractatus in Johannis Evangelium), 99, 161, 175, 207,
407, 442; CChr.SL 38 (Enarrationes in Psalmos I–L), 23, 539–542; CChr.SL 39 (Enarrationes
in Psalmos LI–C), 751, 1063, 1139, 1199–1200, 1203, 1221, 1337, 1354, 1356; CChr.
SL 40 (Enarrationes in Psalmos CI–CL), 1437, 1567, 1570, 1626, 1636, 1857; CChr.SL 41
(Sermones de Vetere Testamento I–L), 33, 523; CChr.SL 47–48 (De Civitate Dei ), 185, 618.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 43 1/18/2007 10:08:43 AM
44 chapter two
is striking, however, that while he regularly alludes to Eph. 2:14–22 in
this regard, and quotes it directly from time to time, the Zion text of
Isa. 28:16 is virtually always absent from his considerations. It is clear
that Eph. 2:14–22 serves as an important interpretative framework
for Augustine, understandable in light of his ecclesiological interests.
By way of illustration we can refer to his interpretation of the plural
‘montes Sion’ in the Latin text of Ps. 47:3 (NRSV Ps. 48:2). Augustine
explains the plural with an allusion to Eph. 2:14–22 in combination
with Ps. 118:22, seemingly overlooking the fact that the presence of the
term Zion left open the possibility of establishing an association with
Isa. 28:16.
103
In his explanation of Ps. 118:22, Eph. 2:14–22 functions
similarly as the interpretative framework without any reference to the
Zion text of Isa. 28:16.
104
It is only in Augustine’s discussion of the
superscription to the Latin text of Ps. 111 (NRSV Ps. 112), in which
reference is made to Haggai and Zechariah and their involvement in the
construction of the temple, that we find an allusion to Isa. 28:16, albeit
as part of a quotation from 1 Pet. 2:4–6, which Augustine immediately
associates thereafter with a quotation from Eph. 2:19–22.
105
It is also apparent that Christ and the church are inseparably linked
in the Old Testament exegesis found in Augustine’s major work De
Civitate Dei (413–426).
106
The same applies at this juncture as noted
above, however, namely that the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is not dealt
with separately, in spite of the fact that Augustine’s discussion of the
period and the writings of the prophets explicitly states that Isaiah
103
See CChr.SL 38,540: “An qui ad Sion pertinuerunt etiam qui de diverso venerunt,
ut sibi occurrerent in lapidem angularem, et fierent illi duo parietes tamquam duo
montes, unus ex circumcisione, alter ex praeputio, unus ex Iudaeis, alter ex gentibus;
non iam adversi, etsi diversi, quia ex diverso, iam in angulo nec diversi? Ipse est enim,
inquit, pax nostra, qui fecit utraque unum. Ipse ille angularis lapis, quem reprobaverunt aedificantes,
factus est in caput anguli. Duos iunxit in se mons montes . . .”
104
For Ps. 118:22, see CChr.SL 40,1662: “At istum quem dicimus? Lapidem quem
reprobaverunt aedificantes: nam hic factus est in caput anguli; ut duos conderet in se,
in unum novum hominem, faciens pacem, et connecteret utrosque in uno corpore
Deo, circumcisionem scilicet et praeputium.”
105
See CChr.SL 40,1626.
106
Cf. Book XVI,2 “However, what is certain to all men of faith is, first, that these
things were not done and recorded without some prefiguring of what was to come
and, second, that they are to be referred only to Christ and His Church, which is the
City of God . . .” (R.J. Deferrari [ed.], The Fathers of the Church. A New Translation, Vol. 7,
Writings of Saint Augustine, City of God Books VIII–XVI (tr. G.G. Walsh & G. Monahan),
CUA Press, Washington, 1950, p. 489).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 44 1/18/2007 10:08:43 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 45
was more an evangelist than a prophet because he spoke more about
Christ and the church than the other prophets.
107
Counter to expecta-
tions, the ‘lapis angularis’ is only referred to on one single occasion
throughout De Civitate Dei, in a passage (book XVIII,28) in which the
author alludes to the cornerstone of Eph. 2:20 in the context of the
vocation of the Gentiles and in association with Hos. 1:10–11: “Let
the reader, therefore, on his own, bring to mind that ‘chief cornerstone’
and those two ‘walls’ and he will recognise the one made up of the
Jews under the designation ‘Juda’, and the other made up of Gentiles
under the designation ‘Israel’, both of them built upon, and supported
by, a single ‘foundation’ and both rising ‘out of the earth’.”
108
It would appear from the writings of both Jerome and Augustine
that a shift in emphasis has taken place in the direction of a more
ecclesiological interpretation of the cornerstone spoken of in the Old
and the New Testaments. Eph. 2:14–22 seems to have functioned as
a primary interpretative framework in the 4th and 5th centuries, also
with respect to our understanding of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16.
2.5.4. Cyril and Theodoret
Two commentaries have been preserved from the time of the christologi-
cal struggle between the Alexandrian and the Antiochian schools, one
ascribed to Cyril of Alexandria (378–444), who played a primary role
in the said struggle and was a fierce opponent of the ideas of Nestor,
the other by one of his opponents, the Antiochian Theodoret of Cyrus
(393–circa 466). The Antiochian school included the renowned exegete
of the day Theodore of Mopsuestia (circa 350–428) and the latter’s
friend John Chrysostom (circa 354–407), who had acquired consider-
able fame as a preacher. While Theodore and John are both known to
have written commentaries on the prophet Isaiah, that of the former,
107
Cf. R.J. Deferrari (ed.), The Fathers of the Church. A New Translation, Vol. 24, Writings
of Saint Augustine, City of Books XVII–XXII (tr. G.G. Walsh & D.J. Honan), CUA Press,
Washington, 1954, pp. 123–126. (Book XVIII, 29). In order to bring his work to a
conclusion, Augustine limits himself in this regard to Isa. 52:13–53:12 and 54:1–5.
108
R.J. Deferrari (ed.), The Fathers of the Church. A New Translation, Vol. 24, Writings
of Saint Augustine, City of God Books XVII–XXII (tr. G.G. Walsh & D.J. Honan), CUA
Press, Washington, 1954, p. 122. See the Latin text in CChr.SL 48, 618: “Recolatur
tamen lapis ille angularis et duo parieter, unus ex ludaeis, alter ex gentibus; ille nomine
filiorum luda, iste nomine filiorum Israel, eidem uni principatui suo in id ipsum inni-
tentes et ascendentes agnoscantur a terra.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 45 1/18/2007 10:08:43 AM
46 chapter two
like so many of his other works, has been lost, while that of the latter
breaks off suddenly at Isa. 8:10.
109
Cyril relates the stone referred to in Isa. 28:16 directly to Jesus Christ
whom he characterises as foundation and place of refuge, stating that
Christ has become the immovable foundation of the spiritual Zion,
that is, the church. Cyril’s standpoint in the christological struggle of
his day is expressed in the association he establishes between the pre-
ciousness of the stone mentioned in 28:16 and Christ’s all-surpassing
divine glory and excellence.
110
Eusebius of Caesarea (circa 265–339),
on the other hand, had associated the stone with the human body of
Christ.
111
In line with Jerome and Augustine, Cyril likewise leans in
the direction of Eph. 2:14–22 in his explanation of the cornerstone,
pointing out how two nations have been joined together in a spiritual
unity through faith in Christ.
112
In his treatment of 28:16, Theodoret of Cyrus fiercely opposes any
explanation of this prophecy that would attempt to relate the stone in
Zion with king Hezekiah. He even goes so far as to refer to such an
explanation as the height of ignorance.
113
It is possible that Theodore
of Mopsuestia had proposed such an explanation. Theodoret of Cyrus
refers to a number of scriptural passages in order to show that the
Scriptures in fact forbid us from placing our trust in human beings
and that Isa. 28:16 certainly cannot be understood as an appeal to do
so. The cornerstone referred to in 28:16 can be none other than Jesus
109
See Dumortier 1983. At the end of the 19th century an Armenian version of
Chrysostom’s commentary was found that continues surprisingly enough to Isaiah 54
while exhibiting a large lacuna consisting of chapters 21–30.
110
See PCC.PG 70,632: Λίθον μὲν οὖν ἐκλεκτὸν ´, πολυτελῆ καὶ ἔντιμον, τὸν Κύριον
ἡμῶν ᾽Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀποκαλεῖ, καὶ τῇ τῆς θεότητος δόξῃ καὶ ὑπεροχῃ διαπρέποντα.
Ὅτι δὲ αὐτὸς κρηπίς τε καὶ ἔρεισμά, καὶ ἀκλόνητος ὑποβάθρα γέγονε τῇ νοητῇ Σιὼν,
τοῦτ᾽ ἔστι, τῃ ᾽Εκκλησίᾳ, διατρανοῖ λέγων εἰς τά θεμέλια βεβλῆσθαι αὐτὸν παρὰ
τοῦ Πατρός.
111
See Ziegler 1975:183: εἴη δ᾽ ἂν τὸ ἀνθρώπινον τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν οὕτως
ὠνομασμένον σῶμά ἐπεὶ καὶ κατὰ τὸν ∆ανιὴλ >λίθος τμηθεὶς ἄνευ χειρῶν< ἑωρᾶτο·
λίθου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρωπίνου νοουμένου σώματος, ὄρους δὲ τῆς θεότητος τῆς κατὰ τὸν
σωτῆρα.
112
See PCC.PG 70,632f: ᾽ακρογωνιαῖον δὲ εἶναί φησιν, ὡς διὰ πίστεως μιας
κατασφίγγοντα πρὸς ἑνοτητα τὴν πνευματικὴν τοὺς δύο λαοὺς, τόν τε ἐξ ᾽Ισραὴλ,
φημὶ, καὶ μέν τοι τὸν ἐξ ἐθνῶν· ἀεὶ γάρ πως ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν οἰκοδομημᾶτων
δύο συμβαίνουσι τοῖχοι, καὶ ἀλλὴλοις συναρμολογούμενοι κατασφίγγονται πρὸς
ἑνότητα.
113
See PCC.PG 81:373: ᾽ανοίας ἐσχάτης εἶναι νομίζω τὸ ταύτην τῷ ᾽Εζεκίᾳ
προσαρμόζειν τὴν προφητείαν·
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 46 1/18/2007 10:08:43 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 47
Christ.
114
Even within the exegetical tradition of the Antiochian school,
which was characterised by its rejection of the allegorical method and its
preference for literal-historical interpretation, it would appear that the
Messianic explanation of the stone referred to in Isa. 28:16 was firmly
anchored. Theodoret also makes direct reference to Eph. 2:14 and to
Paul’s statement on Christ as the only foundation in 1 Cor. 3:11. With
respect to the threat confronting the kingdom of David in Isa. 28:16—he
locates the text in the period of the Syro-Ephraimitic war —Theodoret
considers it important that an element of the invincible character of this
foundation stone be allowed to emerge in the prophecy. He compares
the latter with the stone mentioned in Daniel 2.
2.5.5. Evaluation
It is apparent from what we have said so far that the Messianic inter-
pretation of Isa. 28:16 probably has pre-Christian credentials and may
even have already been presupposed by the text of the Septuagint (see
§ 2.2. and § 2.4.). In any event, this explanation was stimulated to a
significant degree by the New Testament (see § 2.3.). With respect to
the contribution of the early church to the reception-history of the
Zion text of 28:16, the following observations are important:
• In line with the New Testament, the early church associated the
Zion text of Isa. 28:16 with the advent of Christ. Nevertheless, the
number of allusions to Christ as the cornerstone in the first centuries
remains relatively limited.
115
• The New Testament tradition whereby the stone referred to in 28:16
was related in particular to Isa. 8:14 and Ps. 118:22 is continued in
the early church. It is evident from the Letter of Barnabas that the
said ‘stone texts’ enjoyed an established place in the Messianic wit-
ness of the early church (2nd century) from the very outset.
• At the service of Christian witness in opposition to Jews and heretics,
the tendency arose relatively early to thread more and more ‘stone
texts’ from the Old Testament together and to provide them with
a Messianic interpretation. This is clearly evident in the documents
ascribed to Tertullian and Cyprian (3rd century). The allegorical
114
See PCC.PG 81:373: Ἀκρογωνιαῖος δὲ λίθος ὁ δεσπότης Χριστὸς < ὁ ποιήσας
τά ἀμφότερα ἕν > etc.
115
Maiburg 1984:252–253.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 47 1/18/2007 10:08:44 AM
48 chapter two
method with its highly associative character played an important
role in this regard.
• It is hardly surprising against such a background that the Zion text
of 28:16 was likewise applied to Christ in the Alexandrian tradition
as a more or less obvious given. Cyril of Alexandria’s commentary
on the book of Isaiah represents a clear witness in this respect (5th
century). Even the Antiochian tradition, with its strong preference
for a literal-historical interpretation, would appear to have com-
monly included the Messianic interpretation of the stone referred
to in 28:16. Theodoret of Cyrus’ comment on Isa. 28:16 is no less
Messianic in this regard than that of his Alexandrian colleague Cyril
(5th century).
• In the 4th and 5th centuries, however, the exegesis of Isa. 28:16 and
of the other Old Testament ‘stone texts’ underwent something of a
shift of emphasis. The originally Messianic interpretation made way
for an ecclesiological interpretation, whereby Eph. 2:14–22 came to
function more and more explicitly as the interpretative framework.
116

The shift in emphasis can be clearly observed in the biblical com-
mentaries of the Church Fathers Jerome and Augustine. The shift
towards a more ecclesiological interpretation forced the Zion element
in 28:16 into the background to some degree while the focus was
turned to the designation of the stone in 28:16 and Ps. 118:22 as
a cornerstone. In light of Eph. 2:20, the said cornerstone came to
be understood in the first instance in relation to its uniting function,
especially in a church made up of both Jews and Gentiles.
2.6. Middle Ages
The so-called Glossa Ordinaria function as a standard work of exegesis
in the Middle Ages. This Bible commentary came into existence in the
12th century and consisted of a sort of florilegium made up of all sorts
of explanatory notes based on the Church Fathers. The church of the
116
Given the fact that the ecclesiological element was not absent in older interpreta-
tions it is thus better to speak of a shift in emphasis. Cf. Snodgrass 1977:105: “The
stone testimonia were used to help the church to express her Christology, her under-
standing of Christ’s rejection and exaltation, her soteriology, her ecclesiology, and her
understanding of judgement. Incidentally, it should be pointed out that wherever the
stone testimonia appear in the NT and Qumran the concept of the people of God is
usually present in the immediate context.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 48 1/18/2007 10:08:44 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 49
Middle Ages ascribed a great deal of authority to just such explanatory
material stemming from the Church Fathers. The source and norm of
biblical exegesis was to be found in this tradition.
117
Consistent refer-
ence was made to this authoritative work for a considerable period
of time, including its explanation of the book of Isaiah to which the
Middle Ages, in line with the New Testament and the early church,
had ascribed significant importance, both for its demonstrations that
Jesus was the Messiah and for its condemnation of Judaism.
118
The Glossa Ordinaria read 28:16 as a word of compassion against
the background of the fact that the addressees were in a state of great
distress and desperation (‘quia desperastis’; cf. the interlinear gloss in
relation to 28:15: ‘semel salutem desperavimus’). In relation to the
construction referred to in 28:16, God is compared with a wise archi-
tect (‘quasi sapiens architectus’). The shift of emphasis towards an
ecclesiological interpretation observed in the preceding centuries would
appear to have likewise determined the exegesis of the Middle Ages
since the Glossa Ordinaria immediately adds that the verse in question
has to do with the church. While the stone in question is evidently
Christ, the Zion text of 28:16 is likewise associated with Eph. 2:14–22
in the Glossa Ordinaria: Gentiles and Jews are united (‘gentes et iudeos
copulate’). The preciousness of the stone mentioned in 28:16 is then
related to Christ’s work of redemption: the world is redeemed by Him
(‘quo redimitur mundus’). In a marginal note adjacent to verse 16 ref-
erence is made to Ps. 118: ‘lapidem quem edificantes reprobaverunt,
viri scilicet illusores.’
119
In order to gain access to the exegetical insights prevalent during the
Middle Ages, we need to go beyond the Glossa Ordinaria and focus our
attention in particular on the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).
Immediately following his appointment as professor in Paris, Thomas
wrote a commentary on the book of Isaiah as one of his first theological
works (1252–1253).
120
His work harks back to the work of Jerome and
117
See De Knijff 1985
2
:28ff.
118
See McMichael 1996:144–151 and likewise Sawyer 1996.
119
See Biblia Latina Cum Glossa Ordinaria III, 1992:46.
120
Both the authenticity and the dating of Thomas’ commentary on Isaiah have been
the subject of dispute for a considerable period of time. Based on a striking parallel
with a passage from the work of Albertus Magnus, R. Guindon has argued that the
commentary must stem from the early period of Thomas’ appointment in Paris. See
Thomas Aquinas 1974:20* (Préface).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 49 1/18/2007 10:08:44 AM
50 chapter two
to the aforementioned Glossa Ordinaria.
121
The designation of this work
as a ‘commentary’ is somewhat misleading, however, since Thomas
offers detailed commentary on only the first eleven chapters while the
rest of his work contains little more than a few very concise exegetical
observations.
122
Bearing this in mind, it is evident that we should not
expect anything much in terms of innovative insights with respect to
the explanation of Isa. 28:16, not even from Thomas Aquinas. In rela-
tion to 28:14ff, Thomas remarks that Isaiah speaks of two ‘remedia’.
The first is that upon which the Israelites trusted, namely the covenant
with idols, the so-called ‘covenant with death’ referred to in 28:15,
which Thomas sees as a covenant with the devil.
123
The second is the
‘remedia’ that God ordained for the saints, namely Christ. Thus, in
line with the tradition of the early church, Thomas also establishes a
direct link between the stone mentioned in the Zion text of 28:16 and
Christ. He likewise makes immediate reference to the quotation from
Ps. 118:22 in the margin of the Glossa Ordinaria.
124
Based on the Glossa Ordinaria and the work of Thomas Aquinas,
all we can establish is the fact that the Middle Ages offered no new
exegetical insights with respect to the explanation of the Zion text of
28:16. This evidently goes hand in hand with the fact that considerable
efforts had been made at the time to follow the traditional explana-
tion of the Church Fathers, the latter serving as authoritative figures:
auctor and auctoritas.
125
The norms for the explanation of biblical texts,
moreover, were so embedded in the teaching of the church that it was
practically impossible to introduce anything in the way of genuinely
innovative exegetical insights during the Middle Ages, in spite of the
positive things that could be said of the aforementioned hermeneutic
orientation on the Fathers.
121
See Thomas Aquinas 1974:52* (Préface).
122
The publishers of his Isaiah commentary explain this as follows: “Il semble que
le jeune bachelier, pressé par le rythme de ses cours, n’a pas pu poursuivre le genre
magnanime du début. Peut-être cette faiblesse de l’ouvrage explique-t-elle que l’auteur
ait renoncé à la publier . . .” See Thomas Aquinas 1974:20* (Préface).
123
Such an identification of the ‘covenant with death’ and a covenant with the devil
can already be found in the Glossa Ordinaria. The connecting hinge is to be located in the
reference to the ‘refuge of lies’ (Isa. 28:17), the devil being the ‘father of lies’ (“diabolo
qui est pater mendacii”). See Biblia Latina Cum Glossa Ordinaria III, 1992:46.
124
Thomas Aquinas 1974:131: “Secundum est remedium Deus sanctis parat, sci-
licet Christum: Ecce ego, Ps. «Lapidem quem reprobaverunt edificantes»; Qui crediderit
non festinet, sed expectet, Abacuc II
3
«Si moram fecerit, expecta eum», et hoc contra
malorum blasphemiam.”
125
See De Knijff 1985:28–38.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 50 1/18/2007 10:08:44 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 51
2.7. Reformation
From the period of the Reformation, the biblical interpretation of
Luther (1483–1546) and Calvin (1509–1564) exercised considerable
influence. Their exegesis of Isa. 28:16 represents the focus of the fol-
lowing paragraph.
In similar fashion to the Church Fathers, the Reformers considered
the stone mentioned in Isa. 28:16 as referring to Christ as self-evident.
Luther in particular, in his ‘Vorlesung über Jesaja’, was quick to estab-
lish a link between the cornerstone and Christ.
126
The reference to
Zion is completely ignored in this regard while every effort is made to
elaborate the significance of the cornerstone for his teaching on justi-
fication by faith. It is striking to note how Luther is able to relate one
thing to another and thereby arrive at a robust soteriological exegesis.
He understands the Zion text of 28:16 in the first instance as a word of
comfort and encouragement for the pious, since Christ is the cornerstone
upon whose righteousness the pious can rely in order themselves to be
righteous. Such knowledge provides the conscience of the pious with
certainty.
127
The person with a bad conscience will take flight even at
the sound of rustling leaves, but the person of faith knows no fear and
does not allow him or herself to be terrorised because faith relies on
Christ and not on the self or one’s own works. In this regard, Luther
refers to Christ as the Lord not only of life and death but also, surpris-
ingly enough, of sin.
128
The extent to which he involves his teaching on
righteousness in his explanation of the biblical text is more than appar-
ent from his interpretation of the concluding words of Isa. 28:16. He
126
See ‘Vorlesung über Jesaja 1527–1529—Scholia 1532/4’, WA 25,187–188. Luther
likewise speaks of the identification of the cornerstone with Christ in his explanation
of the gospel. With regard to Mt. 21:42–44 he notes: “Es ist aber Christus der Stein,
so zum Eckstein worden. Den keine Historien leret, das andere Ecksteine verworffen
werden, oder das Jherusalem ein verworffen Stein sei. Aber von Christo, gottes sohn,
mus man das verstehen, wie den von dem Eckstein S. Petrus und Paulus viel reden,
und Esaias am 8. und 28. cap. spricht: ‘Sihe da, ich lege einen in grund zu Sion, einen
edelen Stein, ein bewerten, polirten stein und ein eckstein, alle, die sich auf in verlassen,
sollen nicht zu schanden werden. Und hat Esaias den vers Davids im 118. Psalm wol
verstanden, das er in nennet ein kostlichen Eckstein, ein polierten stein, ein grossen
Jaspis, Demant oder Schmaragd, der wol versucht, der durchs leiden und creutz glatth
und poliret worden ist und zum eckstein gemacht . . .” (see ‘Matthäus Kapitel 18–24
in Predigten ausgelegt 1537–1540’, WA 47,417–418).
127
WA 25,187: “Simul autem hoc Propheta significat, cum dicit ‘Fundabo lapidem’
fore, ut certae sint conscientiae: Certo statuentes se huius lapidis iusticia iustos esse.”
128
WA 25,188: “Novit enim Christus esse dominum mortis et vitae et peccati.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 51 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
52 chapter two
likewise associates the expression ‘he who believes’ with Christ
129
and
considers it to represent a condemnation of all works, as such works
are unable to rectify one’s conscience in God’s judgement.
130
It is prob-
able that Luther’s soteriological exegesis of 28:16 was influenced by the
context within which the Zion text in Rom. 9:33 is quoted. It is in this
very context that Paul raises the question concerning justification by
faith or by works (see Rom. 9:30–32). It goes without saying, therefore,
that Luther explicitly associated the concluding statement of 28:16
concerning the one who believes with his teaching on justification in
his commentary on Rom. 9:33.
131
As with Luther, Calvin also identified the stone in Zion with Christ.
More than Luther, however, he explained the legitimacy of such a
Messianic interpretation. Calvin was aware that the apostles had made
use of the Septuagint and that their own identification of the stone
with Christ was closely related thereto. Nevertheless, he did not allow
this fact to stand in the way of his use of the New Testament in his
exegesis of 28:16. He explicitly appeals in this regard to the author-
ity of the evangelists and the apostles. Calvin is convinced that they
had done justice to the original significance of the text, in spite of the
freedom they sometimes allowed themselves when quoting texts from
the Old Testament.
132
When compared with Luther’s highly soterio-
logical exegesis, the exegesis of Calvin is much more ecclesiological in
character.
133
This interest in ecclesiology brings him into line with the
129
WA 47,418: “Aber auf den stein gebawet werden, ist glauben an Christum, das
er unser Heiland sei.”
130
WA 25,188: “Sic per Verbum ‘qui crediderit’ simpliciter omnia opera damnat,
quod non possint conscientiam in iudicio Dei erigere. Est enim exclusice accipiendum
‘qui crediderit’, quasi dicat: Omnis qui operatus fuerit, festinat.”
131
See ‘Vorlesung über die Römerbrief 1515–1516’, WA 56,97: “Quia Iustitia
Christi est eius, qui credit in eum, Et peccatum credentis est Christi, in quem credit.
Ideo non potest stare peccatum cum credente, sicut nec in Christo peccatum potest
perseverare.”
132
See Pringle 1948:290–291: “Yet they never changed the meaning, but taking care
to have it properly applied, they gave the true and genuine interpretation. Whenever,
therefore, they quote any passage from the Old Testament, they adhere closely to its
object and design.”
133
Not that the ecclesiological element is lacking in Luther’s explanation. Cf. WA
47,418: “Und hat Esaias den vers Davids im 118. Psalm wol verstanden, das er in
nennet ein kostlichen Eckstein, ein polierten stein, ein grossen Jaspis, Demant oder
Schmaragd, der wol versucht, der durchs leiden und creutz glatth und poliret worden ist
und zum eckstein gemacht, der zwo mauern oder seitten fasse. Den es ist ein unterschied
zwisschen diesem Eckstein und andern steinen. Dan der Eckstein reckt seine beide arm
in beide seitten, als solt er sagen: bisher hab ich nur ein maur, ein volck allein gehabt,
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 52 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 53
exegetical insights of Jerome and Augustine. Calvin similarly under-
scores the fact that the redemption of the human person depends on
Christ and that the promise of peace and rest is only given in Him.
Unlike the Church Fathers in question, however, Calvin does not go
on to accent the unifying function of Christ as cornerstone, preferring
rather to focus on the foundational significance of Christ for the church:
He is the cornerstone upon which the entire structure of the church
rests. The prophets were only able to speak of this as a future event
because Christ still had to be revealed. Isa. 28:16–17a presents this
event more or less as a reformation of the existing church.
134
Calvin thus draws attention to the foundational significance of the
cornerstone and even goes so far as to distance himself explicitly—with
regard to the cornerstone mention in Ps. 118:22, for example—from
the interpretation found in Jerome and Augustine, hallmarked as it was
by Eph. 2:14–22.
135
The consequence of an explanation based on Eph.
2:14–22 was that the Zion element of 28:16 had disappeared into the
background. Luther had likewise more or less ignored the allusion to
Zion in his soteriological interpretation. Calvin’s explanation of 28:16,
however, returns to the specific significance of Zion once again. Zion,
for Calvin, is the place from which Christ must come forth and did
come forth. He sees the fact of Christ’s coming forth from this place,
long since designated for this purpose, as a support to the faith.
136
als zu Jerusalem, aber itzt wil ich ein gebeu, ein neu Jherusalem aufrichten, das sol ein
solch gebew sein, das sich schicke zum hause und zur wohnung. Die Aposteln haben
diesen spruch weitleuftig gehandelt, als zun Ephesern am 2. cap: . . .”
134
See Pringle 1948:291: “On this account the Prophet speaks of it as a future
event, that believers may be fully persuaded that the Church, which they saw not only
tottering and falling, but grievously shaken and almost laid in ruins, will yet be made
firm by a new support, when it shall rest on a stone laid by the hand of God.”
135
See Morrison 1972:20: “The stone is said to be the head of the corner not in that
He is only a part of the building (since it is clear from other passages that the Church
is founded solidly on Him alone) but because the prophet wishes to make Him the
chief support of the structure. There is some ingenious argument over the word corner,
that Christ is placed in the corner because He brings together the two different walls,
that is to say, the Gentiles and the Jews. In my opinion David meant nothing more
than that the cornerstone takes the chief weight of the building.” See also Johnston
1963:261: “The subtle meaning that some have given to the word ‘corner’, as though
it meant that Christ joins together Jews and Gentiles, as two distinct walls, is not well
founded. Let us be content with the simple explanation, that He is so called, because
the weight of the building rests on Him.”
136
In his commentary on 1 Pet. 2:6, Calvin emphasises the idea that the church
stems from Zion in which the beginning of God’s spiritual temple is to be found. He
refers in this regard to Isa. 2:3. See Johnston 1963:261.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 53 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
54 chapter two
2.8. Modern Biblical Research
The Messianic interpretation of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16, whereby
the stone in question is associated directly with Christ, has held its
ground down through the centuries. Scholarly reorientation on the
Masoretic text together with the emergence of modern biblical research,
however, slowly but surely introduced a change in this state of affairs.
The classical Messianic interpretation survived, nevertheless, into the
20th century and would appear to have likewise influenced a number
of modern exegetes. A clear example in this regard is the indirect
Messianic interpretation of, among others, Delitzsch and Procksch.
Delitzsch, for example, associates the stone to be set in Zion with the
Davidic monarchy, whereby he focuses attention, not on the institu-
tion of the monarchy in general, but rather on the specific promise
of durability and the promise of the one true king who is to come.
137

Entirely in agreement with traditional exegesis, Delitzsch then explicitly
associates the concluding words of 28:16 concerning the person who
believes with the promised king.
138
Even a figure such as Procksch, who
is well aware of the absolute use of ˆ:s:¬ , considers the traditional
interpretation, whereby the stone is associated with the Messiah, as
still the most natural. The Messiah stands in 28:16 for the foundation
of the new temple.
139
In spite of the respectable tradition upon which the Messianic
interpretation of the Zion text of 28:16 is able to appeal for support,
there are few exegetes nowadays who are inclined to maintain this line
of exegesis.
140
There can be little doubt that this goes hand in hand
with the efforts of modern biblical research to avoid the use of the
137
Delitzsch 1889:316 alludes in this regard to the prophecies of Isaiah 7, 9 and
11. Ridderbos 1922:173 likewise associates the stone in Zion with David’s royal house
and in the deepest sense with Christ, in whom the royal house of David ultimately
achieved its full significance. See also Fischer 1937:189. Cf. Kraus 1951:98: “Dieser
‘Grundstein’ ist kein anderer als der nach Jahwes grundlegendem Erwählungs- und
Einsetzungswort erwartete und in der Erwartung um die Verheißung Gottes willen
bereits als gegenwärtig geglaubte Heilskönig aus Davids Geschlecht.”
138
Delitzsch 1889:317: “Wer an den Verheißenen glaubt, wird nicht flüchtig . . .”
139
Procksch 1930(A):358. Wildberger 1982:1076 also mentions Driver, Sellin, Fischer
and Virgulin as exponents of a Messianic explanation of Isa. 28:16. Cheyne’s expla-
nation, which understands the cornerstone to allude to yhwh, is related to a degree
to the Messianic interpretation. See Lindblom 1955:125 and Wildberger 1982:1076.
Ziegler 1948:86 likewise associated the cornerstone with yhwh.
140
Exceptions: Ohmann s.d.:99, Vonk 1980:114 and Mare 1992:1096.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 54 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 55
New Testament interpretation of Old Testament texts in its exegesis
of the latter, in contrast, for example, to Calvin. The text of the Old
Testament deserves to be interpreted according to its own historical
and literary context. Such an emphasis on its own context implies at
the same time that the Hebrew text ought to be the primary point of
departure for Old Testament exegesis. Given the fact that the text of
the Septuagint, on account of its additional ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ, was responsible
to a significant degree for the Messianic interpretation of 28:16, an
exegesis that focuses more specifically on the Hebrew text will thus be
granted the freedom to arrive at a different set of conclusions. It will
be evident from the following survey that while the new interpretations
acquired by the Zion text of 28:16 in modern biblical research do not,
on the whole, exhibit a Messianic character, a large number thereof can
nevertheless be typified as eschatological interpretations. Characteristic
of such new interpretations is the fact that the single focus of attention
is no longer the significance of the cornerstone itself but that the entire
act of foundation is included in the explanation. This shift in focus
stands to reason, given the perspective of the new orientation on the
Hebrew text, which implies that the object of ˆ:s:¬ no longer has to
be sought exclusively in the stone.
In order to provide a convenient survey of the plurality of interpre-
tations, we can begin by distinguishing four specifically eschatological
interpretations. The interpretations in question can be identified as
eschatological because the Zion text of 28:16 is explained in each
instance as the announcement of a future activity of God at the end
of time. The concretisation of this future activity, however, takes a
variety of different forms. While it remains impossible to establish a
water-tight distinction between the various concretisations, it remains
possible nevertheless to distinguish the following eschatological inter-
pretations: the Zion text of 28:16 is associated with the construction
of the future kingdom of God (1), with the formation of the New
Israel on the basis of the faithful remnant (2), on the realisation of
the true religion of yhwh (3) or on the new temple to be constructed
in the future (4). In addition to these eschatological interpretations we
can also distinguish a further two that do not exhibit eschatological
features: the strictly metaphorical interpretation whereby the Zion
text is understood as an announcement of judgement (5) and a more
historical interpretation that associates the Zion text with the existing
temple and with the Zion of that day (6).
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 55 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
56 chapter two
2.8.1. The future kingdom of God
A number of exegetes interpret the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 as an
announcement concerning the construction of the future kingdom of
God and the stone as its foundation. In light of the fact that modern
biblical research has more or less let go of a Messianic explanation
of the text in question, alternative possibilities for understanding the
stone have emerged. Marti, for example, considers the stone to be a
determination of faith in yhwh, spoken of in the concluding words.
He thus translates these words as “He who believes, remains steadfast ” and
argues that this is a further specification of the cornerstone used in the
kingdom that God is planning to establish. The foundation of the future
kingdom would appear to be ethical in character and, like the corner-
stone itself, hidden from the eye yet bearing the weight of the whole.
141

Duhm had likewise drawn attention to the invisibility of the cornerstone
implied in 28:16, although he associated the stone itself with yhwh’s
attitude towards his people, of which Zion is the head (cf. Isa. 7:8).
142
2.8.2. The new Israel
Instead of the impersonal category of the future kingdom of God, the
more personal category of the new Israel can also function as a further
concretisation of the building activity announced in 28:16. The rep-
resentatives of this interpretation, in particular figures such as Hans
Schmidt, Mowinckel and Eichrodt, generally emphasise the idea that
this new Israel is made up of the faithful remnant of God’s people
that had survived subsequent to the implementation of judgement.
This remnant is to form the firm foundation of a new and future faith
community.
143
Faith as foundation and as characteristic of the new
community is likewise proposed in this variant of the eschatological
141
Marti 1900:208: “Also: Wer glaubt, weicht nicht ist der kostbare Eckstein der
Gründung Jahwes auf Zion; der Glaube, der so verborgen und unsichtbar ist, wie
der Eckstein des Fundamentes, aber dennoch alles trägt, das Vertrauen auf Jahwe
ist der feste Punkt, der nicht wankt . . .” Lindblom 1955:124 also refers to Buhl as a
representative of this standpoint.
142
Duhm 1914
3
:175: “. . . ein Verhältnis, das aüßerlich so wenig sichtbar ist, wie das
Fundament eines Hauses, trotzdem aber die Unvergänglichkeit Zions verbürgt.”
143
See, for example, Donner 1964:152 and Schoors 1972:168. Snijders 1969:285–286
likewise considers 28:16 to contain an announcement of a new temple, i.e. a new
community that is not determined by blood kinship but by faith in yhwh. Cf. Berges
1998:224–225.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 56 1/18/2007 10:08:45 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 57
interpretation of the Zion text. Scholars frequently argue that the con-
cluding words of 28:16 are intended to represent an inscription carved
into the cornerstone. The background of such a proposal is said to
have its roots in the more or less magic custom, whereby God’s bless-
ing is proclaimed over the building work and any abuse thereof placed
under threat of a curse.
144
In contrast to the exegetes referred to in the
preceding paragraph, emphasis is now placed on the solid and immovable
character of the stone in question rather than its invisibility.
145
2.8.3. The true religion of YHWH
Closely related to both perspectives outlined above, Lindblom’s inter-
pretation maintains that the establishment of a stone in Zion refers to
the true religion of yhwh rather than the coming kingdom of God or
the new Israel. This true religion of yhwh is characterised by faith,
uprightness and justice and is already to be found among Isaiah’s own
disciples. Lindblom is not inclined to speak of the so-called remnant
in this regard, since the latter is only revealed after the catastrophe.
This remnant is nevertheless prefigured in the disciples of Isaiah. The
true religion of yhwh stands in contrast to the external cult in which
the people had sought their security (cf. Isa. 1:10–17).
146
Lindblom
emphasises the strictly metaphorical character of the building termi-
nology employed in 28:16–17a. In line with the exegetes referred to
in the preceding paragraphs, he also associates the stone of the Zion
text with faith in yhwh.
147
144
Cf. Schmidt 1923:94: “Jene Inschrift des Grundsteins wird die Losung sein, an der
die Gemeinde der Heiligen sich erkennt; sie wird der Triumphgesang der Geretteten
sein, das Grundgebot der Religion in der neuen Welt.” The inscription hypothesis
is also supported by Herbert 1973:164, Procksch 1930(A):358, Rohland 1956:154,
Eichrodt 1967:131, Schoors 1972:168, Tsevat 1973:591 and Clements 1980(B):231,
among others. Fohrer 1973:59 and Oswalt 1986:519 are undecided.
145
Cf. Eichrodt 1967:131: “. . . eine menschliche Gemeinschaft, die die Bürgschaft
ihrer unzerstörbaren Dauer in jenem Zusammenschluß mit Gott trägt, den Jesaja schon
einmal als Glauben bezeichnet hat . . .” (cf. Isa. 7:9).
146
Lindblom 1955:130: “Wenn das trügerische Versteck die verfälschte Religion
und der entartete Kultus ist, muß diese geistliche Schöpfung Jahwes—und das ist das
Ergebnis dieser Untersuchung—die unverfälschte, wahre Jahwereligion sein, deren Hauptelemente
Glaube, Recht und Gerechtigkeit sind.”
147
Lindblom 1955:127. Cf. Graffy 1984:30.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 57 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
58 chapter two
2.8.4. The new temple / new Zion
The fourth non-Messianic eschatological interpretation associates the
Zion text of Isa. 28:16 with the temple as a future construction. Gese,
for example, maintains that the text alludes to the new Zion that is to
replace the old temple along with its official but meaningless cult.
148
Roberts holds to a position closely related to this perspective, but pre-
fers nevertheless to avoid any suggestion of a literal temple building.
While the construction terminology is borrowed from the latter, the
temple in 28:16 is intended in the first instance as a symbol of the
presence of yhwh. Given that yhwh refuses to dwell in a city built
of blood and injustice, He announces a restoration project aimed at a
construction based on uprightness and justice. The demolition of the
present construction is necessary, however, for the realisation of the
new project.
149
2.8.5. Metaphorical interpretation
In addition to the preceding eschatological interpretations of Isa. 28:16,
Wildberger’s strictly metaphorical explanation deserves separate men-
tion. In spite of the differences evident between the interpretations
outlined thus far, they nevertheless exhibit significant agreement when
it comes to the expectation of future salvific activity.
150
Wildberger’s
148
Gese 1977:134. Watts 1985:370, on the other hand, emphasises the continuity
in God’s actions with respect to Zion and suggests that “the Temple, its function and
its witness, is the abiding element in Zion.” Cf. Watts 1985:372: “The Kingdom was
doomed. But the values inherent in Zion and the temple, symbols of Yahweh’s pres-
ence and purpose, would remain the foundations of faith.”
149
Roberts 1987:44–45. The rabbinic literature also contains material whereby the
foundation of the stone in Zion is similarly associated with the temple as future reality.
In a midrash on Qoheleth, the Zion text of 28:16 is linked in a surprising fashion with
Qoh. 3:5, where reference is made to the throwing away of stones and to the collection
thereof. In a midrash on Deut. 10:1, the throwing away of stones is associated with
the destruction of the temple by Hadrian. The collection of stones is explained with a
view to the future presupposed in Isa. 28:16, the future in which God is to reconstruct
his sanctuary. See StrB III,276. Oddly enough, the text of Isa. 28:16 referred to in the
rabbinic documents is translated in the perfect in contrast to the Targum of Isaiah.
See also the quotation from 28:16 in Midrash Tanchuma, StrB III,506.
150
Without being specific as to what he understands by the construction referred to
in 28:16, Kaiser 1976
2
:202–203 associates the stone with a promise of salvation and
with faith respectively: “So dürfte der Eckstein formal die Verheißung, material aber
der Glaube sein, der eine Bergung gewährt wie die Fundamentsteine, denen Hagel
und Regenfluten nichts anzuhaben vermögen.” Cf. Oswalt 1986:518: “Perhaps no
identification is correct. The cornerstone may be the whole complex of ideas relating
to the Lord’s revelation of his faithfulness and the call to reciprocate with the same
kind of faithfulness toward him.”
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 58 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 59
explanation, however, focuses on the here and now. He concludes that
the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 should not be understood as an eschatologi-
cal promise of salvation but rather as an announcement of judgement.
He bases himself in this regard on the basic pattern of the prophecy
of judgement that consists of an accusation/complaint (‘Scheltwort’)
followed by an announcement of judgement (‘Drohwort’). Given the
fact that Isa. 28:16 is clearly preceded by an accusation/complaint, it
is reasonable to assume, Wildberger would maintain, that the Zion text
was intended to be understood as precisely such an announcement.
The text does not imply the construction of one or other new build-
ing project, therefore, but rather yhwh’s intent to submit the present
Jerusalem to his judgement with the help of a testing stone and a plumb-
line. The stone is thus intended as a judgement metaphor. According to
Wildberger, any endeavour to further concretise the stone would take
us beyond the boundaries of the metaphor. The message remains that
Jerusalem is to be subjected to God’s judgement.
151
2.8.6. The existing temple / Zion
Wildberger’s strictly metaphorical interpretation already implies the
abandonment of characteristically eschatological explanations of Isa.
28:16. This is even more clearly the case among those exegetes who
associate the establishment of the stone in Zion in very concrete terms
with the existing temple rather than some future divine activity. Isa.
28:16 is thus considered to allude to the existing temple in Zion as a
place of refuge for those who had remained faithful to yhwh. Such an
explanation can be found as early as Ewald.
152
Bentzen is similarly of the
opinion that the existing temple is designated by God in Isa. 28:16 as a
refuge for all who believe. At the same time, the terminology employed
by the text is considered to have formed part of the liturgy of the feast
of accession (to the throne), the existence of which Bentzen accepted.
153

In addition to Ewald and Bentzen, Jeppesen likewise associates the Zion
text of 28:16 with the existing temple.
154
In his interpretation, content
based and semantic kinship with the Zion text of Isa. 14:32 plays an
important role. Since the verb form ¬: in both texts is vocalised as
a piel perfect, the action referred to in 28:16 is thus also understood
151
Wildberger 1982:1063–1082.
152
Ewald 1867
2
:421.
153
See Lindblom 1955:124.
154
Jeppesen 1984:93–99.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 59 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
60 chapter two
to refer to the past.
155
In order to further clarify the agreement with
14:32, Huber and Irwin argue that we should read the : of ˆ.: as a
:-essentiae.
156
In such an event, the : is no longer to be understood in
its locative sense ‘in’ but rather as ‘in the quality of ’.
157
2.9. Conclusions
The preceding chapter has offered a cross-section of the history of the
exegesis of Isa. 28:16. We can now establish some conclusions based
on more than twenty centuries of exegesis.
• The Greek translation of 28:16 found in the Septuagint determined
the orientation of its exegesis for centuries to come. The translation in
question is characterised by its clear future orientation (future: ᾽Ιδοὺ
ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον instead of the potentially
polysemic ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: ::¬) and by the addition of the expression
ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ to the conclusion of verse 16. It is possible that the plus in
the Greek text presupposes an already existent Messianic interpreta-
tion of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16. Whatever the case, the addition
of the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ offer significant reinforcement to such an
interpretation.
• In practice, the exegesis of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 was deter-
mined to a significant degree by the way in which the New Testament
understood the text in question. The New Testament’s content based
(rather than textual) adhesion to the future orientation found in the
Septuagint ultimately ascribed canonical authority to the Messianic
interpretation of the said Zion text. The stone referred to in Isa.
155
Delitzsch, Duhm, Hans Schmidt, Eichrodt and Kissane likewise prefer the
Masoretic vocalisation of ¬: as a perfect, in spite of the fact that they interpret 28:16
as a promise of future salvation. A distinction is usually made between the founda-
tion that has already been laid (v. 16) and the building that God is to complete in the
near future (v. 17a). The interpretation of Fohrer also deserves mention in this regard.
While he is unwilling to explain the Zion text of 28:16 as an explicit announcement of
salvation (1962:58–59), he nevertheless emphasises that a certain salvific perspective is
being opened at this juncture, namely on account of the designation of the possibility
of a solid and reliable construction on the basis of faith.
156
Irwin 1977:31: “I have founded Zion as a stone . . .” Cf. Motyer 1993:233: “A
stone in Zion could be ‘a stone, namely Zion’.” The hypothesis was already supported in
the nineteenth century by Hitzig and Knobel. See Lindblom 1955:125 and Wildberger
1982:1076.
157
Cf. GKG § 119i, J-M § 133c and BrSyn § 106g.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 60 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 61
28:16 is unequivocally identified with Christ in the New Testament
(Rom. 9:32b–33; 10:11 and 1 Pet. 2:6).
• Based on information from the New Testament, it would appear that
a Christian tradition had emerged at a relatively early date in which
various Old Testament ‘stone texts’ were linked together and given
a Messianic interpretation. The texts in question are Ps. 118:22; Isa.
8:14 and 28:16. The text found in Ps. 118:22 concerning the stone
rejected by the builders that unexpectedly became the cornerstone
enjoys a place of significant importance in the New Testament tradi-
tion (Mk. 12:10–11; Mt. 21:42; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:4–8).
It is probable that this particular ‘stone text’ was the first to acquire
a Messianic interpretation and that this contributed considerably to
the Messianic interpretation of the other two Old Testament ‘stone
texts’. It is striking in this regard that the Zion text of 28:16 is associ-
ated in Rom. 9:32b–33 (though in the form of a mixed quotation)
and 1 Pet. 2:6, with the ‘stone one strikes against’ from Isa. 8:14.
Both New Testament texts would appear to agree with one another
in terms of word usage. This is an important argument in support
of the suggestion that the association of Old Testament ‘stone texts’
with one another had already taken place prior to the composition
of the said New Testament letters. The unique mixed quotation in
Rom. 9:33, however, is almost certainly the work of Paul himself.
• In light of the fact that the early Jewish Targumic tradition was
inclined to ascribe a Messianic interpretation to the Old Testament
‘stone texts’, the suggestion that such an interpretation has pre-
Christian roots is not unthinkable. The text of Ps. 118:22 concerning
the stone initially rejected and the text of Isa. 28:16 concerning the
stone in Zion are both interpreted by the Targum with the Davidic
king in mind.
• In contrast to other Old Testament ‘stone texts’, the stone referred
to in the Zion text of 28:16 is associated in the Talmud with the
temple rather than the Messiah. The text of 28:16 functions almost
exclusively in the Talmud with reference to explanations of the
Sh
e
tiyyah, the sacred stone/rock on Mount Zion. It would appear that
the formation of ideas concerning the Sh
e
tiyyah and the important
role fulfilled therein by the Zion text of 28:16 served to limit the
space available for a Messianic interpretation of this text.
• The community of Qumran likewise steers clear of a Messianic
interpretation of the stone mentioned in 28:16, preferring rather to
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 61 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
62 chapter two
associate the text in question with the community itself in ecclesio-
logical terms. The emphasis on ecclesiology is akin to the way in
which 28:16 functions in 1 Pet. 2:4–8.
• In the first days of the early church, more and more Old Testament
‘stone texts’ came to be laced together and provided with a Messianic
interpretation. While the number of allusions to Christ as the cor-
nerstone remained relatively limited in the first centuries, the Letter
of Barnabas bears clear witness to the fact that the Zion text of
28:16 together with other Old Testament ‘stone texts’ had acquired
an established place in the Messianic witness of the early church
(see Barn. 6:2–4). One can observe in the writings of Tertullian
and Cyprian (3rd

century) that other texts, in which mention is
made of a stone, were associated with one another according to the
allegorical method and subsequently provided with a Messianic
interpretation.
• From the 4th and 5th century onwards, when Christianity had
acquired the status of an established religion, the text of Eph. 2:14–22
came to function more and more explicitly as the interpretative
framework for the ‘stone texts’. In the early period, the Old Testament
‘stone texts’ were employed in the first instance to demonstrate the
truth of the Christian faith on the basis of the Old Testament itself.
The altered ecclesial situation had its consequences for the interpre-
tation of 28:16, focusing attention on the ecclesiological function of
the cornerstone. This is clearly evident in the biblical commentaries
of Jerome and Augustine. Their works, together with those of the
Alexandrian exegete Cyril and the Antiochian exegete Theodoret
of Cyrus, ascribe a specifically unifying function to the cornerstone
referred to in Eph. 2:14–22, namely in the unification of Jews and
Gentiles. Theodoret insisted, in the meantime, that the stone referred
to in the Zion text in question was to be associated with Christ alone
and not with worldly kings. In spite of its ecclesiological orientation,
therefore, the Messianic interpretation of 28:16 remained the natural
point of departure for exegesis in the first centuries of the history of
the church.
• In the Middle Ages and the period of the Reformation, the Messianic
interpretation of Isa. 28:16 remained undisputed. Both the Glossa
Ordinaria and the commentary on the book of Isaiah by Thomas
Aquinas seek explicit points of contact with the exegetical tradition
established by the Church Fathers. Luther’s interpretation of the Zion
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 62 1/18/2007 10:08:46 AM
isaiah 28:16 in the history of exegesis 63
text of 28:16 is highly soteriological. He is particularly interested in
the concluding words of the verse, concerning the one who believes,
which he deftly associates with his teaching on justification. Christ,
for Luther, is the cornerstone upon whose righteousness the pious
can rely in order to attain righteousness themselves. While many of
his predecessors took the Messianic interpretation of the stone men-
tioned in 28:16 for granted, it is Calvin in particular who considers
himself obliged to give account of his own Messianic interpretation.
He does so by appealing to the authority of the New Testament in
which Christ is designated as the cornerstone given by God and
stemming from Zion. As cornerstone, Christ is the foundation of the
Church. While Calvin’s explanation is profoundly ecclesiological, he
distances himself from an interpretation in which the text of Eph.
2:14–22 functions as the interpretative framework for the meaning
of the cornerstone. Calvin thus emphasises the foundational function
of Christ as cornerstone rather than the unifying function thereof.
• The emergence of modern biblical research implied an inevitable
end to a centuries long tradition of Messianic interpretation of the
Zion text of 28:16. The hermeneutical context that would determine
the orientation of the text’s interpretation was to be sought from
this point on within the Old Testament itself. The concentration on
the Hebrew text of 28:16 that accompanied this change ultimately
implied a radical reorientation with respect to the direction taken by
the Septuagint. Only a few modern exegetes continue to maintain a
Messianic interpretation of the stone referred to in 28:16. The major-
ity offer an eschatological interpretation of the stone as referring to
either the future kingdom of God, the new Israel, the true religion of
yhwh or the new temple or new Zion. Based on the hypothesis that
the Zion text of 28:16 constitutes part of a prophecy of judgement
that is constructed according to the established pattern of accusation
and announcement of judgement, Wildberger is the only exegete to
offer a strictly metaphorical interpretation of the stone alluded to
in 28:16. He understands the stone in question to be a testing stone
and explains it as an instrument of God’s judgement.
• In association with the Messianic interpretation of 28:16, the con-
struction ¬: ::¬ employed in the Hebrew text has been translated
down through the centuries, and almost without exception, as a
present or a future. While both Isaiah scrolls from Qumran confirm
the legitimacy of this translation, it can also be argued that the text
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 63 1/18/2007 10:08:47 AM
64 chapter two
of the Septuagint and the rendition of 28:16 in the New Testament
have had a decisive influence in this regard. Within modern biblical
research, those interpretations that consider the Zion text to be an
announcement of some future activity are strongly represented. The
majority of exegetes favour salvific activity in this regard; a few an
act of judgement. A minority of exegetes relate the reference to the
establishment of a stone in Zion in 28:16 to the past, focusing on
the existing temple or on Zion itself.
dekker_f3_8-64.indd 64 1/18/2007 10:08:47 AM
CHAPTER THREE
THE LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE
ZION TEXT OF ISAIAH 28:16
3.1. Introduction
A number of preliminary questions need to be raised in the present
chapter by way of introduction to the exegesis of Isa. 28:16. The first of
these is related to the colometric subdivision of Isaiah 28, followed by a
closely related question concerning pericope designation. Given the fact
that the Zion text of 28:16 does not stand on its own, but forms rather
a constitutive part of a larger whole, it is necessary that we establish the
boundaries of the latter with the greatest possible precision. In addition,
it is important that we establish clarity with respect to the extent of the
context within which the exegesis of 28:16 ought to take place. Once the
various pericopes have been determined, we will endeavour to provide
an albeit provisional answer to the question whether the pericope in
question can be understood as an original unity or whether the present
text exhibits traces of later redactional intervention. The question of
the originality of the textual unit is important because prophetic texts,
like others, are primarily rooted in history. While it will not be possible
to establish certainty in every instance with respect to the origins of a
particular prophecy, a clear perspective on the roots of a prophetic text
in history will ultimately contribute to the understanding of its message.
In line with the question of original unity, further questions will need
to be asked with regard to the authenticity and dating of the Zion text
of 28:16 and the pericope in which it is found. If the Zion text can be
ascribed to the prophet himself, then we must search for indications that
might help us delimit the dating of the text to one of the active periods
of Isaiah’s life. With the assistance of a number of biblical and extra-
biblical sources, the concluding paragraphs will endeavour to sketch
the historical situation associated with the dating proposed. Given
the unique character of the biblical sources, an excursus on prophetic
historiography in 2 Kings 18–19 has been included.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 65 1/18/2007 2:17:00 PM
66 chapter three
3.2. Colometric subdivision of Isaiah 28
In order to establish a correct subdivision of the various text units within
Isaiah 28 and to carry out the actual exegesis thereof, it is important to
pay due attention to the indicators already introduced into the Hebrew
text itself during the process of textual transmission. In addition, it is
not simply a question of subdividing the text into larger units, which
function as individual pericopes, but also, and more specifically, a ques-
tion of subdividing into smaller units that can be designated as strophes,
verse lines and cola. The colometric version of the Hebrew text of Isaiah
28 provided below makes use of the method outlined by M.C.A. Korpel
in an article in which she discusses the importance of the indicators
that have survived the process of textual transmission.
1
I limit myself
in the colometric analysis to the indicators found in the Masoretic text,
although research into the indicators transmitted in other textual tradi-
tions may provide interesting comparative material. Up to the present,
however, comparative study has tended to conclude that the Masoretic
accentuation system is, for the most part, extremely reliable.
2
In order to subdivide the larger units within a given textual segment,
the Masoretes made use of spaces in the text, known to us as Setumot and
Petuchot, which BHS renders with the help of a detached : and a de-
tached π respectively. A Petuchah stands for an ‘open’ unit (a new Petuchah
begins after a space at the end of a line or after a completely open line),
a Setumah for a ‘closed’ unit in the text (a new Setumah begins after a space
in the middle of a line). While the reliability of the transmitted indica-
tors designating such larger textual units in the Masoretic text can, on
occasion, be called into question, and in spite of the many errors that
may have found their way into the text in the copying process,
3
Old
Testament research has become more and more convinced that their
importance cannot simply be ignored.
4
The subdivision maintained by
1
See Korpel 2000:1–50. Cf. De Hoop 2000(A):47–73 and 2000(B):65–100.
2
Cf. De Hoop 2000(B):94: “Recent studies of the colometry of Hebrew verse in
which the Masoretic accentuation was compared to other traditions has demonstrated
(with regard to dichotomic structures) that the colometry suggested by the Masoretes is
to a very large extent reliable.”
3
Korpel 2000:12f quotes De Moor: “We think to have found convincing evidence
that from an early date on all scribes, even the medieval Hebrew scribes, did not fully
understand the function of the major delimiters anymore which unfortunately has
resulted in a rather sloppy transmission.”
4
The discovery of the Qumran scrolls has played an important role herein, suggest-
ing that a pre-Masoretic tradition of demarcating larger and smaller units may have
existed. See in this regard Korpel 2000:2–13.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 66 1/18/2007 2:17:01 PM
the literary and historical context 67
the Masoretes ultimately has something to say about the way in which
they interpreted a text. The importance of the transmitted indicators
is even more evident with respect to the demarcation of smaller tex-
tual units introduced by the Masoretes. The reliability of the Masoretic
tradition is significantly greater in this regard. Indeed, there are indi-
cations that the colometric subdivision of the text established by the
Masoretes harks back to an ancient reading tradition.
5
The demarca-
tion of strophes, verse lines and cola took place with the help of a series
of disjunctive accents that were placed above and below the transmitted
text. According to the Tabula Accentum of BHS, the most significant
disjunctive accents—in order of importance—are the following: [1] Sil-
lûq (with Sôf pāsûq); [2] Atnāch; [3] S
e
gôltā; [4] Šalšèlet; [5] Zāqēf parvum;
[6] Zāqēf magnum; and [7] R
e

a
. These accents are mostly employed in
ascending order (= descending enumeration), e.g. [5]—[2] in Isa. 1:2a.
Should a less important accent with a higher number immediately fol-
low an important accent with a low number (e.g. [2] or [1]) then it is usu-
ally possible to determine the beginning of a new verse line, e.g. [5]—
[1] in Isa. 1:2b. While exceptions are possible they nevertheless tend to
confirm the rule. Regardless, syntax and content remain important, if
only to avoid overdependence on the Masoretic accentuation.
In the colometric subdivision of Isaiah 28 presented below I take the
location of the aforementioned seven disjunctive accents as my point of
departure.
6
The first column contains the Hebrew text according to the
Masoretic vocalisation, including the two most important accents they
employed, namely Sillûq (with Sôf pāsûq) [1] and Atnāch [2]. The second
column contains an enumeration of the various verses, following the
customary verse divisions (1, 2, 3, etc.), further divided into half verses
(lower case a and b) on the basis of the Atnāch. The upper case letters (A,
B, C, etc.) serve to enumerate the individual cola in each half verse. The
third column contains the disjunctive accent employed by the Maso-
retes presented in square brackets according to the summary outlined
above. The less important disjunctive accents are not included in the
present survey. Where the latter have contributed to the subdivision of a
colon reference will be made to them in the exegesis. The fourth column
5
Korpel 2000:18.
6
Cf. Korpel 2000:31: “The relative weight of the distinctive Masoretic accents is
well-known and does not need discussion here. In general the Masoretic colometry is
very reliable, as recent research has shown and may well serve as the point of departure
for any discussion about the meaning of the text.”
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 67 1/18/2007 2:17:01 PM

68 chapter three
indicates the type of colon observed in the verse lines of the text. The
different types are known to us as monocolon, bicolon or tricolon. The
term ‘anacrusis’ serves to designate a word or word group that would
appear to stand outside the metre. The fifth and final column provides
the number of metrical beats contained in each verse line. Individual
words and words joined by a maqqeph represent a single beat.
While the strophic division of a Hebrew text remains a question of
some dispute, the survey below nevertheless endeavours to provide an
accurate rendition thereof. Once again I have followed the method pro-
posed by Korpel.
7
Korpel’s point of departure is that a strophe coincides
for the most part with a text unit rounded off by the Masoretes with Sôf
pāsûq (confirmed on occasion by Setumah or Petuchah) and frequently con-
sists of two, regularly of three and sometimes of four verse lines. The
beginning of a strophe is occasionally marked by the reversal of the
usual syntactical word sequence or by the use of particles that imply a
certain degree of emphasis.
It is important to realise with respect to the method followed by the
present study and elsewhere that the establishment of the colometry
of Old Testament texts remains a much discussed and complicated
endeavour.
8
While I have taken the Masoretic indicators as my point of
departure for the analysis of the colometry of Isaiah 28, I have never-
theless deviated from the Masoretic accentuation in a number of places.
Such deviations will be explained in the exegesis.
Colometric rendition of the Hebrew Colon Acccents Verse lines Metre
text of Isaiah 28 MT
Tabula
Strophe 1
¬ 1aA [7] anacrusis 1
μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. 1aB [5] bicolon 4 + 4
¬–¬“sc¬ :. ::: ≈.“ 1aC [2]
μ:::s: :s¬:. ¬:s 1bA bicolon 3 + 2
ˆ ::¬ 1bB [1]
7
See Korpel 2000:40–43.
8
Cf. Korpel/De Moor 1988:6: “. . . the re-establishment of the colometric division
intended by the ancient poets is often a hazardous undertaking. Even the most conscien-
tious researcher would do well to recognize this in all fairness.”
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 68 1/18/2007 2:17:01 PM
the literary and historical context 69
Strophe 2
:¬s: ≈:s“ ,.¬ ¬:¬ 2aA [5] bicolon 4 + 4
::, ¬.: ¬¬: μ¬.: 2aB [2]
μc:: μ¬:: μ: μ¬.: 2bA bicolon 4 + 3
¬: ≈¬s: ¬:¬ 2bB [1]
[¬:::¬¬ ] (¬:::¬¬ ) μ::“¬: 3aA [2] bicolon 2 + 4
μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. 3bA [1]
Strophe 3
¬¬“sc¬ :. ::: ¬.. ¬¬“¬“ 4aA [5] bicolon 5 + 4
μ:–:: s: :s¬:. ¬:s 4aB [2]
≈, μ¬:: [¬¬::: ] (¬¬::: ) 4bA [5] tricolon 3 + 4 + 3
¬¬s ¬s¬¬ ¬s¬“ ¬:s 4bB [5]
: ¬:.:: c:: ¬¬.: 4bC [1]
Strophe 4
s¬¬ μ: 5aA [7] anacrusis 2
:. ¬¬:.: ¬s:. ¬¬“ ¬¬ 5aB [5] [5] bicolon 5 + 4
:. ¬s:: ¬¬sc¬ ¬¬c.:“ 5a/bC [2] [1]
:c::¬:. ::: :c:: ¬¬: 6a/bA [2] [5] bicolon 4 + 4
: ¬¬ . : ¬: ¬ : : : : : ¬¬ ::“ : “ 6bB [5] [1]
Strophe 5
:: ˆ: ¬:sμ:“ 7aA [5] bicolon 3 + 2
.–¬ ¬::: 7aB [2]
¬::: :: s::“ ˆ¬: 7bA tricolon 4 + 2 + 2
¬ˆ: .::: 7bB [7]
¬::¬ˆ: .¬ 7bC [5]
¬s¬: :: 7bD [5] bicolon 2 + 2
¬::c ,c 7bE [1]
¬:¬:::: : 8aA [5] tricolon 2 + 3 + 2
¬s. s, s:: 8aB [2]
: μ,: :: 8bA [1]
Strophe 6
¬.¬ ¬¬ :¬s 9aA [5] bicolon 3 + 3
¬.:: ˆ: :¬s“ 9aB [2]
::¬: :::“ 9bA [5] bicolon 2 + 2
μ¬:: ,¬. 9bB [1]
.: . .: . : 10aA [5] tricolon 5 + 4 + 4
,: , ,: , 10aB [2]
μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ 10bA [1]
Table (cont.)
Colometric rendition of the Hebrew Colon Acccents Verse lines Metre
text of Isaiah 28 MT
Tabula
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 69 1/18/2007 2:17:01 PM

70 chapter three
Strophe 7
¬c: :.:: : 11aA [5] tricolon 3 + 2 + 3
¬¬¬s ˆ::: 11aB [2]
¬:¬ μ.¬:s ¬:¬“ 11bA [1]
μ¬:s ¬:s ¬:s 12aA [7] tricolon 3 + 2 + 2
¬¬::¬ ¬s. 12aB
π.: ¬:¬ 12aC [5]
¬.:¬“:¬ ¬s.“ 12aD [2] bicolon 2 + 3
.:: s:s s:“ 12bA [1]
Strophe 8
¬¬“¬:¬“ μ¬: ¬¬“ 13aA [7] monocolon 3
.: . .: . 13aB tricolon 4 + 4 + 4
,: , ,: , 13aC [5]
μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ 13aD [2]
¬¬s :::“ :: ˆ.:: 13bA bicolon 4 + 3
π ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ 13bB [5] [1]
Strophe 9
¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: ˆ:: 14aA bicolon 3 + 2
ˆ.–: ::“s 14aB [2]
¬:¬ μ.¬ ::: 14bA [5] bicolon 3 + 2
μ::¬: ¬:s 14bB [1]
Strophe 10
쬬“:s : 15aA [7] monocolon 2
¬:¬s ¬¬: :¬¬: 15aB [5] bicolon 3 + 3
¬–.¬ ::. :s:μ.“ 15aC [2]
[ ¬:.] (¬:. ): π:: [::] (::) 15bA bicolon 3 + 2
:s:“ s: 15bB [5]
::¬: :.: ::: : 15bC bicolon 4 + 2
: :¬“¬:: ¬,:: 15bD [1]
Strophe 11
¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬: ˆ:: 16aA [7] [5] monocolon 5
::“¬ 16aB anacrusis 1
ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: 16aC [2] bicolon 3 + 2
ˆ¬: ˆ:s 16bA
¬¬, ¬:c 16bB bicolon 2 + 2
¬:: ¬:: 16bC [5]
:¬ s: ˆ:s:¬ 16bD [1] monocolon 3
Table (cont.)
Colometric rendition of the Hebrew Colon Acccents Verse lines Metre
text of Isaiah 28 MT
Tabula
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 70 1/18/2007 2:17:01 PM
the literary and historical context 71
Strophe 12
,: :c:: ¬::“ 17aA [5] bicolon 3 + 2
¬:,::: ¬,¬. 17aB [2]
Strophe 13
:.: ¬:¬: ¬¬: ¬.“ 17bA [5] bicolon 4 + 3
c:: μ: ¬¬:“ 17bB [1]
¬:¬s μ:¬¬¬: ¬c:“ 18aA [5] bicolon 3 + 4
μ,–¬ s: :s:¬s μ:¬.¬“ 18aB [2]
¬:. : π:: :: 18bA [5] bicolon 4 + 3
::¬“:: : 쬬 18bB [1]
Strophe 14
¬:. ¬: 19aA bicolon 2 + 2
μ:¬s ¬, 19aB [5]
¬:. ¬,:: ¬,::: 19aC bicolon 3 + 2
¬:“:: μ: 19aD [2]
¬..“,¬ ¬¬“ 19bA bicolon 2 + 2
¬.:: ˆ:¬ 19bB [1]
Strophe 15
.¬¬:¬: ..:¬ ¬.,: 20aA [2] bicolon 3 + 3
:::¬¬: ¬¬. ¬:::¬“ 20bA [1]
Strophe 16
¬¬“ μ, μ.¬c¬¬: : 21aA [5] bicolon 4 + 3
.:¬“ ˆ.::: ,:.: 21aB [2]
¬:.: ¬:.: 21bA bicolon 2 + 2
¬:.: ¬. 21bB [5]
¬¬:. ¬:.:“ 21bC [5] bicolon 2 + 2
¬¬:. ¬¬:: 21bD [1]
Strophe 17
..:¬¬:s ¬¬.“ 22aA [5] bicolon 2 + 2
μ:¬:: ,. “ ¬ˆc 22aB [2]
¬.:: ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬::: 22bA [7] tricolon 4 + 4 + 3
¬s:. ¬¬“ :¬s ¬s: 22bB
≈¬s¬:::. 22bC [1]
Strophe 18
:, .::“ :. s¬ 23aA [2] bicolon 3 + 3
¬¬:s .::“ ::,¬ 23bA [1]
Table (cont.)
Colometric rendition of the Hebrew Colon Acccents Verse lines Metre
text of Isaiah 28 MT
Tabula
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 71 1/18/2007 2:17:02 PM

72 chapter three
Strophe 19
μ¬ ::¬ 24aA [5] tricolon 2 + 3 + 3
.¬.“: :¬¬¬ :¬¬ 24aB [2]
¬:¬“s ¬¬: ¬¬c“ 24bA [1]
Strophe 20
s:¬ 25aA anacrusis 1
¬:c ¬:μs 25aB [5] tricolon 2 + 2 + 2
¬., ≈c¬“ 25aC
,¬.“ ˆ::“ 25aD [2]
¬¬: ¬:¬ μ:“ 25bA tricolon 3 + 2 + 2
ˆ::: ¬¬.: 25bB [5]
¬:::“ ¬:::“ 25bC [1]
Strophe 21
:c::: ¬:“ 26aA bicolon 2 + 2
:¬ ¬:s‘ 26aB [1]
Strophe 22
≈¬¬: s: : 27aA bicolon 3 + 2
¬., :¬ 27aB [5]
¬::. ˆcs“ 27aC [5] bicolon 2 + 2
:: ˆ:::. 27aD [2]
¬., ::¬ ¬::: : 27bA bicolon 4 + 2
:::: ˆ::“ 27bB [1]
Strophe 23
,¬ μ¬: 28aA [5] monocolon 2
::¬“ :¬s ¬.:: s: : 28aB [2] tricolon 4 + 4 + 2
:¬c ¬::“. :::: μ:¬“ 28bA
:,¬“s: 28bB [1]
Strophe 24
¬s. ¬s:. ¬¬“ μ.: ¬s.μ: 29aA [6] [2] tricolon 5 + 2 + 2
¬.. s:c¬ 29bA [5]
: ¬:¬ :¬:“¬ 29bB [1]
Table (cont.)
Colometric rendition of the Hebrew Colon Acccents Verse lines Metre
text of Isaiah 28 MT
Tabula
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 72 1/18/2007 2:17:02 PM
the literary and historical context 73
3.3. Pericope delineation within Isaiah 28
The Zion text of Isa. 28:16 does not stand on its own. Rather, it
constitutes part of a larger textual composition. This larger unit
can be described in the first instance as the pericope to which 28:16
belongs. The beginning and the end of the pericope in question must
be determined as accurately as possible after which the circle can be
widened to include questions concerning the redactional embedment
of the pericope within the broader context of the chapter as a whole.
The goal of the present paragraph is to establish clarity concerning the
extent of the context within which the exegesis of the Zion text of 28:16
ought to take place.
The end of the pericope of which 28:16 forms a part is simpler to
determine than its beginning. While the Masoretes did not designate
verse 23 as the beginning of a new Petuchah or Setumah,
9
the emphatic call
for attention in 28:23 (a sequence of four imperatives!) is known to us as
characteristic of wisdom teaching (in German ‘Lehreröffnungsformel’).
The latter usually functions as the introduction to a textual unit that
can be qualified as a teaching.
10
In the present instance, the end of the
teaching in question is also clearly recognisable, since 28:29 provides a
summary conclusion formulated as a so-called ‘summary appraisal’.
11

As a teaching, Isa. 28:23–29 thus constitutes a new unit that is evidently
delineated from the preceding unit. This leads us to suspect that
the pericope to which the Zion text of 28:16 belongs in the present
composition reaches its conclusion in 28:22. By explicitly tracing back
the preceding announcement of judgement in this verse to the authority
of ¬s:. ¬¬“ :¬s ‘the Lord YHWH Zebaot ’, the text also presents itself as
a conclusion in terms of content.
In principle, it is conceivable that the pericope to which the Zion text
of 28:16 belongs reaches its conclusion prior to verse 22. In such an
instance either verse 18 or verse 21 might then serve as a concluding
verse. An important argument in favour of considering verse 18 as the
conclusion to the pericope is the fact that the actual announcement of
judgement has already taken place by this point, and that verses 17b–18
9
In 1QIsa
a
, by contrast, 28:23 is marked as the beginning of a new unit. See Olley
1993:31–32.
10
The ‘Lehreröffnungsformel’ is familiar to us from Wisdom Literature (cf. Ps. 49:2;
78:1; Prov. 4:1,20; 5:1; 7:24; Job 13:17; 33:1; 34:2; see also Gen. 4:23; 49:2; Deut. 32:1;
Judg. 5:3; Hos. 5:1), although it is also used elsewhere in Isaiah (Isa. 1:2,10; 32:9; cf. Isa.
34:1; 49:1; 51:4).
11
The designation ‘summary appraisal’ stems from Childs 1967:128.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 73 1/18/2007 2:17:02 PM

74 chapter three
explicitly hark back to the content of the complaint expressed in verse
15. Verse 21 might also function in its turn as a concluding verse since
the following verse, verse 22, contains an exhortation that together with
¬¬.“ would appear at first sight to constitute a new initiative. In the
present composition of Isaiah 28, however, verse 22 is related to the
expression ˆ.: ::“s ‘boasters’ in verse 14 by way of its use of the verb
≈: ‘to boast’. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that both these
verses belong to the same pericope. Bearing in mind that verses 19–21
do not present themselves as an independent pericope and noting that
the twice repeated use of the verb ¬:. ‘to pass through’ in verse 19 clearly
elaborates on a preceding theme (see verses 15 and 18), our already
expressed suspicion that the pericope in which the Zion text of 28:16 is
located reaches its conclusion in the present composition in verse 22 is
thus confirmed to some degree.
As noted above, the beginning of the pericope in question is more
difficult to determine than its conclusion. Three possibilities present
themselves at this juncture. 28:14 is first to qualify as an opening verse
because the verse in question is designated by the Masoretes as the
beginning of a new Petuchah. Verse 14 represents a clear call to hear
the word of yhwh, a call addressed to a carefully designated addressee.
On the other hand, the particle ˆ:: that precedes the call suggests a
direct association with the preceding verses.
12
In light of the fact that
the content of 28:14–22 is also akin to that which precedes it, 28:7
represents the second possible opening verse. Verse 7 is marked in MT
as the beginning of a new Setumah. While a specific addressee is absent,
the verse in question begins unmistakeably with a complaint addressed
to a category of people that had not been mentioned in the previous
verses, namely the priest and the prophet. The thus established pericope
(28:7–22), however, also begins with a particle, in this instance μ:“,
which establishes a direct link with the prophecy of 28:1–4(6) in which
the same theme of drunkenness is dealt with. We could see in 28:1,
therefore, a third potential opening verse. In the latter case the pericope
to which the Zion text of 28:16 belongs would consist of Isa. 28:1–22.
In order to weigh up the possibilities in a responsible manner we can
best begin with the third option. The number of exegetes that consider
28:1–22 to be a single unit is extremely limited.
13
Although scholars
12
The fact that both MT and 1QIsa
a
mark 28:16 itself as the beginning of a new
unit is probably due to the messenger formula employed.
13
Lindblom 1955:128 mentions Kissane and Bentzen. Wildberger 1982:1056 also
refers to Scharbert. Procksch 1930(A):359 considers 28:1–4,7–13,14–15,17b–22 to be a
closed unit. Delitzsch 1889:311 is even of the opinion that Isaiah 28 in its entirety should
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 74 1/18/2007 2:17:02 PM
the literary and historical context 75
generally recognise that the theme of drunkenness relates the prophecy
of 28:7ff with that of 28:1–4—the promise of salvation found in 28:5–6
is considered to be a late addition—,
14
a significant shift in addressation
nevertheless takes place in 28:7–22. While the prophecy of 28:1–4 is
addressed against Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of
Ephraim, 28:7–22 addresses its complaint against the priest and the
prophet and those who rule in Jerusalem. Such a shift simultaneously
implies an alternative dating. The prophecy of 28:1–4 must have been
uttered prior to the fall of Samaria in 722/720,
15
at a time when the
Assyrians were threatening the northern kingdom of Ephraim, while
28:7–22 presupposes a time when the Assyrian threat had also become
a reality for Judah and Jerusalem. Shifts of this type within 28:1–22
are too significant to be able to speak of a single pericope. Moreover,
the prophecy of 28:1–4 is characterised by a high degree of internal
cohesion that is expressed in the copious use of metaphors, comparisons
and wordplays.
16
The Masoretes also introduced a certain division
within Isaiah 28. Verses 5 and 7 are both marked as the beginning of a
new unit (Setumah).
17
The copulative particle μ:“ with which the new pericope commences
in verse 7 is probably due to redactional intervention. Indeed there is
much to be said for the idea that verse 7a in its entirety enjoys redactional
be considered as a single independent prophecy. He bases himself in this regard on the
fact that five new segments are introduced by a so-called ‘woe formula’ in 28–33 (28;
29; 30; 31–32; 33). Such a structure, however, tends to suggest that a later compiler was
responsible for the configuration of the prophecies in this part of the book. See § 5.2.
14
Marti 1900:204 was among the first to point to formal and content related kinship
with 4:2–6 and the presupposed knowledge of 11:1ff. Cf. Driver 1968:47–67. Procksch
1930(A):351 argues that 28:5–6 originally preceded 4:2–3 and stems from a later period
in the activities of the prophet. Ziegler 1948:84 likewise considers it possible that 28:5–6
belongs to a different context and is addressed to Judah/Jerusalem. Snijders 1969:279
considers pinpointing the original location of 28:5–6 to be difficult and takes the cur-
rent link with 28:1–4 as his point of departure. Sweeney 1996:361 is more inclined to
establish a link with the verses that follow (28:5–29). In contrast to Procksch, Eichrodt
1967:121 dates 28:5–6 to the beginning of Isaiah’s activities, when the prophet had
still expected that a remainder would change their ways. Fohrer 1962:46 and Schoors
1972:165 maintain that 28:5–6 is a later interpolation designed to complete the preced-
ing threat with an eschatological promise of salvation. In order to reinforce his hypoth-
esis that 28:5–6 is a later addition, Wildberger 1982:1044 bases himself on the use of
prose, the presence of s¬¬ μ: common for such interpolations and the transition from
Ephraim/Samaria to the rest of the people.
15
For the problems surrounding the date of the siege and fall of Samaria, see Galil
1996:83–97. Becking 1992 dates the fall of Samaria to 723. See also Becking 2003:54.
16
See Beuken 2000:17.
17
1QIsa
a
likewise marks 28:5 as the beginning of a new unit. This is consistently
the case in 1QIsa
a
, however, when a verse begins with the formula s¬¬ μ:. See Olley
1993:32–33.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 75 1/18/2007 2:17:03 PM

76 chapter three
origins.
18
Such a redactional connection with 28:1–4(6) transforms the
fate of Samaria into a warning example for Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kgs 17:17–
23).
19
Only one exegete argues, however, that the addressees should
only be sought in Jerusalem from 28:14 onwards, and that the segment
running from vv. 7–13 is still addressed to the northern kingdom. This
would imply that the priest and prophet referred to in 28:7 are to be
localised in the aforementioned Ephraim and that 28:1–13 must thus be
treated as a single pericope.
20
If one is inclined to argue that 28:1–22 should not be considered a
single pericope, however, then one is obliged to address the question
whether verses 7–22 then constitute an original unity. This seems to
be a fairly reasonable possibility since there is much to be said for the
suggestion that the addressees from verse 7 onwards should be sought in
the southern kingdom of Judah and in Jerusalem.
21
Nevertheless, there
are a number of arguments that would appear to support the hypothesis
that in spite of the already mentioned cohesion between 28:7–13 and
28:14–22, 28:7–22 should likewise not be considered an original unity:
18
Wildberger 1982:1055–1056. See also Donner 1964:148, Kaiser 1976
2
:194, Diet-
rich 1976:151, Clements 1980(B):226, Gonçalves 1986:188 and Kilian 1994:159. In
line with Duhm 1914
3
(1st edition:1892):171 Marti 1900:205 sees the passage 28:7–8 as
a bridge between 28:1–4 en 28:9–22 inserted at a later date by Isaiah himself.
19
See Snijders 1969:278, 280, Schoors 1972:164 and Schneider 1988:378. Cf. Sweeney
1996:367: “The present form of the passage is not directed to announce the fall of the
northern kingdom, but to warn the southern kingdom of a potential disaster based on
the example of the north.” Sweeney associates this, however, with 28:1–13 as a whole.
Together with Fohrer 1962:43, Wildberger 1982:1046 sees the motif of drunken-
ness as a connecting factor. In his view, the compilers were no longer interested in
Samaria as such but rather in the arrogance of the drinkers, a phenomenon that might
be considered timeless. Roberts 1987:37–38 doubts whether 28:7–13 ever existed inde-
pendently of 28:1–4 and presupposes, in line with Procksch 1930(A):353, that Isaiah
himself reused the old prophecy against Samaria of 28:1–4 as an introduction to a
prophecy against the Judean leaders in the Assyrian period. Marti 1900:204 points out
that Wellhausen and others were of the opinion that Jerusalem is being addressed as a
Samaria in 28:1–4.
20
See Oswalt 1986:506, 509. With regard to the addressees in 28:7–13, the explana-
tion of Exum 1982:108–139, Tanghe 1993:235–260 and Sweeney 1996:365 is related
to that of Oswalt. While Beuken 2000:18 already sees Jerusalem coming into view in
28:7–13, he nevertheless considers 28:7–13 to be a climax in relation to 28:1–6. He
speaks in this regard of a dynamic progression that is given expression in the more
realistic character of the prophecy in question, in the threat of divine eclipse and in the
semantic contrast between the proud and glorious drunkards of Ephraim, on the one
hand, and the perversity of the drunken priests and prophets on the other.
21
Van der Toorn 1988:200 argues in favour for understanding of 28:7–22 as a liter-
ary unit. See also Stewart 1988:376.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 76 1/18/2007 2:17:03 PM
the literary and historical context 77
1. The powerful appeal ¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: ‘hear the word of YHWH’ which
opens 28:14 marks the beginning of a new prophecy.
22
2. The phrase μ::¬: ¬:s ¬:¬ μ.¬ ::: ˆ.: ::“s ‘boasters who rule
this people in Jerusalem’ in 28:14 explicitly designates a new addressee.
The detailed address need not necessarily coincide with the s::“ ˆ¬:
‘priest and prophet’ mentioned in 28:7.
23
3. An interpolation from Isa. 8:15 has found its way into the conclusion
of verse 13: ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ ‘in order that they may . . . be broken, and
snared, and taken’. This interpolation serves to underline the definitive
character of the judgement announced in 28:11–13 and reinforces
the concluding character of 28:13.
24
4. The pattern of complaint and announcement of judgement charac-
teristic of a prophecy of judgement is clearly recognisable in 28:7–
13. The fact that 28:14f begins with a new complaint suggests the
strong possibility of a new prophecy at this juncture.
5. The Masoretes likewise marked 28:14 as a new unit (Petuchah). The
same was done by the scribe responsible for 1QIsa
a
.
25
6. 28:7–13 is formulated, in its entirety, in the third person, as well as in
the announcement of judgement, while 28:14–22 falls more into line
with a direct address in the second person.
26
7. Reference can be made to the inclusio established by the use of the
verb ≈: ‘to boast’ in verses 14 (ˆ.:) and 22 (..:¬¬:s).
27
The clause
type (imperative) further reinforces the character of the inclusio
between the two verses.
Based on the aforementioned arguments, one can conclude that the
link created by the particle ˆ:: in 28:14 is secondary.
28
In so doing we
leave the question as to whether Isaiah himself was responsible for the
22
Cf. Dietrich 1976:152 and Wildberger 1982:1068.
23
Commentators occasionally simplify identification with priest and prophet men-
tioned in 28:7 by translating ::: in 28:14 as ‘proverb makers’. See Fohrer 1962:54–56
and Snijders 1969:283.
24
Cf. Dietrich 1976:152.
25
See Olley 1993:32: “ ‘Hear the word of YHWH’ occurs 4 times, each commencing a
major division (i 10, xxviii 14, xxxix 5, lxvi 5).”
26
The hypothesis proposed by Eichrodt 1967:127 that an originally more illuminat-
ing connection with the preceding text has disappeared from 28:14 cannot be estab-
lished with any degree of certainty. Cf. Westermann 1968
3
:121–122 for the use of the
third person in announcements of judgement addressed to the entire people.
27
Cf. Exum 1982:123 and Tanghe 1993:242.
28
See Marti 1900:207, Rohland 1956:147, Donner 1964:148, Kaiser 1976
2
:199,
Dietrich 1976:161, Clements 1980(B):230 and Wildberger 1982:1068.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 77 1/18/2007 2:17:03 PM

78 chapter three
link unresolved.
29
Whatever the case, the prophecy of 28:14–22 is to be
understood as an independent pericope. The exegesis of the Zion text
of 28:16 should thus focus itself within the context of this pericope.
Of course, it goes without saying that the exegesis of 28:16 need not
be strictly limited to the immediate context. It became apparent in
our delineation of 28:14–22 that the pericope enjoyed redactional
associations with 28:7–13 in particular. Cohesion in terms of content
can also be established between the two pericopes. Furthermore, both
28:14–22 and 28:7–13 would appear to presuppose a period in which
the Assyrian threat against Jerusalem was a real one. It makes sense,
therefore, to pay particular attention to the prophecy of judgement
in 28:7–13 in our exegesis of the Zion text of 28:16. In addition, the
prophecy relating to Ephraim/Samaria in 28:1–4(6) and the didactic
material found in 28:23–29 can also be included within the broader
context. Within the context of Isaiah 28 as a whole, both external
pericopes are linked to the central pericopes 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 by
way of numerous semantic and redactional cross-connections. This is
most clearly the case with respect to the prophecy of 28:1–4(6),
30
though
the didactic material of 28:23–29 should also be read in association
with the preceding text.
31
Within the framework of the present study,
however, we will be obliged to content ourselves with a limited treatment
of 28:1–4(6) and 28:23–29.
3.4. Isaiah 28:14–22 as original unity
Having established in the preceding paragraph that the Zion text of
Isa. 28:16 constitutes part of the prophecy delineated in 28:14–22, the
present paragraph will have to address questions concerning the original
29
While Roberts 1987:37–38 doubts whether the connection between verses 13
and 14 is secondary, he maintains nevertheless that Isaiah himself would have been
responsible for such a secondary association (idem Duhm 1914
3
:174). Schoors 1972:167
explains the connection on the basis of the fact that 28:14–22 does indeed deal with
‘boasters’, but in this case with ‘boasters’ from the ruling classes.
30
Cf. Roberts 1987:38: “At any rate, this wider literary context of 28:1–22, as well as
other passages that share the same themes and reflect the same historical setting, may
be drawn to elucidate Isaiah’s meaning in Isa 28:16.” Donner 1964:149f refers to Isaiah
28 as a redactional unity. He argues, nevertheless, that this does not give us permission
to interpret one saying on the basis of another.
31
Wildberger 1982:1069 goes a little too far when he insists that 28:23–29 is an
absolutely new segment that does not even have a redactional link with the preceding
verses.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 78 1/18/2007 2:17:03 PM
the literary and historical context 79
unity of the said prophecy or the possibility that it exhibits traces of
later reworking.
The concluding verses 19–22 represent a particular problem for a
number of exegetes, many of whom consider them to be a later exten-
sion of the prophecy. The primary argument in this regard maintains
that 28:18 bears the character of a concluding verse since all the ele-
ments of the complaint in 28:15 have been picked up already in the an-
nouncement of judgement of 28:17b–18. The concluding word ::¬“::
is likewise said to function as a sort of climax, thus raising the question
as to what remains to be said thereafter. In addition, the fact that verses
19–22 are fairly disparate reinforces the impression that we are deal-
ing here with a number of secondary additions. Dietrich characterises
28:19–22 as a collection of broken fragments.
32
In order to provide an impression of the distinct origin often ascribed
to these ‘broken fragments’ we can take the vision of Wildberger as an
illustration. Based on the apparent weakening of the message of 28:18
by the first verse half of 28:19, Wildberger considers 28:19a as a typical
gloss introduced by a reader who wanted to underline the fact that the
words announced by Isaiah to his own age could be repeated in every
age.
33
The second verse half of 28:19, however, is said to be ascribed to
a redactor who wanted to associate both pericopes (28:7–13 and 28:14–
22) more closely with each other than was possible on the basis of the
particle ˆ:: alone. As a matter of fact, the clause ¬.:: ˆ:¬ ‘the under-
standing of the message’ harks back to ¬.:: ˆ: ‘he will explain the message’ in
28:9.
34
Moreover, Wildberger recognises evidence of a proverb in 28:20
and presupposes that the latter could have been introduced by Isaiah
himself. He notes, however, that others have ascribed the said proverb
to a later redaction.
35
Evidence of a typically Isaian way of speaking of
the work of yhwh in 28:21 suggests that this verse also decidedly stems
from Isaiah himself.
36
With respect to 28:22, however, Wildberger can
32
Dietrich 1976:152.
33
Wildberger 1982:1070. Cf. Dietrich 1976:152.
34
Wildberger 1982:1070. Rohland 1956:147–148 is of the opinion that Isaiah
himself was responsible for the redaction of Isaiah 28 as a whole and that he thereby
introduced 28:19a as a transition to what follows and 28:19b as a link with the preced-
ing proverbs. Donner 1964:149 favours a prosaic addition stemming from the period
in which 28:7–13 and 28:14–18 were already associated at the literary level. Dietrich
1976:153 argues that 28:19b was originally located after 28:13a.
35
Wildberger 1982:1070. Cf. Marti 1900:209 and Procksch 1930(A):362. See also
Clements 1980(B):230. Kilian 1994:163 insists that the origin of the proverb cannot be
determined.
36
Wildberger 1982:1070f. According to Kilian 1994:163, however, 28:21 also
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 79 1/18/2007 2:17:04 PM

80 chapter three
only say that such a conclusion in the form of an exhortation is simply
unthinkable after the preceding prophecy of judgement.
37
Wildberger
considers 28:22 as the actualising gloss of a reader whereby the second
verse half is to be understood as reminiscent of 10:23.
38
While absolute certainty with regard to the origins of the various
component parts of 28:19–22 is difficult to achieve, the typification of
the verses in question as a collection of broken fragments would appear
nevertheless to be out of place. In the present textual composition, the
verses in question exhibit more mutual cohesion than such a typification
would lead one to believe. In any case, it remains quite reasonable to
accept that verses 19–21, which, as with the preceding verses 14–18, are
thoroughly poetic in nature and likewise leave an authentic impression
in terms of content, constitute an integrative component of the preced-
ing prophecy of judgement from more or less the outset.
39
While the
exegesis of these verses will be discussed in greater detail in the follow-
ing chapter, reference to the internal structure of these verses should not
go unmentioned at this point. It is indisputable that the first verse half
of 28:19 is closely associated with 28:18 by way of the verb ¬:. ‘pass
through’ and can be considered the first conclusion to the announcement
of judgement. Instead of weakening the preceding announcement of
judgement as Wildberger presupposes, the conclusion in question serves
rather to underline the fact that there can be no escape whatsoever from
the judgement to come. Verses 19b–21 then function as a sort of second
constitutes a part of a later eschatological interpolation: “eine spätere eschatologische
Erweiterung, die die Totalität des Endgerichtes ausmalt, das allgemeines Entsetzen
hervorruft.” Cf. Kaiser 1976
2
:203 and Clements 1980(B):230. Petersen 1979:112 sees
28:20–22 as “a collection of three separate pieces, each of which provides a commen-
tary on the earlier oracle.” Donner 1964:153 maintains with respect to 28:20–21 that
origin and character remain uncertain.
37
The originality of 28:22 is also seriously questioned by Rohland 1956:147–148.
38
Wildberger 1982:1071. According to Duhm, Guthe and Procksch, only the
concluding words ≈¬s¬ :::. allude to 10:23. Clements 1980(B):229 and Gonçalves
1986:200 consider 28:22 to be an apocalyptic gloss. Donner 1964:149 speaks of one or
two prosaic interpolations. Dietrich 1976:152 argues that the collector of the broken
fragments found in 19–22 presents himself as Isaiah’s heir via 28:22.
39
Cf. Rohland 1956:147n: “Da nun aber gegen die Echtheit von V.19–21 kein trif-
tiger Grund angeführt werden kann, muß angenommen werden, daß Jesaja selbst die
Zusammenarbeitung der verschiedenen Sprüche von Kap. 28 zu einer größeren Ein-
heit vorgenommen und dabei V.19a als Übergang von V.14–18 zu den folgenden, V.19b
als Verklammerung zu den vorhergehenden Sprüche eingefügt hat.” Based on a differ-
ence in tone, the apocalyptic formulation and the new beginning with ¬¬.“, Rohland
considers verse 22 to be an addition stemming from the use of the text by the later exilic
or post-exilic community (148).
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 80 1/18/2007 2:17:04 PM
the literary and historical context 81
conclusion to the announcement of judgement. This passage likewise
serves to underline the seriousness of the announced judgement and
offers, among other things, a theological explanation as to why escape
is no longer possible. Each in its own fashion, the saying of 28:20 and
the comparison of 28:21, serve to explain why the understanding of
the preceding announcement of judgement represents ‘sheer terror’
(28:19b).
40
Both verses begin with the motivating particle : . Wildber-
ger’s argument that the exhortation of 28:22 is simply inconceivable as a
conclusion to a prophecy of judgement is dictated by the presupposition
that a prophecy of judgement cannot by definition leave open any pos-
sibility of a change of heart. It remains very much a question, however,
whether we can apply the conventions of contemporary logic in this
regard.
41
Based on the inclusio formed with 28:14 via the use of the verb
≈: ‘to boast’, it is quite possible that the exhortation of 28:22a belonged
to the prophecy of judgement in its original form. The possibility of a
later interpolation can only be considered with any degree of certainty
with respect to verse 22b on account of the apocalyptic character of the
expression ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬:: ‘destruction irrevocably determined ’ (see Dan. 9:27; cf.
Dan. 9:26 and 11:36).
Of greater consequence than the questions surrounding the origi-
nality of 28:19–22 are those doubts raised from time to time with re-
spect to the Zion text of 28:16 itself. A variety of exegetes have difficulty
in accepting 28:16–17a as an original component of the prophecy of
28:14–22. In his commentary on Isaiah, Procksch launched the idea
that 28:16–17a was originally located after verse 13 and that it found its
present location in the prophecy against the boasters (28:14–15,17b–22)
by accident. Procksch’ most important argument in support of remov-
ing 28:16–17a from its present context is based on the simple presup-
position that the verses in question can be missed without interrupt-
ing the cohesion of the remainder. For Procksch, the Zion text leaves
the impression of being something of an aside in its present location,
and this does not do justice to its great significance in Isaiah’s vision of
the future as a whole. The text concerning the cornerstone becomes
40
Given the fact that no lesson would appear to have been learned from 28:20, the
designation ‘saying’ seems more appropriate than ‘proverb’. Cf. Beuken 2000:55.
41
Cf. Beuken 2000:58: “There is a growing insight that logic cannot account for the
relationship between admonition and verdict in Old Testament Prophecy. They do not
appear to be mutually exclusive. The ruin of Israel and the possibility of a return to
God are, in the prophetic vision, on the same level of feasibility.”
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82 chapter three
all the more effective when it is allowed the opportunity to shine its
own light. The relationship with 28:12 likewise becomes more visible
when, in direct continuation of 28:7–13, yhwh’s new construction is
predicted, one which is certainly able to bring the longed for rest and
reprieve.
42
Herrmann likewise questions the originality of 28:16–17a in
its present context. Given the fact that 28:16–17a bears the features of
a promise, the verses in question would appear to be all the more out
of place within the judgement character of the surrounding verses.
43

For the same reason, Childs characterises 28:16–17a as a secondary,
interpolated, oracle of promise.
44
His position can be summed up in the
following three arguments:
1. Prophecy of judgement is characterised by a complaint followed by
an announcement of judgement. This genre is so well established in
the Old Testament that the deviation apparent in 28:14–22 would
appear to be virtually unique.
2. 8th century prophets rarely locate a promise in such a context.
3. A literary seam is evident in 28:17b.
Childs’ arguments against the originality of 28:16–17a in its present
location, however, are far from convincing. While the content of 28:12
and 28:16 clearly gives us reason to speak of cohesion, yhwh’s construc-
tion in Zion referred to in 28:16 also functions in its present context as
an appropriate antithesis to the deceptive constructions of the boasters
in Jerusalem.
45
The relocation of the text proposed by Procksch is un-
necessary and clearly misunderstands the fact that the said antithesis
is even explicitly called to mind through the use of the verb μ: both
in 28:15 and 28:17a.
46
Placing the exegetical question as to whether
28:16–17a should indeed be understood as a promise to one side, and
bearing Childs’ genre-critical argumentation in mind, one is obliged
42
Procksch 1930(A):356–357. Fey 1963:122 agrees with Procksch.
43
Cf. Herrmann 1965:143: “Es wäre doch zu merkwürdig, annehmen zu wollen,
daß diese verheißende Verse mitten in einer Unheilsweissagung ihren legitimen Ort
haben sollten.” Cf. also Blenkinsopp 2000(B):473: “Allusion to an eventual new founda-
tion in Jerusalem (vv. 16–17a) would be rhetorically ineffective at this point and does not
fit the pattern of prophetic diatribe.”
44
Childs 1967:30–31 (cf. Childs 2001:207). Cf. Boehmer 1923:84–93.
45
Lindblom 1955:132. See also Eichrodt 1967:135.
46
Cf. Melugin 1974:309: “The scoffers say, ::¬: :.: ::: (vs 15), but Yahweh says,
,: :c:: ¬::“ (vs 17). This wordplay exhibits the basic unity of vss. 14–19.” Gonçalves
1986:197–199 describes how verse 15 on the one hand and verses 16–17a on the other
represent each other’s logical counterparts.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 82 1/18/2007 2:17:04 PM
the literary and historical context 83
nevertheless to ask a methodological question concerning whether it is
correct to deny the prophet the artistic freedom to deal with the estab-
lished patterns of a genre in his own creative fashion.
47
As a matter of
fact, form-critical arguments alone provide insufficient reason to treat
28:16–17a as a secondary interpolation. Moreover, if 28:16–17a origi-
nally circulated as an independent promise of salvation, as Childs pre-
supposes, then its present condition is surprisingly fragmentary. Needless
to note, in addition, that the transition from complaint to announce-
ment of judgement in the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 would
lack the conventional transitional characteristics without 28:16–17a.
48

Together with the majority of exegetes, one can conclude that the Zion
text of 28:16 constitutes an integrative and central component part of
the context in which it is currently located.
49
3.5. Isaiah 28:14–22 as Isaianic prophecy
In our discussion of the unity of 28:14–22, the question of authenticity
was also raised, albeit in the margins. Definitive certainty is difficult to
establish with respect to the concluding verses 19–22. The most serious
doubts are raised in relation to the second verse half of 28:19 and the
conclusion of 28:22. Both clauses hark back to earlier texts, 28:9 and
10:23 respectively, and may therefore stem from the hand of a redac-
tor. In the case of 28:19b, the apocalyptic motif of history as teacher
50

and the fact that the term ¬..“ occurs almost exclusively in the book of
Jeremiah (always as Ketib ¬..“: with Qere ¬..: ‘[I will make them] a hor-
ror’) might be considered evidence of a later redaction.
51
In 28:22b it is
primarily the expression ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬:: ‘destruction irrevocably determined’ that
exhibits apocalyptic features (see Dan. 9:27; cf. Dan. 9:26 and 11:36),
47
In reaction to Childs, Melugin 1974:308 asks himself the fundamental question:
“Should we agree with him that in Isa 28:14–22 the elements which do not normally
belong to the genre are the work of a redactor? Or should we see in these unique
features of the text the prophet’s artistic freedom to modify the customary pattern of
the genre?”
48
Roberts 1987:38–39.
49
See also the critique of Eichrodt 1967:135 on the perspective of Procksch. Wild-
berger 1982:1073 points out that the word field of verse 16 is borrowed from the ideol-
ogy of the temple and adds that the terms ¬:¬: and ¬¬:: employed in verse 15 also
constitute a part thereof (cf. Ps. 27:5).
50
Clements 1980(B):232 and Beuken 2000:55.
51
See Jer. 15:4; 24:9; 29:18; 34:17; 2 Chron. 29:8. Cf. ¬..: in Deut. 28:25 and Ezek.
23:46.
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84 chapter three
although Isaianic authenticity cannot be excluded in this instance with
any degree of certainty either (cf. 10:22–23).
52
In any event, the divine
designation ¬s:. ¬¬“ :¬s ‘the Lord YHWH Zebaot’ employed in 28:22b is
characteristic of the prophet Isaiah.
53
While a degree of hesitation is evident among scholars with respect
to the authenticity of 28:19b and 28:22b, there are no convincing rea-
sons to deny the Isaian authorship and thus authenticity of the saying
in 28:20 or the comparison in 28:21. The saying found in 28:20 may
have been borrowed from the wisdom tradition with which Isaiah was
very familiar.
54
The verse is characterised by its high poetic content,
given expression to by its use of rare vocabulary as well as its choice of
style features. The comparison in 28:21 likewise exhibits clear poetic
structure and speaks of the work of YHWH in typically Isaianic style (cf.
5:12,19; 10:12; 19:25; 29:23).
Within the framework of the present study the question of the au-
thenticity of the Zion text of 28:16 is naturally a high priority. While
some discussion exists concerning whether 28:16–17a is in its original
place in its present context, there would appear to be a considerable
degree of consensus as to the authenticity of these verses. Even Childs,
who considers 28:16–17a to be a secondary interpolation and considers
the said verses to be the work of a redactor, nevertheless, and along with
Procksch, recognises the Isaianic character of the passage in question.
Fey goes a step further, convinced that only Isaiah himself could have
been responsible for the interpolation of 28:16–17a into the present
context. He supports his hypothesis by pointing to the unusual and radi-
cal character of the interpolation.
55
It remains difficult to understand,
however, why Isaiah’s creativity could not have left its mark on the cur-
rent form of the prophecy from the very beginning. The fact that such
creativity is a particular characteristic of Isaiah is apparent, for example,
from the way in which the prophet is able to disrupt the typical pattern
of prophetic judgement in texts such as 28:12 and 30:15 (both taken to
52
See Beuken 2000:59.
53
See Isa. 3:15; 10:23–24; 22:5,12,14–15; cf. ¬s:. ¬¬“ ˆ¬s¬ in 1:24; 3:1; 10:16,33;
19:4.
54
See Whedbee 1971.
55
Fey 1963:122: “Die Zusammenstellung ist zu eigenwillig, die Störung des Grund-
bestandes zu entscheidend, als daß man sie einem Schüler oder späteren Redaktor
Jesajas zutrauen könnte. So blieben Ursach und Zweck dieses Einschubs weiterhin
ungeklärt.” Jeppesen 1984:93–99 considers the Zion text of 28:16 (he understands
28:17a to be part of the threat) to be an independent Isaianic unit that was only placed
in its current position by Deutero-Isaiah.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 84 1/18/2007 2:17:05 PM
the literary and historical context 85
be authentic) by inserting a quotation containing words of expectation
and hope.
56
A number of exegetes are inclined, nevertheless, not only to deny the
redaction of 28:16–17a to Isaiah but also the text’s authorship. Kaiser
ascribes 28:16aβb–17a to an early exilic editor,
57
while Vermeylen even
goes so far as to date the Zion text in the post-exilic period.
58
Kilian con-
siders the authenticity of 28:16–17a an open question, but leans none-
theless in the direction of rejecting Isaianic authorship. In his opinion,
the Isaianic origin of the Zion text can only be maintained if 28:16aβ
is translated as a perfect (“dann ist der Gerichtscharakter gewahrt”) and
28:16bβ is understood as an interpolation, which brings us to a later pe-
riod and demands eschatological explanation.
59
It is apparent from an
earlier study of the same author that he himself is completely convinced
that 28:16–17a should be understood as a promise of salvation. He con-
cludes on this basis that we are dealing with a secondary redactional ex-
pansion, because the current context of judgement (28:14–22) does not
permit us to ascribe Isaianic origin to the said message of salvation.
60
It is clear that the difficulties concerning the presupposed Isaianic
authorship of 28:16–17a expressed by the exegetes to whom we have
referred are not only based on form-critical considerations, bearing in
mind that the hypothesis of a later interpolation need not exclude the
possibility that Isaiah was the original author of the Zion text. Their
difficulties with the authenticity of 28:16–17a are related rather to their
vision of the character of Isaiah’s preaching. When one considers Isa-
iah a prophet of judgement and nothing more, then ascribing words
of salvation to him would, by definition, make no sense. Whether such
a position does justice to reality, however, remains open to question.
Whatever the case, it is methodically incorrect to exclude in advance
the possibility that Isaiah may have spoken words of salvation based on
the presupposed judgement character of his preaching. In Kilian’s case,
moreover, his inclination to challenge the authenticity of the Zion text
56
Melugin 1974:309. Cf. also Irwin 1977:26. Delitzsch 1889:316 alludes to 7:14 in
which a promise instead of an expected announcement of judgement follows ˆ::. Rob-
erts 1987:38–39 ascribes the frequent mixture of threat and promise in a single form
to the creativity of the prophet. Hermisson 1973:69 refers to the latter as the ambiva-
lence of Isaiah’s expectation of the future. Kilian 1983:61 by contrast, characterises this
notion as “ein recht zweifelhaftes Postulat.”
57
See Kaiser 1976
2
:199.
58
See Jeppesen 1984:97 and Becker 1997:232.
59
Kilian 1994:162.
60
Kilian 1983:58–63. Idem Becker 1997:231.
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86 chapter three
of 28:16 is related to his vision of the origin and date of the so-called
Zion tradition. Kilian’s argument leaves one with the strong impression
that he desires to exclude 28:16 in advance from any discussion of the
Zion tradition relating to Isaiah. His opinion is thus in sharp contrast
to that of Herrmann who considers the Zion text in question to be the
very seed of Isaiah’s Zion expectation.
61
Even Hardmeier, who follows
Kilian to a considerable degree with respect to the Zion texts in the
book of Isaiah, insists that a more thorough discussion is necessary con-
cerning, among other things, Isa. 28:16.
62
3.6. Dating Isaiah 28:14–22
Having discussed the question of the authenticity of the prophecy of
28:14–22, we must now address ourselves to the dating of these verses.
It goes without saying, of course, that the dating of the Zion text of
28:16 depends on one’s perspective on the authenticity thereof. With
respect to the latter, we were able to discern a high degree of unanimity
among exegetes. There is no convincing reason to deny the authenticity
of 28:16 in advance. There would likewise appear to be a solid consensus
concerning the dating of the prophecy of judgement of which the Zion
text constitutes an integrative and central part. A significant majority
of exegetes date both the prophecy of 28:7–13 and that of 28:14–22
in the later years of the prophet’s active life, in the period around 701,
when Jerusalem came under threat from the Assyrian king Sennacherib
(705–681).
Globally speaking, four different periods can be distinguished in the
active life of the prophet Isaiah. The first period falls under the reign of
King Jotham who ruled at the latest up to 742 during a period in which
social turmoil gave the prophet occasion to deliver a biting critique of
all forms of social injustice. The second period coincides with the reign
of King Ahaz (742–727). Isaiah was particularly vocal in this period
during the years of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734–732). The third and
fourth periods of Isaiah’s activities both fall under the reign of King
Hezekiah (727–698).
63
The third period coincides with Ashdod’s futile
61
Herrmann 1965:144: “Jes. 28,16.17a ist die Keimzelle der Zion-Erwartung
Jesajas.”
62
Hardmeier 1986:10: “so wird mindestens um 1,21–26 und 28,16 noch länger und
gründlicher zu ‘kämpfen’ sein.”
63
See § 3.7. for the various issues surrounding the date of King Hezekiah.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 86 1/18/2007 2:17:05 PM
the literary and historical context 87
revolt against Sargon II (722–705) of Assyria in 713–711; the fourth
with the similarly futile revolt against Assyria in 705–701, on which
occasion Hezekiah himself was also directly implicated. The majority
of prophecies collected in Isaiah 28–33 would appear to stem from
this latter period. According to most exegetes, this is also the case with
respect to the prophecies of judgement found in 28:7–13 and 28:14–22.
The covenant with Egypt, to which 28:15 seems to allude (cf. 30:1–5
and 31:1–3), fits most appropriately in the period in which Hezekiah
himself revolted against Assyria.
A few exegetes argue in favour of an earlier date with respect to
28:14–22. While it is customary to date the prophecy in question to the
time of King Sennacherib (705–681), some have been inclined to date
the prophecy during the reign of one or other of his predecessors:
Sargon II (722–705), Shalmaneser V (727–722) and even Tiglath-Pileser
III (745–727).
64
Schmidt, for example, locates the prophecy of 28:14–22
during the reign of King Sargon II and associates it in particular with
the revolt of Ashdod in 713–711.
65
Although Egypt was also implicated
in the latter revolt (cf. Isaiah 20), Jerusalem’s involvement remained on
this occasion relatively limited. While the revolt of Ashdod enjoyed King
Hezekiah’s sympathy—he may even have been personally involved in
negotiations with Egypt (cf. 18:1–6)—, he did not revoke his status as
a vassal on this occasion. The radicality of the judgement announced
in 28:14–22, however, would thus appear to be inappropriate to this
particular situation.
Hayes and Irvine opt for an even earlier dating during the reign of
Shalmaneser V (727–722). They are of the opinion that Isaiah 28 follows
Isaiah 18 in chronological terms and is to be dated to the final years
of Ephraim. Upheaval is evident in Ephraim from the latter years of
Tiglath-Pileser III to the moment Sargon II appeared in the west (722).
In the intervening years, Shalmaneser V was unsuccessful in subjugating
the west. While he was in Assyria in 726, the west had the opportunity
to seek support from Egypt. Ephraim was certainly not alone in hoping
for such support since it would appear that sympathy was growing at
the time in both Judah and Jerusalem for the idea of turning to Egypt
for assistance. Hezekiah had just succeeded to the throne in Jerusalem
at that very moment. According to Hayes and Irvine, the prophecy
of 28:14–22 must have been uttered during this period together with
64
For the chronology of the Assyrian kings we follow Veenhof 2001:315.
65
H. Schmidt 1923.
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88 chapter three
the prophecies in the following chapters. The prophecy of 30:6–7, for
example, is said to allude to the emissaries from Ephraim that Hezekiah
had allowed to pass through his land. Shalmaneser V returned to the
west in 725, however, from which point the fall of Samaria was virtually
guaranteed.
66
While there is little doubt that the dating proposed by Hayes and
Irvine is original, it nevertheless falls outside the four working periods
of Isaiah’s life that are familiar to us. Their vision is based entirely on
the unusual presupposition that Isaiah 28–33 deals with the final years
of Ephraim and Samaria.
67
They make the dating of the entire textual
segment dependent on the opening verses thereof in 28:1–4. The
probability of such a dating remains limited, however, if one accounts
for the fact that the judgement announced in 28:14–22 had not yet
become a reality for Jerusalem in 725. While Hezekiah may indeed have
already acceded to the throne in 727, it is more or less certain that he
would have been too young in 725 to be able to offer political support to
Ephraim’s endeavours to seek help from Egypt.
A few exegetes go even further and argue in favour of an extremely
early dating of 28:14–22 during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (745–
727), when Ahaz was king of Judah. Lindblom is even inclined to date
28:1–22, which he considers an original unity, to Isaiah’s earliest years,
prior to the outbreak of the Syro-Ephraimitic war in 734. He is of the
opinion that a dating after the Syro-Ephraimitic war is undermined
by the fact that Isaiah does not appear to be aware of the war in
the prophecy of 28:1–4 addressed against Samaria. Isaiah’s attack is
ultimately focussed on the moral decline in Samaria and is independent
of political considerations. According to Lindblom, the prophet took
the opportunity to go public with his prophecy during a disorderly cultic
feast in Jerusalem. In order to add strength to his words, Isaiah then
linked this revelation concerning Ephraim/Samaria with a prophecy of
judgement against the drunken priests and prophets who were described
in 28:14 as those who rule the people and who despise yhwh.
68
Besides
Lindblom, Fey also dates the prophecy of 28:14–22 in Isaiah’s earliest
66
Hayes and Irvine 1987:320–330. According to Lindblom 1955:128, Bentzen
1943/44 also opts for a dating immediately prior to 722.
67
Hayes and Irvine 1987:13–15.
68
Lindblom 1955:128–129. Kissane 1960
2
likewise leans towards a dating of Isaiah
28 as a whole in the period of King Ahaz: “Indeed, if this poem were placed after
Chapter vii, there would be no question about its late date.”
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 88 1/18/2007 2:17:06 PM
the literary and historical context 89
years, although he considers 28:16–17a to be an interpolation made by
the prophet himself at a later date. According to Fey, the prophecy of
28:1–4 must at the very least have come into existence before Isaiah’s
opinion with respect to the Assyrians had changed, in other words
before 10:5–19 and 14:24–27.
69
In like fashion to the dating proposed by Hayes and Irvine, Lind-
blom’s early dating is entirely determined by the prophecy addressed
to Samaria in 28:1–4. Apart from the fact that there is no single reason
to date 28:1–4 prior to the Syro-Ephraimitic war, the dating of the
prophecy in question ultimately has nothing to say with respect to
dating the remainder of Isaiah 28. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that
28:1–22 should be understood as an original unity.
70
The curious
situation sketched by Lindblom of a prophet who has received a
revelation yet still has to search for the appropriate moment to make it
public remains implausible.
71
Furthermore, the focal point of Isaiah 28
is thus concentrated in the prophecy of 28:1–4, while the remainder of
the chapter is ascribed a subordinate function. In the present author’s
opinion, it is more reasonable to trace the focal point of Isaiah 28 to the
prophet’s preaching against Jerusalem, whereby the prophecy of 28:1–4
is ascribed a subordinate function. The fate of Samaria was to serve as
a warning example for Jerusalem. With respect to Fey’s hypothesis one
can argue that Isaiah’s opinion of Assyria represents a separate question
in Isaiah research, whereby the exegesis of the relevant texts alone can
provide for any degree of certainty. It is methodically incorrect to turn
matters around and to arrive at an early date for 28:14–22 on the basis
of a supposed change in Isaiah’s thinking.
Bearing all the above considerations in mind, a date for the prophecy
of 28:14–22 is best sought during the reign of Sennacherib, when
the Assyrian threat against Jerusalem was at its height and help was
sought in desperation from Egypt. The place ascribed to the prophecy
in question in the book of Isaiah supports such a dating. Indeed, the
segment of Isaiah consisting of chapters 28–33 would appear to contain
a large number of prophecies from the period 705–701. This leads to the
conclusion that the dating of 28:14–22 during the period of Hezekiah’s
revolt against Sennacherib ultimately enjoys the best credentials.
69
Fey 1963:122.
70
See the discussion hereof in § 3.3.
71
Cf. Lindblom 1955:128–129: “Er fühlte den Drang, diese Revelation irgendwie
öffentlich bekannt zu machen.”
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90 chapter three
3.7. Dating the reign of Hezekiah
The deliberations presented in the preceding paragraph led us to the
conclusion that the prophecy of 28:14–22, within which the Zion text of
28:16 is set, should be understood against the background of Hezekiah’s
revolt against Sennacherib. In the following paragraph, we will offer a
sketch of the historical situation relative to this background. In order to
do so, however, we must first register a number of details relevant to the
reign of King Hezekiah.
Few kings of Judah have been as important for the history of Israel
as King Hezekiah. It seems surprising, therefore, that the extent of his
reign is among the most difficult to establish of all the kings of Judah.
The biblical data relevant to the chronology of Hezekiah present the
exegete with a number of problems that remain impossible to resolve
at the present moment. The literature contains a minimum of three
different perspectives on the dates of Hezekiah’s reign:
72
1. The first perspective is based on the reference found in 2 Kgs 18:1
to Hezekiah’s accession to the throne in the third year of the reign
of Hoshea, the last king of the northern kingdom. Given that the
fall of Samaria (722/720) is dated in 2 Kgs 18:10 in the ninth year of
Hoshea’s reign, and bearing in mind that 2 Kgs 18:2 informs us that
Hezekiah reigned for 29 years, we are left with a reign dating from
727 to 698 (Tadmor).
2. The second perspective is based on 2 Kgs 18:13 in which the
campaign of Sennacherib (701) is dated in the fourteenth year of
Hezekiah’s reign. Given that Hezekiah fell ill during the same period
and was granted, according to 2 Kgs 20:6, an extension to his life
of 15 years, it would appear that Hezekiah remained in power until
686. If we account for the 29 years referred to in 2 Kgs 18:2, we are
left with a reign dating from 715/714 to 686 (Thiele/Bright).
3. The third perspective endeavours to harmonise the information
supporting the first two by presupposing that Hezekiah began his
reign in 727 as co-regent and only later, from 715/714, acceded to
the throne as sole monarch. The 29-year reign referred to in 2 Kgs
72
The three distinct perspectives are to be found in Na’aman 1994:236. See also
Hutter 1982:52–55, Gonçalves 1986:51–60 and the literature referred to in Herrmann
1986:398.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 90 1/18/2007 2:17:06 PM
the literary and historical context 91
18:2 can thus be calculated on the basis of both dates. This leaves us
with two alternative reigns: 727(715/714) to 698 or 727(715/714) to
686 (Gonçalves).
73
The discussion does not only revolve around the contradictory features
of the information relating to Hezekiah himself but also the problem of
determining the year in which his father Ahaz died. In spite of the fact
that there is no consensus on the matter, a dating of the year of Ahaz’
death in 727 seems likely. If we take the data from 2 Kgs 16:20 and 2
Kgs 18:1 together then the year of Ahaz’ death coincides with the third
year of the reign of Hoshea, the last king of Israel. Based on the fact
that the fall of Samaria (722/720) is dated in 2 Kgs 18:10 in the ninth
year of Hoshea’s reign, the year in which Ahaz died can be established
in 727. This dating is unexpectedly reinforced by the prophecy con-
cerning Philistia passed on to us in Isa. 14:28–32.
74
The said prophecy
is dated in the year of Ahaz’ death and would appear to have been ut-
tered on the occasion of the recent death of an Assyrian king and the
arrival of a Philistine emissary in Jerusalem. The Assyrian king in ques-
tion is described as ‘the rod that struck you’ and is difficult to identify
with anyone other than Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727).
75
The arrival of
the Philistine emissary in Jerusalem probably relates to an attempt to
make use of the death of Tiglath-Pileser III to stimulate the formation
of an anti-Assyrian coalition. The fact that other sources cannot con-
firm that such an endeavour to form a coalition took place in 727 should
not be understood as conclusive evidence in rejection of the proposed
date. The efforts of the Philistines were apparently unsuccessful. In any
event, the fact that Judah did not want to join such a coalition is hardly
surprising given the interregnum that must have followed, more or less,
the simultaneous death of King Ahaz. Moreover, Judah had voluntarily
submitted itself to Assyrian vassalship a couple of years earlier on King
Ahaz’ initiative and had been witness to the atrocities committed by the
Assyrians at the end of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734–732) in Aram
and Ephraim.
According to 2 Kgs 16:2, Ahaz was 20 years old when he took to
the throne and he reigned for 16 years in Jerusalem. This implies that
73
Becking 2003:55 presupposes the Hezekiah’s co-regentship had already com-
menced in 730/729.
74
Cf. Ahlström 1993:688–689.
75
Other perspectives are listed in Schoors 1997:86–87.
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92 chapter three
Ahaz died when he was 36 years of age. The idea that his son Hezekiah
was 25 years old when his father died, as related in 2 Kgs 18:2, implies
that Ahaz had become a father at the age of 11, which is more or less
unimaginable. By contrast, however, there is much to be said for the
ancient tradition that the announcement to Ahaz of the birth of the
Emmanuel, son of David, in Isa. 7:14, was to be fulfilled in the birth of
Hezekiah. In such an instance, the birth of Hezekiah can be dated to
the beginning of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734–732), thus making He-
zekiah 8 years old at the most when his father died and far too young to
be able to exercise his reign. Other senior officials must have attended to
the running of the royal court for a number of years until Hezekiah was
old enough to succeed to the throne.
76
Bearing in mind the accession to
the throne in the third year of the reign of Hoshea related in 2 Kgs 18:1
on the one hand, and the date of Sennacherib’s military campaign pro-
vided by 2 Kgs 18:13 in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign on the
other, this means that Hezekiah was already king in name from 727 but
did not come to exercise his reign as such until 715/714 or thereabouts.
Instead of the co-regentship proposed by the third perspective outlined
above, a solution might be found in the idea of temporary guardianship.
The fact that no mention can be found of the latter, however, remains a
source of dissatisfaction.
77
2 Kgs 18:2, however, poses a problem to this dating. It states that
Hezekiah was 25 years old when he took to the throne. According to
the information outlined above, however, Hezekiah had not reached
the age of 25 when his father Ahaz died in 727 nor was he 25 when he
actually acceded to the throne in 715/714. At his father’s death, he was
probably no more than 8 years old, and when he actually acceded to
the throne in 715/714 he was 20 years of age at the most. In order to
uphold the age of 25 years referred to in 2 Kgs 18:2, we would have
to set the year of Hezekiah’s birth back by a minimum of five years.
This would not provide Hezekiah’s age during the third year of the
76
B.J. Oosterhoff, Bijbels Handboek 2a, Kampen 1982:366 speaks of guardianship.
Hutter 1982:55–57 suggests the queen mother Abu and the priest Uriah (Isa. 8:2). He
also considers it possible that Isaiah himself had an important role to play in the royal
court at the time, but admits that there is no conclusive evidence in support of such a
hypothesis.
77
Galil 1996:102 presupposes that the dating of Sennacherib’s campaign in the four-
teenth year of Hezekiah’s reign as given in 2 Kgs 18:13 is not original, but due rather to
the calculations of the redactor. The redactor in question endeavoured in vain to har-
monise the length of Hezekiah’s reign (= 29; see 2 Kgs 18:10) with the 15-year extension
to the king’s life promised around the time of the siege of Jerusalem (see 2 Kgs 20:6).
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 92 1/18/2007 2:17:06 PM
the literary and historical context 93
reign of Hoshea (the year in which his father Ahaz died, 727) alluded
to in 2 Kgs 18:1 but rather the actual age at which he acceded to the
throne in 715/714. It is highly improbable, however, that two different
dating systems were at work within the context of 2 Kgs 18:1–2. Based
on the information we have at our disposal, it would appear that the
problem of Hezekiah’s age will have to be left for the time being without
a satisfactory solution.
A second intractable problem evident in current research is related
to the 15-year extension granted to Hezekiah’s life and referred to in 2
Kgs 20:6. The year of Hezekiah’s death can be established as 698, since
a later date would unavoidably disrupt the chronology of his successors.
The 55-year reign of Hezekiah’s son Manasseh came to an end in 642
at the latest. If we date Hezekiah’s reign as 727(715/714)–698, we are
left with little if any room to be able to offer a meaningful place to the
15-year extension to his life. The promise of an ample life extension
was related to the promise of deliverance for Jerusalem from the might
of Assyria. Hezekiah’s illness must thus be located in the years prior to
Sennacherib’s campaign and, in spite of the reversal of events narrated
in the Bible, prior to the liberation of Jerusalem.
78
It would appear that
78
The reversal of the chronological order, whereby the story of Hezekiah’s illness
and the arrival of the emissaries from Babylon (2 Kings 20) is only related after the
liberation of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18–19), can be explained as follows. Given that the
prophecy uttered by Isaiah on the occasion of the arrival of the emissary from Babylon
already speaks of the future deportation to Babylon and the exile that followed (2 Kgs
20:17–18; verse 18 may be a later interpolation), it is possible that the biblical authors
found occasion herein to remove the prophecy with regard to Babylon from its historical
context, which was characterised by the threat from Assyria. The miraculous libera-
tion of Jerusalem, moreover, may have created the impression that the core of Isaiah’s
prophecy was no longer valid. By relating the story of Hezekiah’s illness and cure after
that of Jerusalem’s liberation, the suggestion is avoided that Jerusalem was also to be
kept free of future hostile conquest. In fact, a number of prophets of salvation would
later give vivid expression to this suggestion in their pronouncements (cf. Jeremiah 28).
The reversal of narrative sequence emphasises the fact that both Jerusalem and Heze-
kiah had been granted a miraculous reprieve. This implied, however, that judgement
had been postponed and not withdrawn. It is worthy of note that the book of Chronicles
tries to straighten out the creases brought about by this reversal of chronological order.
According to 2 Chron. 32:23, Hezekiah is said to have received all sorts of valuable gifts
from every side after the liberation of Jerusalem. This is intended to remove the tension
in the narratives of the second book of Kings between the riches revealed by Hezekiah
to the emissaries from Babylon (2 Kgs 20:13) and his earlier payment of tribute to the
king of Assyria (2 Kgs 18:15–16). The actual reason for the Babylonian visit is likewise
obscured to a degree by the absence of any reference to a tour granted to the emissary
(of the armoury, among other things! Cf. 2 Kgs 20:13) or to Isaiah’s harsh words. The
sin of Hezekiah is presented as pride and ingratitude (2 Chron. 32:25), while it is sug-
gested that Babylon was driven by astronomical concerns (2 Chron. 32:31).
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94 chapter three
the number 15 is based on a later reconstruction whereby an endeavour
was made to harmonise the 29-year reign referred to in 2 Kgs 18:2 with
Sennacherib’s campaign, which is dated in 2 Kgs 18:13 in the four-
teenth year of Hezekiah’s reign. In light of the visit of emissaries from
Babylon around 704/3 referred to in 2 Kgs 20:12, when Merodach-
Baladan reigned as king for nine months, Hezekiah must have lived
no more than five years after his illness, returning thus to rest with his
fathers in 698.
79
3.8. Hezekiah’s revolt and Sennacherib’s campaign
The description of the situation surrounding Hezekiah’s revolt and the
subsequent campaign of Sennacherib is based on the proposed dating
of Hezekiah’s reign outlined above, namely 727(715/714)–698. When
Hezekiah was old enough to rule in his own name in 715/714, it be-
came apparent that he had aspirations that made him sensitive from the
outset to any initiative that might lead to a break with Assyria. The first
opportunity arose when King Yamani of the Philistine city of Ashdod
attempted revolt in 713.
80
Hezekiah sympathised with the rebels, which
gave rise to the prophecy passed on to us in Isaiah 20. While it is pos-
sible that he was involved in negotiations with Egypt (cf. Isa. 18:1–6),
Hezekiah did not seek to shake off his own vassal status at this stage and
he judiciously withdrew his support of Ashdod’s revolt.
81
This appeared
in hindsight to be a sensible decision, given the fact that the Assyrian
king Sargon II immediately dispatched an expedition to punish Ashdod
in 712.
82
In perfect line with the prophecy of Isaiah 20, placing one’s
hope in Egypt would indeed prove pointless. Ashdod was captured and
turned into an Assyrian province. King Yamani, who had fled to Egypt
in the interim, was handed over to Assyria. All these events must have
79
A dating of the emissary of Merodach-Baladan around the time of the revolt of
Ashdod in 713 seems unlikely. Clements 1980(A):67, Hutter 1982:67–71, Vogt 1986:2;
Galil 1996:104 and Goldberg 1999:363ff nevertheless follow this option. Merodach-
Baladan already occupied the throne of Babylon from 722 to 710. Reference to this
event in the context of the history of Sennacherib’s campaign, however, argues in
favour of a dating in 704/3 (cf. 2 Kgs 20:6). Galil 1996:104 dates Hezekiah’s reign from
726 to 697/6.
80
Cf. Ahlström 1993:692–694.
81
Cf. Mittmann 1990:91, 95–96.
82
Sargon had already engaged in a campaign in southern Palestine in 716, prior to
Hezekiah’s autonomous reign. The impact thereof on Judah, however, remains unclear.
See Veenhof 2001:257.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 94 1/18/2007 2:17:07 PM
the literary and historical context 95
convinced the young Hezekiah that revolt against Assyria would have to
be extremely well prepared if it was to stand any chance of success.
83
Hezekiah was to busy himself with these preparations in the years
that followed. This period includes the reformation he pushed through
in the first years of his reign (2 Kgs 18:4; cf. 2 Chron. 29:3).
84
While
there is no need to call Hezekiah’s religious motives into question, it
cannot be denied that they were not exclusively religious in nature. The
implementation of his reformation was also made to serve his political
aspirations to restore the kingdom of David to its former glory.
85
Of
course, the opposite is also true, namely that Hezekiah allowed himself
to be driven in his political aspirations by religious motives. The extraor-
dinarily positive evaluation given by the biblical authors with respect to
Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:5–6; cf. 23:25) can only be explained on the basis
of the Messianic expectation that had been evoked by his activities. He-
zekiah is one of the few kings who could be compared to David when it
came to religious passion (2 Kgs 18:3; see also Asa in 1 Kgs 15:11 and
Josiah in 2 Kgs 22:2; cf. Jehoshaphat in 2 Chron. 17:3). Just as yhwh
had once been with David and made him prosper in all his ways (1
Sam. 18:14), so yhwh appeared also to be with Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:7a),
although it must be pointed out that this statement does not seem to
be in keeping with the results of the excavations. Hezekiah’s devotion
to yhwh reinforced the idea that he was a David Redivivus.
86
The fact
that Hezekiah’s devotion made little sense in political terms and the fact
83
Miller/Hayes 1986:353. Based on the dating of the so-called Azekah Inscription
in 712 (instead of the now accepted dating in 701), Goldberg 1999:369ff argues that
Sargon’s 712 campaign must also have been directed against Hezekiah and the tribute
mentioned in 2 Kgs 18:14–16 should be associated with this occasion and not the events
of 701.
84
For further information on Hezekiah’s reformation see Hutter 1982:61–67. Spie-
ckermann 1982:170–175 considers the said reformation to have been a construction of
the Deuteronomistic historiographer who employed Hezekiah to further elaborate the
antithesis between Manasseh and Josiah. Spieckermann follows the classic Wellhau-
sian line in this regard. See also Schoors 1998:34, 100–101 in association with H.-D.
Hoffmann, Reform und Reformen. Untersuchungen zu einem Grundthema der deuteronomistischen
Geschichtsschreibung (1980). Ahlström 1993:701–707 and Naaman 1995:179–195 also
raise significant doubt as to the historicity of Hezekiah’s reformation.
85
Borowksi 1995:148–155. See also Hutter 1982:65–66 and Miller/Hayes 1986:356–
357. Gonçalves 1986:73–101 (see also 533) concludes that both Hezekiah’s revolt and
his reformation were part of one and the same national reform movement. In his opin-
ion, Hezekiah’s cultic reform was intended in the first instance to counter Canaanite
influence and thereby protect Judah from the fate that had overcome Israel.
86
Cf. the Messianic expectation surrounding Jesus’ entry into and purification of the
temple (Mt. 21:1–17).
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96 chapter three
that his political behaviour attracted Isaiah’s condemnation time after
time does not seem to have had a negative influence on the positive
evaluation of Hezekiah’s piety furnished by the biblical authors. One is
left in the meantime, however, with a highly tendentious historiography,
determined to a large extent by religious motives.
Together with a number of cultic measures, Hezekiah also imple-
mented a series of changes at the level of government and the economy.
87

The latter had become necessary in part because of the enormous pop-
ulation increase that had taken place in Judah in the preceding years as
a result of the arrival of large numbers of refugees from the northern
kingdom of Ephraim.
88
Jar handles have been found in several loca-
tions with the inscription lmlk ‘from the king’, which provide a clear
indication as to the way in which Hezekiah organised the distribution of
food.
89
Numerous building projects, among them the so-called tunnel of
Siloam, which was designed to secure the supply of water to Jerusalem
in the event of a siege (2 Chron. 32:30; cf. 2 Chron. 32:4), fit well in the
context of Hezekiah’s preparations for a possible revolt.
90
The appropriate moment for the planned revolt presented itself on
the sudden death of Sargon II in 705. Merodach-Baladan had man-
aged to recapture the throne in Babylon and hold it for a period of
nine months in 704/3. The illness and miraculous healing of Hezekiah
should be dated to the same period (2 Kgs 20:1–11), at which occasion
Merodach-Baladan sent emissaries to visit Hezekiah (2 Kgs 20:12–21).
The visit in question is not as innocent as its presentation in 2 Kgs 20:12
would lead us to believe. Hezekiah’s illness and healing would appear to
have functioned as a front, since one can deduce both from the inspec-
tion of Hezekiah’s treasure house and armoury (!) and from Isaiah’s re-
action to this inspection that the envoys from Babylon also had political
intentions, namely the organisation of a major revolt against Assyria. It
is probable that Merodach-Baladan was aware of Hezekiah’s political
aspirations and the various activities he had undertaken in this regard
and that he wanted to fan the flames of revolt. Hezekiah thus seems
87
See Hutter 1982:77–80.
88
Zwickel 1999:356–377.
89
Borowski 1995:152. See also Ahlström 1993:699–701.
90
Miller/Hayes 1986:354. For a survey of Hezekiah’s building activities see Ahl-
ström 1993:697–699 and Gonçalves 1986:60–68. Rogerson/Davies 1996:138–149
recently tried to redate the Siloam tunnel and its inscription to the Hasmonean period.
Hendel 1996:233–247 and Norin 1998:37–48, however, demonstrated serious weak-
nesses in their argumentation.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 96 1/18/2007 2:17:07 PM
the literary and historical context 97
to have been the right man for the job at that moment in time, given
that he quickly became the driving force behind a broad anti-Assyrian
coalition.
91
Even the Philistine cities joined in the fray, although in light
of their painful experiences during the campaign of Sargon II in 712 it
will have been likely that they were not all equally enthusiastic members
of the coalition. King Mitinti of Ashdod had to be forced to participate
and when King Padi of Ekron continued to refuse to join the coalition,
Hezekiah took him prisoner and annexed his city. The city of Gaza,
however, was successful in keeping out of the coalition, although it did
not remain completely unscathed, having lost a significant portion of its
territory to Judah.
92
Reference is also made in 2 Kgs 18:8 to this politics
of expansion into Philistine territory. It seems apparent that Hezekiah
did not appear to shy away from annexations and crusades of retribu-
tion. Surprisingly enough, and contrary to what one might expect, his
successes are viewed as the expression of God’s blessing. In order to
cover his back, Hezekiah likewise reassured himself of Egypt’s support,
much against Isaiah’s repeated warnings.
Assyria did not hesitate to react. Having dealt provisionally with
Merodach-Baladan in 704/3,
93
Sennacherib initiated a campaign
against Palestine in 701 in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (2
Kgs 18:13).
94
The precise course of the campaign is difficult to trace in
91
Becking 2003:68 doubts whether Hezekiah was the real leader of the revolt. The
emissary from Merodach-Baladan, Hezekiah’s actions against the Philistines, the grad-
ual yet strategic fortification of Jerusalem, and the way in which the Assyrian annals
describe Hezekiah as one of their most important enemies, however, all serve to rein-
force the opposite position.
92
See Mittmann 1990:92–103.
93
It is possible that the prophecy of 21:1–10 should be understood against this
background. See Gallagher 1999:22–46. Gallagher 1999:60–74 makes an intriguing
attempt to persuade the reader that it is also acceptable to read 22:1–14 against the
same historical background.
94
Given the fact that the sources contradict one another in places, namely with
respect to the outcome of the campaign, many have endeavoured to arrive at a reli-
able reconstruction of events. Although Childs 1967:118–120 concluded that a pre-
cise reconstruction of the events surrounding 701 was probably impossible, attempts
to arrive at such a reconstruction continued nevertheless (Gonçalves 1986; Van der
Kooij 1986; Laato 1987, 1988; Seitz 1992; Gallagher 1999). It has become clear in
the meantime that the proposed possibility of two different campaigns, the first in 701
resulting in Assyrian victory, the second around 689–687 resulting in Assyrian defeat
(see, among others, Van Leeuwen 1965:267–272 and Shea 1985:401–418), suggested
by some scholars should be rejected on the grounds that it lacks any form of supporting
evidence (see the discussion in Hutter 1982:99–102, Gonçalves 1986:125–131, Van der
Kooij 1986:106, Yurco 1991:35–45 and Gallagher 1999:8–9). A variant of the same
hypothesis is suggested by Goldberg 1999:360–390 who maintains that a minor cam-
paign led by Sargon in 712 preceded the major campaign led by Sennacherib in 701.
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98 chapter three
every detail. The annals of Sennacherib allude to major conquests but
do not always follow the correct chronological order in their reference
to particular victories.
95
Generally speaking, however, we can subdivide
the campaign into three stages.
96
In the first instance, Sennacherib fo-
cused his attention on Judah’s allies along the Phoenician coast. He then
turned against the Philistine cities after which he headed towards the
territory of Judah itself.
It was evident from the beginning that the coalition front was neither
strong enough nor resolved enough to oppose Sennacherib’s advance.
The cities of Arvad and Byblos, Hezekiah’s allies in Phoenicia, quickly
surrendered to the Assyrians. King Luli of Sidon (also of Tyre?) fled to
Cyprus and Sidon capitulated, while Tyre remained unconquered.
97
The
Philistine front was also unable to hold firm against Sennacherib’s forces.
98

Ashdod, which had never been a solid member of the coalition, quickly
capitulated, followed thereafter by the conquest of Ashkelon, Elteke,
Timna, Azekah and finally Ekron.
99
It is not completely clear at what
moment the Egyptian forces, under the leadership of Prince Taharqa,
arrived on the scene. The battle of Elteke that followed their arrival
must, in any case, have taken place prior to the conquest of Ekron.
100
Becking 2003:46–72 likewise presupposes an earlier campaign led by Sargon, although
he dates this around 715/714. The campaign in question may have been led by crown
prince Sennacherib. For a recent and succinct survey of the history of research into
Sennacherib’s campaign see Grabbe 2003:20–36.
95
For the text of the annals of Sennacherib and a description thereof, see Frahm
1997. For a critical evaluation of the historicity of the Assyrian annals see Laato
1995:198–226.
96
See Na’aman 1979:64–65, Gonçalves 1986:109–115, Frahm 1997:10–11, Gal-
lagher 1999:7 and Veenhof 2001:263–267.
97
The annals of Sennacherib make no reference to the fate of Tyre in 701, in spite
of the fact that it must have been the most important city in Phoenicia at the time.
According to Vogt 1986:9, Tyre was intentionally left alone. For a discussion of the dif-
ficulties involved in determining the fate of Tyre see Gallagher 1999:91–104. It would
appear from the Rassam-Cylinder of Sennacherib that Ammon, Moab and Edom also
directly capitulated (cf. Gallagher 1999:105–112).
98
For this phase of the confrontation see Gallagher 1999:113–128.
99
Mittmann 1990:100, 103.
100
Laato 1995:216–217 presupposes that the battle of Elteke took place prior to
the invasion of Judah because Philistia and Judah participated therein. In line with
Kitchen, Ahlström 1993:713 maintains that there were two confrontations with the
Egyptian army. The first took place prior to the conquest of Ekron, while the second
took place at Libnah. In the latter instance, Taharqa was able to withdraw his troops in
time to avoid a battle. There is some discussion surrounding the question of Taharqa’s
age at the time and whether he would have been old enough to lead the Egyptian army
against Sennacherib.
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 98 1/18/2007 2:17:07 PM
the literary and historical context 99
Based on 2 Kgs 18:17ff, it is probable that Sennacherib had already
sent a military attachment to Jerusalem prior to his confrontation with
the Egyptians at Elteke, in an endeavour to provoke Hezekiah to give
up the revolt and open the gates of the city to him. While Hezekiah
remained firm at this juncture, one can deduce from the report found
in 2 Kgs 18:14–16 that he was surprised at the speed with which the
coalition had disintegrated and that he had endeavoured to mitigate im-
pending disaster even before the arrival of the Assyrian envoy. By way
of a delegation to Sennacherib, who was encamped outside Lachish at
the time, Hezekiah offered to submit to Assyria and asked Sennacherib,
under confession of his sin,
101
to withdraw from him (2 Kgs 18:14).
102

Although Sennacherib went on to impose a hefty tribute,
103
it is possible
that he was not satisfied with Hezekiah’s surrender and the compensa-
tion he had been willing to pay,
104
since he sent his officials to Jerusalem
nonetheless
105
and demanded that the gates of the city, the focal point of
101
Hezekiah’s sin refers to the violation of the vassal oath he had sworn in the pres-
ence of yhwh; cf. Ezek. 17:11–21.
102
According to Gallagher 1999:256, surrender at this point was conditional on the
departure of Sennacherib and his troops. This would explain why the Assyrian annals
state that Hezekiah dispatched his tribute to Sennacherib in Nineveh. It seems improb-
able, however, that Hezekiah would have been in a position to negotiate conditions.
103
In line with Seitz 1993(B):50–52, Goldberg 1999:362 also maintains that 2 Kgs
18:14–16 should be dated during an earlier Assyrian campaign (712). In contrast to that
of 701, the campaign of 712 would actually have taken place in the fourteenth year of
the reign of Hezekiah. In Goldberg’s opinion, the invasion in question was a limited
one, under the leadership of Sargon, which got mixed up in the process of transmission
with that of Sennacherib, in like fashion to the conquest of Samaria, which is wrongly
ascribed in 2 Kgs 17:3; 18:9 (according to Goldberg) to Shalmaneser V, while it actually
took place under Sargon. The most important argument in support of this hypoth-
esis revolves around 2 Kgs 18:14 and the observation that the imposed tribute did not
square with the description thereof in the Assyrian annals. Goldberg also insists on a
post-invasion dating of both Hezekiah’s illness and the visit of the envoys from Babylon
in 2 Kings 20, whereby he endeavours to account for the fact that Hezekiah still pos-
sessed riches after the presupposed invasion of 712 by appealing to the statement in
2 Chron. 32:23. It is more likely, however, that the statement found in 2 Chron. 32:23
is itself the result of a harmonisation effort.
104
2 Chron. 28:21 relates how King Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, pointlessly emp-
tied the house of yhwh and his palaces, giving everything to Tiglath-Pileser III (cf.
2 Kgs 16:8).
105
I am aware that this reconstruction does not entirely square with the evidence.
The narrative of Sennacherib dispatching his officials follows the report of Hezekiah’s
payment of tribute, but both events are not explicitly related to one another in the
text, in spite of suggestions to the contrary found in some translations. As a matter
of fact, both 2 Kgs 18:13 and 2 Kgs 18:17 are marked by the Masoretes as the begin-
ning of a new Petuchah. This might signify that the report of 2 Kgs 18:14–16 originally
bore a more independent character and that it was intended as a very brief summary
of the events surrounding 701. If this were the case then the tribute paid by Hezekiah
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100 chapter three
the resistance, be opened to him.
106
Given the fact that he still had one
last card to play, namely military reinforcements from Egypt, Hezekiah
refused to open the gates to Sennacherib, in spite of the fact that he was
now locked up ‘like a bird in a cage’. The Egyptian army was defeated,
however, and the Assyrians then went on to capture the city of Ekron.
107
Sennacherib’s accelerated advance and the destruction left in its wake
placed Hezekiah and his city under ever increasing pressure.
In spite of the enormous threat posed by the Assyrian army, Jeru-
salem was unexpectedly spared. The annals of Sennacherib are silent
about the events that followed and disguise the fact that the Assyrian
siege of Jerusalem had to be abandoned prematurely.
108
Reference is
made in 2 Kgs 19:35 to the miraculous liberation of the city upon the
intervention of an angel of yhwh. The allusion to an angel of yhwh
may be related to an outbreak of plague in the Assyrian military camp
(cf. 2 Sam. 24:15–17). The epidemic in question did not only claim a
large number of victims, but it was also probably seen by Sennacherib
as a divine sign that his campaign had to be brought to an abrupt end.
109

and the tribute sent to Sennacherib in Nineveh, as recorded in the Assyrian annals, may
have been one and the same. The narrative of 2 Kgs 18:17ff might then be understood
as an interpolation for the sake of completeness and at the service of the prophetic
imagination.
106
Cf. Gallagher 1999:111: “Through the imprisonment of Padi and his attacks
on pro-Assyrian cities in Philistia, Hezekiah had made himself Sennacherib’s main
enemy and main target.” Gallagher 1999:256ff presupposes that Sennacherib was only
willing to accept Hezekiah’s surrender in the second instance and that he made an
agreement with him at this juncture and departed from Jerusalem. The fact that
Sennacherib considered Hezekiah to be a rebel leader, however, makes such a scenario
highly implausible.
107
Sennacherib is probably referring to the city of Ekron in the so-called Azekah
Inscription. The latter alludes to the conquest of a royal city in the land of Philistia.
Na’aman (1974:25–39) was first inclined to identify the said city as Gat (idem Ahlström
1993:711), but was later convinced by Mittmann 1990:98–99, albeit with some linger-
ing doubts, that the city in question must have been Ekron, which had been annexed
and fortified by Hezekiah (Na’aman 1994:245). In recent years, however, some scholars
have ascribed the Azekah Inscription to Sargon and dated it in 712 (see Goldberg
1999:363). For this reason, Gallagher 1999:12–13 does not include the inscription in
his study of Sennacherib’s campaign. Becking 2003:56–57 dates the inscription to 715,
during an Assyrian offensive intended to reinforce the border with Egypt. The sources
remain unclear as to the moment Hezekiah set his captive, King Padi of Ekron, free.
Hutter 1982:94 links the latter to the second Assyrian mission to Jerusalem. While this
sounds plausible, it remains speculation.
108
Van der Kooij 1986:93–109 has written an interesting article claiming that the
siege of Jerusalem took the form of a blockade. He appeals in support of his hypothesis
to the Assyrian sources and to the information contained in 2 Kgs 19:32–33.
109
See Laato 1995:225n. For a discussion of the usefulness of Herodotus as a source
for reconstructing the closing stages of Sennacherib’s campaign see Grabbe 2003:
119–140.
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the literary and historical context 101
Since Hezekiah had been the driving force behind the revolt, it does not
seem reasonable to presume that Sennacherib had already reached his
goal with the payment of tribute referred to in 2 Kgs 18:13–16,
110
or that
he had given up his plans to capture Jerusalem for political reasons.
111

It seems more likely that Sennacherib would have preferred to replace
the ambitious Hezekiah, all the more so since Hezekiah’s revolt in 703–
701 had not been his first attempt, but that he was forced to abandon
his plans due to unforeseen circumstances. According to the Assyrian
annals, Hezekiah later dispatched significant tribute to King Sennach-
erib in Nineveh in the probable hope that the Assyrian army would
not return to Jerusalem.
112
In spite of the fact that Jerusalem had been
miraculously spared, Judah as a whole was in a sorry state. The annals
of Sennacherib refer to the conquest of 46 fortified cities and countless
other minor locations. Reference is also made to mass deportations.
Excursus 1: Prophetic historiography in 2 Kings 18–19
Scholars generally maintain that two parallel sources have been com-
bined in the narrative of Jerusalem’s liberation as described in 2 Kings
18–19. To distinguish these sources from the fragment in which He-
zekiah endeavours to purchase Jerusalem’s freedom (2 Kgs 18:13–16
designated as A), the sources in question are generally designated as
B1 (2 Kgs 18:17–19:9a + 2 Kgs 19:36–37) and B2 (2 Kgs 19:9b–35).
113

Although the textual unit running from 2 Kgs 18:17 to 2 Kgs 19:37 can
easily be read as one single prophetic account, it is not improbable that
110
Gonçalves 1986:133–134, 543–544 even argues that Sennacherib never had the
intention of changing the status of Judah or of replacing King Hezekiah.
111
Berges 1998:208 (see also 282) presupposes that the relief of Jerusalem was a
result of “rein machtpolitischem Kalkül,” intended to avoid destabilising the region and
thereby favouring Egypt.
112
Laato 1995:218 considers it possible that the tribute referred to in the Assyrian
annals is not a second tribute following the one Hezekiah had offered to Sennacherib in
Lachish but rather the first annual tribute following Hezekiah’s capitulation. The Assyr-
ian annals want to suggest the idea of a victory and camouflage the fact that Jerusalem
was not taken captive. For a description of the tendency in the Assyrian annals to glorify
the king and his divinity see Millard 1985:61–77.
113
Childs 1967:69–103. For a recent endeavour to date B1 and B2, see Naaman
2000:393–402 and 2003:201–220. With a few minor variations, this account of Jeru-
salem’s liberation (B) can also be found in Isaiah 36–37. Opinions differ considerably
as to the original location of this account, although the hypothesis that it stems from
the book of Isaiah is gaining ground. See in this regard, for example, Smelik 1986:70–
93; 1992:97–101; Konkel 1993:462–482 and Vermeylen 1997:95–118. A good survey
of the various positions is provided by Berges 1998:266–277. For the present state of
research on Isaiah 36–39, see also Höffken 2004:134–139.
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102 chapter three
a number of sources lie at its origins.
114
The account itself does indeed
appear to contain a number of repetitions: the twofold reference to the
threatening words of the officials of Sennacherib, the twofold appeal
to yhwh for help and the twofold announcement of Jerusalem’s libera-
tion on the part of the prophet Isaiah. The book of Chronicles would
appear to have weeded out these doublets to the best of its ability and
transformed the account into a single, uninterrupted narrative (see 2
Chron. 32:1–23).
115
On closer inspection, however, the dual character
of the account found in 2 Kings 18–19 would appear to be rooted in a
deliberate, prophetic compositional technique.
116
The story of Jerusalem’s liberation would appear to consist of two
phases. While it is no longer possible to determine with any degree of
certainty whether this two-phase sequence matches reality, it would
seem that distinguishing the two phases is nevertheless important in our
understanding of the prophetic exposition of the events surrounding
Hezekiah and the liberation of Jerusalem. Indeed, the second phase is
not simply a repetition of the first, since it is evident that the scenes pre-
sented in twofold form do not agree with one another in every respect,
but differ rather in a number of highly telling ways.
114
Gallagher 1999:143–159 rejects the division of B into two separate and parallel
sources and defends the suggestion that B is intended to be read as one single whole. He
has collected a large amount of information in support of the historical reliability of B
(see pp. 160–254). While Van der Kooij 2000:108–111 accepts the current subdivision
into B1 and B2 (in line with Hardmeier 1990:157–159 he considers B2 as a secondary
interpolation and not as an originally independent source), he defends the suggestion
that the entire composition of A + B1 + B2 exhibits thematic cohesion and is intended
to be read as one single account: “The motif of ::—the ‘withdrawal’, ‘return’, of
Sennacherib—constitutes a golden thread through the entire story. The fact that Sen-
nacherib does not return the first time, nor the second, but only at the third occasion,
creates a great deal of suspense: as a reader, one becomes curious to know if and when
the king of Assyria will actually withdraw and return to his country.” (110) Van der
Kooij notes the dramatic effect of the :: motif: Sennacherib does not disappear after
receiving silver and gold nor on account of rumours concerning Taharqa, but only on
account of the devastating activities of the angel of yhwh. In terms of historical reli-
ability, Van der Kooij gives priority to the Assyrian annals in spite of their propagandist
character (112–113).
115
For a comparison with Kings and an appraisal of the ideological motives of the
Chronist see Ben Zvi 2003:85–89.
116
Cf. Smelik 1992:123 “. . . repetition is a literary device in order to clarify the
author’s intention and to enhance the reader’s suspense.” See also Hess 1999:39: “This
concept of narrative parallelism has its poetic correspondent on a smaller scale in poetic
parallelism, especially synonymous parallelism whose purpose may be to reinforce the
statement in psalms and proverbs.”
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the literary and historical context 103
In the first instance, there is a clear difference in the presentation of
the behaviour of the Assyrian field marshal (the Rabshakeh). When he
arrives for the first time by himself, he mocks Hezekiah and tries to un-
dermine his confidence (2 Kgs 18:19–20). In so doing he suggests two
possibilities, namely that Hezekiah either trusts in Egypt (2 Kgs 18:21)
or he trusts in yhwh (2 Kgs 18:22). In the eyes of the field marshal, how-
ever, there is little difference between the two since Hezekiah is going to
be cheated in the end anyway. Pharaoh is just as unreliable as a broken
reed and no other god, including yhwh, has ever been able to deliver a
people from the might of Assyria (2 Kgs 18:33–35). He explicitly calls
upon the people of Judah not to let themselves be cheated and misled
by Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:29,32). In the second phase of the narrative, the
field marshal is even more pointed in his choice of words. Instead of
saying to the people ‘don’t let yourselves be cheated by Hezekiah . . .’
he has his envoys declare to Hezekiah himself ‘Do not let your God on
whom you rely deceive you . . .’ (2 Kgs 19:10).
117
In the second instance,
the field marshal’s mockery is directed less against the person of Heze-
kiah and more against yhwh. It is possible that his directness goes hand
in hand with the hurriedness of his words this time round, since it would
appear that an Egyptian army led by the Ethiopian prince Taharqa had
arrived to offer Hezekiah assistance. It is clear that the field marshal’s
second appearance is not a simple repetition of the first, but rather that
it represents a climax. In the second phase of the narrative, the issue
surrounding Hezekiah and the God of Jerusalem is pushed to its limits.
This fact is an important indication that the two-phase structure of the
narrative of Jerusalem’s liberation is an intentional composition and
can be characterised as prophetic historiography.
118
117
For the importance of the notion ¬:: ‘trust’ in this narrative see Olley 1999:59–
77. The concept occurs ten times in 2 Kings 18–19 and only three times elsewhere in
the books Genesis to Kings (Deut. 28:52; Judg. 9:26; 20:36). In the book of Isaiah, by
contrast, ¬:: occurs 17 times (excluding Isaiah 36–39; see Olley 1999:66–69) and in the
book of Psalms no less than 52 times (see Olley 1999:69–71). Based on the contexts in
which the concept ¬:: is employed, Olley contests Clements’ idea that the narrative of
Jerusalem’s liberation should be read against the background of a faith in the inviolabil-
ity of Zion that arose in 701: “. . . the integral place of ¬:: in the narrative points to
the absence of an ‘inviolability of Zion’ theology as crucial to the narrative from the
beginning. The key is ‘trust’ in yhwh.” (73)
118
Cf. Rudman 2000:101: “It has been argued that the purpose of the passage
is not merely to explain the apparently miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from
Sennacherib in 701 B.C.E. but to render a literary portrait of a duel between two war-
rior-antagonists, Yahweh and Sennacherib.” Fewell 1986:79–90 speaks in this regard of
‘words at war’. Cf. also Ben Zvi 1990:79–92 and Clements 1994:231–246.
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104 chapter three
The prophetic character of the account is given expression in the
prophetic depiction of the field marshal’s intervention.
119
Indeed, the
very location in which he delivers his message (2 Kgs 18:17) has pro-
phetic attributes, since it is the same location in which the prophet Isa-
iah had earlier confronted King Ahaz and appealed to him not to place
his trust in Assyria but rather in yhwh. The question of trust is at issue
once again in the present text.
120
As a matter of fact, the Assyrian field
marshal is presented as the prophet Isaiah’s opposite.
121
Not only does
this come to expression in the location in which the message is deliv-
ered and in the theme of his speech, but it also finds expression in his
threefold use of the messenger formula (2 Kgs 18:19,29,31; cf. the mes-
senger formula in Isaiah’s response in 2 Kgs 19:6) whereby Sennacherib
is explicitly referred to as :¬:¬ ¸::¬ ‘the great king’ (2 Kgs 18:19,28), a
term of address employed exclusively of yhwh in the Psalms: ¸::
≈¬s¬:::. :¬: ‘great king over all the earth’ (Ps. 47:3) and ¸:: :¬: :s
μ¬:s‘:::. :¬: ‘a great God, and a great King above all gods’ (Ps. 95:3; cf.
Mal. 1:14).
122
When the field marshal turns to address the people, more-
over, he employs an introductory formula with prophetic associations:
¬:s ¸:: :¬:¬ ¸::¬¬:¬“ .:: ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of
Assyria! ’. In addition, the field marshal presents himself in 2 Kgs 18:25 as
one sent by yhwh (cf. Isa. 10:5,7). The extent to which he has taken the
prophetic mantle upon himself, however, becomes all the more explicit
in 2 Kgs 18:31–32 when he combines the promise of an ‘eschatologi-
cal’ blessing (cf. Mi. 4:4; Zech. 3:10) with the appeal to listen to him.
123

The prophetic features already evident in the field marshal’s message in
the first phase of the account serve to depict him as a false prophet in
contrast to the true prophet Isaiah.
124
The suggestion that this antitheti-
119
Cf. Rudman 2000:101: “One of the most remarkable features of the Rabsakeh’s
speech in Account B
1
is that it is full of prophetisms.” See also Smelik 1981:58–64.
120
The account concerning Ahaz, however, does not employ the Hebrew word ¬::,
but rather the word ˆ:s (see 7:9; cf. 28:16).
121
Cf. Rudman 2000:103: “One is tempted to ask whether the narrator’s intention
in this passage may be to portray the Rabshakeh as being, in a sense, ‘among the
prophets’.”
122
It would appear that even the ¬¬::“ ¬.. ‘strategy and power’ referred to in 2 Kgs
18:20 and associated with the Spirit of yhwh in Isa. 11:2 is claimed, albeit implicitly, by
Sennacherib. Cf. Rudman 2000:14.
123
According to Rudman 2000:106–108 the words of the field marshal even imply
a new exodus and a new covenant that will exceed the old covenant with yhwh in
power.
124
Cf. Rudman 2000:103: “By this reading, the Rabshakeh is to be considered as an
dekker_f4_65-108.indd 104 1/18/2007 2:17:09 PM
the literary and historical context 105
cal juxtaposition is intentional is further supported by the fact that both
‘prophets’ speak to the king in the first round via intermediaries.
125
In the second round, the appearance of the field marshal moves
towards its climax in that he now aims his ‘arrows’ directly at yhwh
(2 Kgs 19:10). The same climactic movement is also evident in the ap-
pearance and message of Isaiah. While Isaiah’s first announcement of
Jerusalem’s liberation is striking on account of its succinctness (2 Kgs
19:6–7), the second announcement is introduced in great detail (2 Kgs
19:20–34). The evolution in yhwh’s address via his prophet Isaiah (first
succinct, then detailed), is inversely similar to that of Sennacherib via
his ‘prophet’ the field marshal (first detailed, then succinct). In terms of
content, the latter’s words represent an intensification but in terms of
form there is evidence of a weakening, a weakening also made mani-
fest in the fact that the field marshal no longer threatens Jerusalem in
person but does so rather by dispatch. At the same time, as the climax
is reached in the second round of the confrontation between the field
marshal and Isaiah (Sennacherib and yhwh respectively), a certain shift
of control takes place.
126
The form of the account already makes clear
that Sennacherib had lost ground and that yhwh was the stronger of the
two.
127
The climactic process is further underlined by the fact that the
prophet Isaiah no longer has to wait for an envoy from Hezekiah but is
able to react directly to Hezekiah’s prayer addressed to yhwh. This di-
rectness typifies the entirety of Isaiah’s message. Having first addressed
Hezekiah in person, he even goes on to address himself directly to the
field marshal and his king (2 Kgs 19:22–28). The fact that Isaiah does
this head on corresponds to the direct verbal attack aimed at yhwh in
the field marshal’s second appearance. Isaiah emerges from the second
‘anti-Isaiah’ and the passage as a whole construed not just as a confrontation between
Sennacherib and Yahweh, but also as a prophetic duel between the Rabshakeh and
Isaiah.”
125
Rudman 2000:103 presents this in the following schema:
‘Sennacherib Eliakim/Shebna/Joah Hezekiah Servants of Hezekiah
Isaiah Yahweh’.
126
The designation is borrowed from Fewell 1986:82.
127
This evolution is part of the development of the narrative as a whole. The nar-
rative begins with an impressive witness to the fierce and formidable undertakings of
Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18:13), but ends with an even more impressive witness to the sov-
ereignty of yhwh. Cf. Fewell 1986:82: “Thus, the story is framed by two dominant,
self-autonomous characters playing symmetrically opposing roles. The crisis begins with
the presence and power of Sennacherib; the crisis is resolved through the presence and
power of Yahweh.”

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106 chapter three
round as the true prophet, delegated to speak on yhwh’s behalf and
to offer a sign of blessing in yhwh’s name (2 Kgs 19:29) to counter
the false promise of blessing held up by the field marshal to the people
(2 Kgs 18:31–32).
128
The climax, which is not only evident in the second
appearance of the field marshal but also in the second response of Isa-
iah, reinforces the hypothesis that the phased structure of the narrative
in question is the result of prophetic motivations rather than historical
reconstruction.
129
In addition to the intensification of the field marshal’s presence and
the reaction on the part of yhwh, there is also evidence of an important
shift of accent in the words of King Hezekiah himself. Although it is
stated in both instances that Hezekiah entered the house of yhwh (2
Kgs 19:1,14), it is striking in the first instance that he asks the prophet
Isaiah to pray for the city, while his twofold use of the expression ‘yhwh,
your God’ (2 Kgs 19:4) suggests a certain distance on the part of the
king. In the second part of the account, however, Hezekiah no longer
asks Isaiah to pray for him and we are informed that Hezekiah himself
prayed to yhwh and interacted with yhwh in a very direct fashion. The
way in which the narrative of Jerusalem’s liberation is constructed cre-
ates the unmistakable impression that Hezekiah has come closer and
closer to God in the midst of hardship. It is not only the mockery and
threatening statements of the field marshal that reach their climax in
the second phase of the account but also Hezekiah’s faith and trust
in his God. The prayer in 2 Kgs 19:14–19 is an eloquent witness to
Hezekiah’s faith in YHWH alone (cf. ¸¬:: at the beginning and end of
Hezekiah’s prayer) and confirms the hypothesis that this narrative form
has been chosen from the perspective of prophetic historiography. The
two-phase structure of the narrative makes it clear that Hezekiah’s faith
had to be born in and through the crisis he was facing.
128
Cf. Fewell 1986:86: “The ironic contrast of Yahweh’s promise of bounty with
Sennacherib’s promise of bounty brings a new dimension to the theme of blasphemy.
From the beginning the Assyrian has intimated that he has control over life and death.
Only he can offer such a choice to the oppressed city. In this oracle, Yahweh reasserts his
autonomy over life and death. It is his choice to offer (Deut. 30.15), not Sennacherib’s.
Thus, in his claiming control over life and death, Sennacherib has not simply ridiculed
Yahweh’s power, but he has attempted to usurp the role of Yahweh. His own death,
then, at the will of Yahweh becomes the ultimate irony.”
129
Smelik 1992:125–126 argues that the discourses of the field marshal should be
understood as a dramatisation of 10:5–19. Gallagher 1999:74–87 disputes this sugges-
tion and argues in favour of the opposite, namely that 10:8–11 can be designated as a
summary of the field marshal’s words.
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the literary and historical context 107
The fact that Hezekiah’s faith grew significantly in the context of a
major crisis stands in sharp relief to reports of his endeavour to fend off
approaching disaster with ‘money’. We are told in 2 Kgs 18:15–16 that
the king plundered all his treasure houses, including that of the temple,
and how the occasion was used to strip the very doors and doorposts of
the temple which he had recently had gilded.
130
The succinctness of the
account serves to underline the humiliation and shame that must have
accompanied such a deed. Hezekiah considered himself compelled to
personally clean out the very temple he had purified with his reforms.
From the biblical-theological perspective, one can argue that this re-
strained account ultimately implies the bankruptcy of Hezekiah’s Mes-
sianic dream. In spite of his great piety, Hezekiah was unable to bring
the Messianic kingdom closer to reality. The narrative of the siege of
Jerusalem reveals how Hezekiah was forced to learn the painful lesson
that the Messianic kingdom was not to be realised on political grounds.
The deconstruction of the temple related in 2 Kgs 18:14–16 reveals the
failure of Hezekiah’s Messianic endeavours. The two-phase account of
Jerusalem’s liberation portrays the lengthy process Hezekiah had to un-
dergo in order to move from rock bottom, through crisis, to arrive at a
purity of faith in yhwh alone.
It would appear from the narrative of Jerusalem’s liberation that the
abortive arrival of the Egyptian army serves as an important pivotal
point. While the prophet Isaiah had held out the possibility of Jerusa-
lem’s deliverance after the first address of the field marshal, it appears
to have taken the failure of his final trump card, namely Egypt, before
Hezekiah was finally able to have complete faith in yhwh.
131
The pro-
phetic elucidation of the said narrative seems to imply that yhwh inten-
tionally forced Hezekiah further and further into a corner. The phased
structure with which the narrative is constructed suggests that Hezekiah
had first to behold the failure of his final trump card and the disappear-
ance of every form of human support before he dared place his trust in
yhwh alone.
132
130
In essence, Hezekiah does the same as his father Ahaz had done (2 Kgs 16:8; cf.
2 Chron. 28:21).
131
Cf. Smelik 1981:54: “Alliance with a foreign prince cannot bring deliverance, only
yhwh brings deliverance.”
132
It would also appear from the prophecies of Isaiah that Hezekiah did not arrive
at this position without difficulty. Isaiah had to insist time and again that he should
not place his trust in Egypt (cf. Isa. 30:1–7 and 31:1–3). The statement concerning
Hezekiah’s trust in YHWH found in 2 Kgs 18:5 (a unique statement applied in the Old
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108 chapter three
By way of summary, one can conclude that the narrative of Jerusa-
lem’s liberation, as it is related in 2 Kings 18–19, can be characterised as
prophetic historiography. The twofold form of the account is based on
a premeditated prophetic composition that leads the reader towards a
climax at a variety of different levels. While it remains difficult to recon-
struct the exact chronology of events from the historical perspective, it
would appear nevertheless that the narrative makes theological sense.
Testament only to Hezekiah, see Olley 1999:63) is ultimately brought into line with the
final outcome of the account related in 2 Kings 18–19. Ackroyd 1987 (1984):183 char-
acterises 2 Kgs 18:5 as ‘a kind of anticipatory summary’.
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CHAPTER FOUR
EXEGESIS OF INDIVIDUAL PERICOPES WITHIN ISAIAH 28
AND THEIR RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIPS
4.1. Introduction
In dealing with the issues surrounding the delineation of pericopes in
§ 3.3., we were able to conclude that the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 consti-
tutes part of the pericope 28:14–22. Although we were able to carefully
delineate the said pericope within its immediate context, it appeared
nevertheless to exhibit both redactional and content based associations
with the preceding pericope, namely 28:7–13. The redactional associa-
tion between the two pericopes is established by the particle ˆ:: at the
beginning of 28:14, while reciprocal cohesion is determined in terms
of content by the fact that both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 presuppose a
period of time in which Judah and Jerusalem were under threat from
the Assyrians. In spite of the fact that the pericope 28:7–13 in its turn
exhibits both thematic and redactional links with 28:1–4(6) and that
semantic and redactional cross-references would likewise appear to exist
with respect to 28:23–29, there is much to be said for the suggestion
that both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 should be considered central pericopes
within the context of Isaiah 28. Within the framework of the present
study, with its focus on the Zion text of 28:16, the exegesis of both
pericopes will thus be given pride of place. The next paragraph will
deal, therefore, with the exegesis of 28:14–22, followed by an excursus
on the so-called ‘covenant with death’ referred to in 28:15 and 18, and
a paragraph dedicated to the exegesis of 28:7–13. Once the exegesis of
both 28:14–22 and 28:7–13 is complete, we will compare the results of
both studies, by way of evaluation, in order to determine the degree of
cohesion evident between the pericopes as well as the apparent differ-
ences. A concluding paragraph will focus attention on the outermost
pericopes of Isaiah 28, namely 28:1–4(6) and 28:23–29 respectively.
The exegetical method we intend to follow can be described as a
combination of both synchronic and diachronic analyses, whereby
historical and structural questions are treated together. Based on the
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110 chapter four
pericopes delineated in § 3.3., we will endeavour to establish the literary
structure of the individual textual units, paying due attention to the
genre of the text in question. Genre, after all, determines to an extent
the nature of the message that the text intends to communicate. While
the establishment of genre has long been employed in the context of
traditional form criticism as an important aid in the historical re-
construction of a text, it ought to serve in the first instance as a means
to determine the singularity of a given text. This is of particular
importance where prophetic texts are concerned, since the creativity
of the prophet is often given expression, albeit in part, in the way
he employs a specific genre. Based on its literary structure, we will
divide the text of the most important pericopes for the present study
(28:7–13 and 28:14–22) into a number of segments which, for the sake
of convenience, will be treated separately in sub-paragraphs. Our study
will focus significant attention on the poetical features of the various
segments of the text, bearing in mind that such features fulfil an impor-
tant function in the communication process. Form and content in this
regard are inseparably linked. The Masoretic text serves as the point
of departure. It goes without saying, however, that readings based on
other textual traditions (such as Qumran or the Septuagint) will be
discussed in relation to the text in question where they are considered
important for our exegesis. To conclude our discussion of the individual
text segments, an evaluative review will return, among other things, to
the question of the historical situation and authenticity of the textual
units already considered in some detail in § 3.3. to § 3.6. in connection
with Isa. 28:14–22. It is important to determine whether the conclu-
sions reached in the said paragraphs can be confirmed by the exegesis
of the individual textual units.
4.2. Isa. 28:14–22
In order to guarantee a thorough and systematic exegesis of 28:14–22,
it makes sense to begin by determining the genre thereof and provide
a more detailed picture of the structure of the said pericope. The
genre to which 28:14–22 belongs can be recognised quite simply as a
prophecy of judgement. Characteristic of the pattern associated with
this genre is that it commences with a complaint which is then followed
by an announcement of judgement. This pattern is clearly evident in
28:14–22. The complaint is unmistakeably recognisable and is formed
by verses 14–15. An introductory call to listen addresses and accuses
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 110 1/18/2007 2:17:42 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 111
a clearly identified group of people. The complaint is formulated as a
statement explicitly introduced as a quotation. The way in which 28:16
then begins, employing the formula familiar to the genre of prophetic
judgement ¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬: ˆ:: , leads one to expect the announce-
ment of judgement to commence at that point. This expectation would
appear to remain unfulfilled, however, until 28:17b where judgement
is announced and explicit reference is made to elements contained in
the initial complaint. In the present composition, the announcement
of judgement covers verses 17b–22, whereby the command not to
boast in 28:22 functions as a conclusion. An important question for
the exegesis of this text thus concerns the function of verses 16–17a
within the context of the prophetic judgement genre. In § 3.4., where
we discussed the unity of the present pericope, we already posed the
methodical question concerning the prophet’s artistic freedom to cre-
atively manipulate the established pattern of the prophetic judgement
genre. Some degree of moderation is certainly called for when deal-
ing with form critical arguments. In order to determine the function
of 28:16–17a within the context of the prophecy of judgement of
28:14–22, however, we will have to establish clarity with respect to the
element of salvation usually associated with these verses.
1
For the sake of clarity, we will divide the exegesis of this prophecy
of judgement into a number of sub-paragraphs, taking the structure
outlined above as our point of departure. Given the crucial role played
by the Zion text of 28:16 in the present study, verses 16 and 17a will
be treated separately. A series of six sub-paragraphs will thus deal with
1
Graffy 1984:24–31 considers 28:14–19 to belong to the ‘disputation speech’ genre.
He distinguishes this genre from the ‘disputation’ or ‘dialogue disputation’ characteristic
of a dialogue in direct speech (9). According to Graffy, the most important criterion for
establishing the genre of the disputation speech prophecy is the formal structure of an
explicit and faithfully rendered ‘quotation’ that is then subject to prophetic ‘refutation’.
For a variety of reasons, however, Graffy’s association of 28:14–19 with the ‘disputation
speech’ can be called into question. In contrast to what Graffy considers to be char-
acteristic of the disputation speech prophecy (119–120), we shall see in the context of
our exegesis of the passage that the ‘quotation’ in 28:15 should not be understood as
a genuine quotation but rather as bearing the characteristics of a fictional quotation.
The said fictional quotation is employed as a style feature to reinforce the complaint.
The point of the prophecy is not to be found in the refutation of incorrect reasoning,
but rather in the announcement of God’s judgement. Graffy himself notes that the
‘quotation’ in 28:15 is conspicuously lengthy when compared with what he presumes
to be the convention (26, 110). He likewise considers the appeal to listen at the begin-
ning of the pericope to be unique (25) and is even inclined to understand 28:14–19 as
an exception to the rule that the genre of the disputation speech prophecy was used
around the time of the exile, in particular by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah and
Haggai (119). Cf. Graffy 1989:2–8.
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112 chapter four
verses 14–15; 16; 17a; 17b–18; 19–21 and 22. The discussion will be
preceded in each instance with both the Hebrew text and an English
translation. In order to avoid significant disruption to the flow of the
discussion, we will dedicate an excursus at the end of the present
paragraph to the question of the ‘covenant with death’ referred to in
verses 15 and 18 and the extent if any to which allusion is being made
to the phenomenon of necromancy.
4.2.1. Isa. 28:14–15: Complaint
¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: ˆ:: 14 Therefore hear the word of YHWH,
ˆ.–: ::“s you boasters
¬:¬ μ.¬ ::: who rule this people
μ::¬: ¬:s in Jerusalem.
쬬“:s : 15 Because you have said,
¬:¬s ¬¬: :¬¬: “We have made a covenant with death
¬.¬ ::. :s:μ.“ and with Sheol we have an agreement;
¬:., ¬:.: π:: ::, :: when the overwhelming scourge passes
:s:“ s : through,
it will not come to us,
::¬: :.: ::: : for we have made lies our refuge,
: :¬“¬:: ¬,:: and in falsehood we have taken shelter.”
In spite of the fact that verse 14 begins with the copulative particle
ˆ:: , the summons ¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: unmistakably marks the beginning
of a new prophecy, a prophecy of judgement addressed against the
political leaders of Jerusalem who are designated as ˆ.: ::“s and
μ::¬: ¬:s ¬:¬ μ.¬ :::. For a number of reasons, we concluded in
our treatment of the sub-division of pericopes in § 3.3. above that the
particle ˆ:: should be understood as a redactional link with 28:7–13.
In the present context, the particle serves to underline the contrast
between the unwillingness ‘to hear’ in verse 12 and the present call
‘to hear’ in verse 14.
The poetic structure of verse 14 confirms the assertion that the
said verse forms the introduction to a new prophecy of judgement.
The summons addressed to the leaders in Jerusalem is made up of
two bicola, each with 3 + 2 beats. The second bicolon is intended as
a direct continuation of the first. Had the call to listen ¬¬“¬:¬“ .::
been repeated in similar fashion to that found in 1:10, a clear parallelism
would have been established.
2
Given the fact that the second bicolon
2
In Isa. 1:10, the same appeal ¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: is parallel with the appeal :.s¬
:¬:s‘ ¬¬¬.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 112 1/18/2007 2:17:42 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 113
begins immediately with the designation ¬:¬ μ.¬ ::: ‘[ you who] rule
this people’, which serves as a parallel to ˆ.: ::“s, the ‘boasters’ of the
first bicolon, specifying μ::¬: ¬:s ‘in Jerusalem’ became necessary
in order to bring the second bicolon into balance. This style feature,
known as a ‘ballast variant’ provides verse 14 with the patterns a-b //
*-b’-c. In addition to the function of balancing cola with one another,
the style feature in question frequently serves to open a new poem or
couplet.
3
The poetic composition of verse 14 is also striking for its use
of alliteration. A word containing the letter : is placed at the begin-
ning of each colon (.:: / ::“s / ::: / ¬:s ). The letter in question
ultimately determines the phonetic character of the verse.
4
The obvious
presence of alliteration can be further specified. The first colon of both
bicola contains alliteration of the letter combination : and : (.:: /
: ::), while the second colon of both bicola contains alliteration of the
letter combination s and : (::“s / ¬:s ). The use of this style feature
does not only serve to establish cohesion, it also introduces a degree
of emphasis.
5
The formula ¬¬“¬:¬“ .:: with which the leaders of Jerusalem are
called to attention, is used with frequency primarily in Jeremiah and
Ezekiel, although it also occurs more frequently in Isaiah. The same
call to attention can be found in 1:10, at the beginning of an authentic
prophecy in which Jerusalem’s politicians are addressed as leaders of
Sodom.
6
In 28:14, Jerusalem’s politicians are first designated as ˆ.: : :“ s
‘boasters’
7
and then labelled in the second part of the same verse as : : :
3
For this style feature see Watson 1984:343–348; 1994:30, 375 and Bühlmann/
Scherer 1994
2
:39. Watson describes the ‘ballast variant’ as “simply a filler, its function
being to fill out a line of poetry that would otherwise be too short.” Duhm 1914
3
:174
misunderstands the said style feature when he argues that μ : : ¬: ¬: s should be under-
stood as an unnecessary addition that does not improve the poetry of verse 14.
4
For the style feature of alliteration see Watson 1984:225–229. Alonso Schökel
1988:22 limits the definition of alliteration to the repetition of a consonant at the
beginning of a word. The present work gives preference to the broader definition
proposed by Watson 1984:225: “Alliteration is here understood in its wider sense of
consonant repetition and is not confined to word-initial alliteration.”
5
In line with Wheelock, Watson 1984:228 calls this the vocative function of allitera-
tion: “giving ‘a sense of energetic imperative or request’.”
6
See also Isa. 66:5. For the summons .:: as the opening word of a prophecy see
Rüterswörden 1994:272–273.
7
The only other place in which the expression ˆ.: ::“s can be found is Prov. 29:8
(NRSV: ‘boasters’). The designation μ.: (NRSV: ‘boasters/scorners’, sg. ≈:) is in more
frequent use, especially in wisdom texts (e.g. Prov. 1:22; 3:34; see also Isa. 29:20). The
μ.: frequently represent the antithesis of the μ::¬ (see, for example, Prov. 9:8; 13:1;
15:12; 21:11). The same antithesis would appear to be at work in Isa. 28:14 (cf. DCH
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 113 1/18/2007 2:17:42 PM

114 chapter four
μ::¬: ¬:s ¬:¬ μ.¬ ‘rulers of this people in Jerusalem’. Even if we were
to set the identification of the ‘boasters’ to one side for the time being,
the second designation transports us immediately into the political stage
in Jerusalem.
8
Some exegetes are inclined, however, to translate :::
as ‘proverb makers’ or ‘Spruchdichter’ rather than ‘leaders’, whereby
a recognisable parallelism would be established in the translation with
‘boasters’ from the first bicolon.
9
Preference should be given, however,
to the translation ‘rulers’ for a number of reasons. In the first instance,
the association between : : : and μ : : ¬: ¬: s ¬: ¬ μ. ¬ tends to support
such a translation since the latter serves to designate the scope of the
dominance of the μ:::. In the second place, reference can be made
to the fact that the Septuagint translates the term ::: as ἄρχοντες (cf.
LXX Isa. 1:10).
10
Third, the use of the term μ::: elsewhere in the
book of Isaiah tends to point in the direction of Jerusalem’s leaders.
11

While the forefronted expression ˆ.: : :“ s clearly establishes a degree of
ambiguity with respect to the :::, it is also possible that the reference
to the ‘rulers of this people in Jerusalem’ causes ˆ.: in the first half of the
verse to function as a wordplay alluding to ˆ. ‘Zion’.
12
Whatever the
‘men of scorning’), since Jerusalem’s leaders probably thought of themselves as μ::¬
and μ:::“ (cf. 29:14). The translation ‘boasters’ or ‘braggarts’, however, fits the context of
28:14–22 better than ‘mockers’, especially since ˆ.: (cf. Prov. 1:22) in the context has
to do with ‘bragging/boasting’ rather than ‘mockery’ (cf. Wildberger 1982:1072; Barth
1984:567–571 and HALAT).
8
A fragment has been found among the Pesher manuscripts of Qumran quoting
this part of Isa. 28:14 in abbreviated form: μ::¬: ¬:s ˆ.:¬ ::s (4QpIsa
b
). See
Brooke 1997:625.
9
Cf. Procksch 1930(A):359: ‘Smähdichter’ and Ziegler 1948:85: ‘Spruchdichter’.
This option gained in popularity following the study of Fohrer 1962:54 (“ihr Sprüche-
macher dieses Volkes da, das in Jerusalem lebt!”). See Donner 1964:151, Eichrodt
1967:127, Kaiser 1976
2
:197, 199, Huber 1976:90, Wildberger 1982:1064, Schneider
1988:386, Kilian 1994:161.
10
The Septuagint translates the expression ˆ.: : :“ s, however, as ἄνδρες τεθλιμμένοι
‘oppressed men’. It would appear that the Greek translator of Isaiah misunderstood the
text at this juncture and derived his translation of ˆ.: from the verb ≈¬: ‘to oppress’,
whereby a reference is probably being made to the threat from Assyria. The transla-
tion of Symmachus ἄνδρες χλευασταί ‘mocking men’ does more justice to the Hebrew
text. Nevertheless, the Septuagint correctly translates ˆ.: ::“s as ἄνδρες λοιμοι in
Prov. 29:8.
11
Cf. 14:5, 16:1 and 49:7. See Soggin 1978
3
:930–933, Groß 1986:74–77 and
Gonçalves 1986:203.
12
Cf. Irwin 1977:22–25, Holladay 1978:81, Exum 1982:124 and Halpern 1986:116.
Watson 1984:311 mentions Isa. 28:14 as an example of irony, the effect of which he
describes as intended “to increase the distance between speaker and listener.” (308) Roberts
1992:43 is even inclined to consider the text a conscious expression of Isaiah’s contempt
for the leaders of Judah.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 115
case, it is more than apparent that Jerusalem’s leaders do not enjoy the
prophet’s favour, a fact underlined by the expression ¬:¬ μ.¬ (cf. 28:11)
which can be understood as an expression of contempt.
13
We can conclude, in summary, that the ambiguity created by the
prophet’s choice of terms of address in verse 14 cannot disguise the
fact that the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 is ultimately addressed
to an audience with a political background. The translation of ::: as
‘composers of proverbs’ should not be used, therefore, as a means to remove
this prophecy of judgement from its political context.
14
Following the introductory summons to hear in verse 14, the complaint
characteristic of the pattern of the prophetic judgement genre follows
in verse 15. Introduced by the clause 쬬“:s : , the complaint takes
the explicit form of a quotation.
15
The complaint as such appears to
consist of three bicola (with 3 + 3, 3 + 2 and 4 + 2 beats respectively).
The first bicolon and the third bicolon correspond with one another
on account of the fact that both contain two parallel expressions in
the first person plural, while the second or central bicolon contains an
expression in the third person singular. The first colon exhibits a chiastic
structure according to the pattern ab-c // c’-a’b’:
16
¬:¬s ¬¬: :¬¬: We have made a covenant with death,
¬.¬ ::. :s:μ.“ and with Sheol we have an agreement;
The third bicolon exhibits a partial chiastic structure since the verb
in the first colon is followed by a double object while the verb in the
second colon is preceded by a single object:
::¬: :.: ::: : for we have made lies our refuge,
: :¬“¬:: ¬,:: and in falsehood we have taken shelter.
13
Cf. J-M § 143d: “¬. does not in itself contain a nuance of contempt, but it can
sometimes have this nuance by the omission of a fuller expression.” In 28:14, ¬:¬ μ.¬
takes the place of, for example, ¬¬ μ. (cf. Hulst 1979
2
:302–307). See also Lipiński
1984:191–192: “Der Ausdruck ¬.¬ μ.¬ hat oft (aber nicht immer, vgl. Ex 3,21; 5,22)
einen verächtlichen Klang ( Jes 6,9; 8,6.11; 28,11; 29,13 etc.). Allein der Kontext erlaubt
eine semantische Fixierung.”
14
Fullerton 1920:12 unjustifiably presupposes that ˆ.: ::“s alludes to the drunk-
ards who ridiculed Isaiah in the preceding pericope and that 28:14 addresses itself to
false prophets. In order to set the political context in greater relief, Dietrich 1976:161,
Clements 1980(B):230 and Oswalt 1986:514 opt resolutely for the translation ‘rulers’.
15
The introductory formula 쬬:s : is only to be found elsewhere in Jer. 29:15.
16
Watson 1984:203; 1994:337–338 speaks in this regard of a ‘split-member
chiasmus’.
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116 chapter four
Both external bicola of verse 15 serve to frame the second or central
bicolon:
17
¬: . , ¬: . : π: : ::, :: when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
:s:“ s: it will not come to us
The recognition of the concentric structure of verse 15 is of essential
importance for the exegesis of the complaint. Although the prophet
formulates the complaint as a quotation, the latter is perhaps best
understood as fictional, since it is difficult to imagine that the words
contained in both external bicola were actually spoken word for word by
the rulers in Jerusalem. It is likewise hard to imagine that the prophet’s
opponents would have boasted publicly about the fact that they had
entered into some kind of deal with death and Sheol.
18
Indeed, the
suggestion that they were proud of the fact that lies and deceit had
become their refuge is virtually out of the question. The statement in
the central bicolon, on the other hand, is quite plausible as a statement
of Jerusalem’s leaders, although the metaphorical designation of Assyria
as π:: :: ‘the overwhelming scourge’ clearly stems from the prophet (cf.
10:26a). I would argue that the words of the central bicolon, which are
heavily accented within the framework of the external bicola, contain
the actual ‘boasting’ that the prophet accuses his audience of engaging
in: ‘When the overwhelming scourge passes through, it shall not come to us! ’
19
The
prophet allows himself the freedom, however, to include, in his own
words, the less explicit motivation of the boasters in Jerusalem in his
complaint. The highly ironic external bicola thus serve to this end.
20
In order to grasp the full significance of verse 15, it seems appropri-
ate to begin in the centre of the verse and establish first the signifi-
cance of the actual boasting. Reference is made to a π:: ::, ::,
which clearly represents an enormous threat when one considers that
17
The accent Paštā [10] in ¬:.: serves to demarcate the first colon.
18
While :s: refers in fact to the underworld, we leave it untranslated in line with
the NRSV.
19
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:204.
20
Cf. Barthel 1997:318: “Das Zitat ist weder als Protokoll eigener Rede der Gegner
Jesajas noch überhaupt als direkter Ausdruck ihres Selbstverständnisses mißzuverstehen.
Es dient vielmehr der kritischen Charakterisierung ihres Verhaltens durch den Propheten,
wie sie in der Bezeichnung ‘Prahler’ bereits anklang.” Barthel would appear to under-
stand the first bicolon as a direct expression of Isaiah’s opponents. Graffy 1984:27, 119
mistakenly understands 28:15 in its entirety to be a genuine quotation: “The quotation
is a true life expression of the rulers’ limitless arrogance.” This perspective goes hand
in hand with his vision of 28:14–19 as a ‘disputation speech’.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 116 1/18/2007 2:17:43 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 117
the boasters maintain that in actual fact they will remain unharmed:
:s:“ s: ¬:., ¬:.: . While the expression π:: ::, ::) itself is
not without ambiguity, it clearly alludes to Assyria and its characteristic
imperialist and expansionist policies. The verb π:: literally means ‘to
flow’ (cf. 28:2), but the preceding :: does not appear to fit such an
interpretation. Indeed, it is apparent from the difference between verses
15 and 18 that the Masoretes also had a problem with the expression.
The natural option would be to follow the Qere :: (cf. 28:18 and
1QIsa
a
) and to interpret the term as ‘scourge’ (cf. 10:26a).
21
An alternative
option, however, would be to presuppose the existence of a noun
II
::
meaning ‘a sudden flood of water’ (cf. Job 9:23),
22
though the existence of
II
:: remains uncertain.
23
Based on a number of Versions, including the
Septuagint which has καταιγὶς φερομένη ‘a sudden storm wind’,
24
some
scholars have proposed the reading π::.
25
It would appear, however,
that the Versions were ultimately trying to smooth out the text. It seems
advisable, therefore, to remain with the more difficult reading of the
Masoretic text. Gese’s comments in this regard are worthy of note. He
translates the expression literally as ‘strömende Geissel’, pointing by
way of explanation to the weather god Hadad who is portrayed with
a scourge in his hand.
26
One remains confronted, nevertheless, with
the question as to why the prophet felt it necessary to resort to the
use of a Hadad mythologoumenon when referring to the advance of
Assyria?
27
Moreover, Gese’s explanation does not relieve the tension
between the designation ‘scourge’ and the verb ‘to flow’. It would seem
21
According to Wildberger 1982:1065, it is possible that the Masoretes wanted to
leave the choice open between :: ‘scourge’ and :: ‘oar/paddle’ (hapax in 33:21).
22
See Barth 1913:306–307, Poznanski 1916:119–120, Fullerton 1920:13–14,
Procksch 1930(A):361 and Graffy 1984:27. Supporting himself with a number of Psalm
texts, Kaiser 1976
2
:200 suggests that the advancing flood of water alludes to the waters
of death and the underworld.
23
See Waschke 1993:1183.
24
Cf. LXX 29:6 and καταιγὶς φέρουσα in LXX 17:13.
25
Dietrich 1976:161 refers in this regard to Joüon and notes that Isaiah employs the
verb π::, in contrast to ::, more frequently (8:8; 28:2,17). Cf. Schmidt 1923:92–93:
‘flutende Flut’. Wildberger 1982:1065 agrees de facto with the Versions, because a
scourge cannot flow, but remains at a loss to explain the origin of the corruption of
the Hebrew text.
26
Gese 1970:127–134.
27
Cf. Dietrich 1976:161. Sweeney 1996:370 considers the use of a Hadad mytholo-
goumenon acceptable because Assyria advanced against Israel from Aram and because
Assur was also a weather god. As an imaginative literary construction in service of the
polemical context, Blenkinsopp 2000(B):478 likewise considers an allusion to Hadad
reasonable.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 117 1/18/2007 2:17:44 PM

118 chapter four
most appropriate, therefore, to understand the expression ::, ::
π:: as a combination of two metaphors, that of the scourge and
that of the flood of water.
28
This then accounts for the translation ‘the
overwhelming scourge’.
Both metaphors combined in the expression π:: ::, :: point
without question in the direction of Assyria. The representation of
Assyria as a scourge is in harmony with the presentation of this world
power elsewhere in the book of Isaiah and serves to emphasise the
imperialistic character of the Assyrian empire in those days. Its goal
was so fixed on absolute supremacy that many nations in the second
half of the eighth century experienced Assyria in reality as a scourge.
The metaphor incorporated in the verb most closely associated with
the scourge, namely π::, serves in the first instance to emphasise the
expansionist character of the Assyrian empire at the time. The kings
of Assyria continually sought to extend their sphere of influence, so
much so that the prophet Isaiah frequently resorted to the image of a
great flood to describe their activities (see 8:5–8 and 28:2).
29
When the
prophet makes use of the combined metaphor ‘the overwhelming scourge’
in the complaint of verse 15, he underlines from the outset the naiveté
of the bragging that follows, namely, that Assyria will not come to
those who rule in Jerusalem.
30
The formulation of their boasting itself
raises questions concerning the basis of such a naive sense of security
in the face of the Assyrian advance. In both external bicola, which
surround the bragging in the central bicolon, the prophet exposes the
background to this bragging.
The structural cohesion evident between the first and last bicolon,
which together serve to frame the central bicolon, raises expectations
of similar cohesion with respect to their content. It is reasonable to
28
The prophet uses a similar combination of metaphors (Oswalt 1986:516 speaks
of a ‘mixed metaphor’) in 14:29 where the imagery shifts from ::: ‘rod’ to :¬: ‘serpent’.
See also the sudden change of metaphor in 28:4 and 30:12–14. Duhm and Marti
decrease the tension by translating π:: as ‘to scourge’ (‘Stachelpeitsche’, ‘eine geißelnde
Geißel’), but this remains an artificial solution since the remainder of the text speaks
of being ‘swept away’ (see v. 17b). Eichrodt 1967:130 speaks of ‘ein terminus technicus
der Volkseschatologie’ and understands π:: [::] (:: ) to refer to a new flood against
which the addressees claim to have found a place of refuge.
29
This image was also used by the Assyrian kings themselves to underline their
irrepressible strength. Cf. Hartenstein 2004:497–498: “Mit der Flutmetaphorik würde
eine direkte Anspielung auf die textliche und bildliche Propaganda der assyrischen
Herrscher der Zeit vorliegen.”
30
The Qere ¬:. (cf. 1QIsa
a
) should also be followed here. Duhm 1914
3
:175 prefers
to maintain the Ketib ¬:. and Oswalt 1986:514 similarly suggests that the use of an
inf. abs. is possible in principle.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 118 1/18/2007 2:17:44 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 119
suppose that both external bicola, which surround the bragging of the
addressees in the central bicolon, are closely related to one another and
deliver more or less the same message.
31
Such a presupposition is of
great importance for our interpretation of the ‘covenant with death’
and the ‘agreement with Sheol’ in verse 15a. Both these expressions
should not, therefore, be explained as references to the phenomenon
of necromancy, which was also known to be at work in Israel (cf. 8:19;
19:3; 29:4).
32
The expressions ‘covenant with death’ and ‘agreement
with Sheol’, rather, are probably intended to mean something like
‘lies as refuge’ and ‘falsehood as shelter’.
33
Both expressions—with :. :
and ¬,:—are not intended in verse 15 to designate a specific refuge or
shelter but rather to typify them. The prophet reproaches the leaders
of Jerusalem for having sought a place of refuge that will ultimately
deceive them. He does not name the place of refuge in question but
simply typifies it (cf. Jer. 28:15; 29:31). His opponents will not have
appreciated his reproach but they will certainly have understood the
place of refuge to which the prophet is alluding.
34
It is extremely tell-
ing in this regard, that the term :.: is also to be found in Hos. 12:2
(NRSV 12:1), in a prophecy addressed against those, among others,
who enter into illegitimate political alliances: “Ephraim herds the wind, and
pursues the east wind all day long; they multiply falsehood and violence; they make
a treaty with Assyria, and oil is carried to Egypt.”
35
Presuming, therefore, that
both external bicola of 28:15 carry more or less the same message, it
is likewise extremely probable that ¬: and :s: are not intended as
designations of a particular covenant or agreement but rather as typifica-
tions thereof. Jerusalem’s leaders have entered into a covenant and in so
doing have in fact signed their own death warrant.
36
Counter to their
own expectations they will emerge from their agreement deceived.
Given the fact that the covenant upon which the prophet bases his
31
Barthel 1997:320 considers verse 15bß to contain the motivation behind the
central statement of bragging as well as verse 15a.
32
See Excursus 2 below.
33
Beuken 2000:46 speaks in this regard of a ‘mirror symmetry’.
34
Graffy 1984:26 is of the opinion that Isaiah’s opponents prided themselves in their
own cunning and were not ashamed to admit that they had used lies and treachery
in their negotiations with their covenant partner. This explanation clearly stems from
Graffy’s conviction that verse 15 is a genuine quotation.
35
There is no reason to suggest that the background to Hos. 12:2 represents a form of
communication with foreign gods as Blenkinsopp 2000(B):479 proposes. The same can
also be said with respect to the background to Isa. 28:15. See further in Excursus 2.
36
Cf. Wolff 1973
3
:84: “Bringt Jesaja die Wahrheit über die Bundesgenossen innerhalb
des Zitates, so wird den Bündnisgesonnenen damit indirekt die Aktivität vorgehalten,
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120 chapter four
complaint is actually left unmentioned, it is not immediately clear
which covenant or agreement he is referring to in verse 15.
37
The
political situation resulting from Assyria’s expansionist policy, however,
is characterised by one particular temptation, a temptation mentioned
by many a prophet, concerning the suggestion that Judah should seek
help from Egypt and rely on the power of Pharaoh. It is highly likely,
therefore, that the prophet’s complaint in verse 15 refers to a covenant
mit der sie ihr eigenes Unheil besorgen.” Cf. also Galling 1928:32: “Jesaja nimmt ihre
Worte auf, aber er zitiert sie so, wie sie Jahwe beurteilt: ihre Sicherheit ist auf Lug
und Trug gebaut, ihr Bund ist mit der schreckenvollen Scheol und mit dem Tode
geschlossen; der wahre Jahwebund führt zum Leben (Wer da glaubt, bleibt!), ihr Bund
führt zum Tode!”
37
The translation of ¬.¬ is a source of difficulty since the customary meaning
‘seer’ does not fit the context of 28:15. We offer a summary presentation of the most
prominent ‘solutions’:
a. Marti 1900:207 mentions the suggestion of O.R. Krätzschmar, Die Bundesvorstellung
im Alten Testament in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung, Marburg 1896, p. 52, that we read
¬:¬ ‘place of refuge’ (cf. 30:3 hapax).
b. Köhler 1930:227–228 suggests that we read ¬: ¬ and translate the term as ‘community’.
He notes in this regard that ¬:¬ occurs in parallel with ¬¬: on 15 occasions. See
also KBL/HALAT, Rohland 1956:148 and Fohrer 1962:57.
c. Procksch 1930(A):359–361 considers it better to read ¬.¬ in line with Buhl (see
also BHS) or ¬.¬ on the basis of 28:18 and understands the term to refer to a
‘Schau mit der Unterwelt’, a magical variant of divination using sacrificed animals
in order to provide a vision of the future. Duhm 1914
3
:174–175 follows a similar
line of inquiry: “wir haben ein Gesicht mit Scheol gemacht, heißt: wir haben einen
Toten oder die Todesgottheit selber zitiert und mit der Erscheinung einen Vertrag
abgeschlossen.” Cf. Marti 1900:207.
d. Driver 1968:58 associates ¬. ¬ with ¬. ¬ ‘chest’. According to Watson 1978:132–133 ¬. ¬
corresponds with the Akkadian sibit tulê ‘an oath performed by touching a partner’s
breast’, a gesture whereby a covenant was ratified (see also Watson 1984:213).
e. Kutsch 1978
3
:341 presupposes a certain development with respect to the significance
of ¬.¬ —‘sehen-ersehen-bestimmen-verordnen’. In his opinion, the concept ¬¬:
‘covenant’ evolved in a parallel fashion—‘sehen, auswählen, bestimmen’—from a root
II
¬¬: (cf. Akkadian barû). Kutsch thus rejects any form of emendation. Wildberger
1982:1064–1065 follows suit (see also HAHAT), insisting that ‘agreement’ represents
an ‘ungefähren Bedeutung’ of ¬. ¬ and ¬.¬. Cf. also LXX, which translates ¬. ¬ with
συνθήκη and ¬¬: with διαθήκη (Vulg.: pactum and foedus). Weinfeld 1973:783 is
not convinced of the development Kutsch presupposes and prefers to associate ¬¬:
with the Akkadian biritu ‘band, fetter’.
f. Blenkinsopp 2000(B):475f considers it possible that the words ¬.¬ and ¬.¬ may
represent a mocking allusion to the tradition of the Sinai covenant on account of
the connotation of visionary experience. He associates the latter with the visionary
experience described in Ex. 24:9–11 as part of the establishment of the covenant.
Given the lack of certainty surrounding derivation, etymology and semantic develop-
ment, one would be advised to exercise caution with respect to the various radical
emendations and ingenious interpretations. The meaning of ¬.¬ and ¬.¬ is deter-
mined in the present instance on the basis of the context and must be derived from
the parallelism with ¬¬:.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 121
or agreement with Egypt. The word ¬¬: functions in this context as
a political concept.
38
Comparison with the prophecy of 30:1–5, a prophecy considered
authentic, might serve to clarify the situation. In 30:1–5, the prophet
explicitly takes issue with Judah’s efforts to attract Egypt as an ally and
their willingness to submit themselves to the protective hand of the
Pharaoh. Reference is also made in this regard to the establishment of
a covenant, although the conventional formula ¬¬: ¬¬: is not used
at this juncture. In parallel to ¬.. ¬:.: in 30:1, the prophet uses
the expression ¬::: ¸::“: which literally means ‘to pour out a libation’.
39

Directly thereafter, however, the verb ¬:¬ ‘to take refuge’ and the related
term ..: ‘shelter’ are used in 30:2, the latter of which can function as
a parallel to ¬:¬:; employed in 28:15 (cf. 25:4). In the context of the
prophecy of 30:1–5, the words in question, which are particularly at
home in the psalms, acquire an undeniably political charge. Against
the explicit will of yhwh, the leaders in Jerusalem sought refuge under
the protection of Pharaoh, and shelter in the shadow of Egypt.
40
In
30:3, the prophet then announces that the ¬.¬“c ..: will become their
shame and the μ¬.::.: ¬:¬ their humiliation. The prophecy of
30:1–5 would appear in terms of semantics and content to be closely
related to the complaint of 28:15.
Based on the kinship observed with respect to 30:1–5, one can argue
that the prophet’s complaint in 28:15 likewise alludes to the alliance
established by the leaders of Jerusalem with Egypt and that the char-
acterisation of this alliance as a covenant with death and an agreement
with Sheol is rooted in the profound conviction that Judah would not
profit from such an alliance.
41
While it is not unthinkable that the
prophet may have been alluding simultaneously to the Egyptian cult
38
Cf. Wildberger 1982:1073.
39
The Septuagint of 28:15 first speaks of the agreement with Sheol (διαθήκην
μετὰ τοῦ ᾅδου) and then of the covenant with death (μετὰ τοῦ θανάτου συνθήκας).
In verse 18, the Septuagint maintains the sequence of the Hebrew text although its
formulation differs slightly from that of verse 15: ὑμῶν τὴν διαθήκην τοῦ θανάτου καὶ
ἡ ἐλπὶς ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν ᾅδην.
40
Cf. Huber 1976:90.
41
In reaction to Day 1989:58–64, who rejects every allusion to an alliance with
Egypt and dates the present prophecy in the time of Ahaz, Blenkinsopp 2000(B):474
argues: “It is true that the covenant does not refer directly to an alliance with Egypt,
but the context of chapters xxviii–xxxiii strongly favours reference to a political situ-
ation under Hezekiah between the years 704 and 701 when the Egyptian connection
was politically crucial.”
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122 chapter four
of the dead, I am not inclined to believe that ¬: and :s: themselves
should be understood as designations for Egypt or as references to
gods involved in the establishment of the alliance.
42
Judah’s option for
Egypt, however, is clearly typified as an option for death. It is difficult
to deny the presence of a degree of irony in the way in which the
prophet formulates his complaint and places the statement concerning
the covenant with death on the lips of his opponents.
43
Given that the
first and last bicola of verse 15 correspond with one another and the
fact that the expressions ‘lies as refuge’ and ‘falsehood as shelter’ in the last
bicolon would be unthinkable on the lips of the leaders of Jerusalem
(the expression employed in verse 17b :.: ¬:¬: is even a contradictio in
terminis!), it is hardly likely that the covenant with death represents a
sort of life insurance policy or a non-aggression treaty about which the
infinitely self-assured politicians of Jerusalem might have boasted.
44
It is
thus a simulated quotation intended to underline the irony associated
with boasting of a ‘covenant with death’.
45
Isaiah makes use of this
irony to ridicule the boasting of Jerusalem’s leaders who are under the
illusion that they enjoy some kind of immunity against death while they
are in fact guilty of embracing death with their ‘kamikaze’ politics. The
covenant with Egypt that was to bring redemption from disaster was
42
Some exegetes detect an allusion to the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris in the use
of the terms ¬: and :s: . See Duhm 1914
3
:174, H. Schmidt 1923
2
:93 and Auvray
1972:250–251.
43
Cf. Wolff 1973
3
:71, Eichrodt 1967:130, Good 1981:119–120 and Brueggemann
1998:225–226. Clements 1980(B):229 speaks of ‘heavily satirical language’. Oswalt
1986:516 even of sarcasm. The suggestion proposed by Klopfenstein 1964:148–149
that Isaiah deliberately placed the words ¬: and :s: instead of an original ‘Egypt’
and ‘Ethiopia’ on the lips of his opponents is impossible to substantiate and difficult
to accept. The same is true for the suggestion that Isaiah’s opponents mockingly reit-
erated his complaint in order to show how little effect it had on them. It seems more
appropriate that we ascribe the ironic formulation of the complaint to the creativity
of the prophet.
44
Cf. Fohrer 1962:58, Driver 1968:58 and Gonçalves 1986:204. Reference is made
in Hos. 2:20 (NRSV 2:18) to a non-aggression treaty with the animal world.
45
According to Wolff 1973
3
:69f, the most important characteristic of a simulated
quotation is the ‘Stichwortverknüpfung’ between the quotation as such and the rest
of the prophecy. The most important element in terms of content with regard to
such quotations is the fact that the prophetic judgement is already apparent therein.
From the theological perspective, however, it is not a question of the authenticity of
the quotation but rather of its truth “wäre das echte Zitat unwahr, so bildet er (the
prophet, JD) selbst das Zitat.” (1973
3
:99) Galling 1928:32 was among the first to under-
stand the reference to the covenant with death as an ironic condemnation on the part
of the prophet himself. Instead of associating the covenant in question with one or
other political alliance, however, he maintains that the words ‘death’ and ‘Sheol’ can
be replaced by YHWH, since rigid adhesion to faith in Israel’s election always made its
appeal to YHWH (cf. Am. 5:14; Hos. 8:2 and Mi. 3:11).
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 122 1/18/2007 2:17:45 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 123
ultimately ill-fated and bound to lead to enormous disillusionment.
46
In like fashion to 30:2–3, the semantic field employed in the final
bicolon of verse 15 is reminiscent of the language of the psalms. The
psalms frequently speak of seeking refuge in yhwh (see, for example,
Ps. 14:6; 46:2),
47
a conviction closely associated with the temple cult of
Jerusalem and belief in yhwh’s presence in Zion (cf. Isa. 4:6; 14:32; 16:4;
25:4; 32:2).
48
The use of this religiously shaded terminology associated
with the Zion tradition contrasts with what is stated in the Zion text of
28:16 and functions as such as a religious disqualification of Jerusalem’s
coalition politics.
49
Judah’s sin is ultimately a form of idolatry.
50
It is
hardly surprising, therefore, that the later Wisdom of Solomon quotes
28:15 in order to describe the attitude of the godless.
51
46
Cf. Burns 1973:338: “Their political manoeuvres are ‘a covenant with death’,
for their outcome will be fatal.” Barthel 1997:318n objects to this explanation based
on the statement in verse 18 concerning the ‘annulment’ of the covenant with death
and the claim that the agreement with Sheol will not stand. His objection need not
be understood, however, as a decisive factor. In his announcement of judgement, the
prophet harks back to the ironic statement he had placed on the lips of his adversaries.
He uses the announcement of judgement to make explicit the expectation that was
implicit in the complaint, namely that Jerusalem’s leaders would not emerge unscathed
from their coalition politics. As already expected on the basis of the characterisation
provided, the covenant with death will be annulled and the agreement with Sheol
will not stand. While some might argue that the use of words here is verging on the
pleonastic, they nevertheless have a clear function in the context of the prophecy of
judgement. They underline the naiveté of Jerusalem’s leaders and the blatant palpability
of the outcome announced by the prophet.
47
It is striking that the Septuagint translates :: ¬ : with τὴν ἐλπίδα ἡμῶν. The Greek
translator of Isaiah 28 would appear to have had a significant preference for the word
ἐλπίς ‘hope’, given the fact that he employed it no less than ten times; see verses 4, 5,
10 (2x), 13 (2x), 15, 17, 18 and 19.
48
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:208: “Cette présentation est liée à la présence de Yahvé dans
son Temple, et constitue l’un des éléments des traditions de Sion.”
49
Cf. Gamberoni 1982:79: “Religiös geprägte Sprache ist absichtlich für gottwidriges
Tun verwendet.”
50
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:158: “Et en faisant leur refuge et leur abri, les Judéens
attribuent au Pharaon et à l’Égypte un rôle que la prière célébrait comme étant le
privilège exclusif de Yahvé, la politique judéenne est une idolâtrie, sans doute plus
subtile, mais non moins grave et dangereuse que celle qui consiste dans le culte des
idoles de métal et de bois.”
51
See Wisdom 1:16 in which it is argued that death was not created by God (1:13)
but summoned rather by the godless:
ἀσεβεῖς δὲ ταῖς χερσὶν καὶ τοῖς But the ungodly by their words and deeds
λόγοις προσεκαλέσαντο αὐτόν summoned death;
φίλον ἡγησάμενοι αὐτὸν considering him a friend,
ἐτάκησαν καὶ συνθήκην ἔθεντο πρὸς they pined away and made a covenant with him,
αὐτόν because they are fit to belong to his company.
ὅτι ἄξιοί εἰσιν τῆς ἐκείνου μερίδος (NRSV)
εἶναι
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124 chapter four
4.2.2. Isa. 28:16: Salvation-historical retrospective
¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬: ˆ:: 16 Therefore, thus says the Lord YHWH:
::“¬ “See, I am the one
ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: who laid in Zion a foundation stone,
ˆ¬: ˆ:s a weighty stone,
¬¬, ¬:c a precious cornerstone,
¬:: ¬:: a sure foundation.
:¬ s: ˆ:s:¬ One who trusts shall not hurry off.”
Having made his scathing complaint against the leaders of Jerusalem
within the confines of a single verse, the prophet is now expected to
turn to the announcement of judgement in verse 16, in line with the
conventional pattern of the prophecy of judgement. Indeed, verse 16
clearly opens with the traditional introductory particle of an announce-
ment of judgement ˆ:: , followed by the familiar messenger formula
¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬:.
52
The said messenger formula is employed with
the greatest frequency in the book of Ezekiel, although it is also to
be found on a number of occasions in Isaiah (see 7:7 and 30:15; cf.
10:24; 21:16; 22:15). As introduction to the expected announcement of
judgement, the messenger formula adds an extra accent to what follows
in verse 16,
53
although the content of the verse is surprisingly enough
not directly recognisable as an announcement of judgement. Attention
is first drawn to a deed of yhwh that implies a promise of salvation.
It is not clear in advance, however, whether the said deed should be
situated in the past, the present or the future. A decision in this regard
depends in part on our interpretation of the construction ¬: ::“¬ .
Given that the combination of ::“¬ with ¬: vocalised as a piel perfect
is uncommon and that ::“¬ is usually associated with a participle (see,
for example, 37:7 and 38:8),
54
several exegetes opt to depart from the
The historical background and political context of Isa. 28:15 no longer figure at this
juncture. In a more neutral sense, Sir. 14:12 also alludes to Isa. 28:15, totally detached
from its political-historical context:
μνήσθητι ὅτι θάνατος οὐ χρονιεῖ Remember that death does not tarry,
καὶ διαθήκη ᾅδου οὐχ ὑπεδείχθη σοι and the decree of Hades has
not been shown to you. (NRSV)
The decree of Hades alludes in this regard to the preordained day of a person’s death.
See further Schwemer 1996:84–85.
52
Procksch 1930(A):357 suggests we add ¬s:. for metrical reasons. Cf., however,
7:7 and 30:15.
53
The Masoretes probably based their decision to mark 28:16 as the beginning of
a new pericope on the basis of the messenger formula (Setumah, cf. 7:7). The same
applies with respect to 1QIsa
a
, see Olley 1993:29f.
54
Cf. GKG § 116p; J-M § 121e and Humbert 1958 (orig. 1934):54–59.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 124 1/18/2007 2:17:46 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 125
Masoretic text in this regard and vocalise ¬: as a qal participle ¬:.
55

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this proposed emendation
has enjoyed the support of both Isaiah scrolls from Qumran.
56
In spite of the readings found in the Qumran scrolls, however, a
number of exegetes continue to argue to the present day in favour of
the piel perfect ¬:, translating the construction ¬: ::“¬ in the past
tense: ‘See, I am the one who laid . . .’. Agreement with 14:32b with respect
to content and semantics has an important role to play in this regard,
since 14:32b contains the related statement that yhwh has established
Zion, likewise employing the piel perfect ¬:. In order to intercept
the objection that the piel perfect ¬: in 28:16 is preceded by ::“¬
and that ::“¬ is generally followed by a participle, reference is usu-
ally made to 29:14 and 38:5, in both of which ::“¬ is followed by
a hiph il imperfect π:.
57
Ezek. 25:7 is also referred to in this regard
because it contains ::“¬ followed by a qal declarative perfect (1st person)
¬::.
58
Why then did the Masoretes opt to vocalise ¬: in 28:16 as
a piel perfect ¬: ? The accentuation of the text with the distinctive
T
e
vîr [12] in relation to ::“¬ is also surprising in this regard since the
construction ::“¬ + participle usually takes a conjunctive accent. If one
bears in mind that the Masoretic distinctive accents probably hark back
to a pre-Masoretic tradition, it goes without saying that they should
not be dismissed as insignificant.
59
In establishing the pronunciation
and articulation of the Hebrew text according to the tradition passed
down to them, the Masoretes apparently made use of vocalisation
and punctuation in order to prevent the careless reader of the Zion
text of 28:16 from accidentally reading ¬: as a futurum instans and
55
See, among others, Marti 1900:208, Fullerton 1920:10, Procksch 1930(A):
356, Driver 1968:59, Roberts 1987:27–29, Blenkinsopp 2000(A):392 and Childs
2001:208.
56
1QIsa
a
reads a piel participle ¬:: and 1QIsa
b
a qal participle ¬:.
57
BHS suggests we vocalise π: both in 29:14 and in 38:5 as a participle π:. See
also Roberts 1987:28. While the orthographic from π: would appear to support such
a suggestion, the hiph il imperfect of π: is frequently written with a and thus remains
a possibility. Indeed, the use of the matter lectionis with the hiphil of π: is much less
frequent than is generally the case. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that
neither 29:14 nor 38:5 have π: (see also π: in 1 Sam. 14:44; 1 Kgs 6:31 and Prov.
10:22; the orthograpic forms π: and π: each occur 15× in the Old Testament).
58
GKG § 155f. See also Delitzsch 1889:317, Duhm 1914
3
:175, Fohrer 1962:54 and
Irwin 1977:31–32.
59
De Moor/Watson 1993:xv. Cf. Korpel/De Moor 1988:vii: “. . . we make use of
the Masoretic accents which often, though by no means always, prove to be a more
reliable guide than is generally assumed.”
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126 chapter four
thereby mistakenly associating it with some future salvific action on
God’s part.
60
While material for comparison remains limited, it would appear
nevertheless from the combination ¬:: ::“¬ in Ezek. 25:7 that the
possibility of ::“¬ followed by a perfect should not be dismissed in
advance.
61
The combination π: ::“¬ in 29:14 and 38:5 even presup-
poses the possibility of a change of subject from the first to the third
person, although such changes tend to be rare. This implies that from
the grammatical and syntactic perspective the construction ¬: ::“¬ in
28:16 is not impossible and that the vocalisation of the Masoretic text
thus deserves preference as the lectio difficilior.
62
Given the fact, moreover,
that the piel of the verb ¬: always relates to the technical construction
of foundations, the reading of ¬: as a piel perfect ¬: fits well within the
semantic context of verse 16.
63
The piel perfect ¬: can be understood
60
Should one prefer to vocalise ¬: as a qal participle ¬: on grammatical/syntactic
grounds, this need not imply that the expression ¬: ::“¬ should be translated per se
as a futurum instans, since the latter option depends entirely on the context (cf. GKG
§ 116m and Kaiser 1976
2
:201). The possibility of translating a participle in the past
tense is supported by Gen. 41:17 in which the clause ¬s“¬ ¬c::. ¬:. ::“¬ must be
translated as ‘See, I was standing on the banks of the Nile’ (see GKG § 116o, J-M § 121f,
Huber 1976:91, Petersen 1979: 121n and Kilian 1994:162; Rohland 1956:151 and
Schreiner 1963:171 likewise translate the qal participle ¬: in the past tense).
61
While Childs 2001:208 himself would appear to prefer a participle, he recognises
in the meantime that the Masoretic vocalisation can also be upheld: “This construction
is grammatically possible, but extremely rare. It would be translated: ‘Behold, I am the
one who laid a stone for a foundation’.”
62
See also Gonçalves 1986:196 and Beuken 2000:14–15. According to Roberts
1987:28, 28:16 is a clear example in which the lectio difficilior should not be followed
because we are unaware of an adequate parallel for the construction employed in
MT. Cf., however, Wildberger 1982:1523: “Es gilt zudem zu bedenken, daß das Alte
Testament durchaus Aussagen machen kann, welche für modernen Exegeten nur
schwer nachvollziehbar sind. Gerade auch bei der Textkritik müssen die Grenzen
unserer Einfühlungsgabe, aber auch unserer linguistischen Kenntnisse bedacht und
respektiert werden.”
63
Mosis 1981:668–682 discusses a striking difference in meaning between the qal and
the piel of ¬:. The meaning of the verb in the qal is broader than that of the piel.
In the qal, ¬: frequently means more than simply the laying of foundations and can
include the entire building process, including restoration work (cf. 2 Chron. 24:27). In
the piel, however, ¬: always enjoys the specific technical significance of ‘laying founda-
tions’. With regard to 28:16, Jenni 1968:212 states: “In der textlich schwierigen Stelle
Jes. 28,16 ‘Siehe, ich lege in Zion einen Stein’ wäre demnach das Piel beizubehalten,
wie auch immer die Stelle aufzufassen ist.” Mosis suggests nonetheless that we should
read a piel participle ¬:: (cf. 1QIsa
a
) and is of the opinion that the :, which can
easily be confused with the ending : in Phoenician script, has been omitted due to
haplography. This latter hypothesis is somewhat speculative, since we do not know
enough about ancient palaeography to determine which letters resembled one another
(cf. Seeligmann 1948:61). Retaining the piel perfect thus deserves preference.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 126 1/18/2007 2:17:46 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 127
at this juncture as the beginning of an asyndetic subordinate clause in
relation to ::“¬, which implies that the text ought best to be translated
‘See, I am the one who laid . . .’.
64
Although difficult to prove, we cannot dismiss the possibility that
the Masoretic vocalisation of ¬: as a piel perfect ¬: may be due to a
reaction to the New Testament use of 28:16 in which the Zion text is
understood in Messianic terms and related to the advent of Jesus (Rom.
9:32b–33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6).
65
Nevertheless, the Messianic interpreta-
tion of the so-called ‘stone texts’ established within the Jewish tradition
certainly seems to make this possibility less likely (see § 2.4.2.). The
fact that the Zion text of 28:16 was no longer ascribed a Messianic
significance in later rabbinic literature, at least as far as we could deter-
mine, probably has more to do with the place acquired by the text in
the Sh
e
tiyyah tradition (see § 2.4.3.) than with potentially anti-Christian
tendencies.
66
Such a tendency need not be sought, therefore, behind
the Masoretic vocalisation of 28:16. Semantic and content based agree-
ments between the Zion texts in 14:32b and 28:16 would thus appear
to serve as the most important motivating factor behind the Masoretic
vocalisation and punctuation.
67
While form-critical considerations are not in themselves of overrid-
ing importance in the analysis of a prophetic text, the translation of
¬: as a futurum instans would imply nevertheless that the prophetic
judgement genre had been interrupted in verse 16 by a promise of
64
See GKG § 155f. It is also possible to understand the combination ¬: ::“¬ as
an asyndetic main clause and to translate it as ‘See, I myself have . . .’, although one
would expect the use of a first person perfect rather than a participial form in such
an instance (cf. Ezek. 25:7).
65
Cf. Fullerton 1920:50: “It looks as if they wished to prevent the Christian use of
the passage which saw in it a prediction of Jesus.”
66
Cf. Stemberger’s 1996:573–574 appeal for caution at this juncture: “Certain shifts
in Jewish exegesis, changes in comparison with Jewish interpretations of the Second
Temple period, may frequently be explained with good reason as reactions against
the theological use of a biblical text in the Christian tradition. But in most cases this
remains at the level of educated guesses; too much has changed in Judaism after 70
CE to attribute every break of continuity directly and exclusively to rabbinic reaction
against Christianity.”
67
Marti 1900:208 suspects that the vocalisation ¬: in 28:16 came about under the
influence of 14:32b and refers the reader in this regard to Cheyne and König, Syntax
§ 344b. Roberts 1987:28 follows a similar line of thought. Procksch 1930(A):357 pre-
supposes that the vocalisation of the Masoretic text is inspired by a refusal to accept
a new foundation stone in addition to that of the temple in Zion. Laberge 1978:10
considers it possible that the Masoretes endeavoured to avoid anthropomorphism by
using the 3rd person.
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128 chapter four
salvation. This possibility cannot be excluded in advance since one
cannot deny the prophet a certain degree of artistic licence in his
work.
68
To further support the understanding of 28:16 as a promise
of salvation, one can compare the present text with the Immanuel
prophecy of 7:14. This latter text would appear to represent the most
striking example of a promise of salvation located in the context of a
prophecy of judgement.
69
In like fashion to the Zion text of 28:16, the
Immanuel prophecy of 7:14 is also introduced by the particle ˆ: :, which,
in relation to the preceding complaint (7:13) and in agreement with
the conventional structure of the prophecy of judgement would lead
one to expect an announcement of judgement to follow rather than a
promise of salvation.
70
It is difficult, nonetheless, to read the Immanuel
prophecy of 7:14 as anything other than a promise of salvation.
71
It
appears, however, that the introduction to the Immanuel prophecy of
7:14 has been composed as an announcement of judgement. In contrast
to Ahaz’ sanctimonious refusal to ask for a sign we are confronted with
the indignant announcement that yhwh himself will provide a sign in
spite of Ahaz. Given that the possibility offered in the first instance by
yhwh to ask for a sign from Him represents the powerful confirmation
of an announcement of salvation (7:7–9; cf. 7:4), it should not surprise
us in the present context that the sign ultimately provided by yhwh in
the second instance also contains the features of a promise of salvation
(cf. 7:16). The fact that this Immanuel prophecy is introduced as an
indignant announcement of judgement, however, sets the given sign in
a particular light. No matter how he attempts to portray his rejection
68
Melugin 1974:301–311 employs three examples to point out that the prophet
Isaiah could be creative in his use of the existing prophecy of judgement genre and
that he introduced variations thereto that differ from the already common variations.
Based on the idea that 28:16 contains a promise of salvation for the future, 28:14–22
is one of the examples he treats. The other texts are 30:15–17 and 28:7–13.
69
Cf. Delitzsch 1889:316: “Auf das wieder aufgenommene ˆ:: v. 16 folgt ebenso
wie 7,14 Verheißung statt Drohung . . .” See also Snijders 1969:283.
70
Cf. Wildberger 1972:288.
71
The present author disagrees with Fohrer 1956:55 (see also 1960:102) on this point
who denies any salvific significance to 7:14: “Das Zeichen, das der Prophet ankündigt,
kann aber nicht den gleichen Sinn haben wie das zuvor dem Ahas angebotene und von
diesem abgelehnte, also nicht die Vergewisserung darüber, daß Jahwe die Bedrohung
von Jerusalem abwenden werde. Auf das Versagen des Ahas folgt keine Heilszusage,
sondern eine Unheilsdrohung.” In order to advance this thesis, Fohrer is obliged to
deny that the announced sign is to be found in the birth and naming in 7:14. In his
opinion, the intended sign is described in vv. 15–16. For a survey of literary critical
questions relating to Isaiah 7, see Höffken 1989:25–42.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 128 1/18/2007 2:17:47 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 129
of a sign as piety, Ahaz’ response ultimately represents a rejection of
the fidelity (‘stand firm’) called for in 7:9b. To Ahaz’ personal shame,
the Immanuel prophecy of 7:14, the birth and naming of the son
announced by the prophet, is set in sharp contrast to his rejection.
72

In a certain sense, therefore, the sign given in 7:14 carries a degree of
ambivalence.
73
Directly following the sign given by yhwh, Ahaz is made
to understand the consequences of his lack of faith. The liberation
announced will come to pass and there is thus no reason to be afraid
of the kings of Aram and Ephraim (7:16; cf. 7:4). The depopulation,
however, of the land of Aram and that of Ephraim are to prefigure
the fate that will ultimately confront the kingdom of Ahaz. In the not
so distant future, Ahaz and his house will have to face an even greater
threat, namely the king of Assyria (7:17).
74
The comparison of 28:16 with 7:14 thus allows us to see that within
the context of an announcement of judgement room is sometimes
available for a promise of salvation, without devaluing the general
character of the prophecy of judgement. This ought to serve, there-
fore, as an important argument in support of reading the Zion text of
28:16 primarily as a promise of salvation. Of course, the meaning and
function of the Immanuel prophecy of 7:14 cannot simply be placed
on an equal footing with the Zion text of 28:16, since the former
is emphatically associated with a promise of salvation already given
within the context of Isaiah 7 (7:7–9).
75
This is not the case in 28:16,
however, whereby the transition to a potential reading of the Zion
text of 28:16 as a promise of salvation within the context of Isaiah 28
is much more abrupt.
76
Should one ascribe salvific significance to the
72
Cf. Beuken 2003:205: “Der Name gibt nicht den aktuellen Glauben des Ahas
wieder, sondern den Glauben, den eigentlich von ihm verlangt wird. Einst soll die
Daseinsberechtigung dieses Namens deutlich werden.”
73
Cf. Wildberger 1972:295: “Grundsätzlich beinhaltet das Zeichen Heil, für Ahas
selbst, aber schwerste Drohung, eine Drohung, die paradoxerweise gerade in der
Ankündigung sichtbar wird, daß Jahwe zu seiner Verheißung steht.”
74
Cf. Beuken 2003:188: “Das Zeichen wird in seiner Erfüllung wiederum zu
einem Zeichen. Die Geburt des Kindes und sein Name Immanuel verheißen, dass
jhwhs Gegenwart bei seinem Volk (»Gott mit uns«) unverzüglich in der Katastrophe
sichtbar wird, die die angreifenden Völker trifft (V 16). Aber in dieser Erfüllung des
Immanuelzeichens ist zugleich ein Hinweis auf die Not des Landverlustes mitgegeben,
mit der jhwh mittels des Königs von Assur das Haus David strafen wird (V 17).”
75
Cf Childs 2001:67: “The giving of the sign to Ahaz (vv. 10–17) is a continuation
of the previous challenge for faithfulness to the promise of God given to the house
of David in vv. 3–9.”
76
While the Zion text of 28:16 is related within the context of Isaiah 28 to 28:12
(likewise designated by the present author as a Zion text), the latter text does not
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130 chapter four
Zion text of 28:16, then one should do so first and foremost on the
basis of its context in Isaiah 28.
77
According to the traditional pattern of the prophecy of judgement,
the announcement of judgement should follow at this juncture, after
the complaint of verse 15 and the messenger formula at the beginning
of verse 16. The remainder of verse 16, however, does not appear to
live up to expectations in this regard. Should the Masoretic vocalisation
imply that ¬: ::“¬ relates to a salvific deed from the past and not some
future event, then the interruption of the traditional genre structure
would appear to be less radical and it becomes possible to include
the Zion text of verse 16 as a formal element of the announcement
of judgement. Within the framework of the announcement of judge-
ment, the salvific act being called to mind serves as the norm against
which the seriousness of the actual judgement can be measured. The
seriousness of the judgement that the prophet is obliged to announce
from verse 16 onwards is underlined from the outset by explicit refer-
ence to God’s salvific activities with respect to Zion, which, based on
the complaint of verse 15, were misunderstood.
78
Comparison of MT with 1QIsa
a
/ 1QIsa
b
and LXX—spotlighted
Having explained that the Masoretic text of 28:16 presupposes an
interpretation whereby the Zion text of 28:16 is not to be understood
as a promise of salvation given for the future, it is now important to
focus attention on the Qumran Isaiah scrolls and their interpretation
of the said text.
79
The scrolls in question, with respect to which there
relate to an actual promise of salvation or one given for the future but consists rather
of a reference to an earlier statement on the part of yhwh with respect to Zion. See
§ 4.3.3.
77
For a discussion of the position of Wildberger, who translates ¬: as a futurum
instans but interprets it nevertheless as an announcement of judgement, see below.
78
Cf. Beuken 2000:44: “It is a unique feature of this oracle that the announce-
ment of doom is projected against a salvific act in the past, i.e. God’s founding of
Zion.” Blenkinsopp 2000(B):473 states with reference to 28:21: “Bringing up salvific
interventions of Yahweh in the past would be equally (i.e. just as the allusion to a
future, new foundation in Jerusalem, JD) out of place in a sentence of doom.” By
way of comparison, however, reference can be made to important allusions to God’s
earlier words in 28:11–12, a reference that constitutes a part of an announcement of
judgement in similar fashion to the Zion text of 28:16 (see also 30:15 in which the
prophet prefaces his complaint with reference to a promise of salvation given in the
past; complaint and announcement of judgement are woven together in 30:15–17,
cf. Gonçalves 1986:167f ).
79
For the characteristics of both scrolls see Tov 1997:491–511. For an introduction
to 1QIsa
a
and a German translation thereof see Steck 1998. Steck 1998:18 typifies
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 130 1/18/2007 2:17:48 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 131
is no absolute certainty that they were both composed in Qumran,
80

read a participle form in verse 16 after ::¬ and thus serve as primary
witnesses in support of emending the Masoretic vocalisation. While the
use of the piel participle ¬:: or a qal participle ¬: after ::¬ need
not automatically imply that the text of verse 16 should be translated
in a future sense, it would appear from the documents discovered at
Qumran that the community took such an interpretation as its point of
departure and thus understood the Zion text of 28:16 to be a proph-
ecy of salvation for the future. The use of 28:16 in both ‘The Rule of
the Community’ (1QS 8,5–8) and ‘The Thanksgiving Scroll’ (1QH
a

15,8–9) leads one to believe that the text in question was interpreted
in an eschatological sense and that the community of Qumran saw
itself as the fulfilment thereof (see § 2.4.1.). For this interpretation to
be possible, reference to the word Zion is left out of any allusions to
28:16. This can be understood against the background of the com-
munity’s own belief—together with its lack of interest in the temple in
Jerusalem—that it was with God’s living temple that the designation
‘Zion’ was associated.
81
The same is likewise expressed on occasion in
the text of 1QIsa
a
itself.
82
For the interpretation of the community of
1QIsa
a
as ‘eine interpretative Fassung des MT-nahen Jes-Textes, die anderen Zwecken
als allein der Textüberlieferung dienen sollte’, resp. as ‘ein Gebrauchstext zur Lektüre
oder allenfalls eine Vorlage für die Herstellung interpretativer Lektürekopien’.
80
Cf. the cautious position held by Steck 1998:17 with respect to 1QIsa
a
: “Daß sie
ein spezifisches Produkt der essenischen Gemeinschaft von Qumran darstellt und gar
von vornherein den Jes-Text da und dort mit besonderen Absichten dieser Gemeinschaft
in Verbindung brachte, ist heute weniger selbstverständlich als früher. Sollte die aus-
gedehnte Siedlung von Qumran nämlich erst gegen 100 v.Chr. bezogen wurden sein,
ist nicht mehr sicher, daß 1QIs
a
wirklich in Qumran geschrieben wurde.” While
Pulikottil 2001:160ff recognises the heterogeneous character of the Qumran docu-
ments, he nevertheless endeavours to gain support for the idea that the author of the
first Isaiah scroll should in all probability be located within the Qumran community.
Pulikottil places the emphasis on the interpretative character of 1QIsa
a
and concludes
that the author of this scroll was oriented towards the community of Qumran: “The
foregoing discussion of the reading of the scroll has illustrated the overall conceptual
relationship of the scroll with that of certain Qumran texts, most of which can cer-
tainly be termed as Yachad documents. Though not all the changes to the scroll can be
said to have this ideology only, most of the major themes of these texts are reflected
in the scroll.” (2001:185)
81
Cf. Dohmen 1982:86: “Wenn in Jes. 28,16 Jahwe sagt: ‘Seht, ich lege in Zion
einen Grundstein, einen bewährten Stein, einen kostbaren Eckstein’, dann wird es
hier so verstanden, daß Jahwe dies in der Gründung von Qumran vollzogen hat mit
dem Ziel, ‘den Bund nach ewigen Gesetzen aufzurichten’. Hier klingt an, was später
für die Gemeinschaft von Qumran spezifisch wird, daß sie sich gegen bzw. anstelle
des offiziellen Judentums stellt.” See also W.H. Schmidt 1978
3
:738, Muszynski 1975:5
and Betz 1987:95–96.
82
Pulikottil 2001:143–145 draws attention to the text of 2:3, where the expression
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132 chapter four
Qumran, it was essential that the verb ¬: in 28:16 could be understood
as a participle and translated in the future sense. A piel perfect ¬:
would ultimately have represented an obstacle to the application of the
text to the community. The theological perspectives of the community
at Qumran thus made it desirable to read ¬: as a participle. It should
be clear, therefore, that the emendation of the Masoretic vocalisation of
¬: as a piel perfect ¬: on the basis of the text of both Isaiah scrolls
from Qumran is not to be recommended.
The Septuagint, with its interpretation of the Zion text of 28:16 as
a promise of salvation associated with the future, is more explicit than
the readings found in both Qumran scrolls. The Septuagint of Isaiah is
characterised by the fact that the Greek translator employed a surprising
degree of freedom and independence in his work.
83
As a consequence,
the translation in question provides a specific interpretation in several
places and is even considered to represent an important pre-Christian
witness to Jewish exegesis.
84
The combination ¬: ::¬ is translated in
the Septuagint with an explicitly future orientation: ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ
εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον. This translation corresponds with a possible
presence of an already Messianising tendency given expression in the
plus of ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ in the concluding passage of 28:16: καὶ ὁ πιστεύων
ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.
85
The plus serves to relate the expres-
sion ‘one who trusts’ directly to the stone in such a way that the latter
is personified.
86
Given the considerable freedom the Greek translator
¬¬“¬¬:s is absent and where the task of teaching is ascribed to an undetermined
plural ‘they’ and not to YHWH. Pulikottil thus interprets the concluding words of 2:3 in
the sense that the Law has departed from Zion and concludes: “. . . the passage brings
a radical difference in portraying Jerusalem deprived of its privilege as a centre of reli-
gious instruction in the end of the days, as the Law has departed from it. The centre of
religious instruction is now the :,. ¬:s ¬: (‘house of the God of Jacob’), where a
group represented by an unidentified ‘they’ will be in charge of instruction.”
83
Cf. Seeligmann 1948:56: “With this we come to a characteristic trait in our
translator; he often sacrifices grammatical accuracy to his own stylistic text-formula-
tion. He deals pretty arbitrarily with gender and mood of the verb, with person and
number.” Seeligmann signals a clear tendency on the part of the Greek translator to
give his work a more Greek style and to employ a more Greek sentence structure. He
thus presupposes that the latter’s knowledge of Hebrew was probably more theoretical
and lexicographical than grammatical and syntactical.
84
Van der Kooij 1977:91. See also Van der Kooij 1997(A):513: “. . . a free translation
which reflects at several places an actualizing interpretation of the Isaianic prophecies.”
Cf. Van der Kooij 1989:127–133 and 1997(B):9–25.
85
For a discussion of the problem ‘Messianisms’ in the Septuagint see Harl 1988:
219–222 and 282–288.
86
In its translation of Ps. 118:22, the Septuagint has likewise promoted a Messianic
interpretation by way of the plus of the explicative οὗτος.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 133
of Isaiah permitted himself, it goes without saying that a significant
degree of caution should be employed when using the Septuagint in
order to establish the correct reading of 28:16.
87
It is the present author’s conclusion that the textual renditions found
in Qumran and the Septuagint do not provide decisive reasons to emend
the Masoretic vocalisation of 28:16. It would appear that the Masoretes
employed unusual vocalisation and punctuation precisely in order to
avoid accidently associating the Zion text with some future salvific
activity on the part of God. The form-critical considerations outlined
above tend rather to reinforce the impression that verse 16 should be
understood as a salvation-historical retrospective moment intended to
underline the seriousness of the judgement being announced.
The content of the salvation-historical retrospective moment in verse 16
is determined by the mention of the stone that yhwh has established
in Zion. It is in fact the stone that is given particular emphasis. This is
not only evident from the variety of characterisations with which the
stone is described, but also from the poetical structure ascribed by the
prophet to the Zion text. Following the introductory particle ˆ:: and
the messenger formula ¬¬“ :¬s ¬:s ¬: we have what would appear
at first sight to be a bicolon after which the verse is rounded off with a
monocolon. In that case, with verse 14, the prophet employs the poetic
technique of the ‘ballast variant’ for this crucial statement concerning
the stone that yhwh has established in Zion. In verse 16, however, this
can be further specified as a form of the so-called ‘expanded repetition’.
In the second half of verse 16 there is no parallel for the statement ::“¬
ˆ.: ¬:, but rather the word ˆ:s ‘stone’ is taken up once again and
then supplemented with a variety of typifications.
88
The printed form
of verse 16 in BHS, however, interferes with the recognition of the
apparent structure. An alternative typography even makes the chiasm
visible whereby the structure of verse 16 can be characterised: at the
beginning and end a form of ¬:, and at the pivotal point between
both halves of the verse twice ˆ:s :
87
Cf. Seeligman 1948:58–66 and Wildberger 1982:1518–1520. Aquila, Symmachus
and Theodotion do not follow the translation of ¬: ::¬ as a future ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ
but opt rather for the participle θεμελιῶν.
88
Cf. Watson 1984:343–348 and Bühlmann/Scherer 1994
2
:39.
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134 chapter four
ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: ::“¬ “See, I am the one who laid in Zion a
foundation stone,
¬:: ¬:: ¬¬, ¬:c ˆ¬: ˆ:s a weighty stone, a precious cornerstone,
a sure foundation.”
The ‘expanded repetition’ in the second half of the verse calls for
particular attention, because ˆ:s has been supplemented to such a
degree that the balance would seem to have tilted in the wrong direc-
tion. While this is not an exceptional phenomenon in Hebrew and
Ugaritic poetry,
89
the chain of characteristics typifying the ˆ:s in 16b
leaves one with a sense of exaggeration. In order to reduce the length
of the Zion text to some degree, the course of history has witnessed a
variety of proposed emendations:
1. Several exegetes have suggested that we scrap the first ˆ:s .
90
This
proposal not only removes an element of weight from a verse in
which the stone as such is being emphasised, it also misinterprets
the style feature referred to above, namely the ‘ballast variant’, in
which both the first ˆ:s and the second are essential!
2. Others have suggested that we consider ¬¬, as an interpolation.
91

In spite of the fact that ¬¬, creates problems with respect to the
translation of the text, this hypothesis has gained little if any fol-
lowing.
3. The suggestion that we scrap the second ¬:: has received the most
approval because its presence can be explained as a simple example
of dittography.
92
It is striking, however, that the second ¬:: has
a dageš in the :. This suggests that we are dealing with a hophal
89
See Korpel/De Moor 1988:16: “In accordance with the tendency towards sym-
metry in this kind of poetry the number of feet of the cola forming a verse is usually
the same. However, unbalanced verses are quite common.” Korpel and De Moor
maintain the following rule of thumb with respect to poetry: “Within certain limits
every structural unit could be expanded or contracted, as the singers saw fit.” (2)
90
Marti 1900:208 is of the opinion that the first ˆ:s stems from a gloss ¬:: ˆ:s ,
which was later divided over two verse segments. Fullerton 1920:10 and Procksch
1930(A):356 scrap the first ˆ: s metri causa and support their action with an appeal to the
Septuagint, which only has one λίθον. Boehmer 1923:90 presupposes that the original
reading must have been ¬¬,“ ¬:c ˆ¬: ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: ::“¬ and considers every elaboration
hereof to be artificial (see, in this regard, the critique of Dietrich 1976:164).
91
Duhm 1914
3
:175.
92
See Marti 1900:208, Fullerton 1920:10, Procksch 1930(A):356, Rohland 1956:148,
Donner 1964:148, Wildberger 1982:1064 and Gonçalves 1986:197, KBL/HALAT,
BHS, HAHAT.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 135
participle (cf. hophal perfect ¬:¬ in Ezra 3:11).
93
Based on a count
of the number of syllables it has also been suggested that we read
the second ¬:: as part of the last verse line.
94
Over and against the various attempts to ‘restore’ the balance within
verse 16 by way of emendation, the present author is inclined to follow
the possibility that allows for taking the presence of two bicola instead
of one as its point of departure. Given the fact that the particle ::“¬
enjoys a deictic function and has a distinctive accent T
e
vîr [12], it is
possible that the term should be understood as anacrusis.
95
In light of
the fact that the words ˆ¬: and ¬¬, likewise have distinctive accents,
Gèreš or Tères [13] and Paštā [10] respectively, the Masoretic accentua-
tion leads to the presupposition that the Zion text of verse 16 is made
up of two bicola, with 3 + 2 and 2 + 2 metrical beats:
::“¬ “See, I am the one
ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: who laid in Zion a foundation stone,
ˆ¬: ˆ:s a weighty stone,
¬¬, ¬:c a precious cornerstone,
¬:: ¬:: a sure foundation.”
I consider myself supported in this rendition of the poetic structure of
verse 16 by the observation that ¬: : ¬: : ¬¬ , ¬: c ˆ¬ : ˆ: s read in the
first instance as a single clause, actually consists of three end-rhyming
pairs: ˆ¬ : ˆ: s—¬¬ , ¬: c—¬: : ¬: :.
96
Any attempt to eliminate one of
the components thus disrupts the pattern. The exaggerated impression
created in the meantime by the build-up of characteristics of the stone,
may serve to establish the greatest possible emphasis.
93
Oswalt 1986:519 registers the possibility of an alternative spelling for the same
word, but his suggestion lacks plausibility. GKG § 71 points out that ¬: functions here
as a strong verb because the is understood as a full consonant that is assimilated in
the following consonant.
94
See Roberts 1987:35. Without counting the syllables, Hartenstein 2004:499
makes the same suggestion but proposes an alternative vocalisation. He reads ¬::
in both instances as ¬:: ‘foundation’, although this singular form never occurs in the
Old Testament.
95
This suggestion was proposed by Beuken, although he himself opts for a bicolon
with 5 + 4 beats, which is indeed less unusual than a bicolon with 4 + 6 beats:
ˆ¬: ˆ:s ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬:
¬:: ¬:: ¬¬, ¬:c
The disadvantage of this construction, however, lies not only in the fact that the Atnāch
must be ignored but also in the fact that the style feature of the ‘ballast variant’ is
less manifest.
96
For the function of rhyme as a style feature see Watson 1984:229–234. Cf. the
typography of 28:16 in Jeremias 1930:265.
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136 chapter four
The provision of an accurate translation of the various characteristics
of the stone given in verse 16 is not a simple task. Traditionally, the
word ˆ¬: has been associated with the verb ˆ¬: ‘to test’. In that case,
two possibilities present themselves with respect to the translation of
ˆ¬: ˆ:s: ‘testing stone’
97
or ‘tested stone’.
98
The latter can be objected to
on the basis of the fact that, with one single exception, the verb ˆ¬:
always has God or human beings and their ‘heart’, ‘kidneys’, ‘thoughts’,
‘ways’ or ‘words’ as its object.
99
This makes the translation of ˆ¬ : ˆ: s as
‘tested stone’ implausible, in spite of the fact that Aquila, Symmachus and
Theodotion translated ˆ¬ : ˆ: s with λίθον δόκιμον and the Vulgate with
lapidem probatum.
100
Moreover, the context (verse 17) does not relate
to the testing of the foundation but rather to the building constructed
thereupon.
101
A translation opting for ‘testing stone’ thus fits the context
better, but given the fact that the subject of the verb ˆ¬: is likewise
always personal (God or humans), the sense of such a translation is
not immediately apparent.
102
Given the fact that a satisfactory translation was hard to establish,
scholars have also endeavoured to explain ˆ¬: ˆ:s as a specific sort of
stone. Köhler, who considered ˆ¬ : to be an Egyptian loanword referring
to a particular type of stone used especially for monuments, is associ-
97
Clements 1980(B):231 and Wildberger 1982:1067.
98
Fullerton 1920:3, Exum 1982:126, Klopfenstein 1964:147f.
99
Tsevat 1973:590: “es hat keine sachlich-praktischen Haupt- oder Nebenbereiche,
die die Aufmerksamkeit vom Seelischen oder Religiösen abziehen könnten (Ausnahme
Sach 13,9, ein Gleichnis).” “Somit ist ˆ¬: das Wort, das von allen Synonyma das gei-
stigste ist; bei ihm geht es ganz speziell um die Person.” Cf. Jenni 1978
3
:273.
100
As is evident from the translation of ˆ¬ : by ἐκλεκτὸν, the Septuagint would appear
to have based itself on the verb ¬¬: ‘to choose’. Cf. λίθους ἐκλεκτοὺς in LXX 54:12.
101
Cf. Roberts 1987:30.
102
Wildberger 1982:1076–1077 translates ˆ¬: ˆ:s as ‘testing stone’ and offers a strictly
metaphorical explanation. Jerusalem is to be subjected to God’s judgement on account
of its faith or lack thereof. According to Wildberger, the ‘testing stone’ mentioned in
verse 16 is one of the instruments of God’s judgement in addition to the ‘measuring
line of justice’ and the ‘plummet of righteousness’ in verse 17a. It is clear that Wildberger
bases his interpretation on the presupposition that verse 16 is referring to the future,
although the verse cannot be a promise of salvation for form-critical reasons. This
leads to his somewhat artificial metaphorical interpretation of the stone in verse 16.
The stone in question, however, is given so much emphasis that one cannot avoid the
conclusion that the prophet is explicitly drawing attention to the object itself. The use
of ‘foundation’ terminology likewise makes a metaphorical explanation of the stone
as an instrument of divine judgement virtually impossible.
103
Köhler 1947:390–393. See also KBL/HALAT. This perspective is followed by
Fohrer 1962:54, 59, Donner 1964:152, Driver 1968:59, Huber 1976:91 and Petersen
1979:110. Dietrich 1976:164 is of the opinion that Köhlers interpretation is not of
essential significance for the interpretation of the text.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 137
ated in particular with this interpretation.
103
The question remains,
however, whether the said Egyptian bhn-stone was already being used
in ancient Jerusalem at the time of the prophet Isaiah.
104
Inspired by
the potentially Egyptian associations of ˆ¬:, others have suggested that
we identify ˆ:s ˆ:s with the Egyptian bn bn ‘obelisk’.
105
The question of
the suitability of such an obelisk as a foundation stone to one side,
106

this interpretation simply ignores the structure of verse 16 as outlined
above. Others still have endeavoured to identify the Egyptian bhn with
the Greek βάσανος, the well-known testing stone employed since the
end of the sixth century BCE to establish the purity of gold.
107
Egyptian
bhn-stone, however, turns out to be a material used for statues, steles
and sarcophaguses quarried at Wadi Hammamat and commonly known
today as greywacke (a sort of grey sandstone).
108
More acceptable than the idea that ˆ¬: ˆ:s represents one or other
type of Egyptian stone is the possibility of associating ˆ¬: with ˆ¬: in
23:13 (Ketib :¬: with Qere :¬:; NRSV: ‘their siege towers’) and with
ˆ¬: in 32:14 (NRSV: ‘watchtower’). It is probable that the first Qumran
Isaiah scroll (1QIsa
a
) read ˆ¬ : in 28:16 rather than ˆ¬ :, otherwise a mater
lectionis would have been introduced and the term written as ˆ¬:.
109
The
community of Qumran thus identified ˆ¬: in 28:16 with ˆ¬ : employed in
23:13 and 32:14. This would also appear to be the case in the passages
that make reference to 28:16 in ‘The Rule of the Community’ (1QS
8,5–8) and in ‘The Thanksgiving Scroll’ (1QH
a
14,25–27 and 15,8–9).
Basing himself on the manuscripts of Qumran, Tsevat is thus able to
propose the translation ‘fortification stone’.
110
While Wildberger is critical
104
Tsevat 1973:591 and Wildberger 1982:1066 argue that such stones were only
imported into Palestine at a later date. Roberts 1987:30 does not ascribe much weight
to this objection, arguing that ˆ¬: might likewise be a loanword for a different type of
stone. There is no evidence to support this argument.
105
LeBas 1950:103–115.
106
Wildberger 1982:1066.
107
See Köhler 1947:390–393.
108
See Harris 1961:78–82 and Nicholson/Shaw 2000:57–58.
109
See Otzen 1957:94–95 and Wernberg-Møller 1958:248. Cf. Gonçalves 1992
III:471: “Every instance of the vowels o and u, whether long or short, is rendered
by waw.”
110
Tsevat 1973:591: “d.h. der für den Burgbau der Königszeit charakteristerische
Quader.” Tsevat refers in this regard to the image and description found in Galling
1937:372f. Roberts 1987:33 agrees with Tsevat and concludes: “Indeed all three of the
Qumran passages interpret Isa 28:16 as referring to a place of refuge and therefore
emphasize the solidity of the structure envisioned.” See also HAHAT, DCH and Betz
1987:95–96.
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138 chapter four
of this translation, given that the three documents from Qumran only
offer general allusions to 28:16 and therefore do not permit far reach-
ing conclusions,
111
it is striking to say the least that a similar sort of
explanation governed the later Jewish tradition.
112
The suggestion that
we read ˆ¬: ˆ:s as a reference to a sort of fortification stone fits well
in verse 16 in which foundation terminology is given such a particular
accent. The combination ˆ¬ : ˆ: s might therefore be translated as ‘heavy
stone’.
113
Any endeavour to establish the reasons behind the Masoretic
vocalisation ˆ¬:, however, remains guesswork.
114
The heavy stone mentioned in verse 16 is further described with the
term ¬:c , a word that is to be found, for the most part, in the context
of building and construction. A few references can be found elsewhere
in the Old Testament in which allusion is made to a ¬:c ˆ:s ‘cornerstone’
(see Job 38:6; Jer. 51:26 and Ps. 118:22).
115
In verse 16, the cornerstone
in question is further qualified as ¬¬, ‘precious’. The combination ˆ:s
¬¬,“ ‘precious stone’ or ‘jewel’ is likewise to be found elsewhere in the
Old Testament.
116
Where verse 16 is concerned, the plural form μ::s
¬¬,“ employed in 1 Kgs 5:31 (NRSV 5:17) and 7:9–11 is of primary
significance. The ‘precious stones’ referred to in 1 Kgs 5:31 in particular
are used for the foundation of the temple, while those mentioned in
111
Wildberger 1982:1066.
112
Roberts 1987:33–34 points to the Targum’s Messianic interpretation, which
places the emphasis on the power of the future king and recognises in ˆ¬: in 28:16
the same word as in 32:14 and 23:13. He goes on to speak of the medieval Jewish
scholars Rashi and David Kimchi who both explain ˆ¬: in 28:16 as ¬.:: ‘fortification’
with reference to 32:14. Ibn Ezra follows a similar line of thought but without the use
of ¬.::. Saadia’s Arabic translation likewise employs one and the same word in the
three Isaiah texts: ‘fortification’.
113
Cf. the translation found in Beuken 2000:12: ‘a massive stone’.
114
Intentional ambiguity based on a conscious allusion to the verb ˆ¬: ‘to test’, belongs
among the various possibilities but remains uncertain.
115
Jer. 51:26 places ¬¬::: ˆ:s next to ¬:c: ˆ:s. Cf. Oeming 1989:627. The
Septuagint of 28:16 translates ¬:c with ἀκρογωνιαῖον. This term is also employed
in Eph. 2:20 and 1 Pet. 2:6. Jeremias 1930:264–280; 1933:792–793 understands
ἀκρογωνιαῖος in Eph. 2:20 and 1 Pet. 2:6 and κεφαλὴ γωνίας in Mk 12:10 par.;
Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:7 as a capstone introduced above an entrance. The Greek
term ἀκρογωνιαῖος should only be understood as ‘cornerstone’ in LXX Isa. 28:16. This
vision initially attracted a considerable following that has dissipated in recent years.
Cf. Merklein 1973:144–152. Cf., however, Cahill 1999:345–357.
116
See 2 Sam. 12:30; 1 Kgs 10:2,10,11; 1 Chron. 20:2; 29:2; 2 Chron. 3:6; 9:1,9,10;
32:27; Ezek. 27:22; 28:13; Dan. 11:38. GKG § 130f
1
considers ¬¬, to be a noun
and not an adjective: ‘a cornerstone of the preciousness of a fixed foundation’, or: ‘a
precious cornerstone of surest foundation’. Roberts 1987:34 points out, however, that
Deut. 21:11 contains a similar construction of noun and adjective, both in the status
constructus and followed by a further noun.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 139
1 Kgs 7:9–11 are used for the foundation as well as the construction of
the palace of Solomon. It should not go unnoticed that the verb ¬: ‘to
lay a foundation’ is employed in both texts in close association with the
said ¬¬,“ μ::s and in like fashion to the Zion text in 28:16.
117
The
aforementioned ¬¬, “ μ: : s must in any event have referred to substan-
tial stones suitable for tooling that could be used in the foundations of
a building.
118
The important parallel between the Zion text of 28:16 on
the one hand and 1 Kgs 5:31 and 7:9–11 on the other run counter to
the explanation of Köhler who considers ¬¬, to be a hapax, derived
from the verb ¬¬, ‘to encounter’. Köhler thus understands the ‘corner’
in 28:16 to be the place at which the foundation walls meet.
119
The use of the construct form associates ¬¬, ¬:c directly with the
following ¬:: ¬::. The first ¬:: is a substantive meaning ‘foundation’
(cf. 2 Chron. 8:16).
120
The second ¬:: should probably be understood
as a hophal participle of ¬: (cf. Ezra 3:11), functioning in 28:16 to
reinforce the first ¬::. We are thus left with the figura etymologica ‘a
founded foundation’, whereby significant emphasis is placed on the said
foundation.
121
In order to understand what the prophet had in mind when he spoke
of the weighty and precious cornerstone laid by yhwh in Zion as an
immovable foundation, it makes sense to include the statement found
in 14:32b in our considerations. In the text in question, which, in addi-
tion to the Zion text of 28:16 itself, also exhibits semantic conformity
with its direct context via the use of the verb ¬:¬ ‘to hide, take refuge’
(cf. the references to the ¬:¬: ‘hiding place, refuge’ chosen by the leaders
of Jerusalem in 28:15,17 and related to the Zion tradition), Zion itself
is seen as the object of foundation:
117
See 1 Kgs 5:31: ¬.: ::s ¬:¬ ¬:: ¬¬,“ μ::s ¬:¬:“ μ::s .: ¸::¬ .“
(NRSV 5:17: “At the king’s command, they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the
foundation of the house with dressed stones.”); 1 Kgs 7:10: ¬:¬:“ μ::s ¬¬,“ μ::s ¬::
¬:s ¬::: ::s“ ¬:s ¬:. ::s (NRSV: “The foundation was of costly stones, huge stones,
stones of eight and ten cubits.”)
118
Cf. Wagner 1982:858: “Da das Steinmaterial in Palästina in der Qualität unter-
schiedlich ist, wird diese Notiz besagen, daß es feste und hinsichtlich ihres Maßes
besonders große Steine sein müssen, die als Fundamentsteine zu Quadersteinen bear-
beitet werden können.” “jqr gewinnt die Bedeutung von ‘geeignet’.”
119
Köhler 1947:391.
120
The feminine form ¬¬:: occurs in 30:32 and the plural form ¬¬:: in the
Qere associated with Ezek. 41:8.
121
Cf. GKG § 117pr and J-M § 125p. Krauss 1945:31 compares the statement ¬::
¬:: with μ¬:¬ ¬: and translates ‘the best of the foundation, the peak of them’.
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140 chapter four
ˆ. ¬: ¬¬“ : For YHWH has founded Zion,
: :. :. :¬‘ ¬: and the needy among his people will
find refuge in her.
Given the significant agreement between both texts in terms of content
and semantics, the preposition : in ˆ.: in 28:16 is sometimes under-
stood as a :-essentiae, meaning ‘in the quality of ’.
122
Roberts is of the
opinion, however, that the :-essentiae should have been placed before
ˆ:s and not ˆ. and he argues in favour of a locative interpretation
with respect to the preposition :.
123
The present author is inclined to
agree that in this instance the interpretation of the preposition as a
:-essentiae is not entirely adequate, given the use of the :-essentiae
elsewhere.
124
A strictly locative interpretation, however, leaves the
impression, perhaps incorrectly, that the stone and Zion are to be dis-
tinguished from one another, while the said stone would appear rather
to allude to the secret of Zion. The formulation in 28:16 (ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬:)
is clearly more elaborate than in 14:32 (ˆ. ¬:), but in essence they are
virtually synonymous. In any case, it is in all respects probable that the
prophet Isaiah used the foundation stone set in Zion (cf. ¬¬::: ˆ:s
in Jer. 51:26) to allude to God’s election of Zion as his dwelling place
(see 8:18 for yhwh’s dwelling in Zion). The semantic field employed in
verse 15 also points in this direction.
125
Zion thus functions as a symbol
of God’s presence and thereby as synonymous with the temple. This
would also appear to be evident from the semantic field employed by
the prophet in the verse following verse 16.
Verse 16 concludes with the short monocolon :¬ s: ˆ:s:¬ which
serves structurally to delineate the verse in question from verse 17
following.
126
The Septuagint closely associates this clause with that which
precedes it by translating καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.
The plus ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ refers to the stone already mentioned that can now
122
See GKG § 119i (“I make Zion a foundation”), Huber 1976:91, Irwin 1977:31
and Gonçalves 1986:213.
123
Roberts 1987:29. Beuken 2000:15 follows along similar lines.
124
Cf. J-M § 133c, DCH, and in particular Jenni 1992:79–89. Jenni does not
dedicate a separate discussion to Isa. 28:16, although he does list the text under the
locative use of :.
125
See also Beuken 2000:49.
126
For the given function of the monocolon in Biblical Hebrew Poetry see Watson
1984:168–172. Fokkelman 2000:54 characterises the monocolon literally as a “peripheral
phenomenon: it mostly occupies a demarcating position at the beginning or the end
of a higher textual unit such as a strophe or stanza.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 140 1/18/2007 2:17:50 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 141
be understood in Messianic terms.
127
While the New Testament has
adopted the said plus (see Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6) and understands
the Zion text of 28:16 in Messianic terms, this interpretation does not
square with the significance of the Hebrew text, which uses the verb
ˆ:s hi. ‘to believe’ in the absolute sense.
128
As far as the latter is concerned,
there is a surprising agreement with the way in which ˆ:s hi. is similarly
employed in 7:9 in the absolute sense. The statement : ::s¬ s: μs
::s¬ s: in 7:9 (NRSV: “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand
at all.”) lacks an explicit reference to an antecedent.
129
In addition to the aforementioned syntactic agreements between the
‘faith statements’ of 28:16 and 7:9, agreement can also be established
with respect to their content. The background against which the state-
ment of 7:9 resounds is that of yhwh’s salvific deeds in relation to the
royal house of David. In 2 Sam. 7:16, yhwh promises David by way
of the prophet Nathan that his house and monarchy will last. In Isa.
7:4–9, King Ahaz is encouraged to hold on to this promise, which is
confirmed once again in the Immanuel prophecy explicitly directed to
the house of David in 7:14. If Ahaz trusts in yhwh’s salvific interven-
tion, his throne also shall stand firm. Yhwh himself will ensure that the
hostile plan to make the son of Tabeel king of Judah comes to nothing
(7:6–7). Just as the ‘faith statement’ of 7:9 should be understood against
the background of yhwh’s salvific activity on behalf of the house of
David, so the ‘faith statement’ of 28:16 acquires its expressiveness from
the salvific activities of yhwh with respect to Zion. Given that ˆ:s hi.
is also used in the absolute sense in 28:16, it seems evident that the
concluding ‘faith statement’ should not only be related to the stone as
127
Eichrodt 1967:134 considers the text of the Septuagint to be a degeneration of
prophetic grandeur because faith in the Septuagint is no longer focused on God but
on the foundation stone set by God. Faith is thus no longer an all-embracing spiritual
attitude but is related rather to the temple. In the New Testament, the original mean-
ing of faith as a personal relationship emerges once again because it focuses faith on
Christ.
128
For a survey of the discussion surrounding the meaning of ˆ:s hi. see Ridderbos
1970:167–178 and Jepsen 1973:320–333. In light of Ridderbos’ critique, Wildberger’s
contribution 1978
3
:187–193 will have to be treated with a degree of reserve. Even when
ˆ:s hi. is used in the absolute, as in 7:9 and 28:16, it is apparent from the context that
‘to believe’ can be related to the prophetic word that has been uttered and need not
represent a designation of a particular personal attitude. Cf. Jepsen 1973:329: “ˆ:s¬
ist hier (in 7:9, JD) das Ernstnehmen eines ganz konkreten Gotteswortes; an diesem
Ernstnehmen hängt die Existenz.” See also Sedlmeier 2000:38–53 and the recent study
of Hagelia 2001:26–53.
129
The formulation in 7:9, by contrast, is supported by an antecedent in 2 Chron.
20:20: ::s¬“ μ:¬:s‘ ¬¬: ::s¬ ‘Believe in YHWH your God and you will be established.’
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142 chapter four
such but also to the entire Zion text.
130
In our study so far, it has become
apparent that the Zion text should not be interpreted as a promise for
the future but as a salvation-historical retrospective moment offered
within the framework of an announcement of judgement. The explicit
remembrance of God’s salvific deeds on behalf of Zion underlines
the seriousness of the judgement being announced. If the rulers of
Jerusalem were only to trust in yhwh’s salvific deeds then they would
have no reason to seek their refuge elsewhere (cf. 30:2).
The interpretation of :¬ s : clearly represents an exegetical crux.
The verb form :¬ is to be understood as a hiph il imperfect of the
verb :¬ ‘to hurry oneself ’, but the precise meaning of the hiph il is difficult
to determine in the semantic context. Given their deviation from the
Masoretic text, the ancient translations would already appear to have
had the necessary problems with the text. The Septuagint probably
read :: s: ‘he shall not be ashamed’ (cf. :,. :: ¬¬.s: in 29:22).
131

The Syriac translation and the Targum may have read :¬ s: ‘he shall
not be anxious’ (cf. :¬“,: :¬ :: in Ps. 55:5).
132
In spite of the fact that
proposed emendations are numerous, remaining with the Masoretic text
is recommended when searching for an adequate translation.
133
The
primary meaning of the verb :¬ qal/hi. is ‘to hurry oneself ’ (cf. 5:19), but
the hiph il can also be understood in the transitive sense ‘to speed up’ (cf.
60:22).
134
Based on 28:16 the majority of the lexica presuppose a third
130
Cf. Beuken 2000:50. I see no reason to consider the statement concerning faith
as an originally independent proverb without direct relationship to the context as
Hagelia 2001:41 proposes. Hagelia would appear to need this presupposition in order
to be able to include 28:16 in his research into the Yahwistic spirituality of ancient
Israel. Together with 7:9, Hagelia sees 28:16 as ‘the core of the man-God-relation in
Isaiah’. (53)
131
Procksch 1930(A):358 suggests that we emend the Masoretic text in this sense.
Wildberger 1982:1067 correctly counters this suggestion, arguing that :¬ s: cannot
be explained as a corruption of :: s:. Seeligmann 1948:56 has noted, moreover,
that free rendition of verb forms in the hiph il is particularly characteristic of the
Septuagint of Isaiah.
132
Donner 1964:148 points also to Ps. 29:6, although a hiph il :¬ is used at this
juncture.
133
BHK mentions the option ¬¬ s: ‘do not be shocked’ (cf. 30:31), Fullerton 1920:42,
Wolff 1973
3
:31 and many others give preference to the reading :: s: ‘shall not shift
from his place’ (cf. 54:10). Procksch 1930(A):358 mentions the option ::¬ s: ‘do not be
weak’ (cf. Job 14:10), but gives preference to the reading :: s: on the basis of the
Septuagint.
134
The verb :¬ is employed in the Old Testament for the most part in the qal (15x),
primarily in the Psalms and in the context of the psalmist’s appeal to God to hasten
to help him (see Ps. 22:20; 38:23; 40:14; 70:2,6; 71:12; 141:1). Beyse 1977:821–822
points to similar prayers in Ugaritic texts.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 142 1/18/2007 2:17:51 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 143
meaning, namely ‘to show oneself agitated’ or ‘to give way’.
135
The most
obvious interpretation of the :¬ hi., however, remains ‘to hurry oneself ’,
whereby the allusion to the alliance with Egypt in the complaint of verse
15 suggests ‘hurrying elsewhere’. Reference to Ps. 55:9 may be of value in
this regard, the verse in question being one of the few places in which
the verb :¬ is likewise employed in the hiph il.
136
Strikingly enough,
Ps. 55:9 speaks of the hasty search for a place of refuge whereby the
metaphor of the storm is used as in Isa. 28:16. Given the fact that the
semantic field of verse 15 is related to numerous psalms, it is possible to
determine the meaning of :¬ s: along similar lines and translate ‘he
shall not hurry off ’.
137
The advantage of such a translation is that, given
the background of the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, it can refer
to the search for refuge in Egypt and to a more general religious sense
of inner conflict.
138
Yhwh’s salvific activity with respect to Zion implies
the promise of a safe refuge for his people (cf. 14:32). The leaders in
Jerusalem misunderstand yhwh’s deed, however, and they hurry off in
search of refuge elsewhere (cf. 30:2). In light of God’s salvific deeds on
135
See KBL: ‘sich aufgeregt zeigen’; DCH: ‘give way, be dislodged’; HALAT:
‘weichen’. KBL and HALAT refer hereby to Driver 1931:253f. Based, among other
things, on the Akkadian ašu ‘to stumble’, Driver translates: ‘shall not be agitated’, ‘shall
not be moved’. Wildberger 1982:1067 argues that this translation strays too far from
the Hebrew, while Oswalt 1986:514 and Beuken 2000:15 agree with Driver. Roberts
1987:36 similarly appeals to the Akkadian ašu, but relates it to the foundations on
the basis of 1QS 8,8 and translates ‘a foundation which will not shake for the one
who trusts’. Cf. Hartenstein 2004:499–505 who changes the vocalisation, ignores the
syntactic agreement with Isa. 7:9 and translates as follows: ‘ein Fundament, das fest ist, nicht
weicht es.’ To support his proposed translation, Hartenstein not only refers to 1QS 8,8,
but also to a few Hittite and Mesopotamian iconographic and textual examples that
demonstrate the symbolic significance attached to the founding of temple buildings
in the Near Eastern world. Founding rituals stressed the idea of the building’s stabil-
ity. It is not necessary, however, to follow the vocalisation and translation proposed by
Hartenstein to admit that the said idea of stability does indeed play an important role
in the stone metaphor of Isa. 28:16.
136
:¬ hi. occurs only five or six times in the Old Testament (see Judg. 20:37; Ps.
55:9; Isa. 5:19; 28:16 and 60:22; Job 31:5 is uncertain).
137
The suggestion has been made that we read : in 28:16 instead of s:: ‘the one
who believes will hasten to this sure foundation’. Wildberger 1982:1067 mentions the name
of Montgomery Hitchcock in this regard. In spite of the fact that :¬ hi. is used in its
absolute form, Tsevat 1973:591–592 considers the possibility of a causative translation:
‘wer vertraut, drängt nicht’, or in other words: he can wait.
138
Beyse 1977:821–822 observes that the verb :¬ can also be used for inner move-
ment with respect to human beings and presupposes that :¬ in 28:16 functions as a
designation of internal restlessness: “Die Haltung der Glaubende beschreibt Jes 28,16
‘Der Glaubende wird nicht fliehen’, wobei hier wie bei Ps 55,9 weniger an eine wirkliche
Flucht gedacht ist, sondern :¬ die innere Unruhe bezeichnet.”
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144 chapter four
Zion’s behalf, the prophet considered this behaviour reproachable and
rooted in a lack of faith. It thus serves to underline the seriousness of
the pending announcement of judgement.
139
There is no adequate reason to conceive the words :¬ s: ˆ: s : ¬ as
a sort of inscription carved into the foundation stone. The monocolon
with which verse 16 concludes does not draw attention to a possible
inscription but rather to the implications of yhwh’s act of laying a
stone in Zion. The emphasis is placed entirely on the reliability of
God’s salvific acts with respect to Zion.
140
4.2.3. Isa. 28:17a: The benchmarks of justice
,: :c:: ¬::“ 17a “Thus I will make justice the line,
¬:,::: ¬,¬. and righteousness the plummet.”
In light of the fact that the Zion text of verse 16 is often incorrectly
understood as a promise of salvation with a view to the future, scholars
have frequently taken the words of verse 17a to be a component of
the said promise. Verse 17a does indeed follow seamlessly after verse
16, not only at the level of syntax (the consecutive perfect gives the
verse the character of a continuation), but also because the statement
in verse 17a is in the first person and it extends the use of building
terminology. Even the 3 + 2 meter employed in verse 17a echoes the
short cola out of which the Zion text of verse 16 is constructed.
141

Everything would appear to suggest, therefore, that verse 17a should
be read together with the Zion text of verse 16 as a single unit. It has
become apparent from our exegesis in the meantime that the Zion text
of 28:16 constitutes part of an announcement of judgement and not
139
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:201–202: “Loin d’atténuer la gravité de la faute des destina-
taires ou d’adoucir la menace, cette promesse ne fait que souligner l’une et renforcer
l’autre. En effet, la faute des destinataires devient d’autant plus grave qu’ils refusent
formellement les conditions du salut que Yahvé leur avait explicitement dictées et leur
opposent leurs propres plans.”
140
Based on the use of the singular, Beuken 2000:50–51 considers it possible that
the final clause in the present context should be associated with the prophet himself
as a sort of encouragement following the mocking reaction of his opponents (28:9).
Similar encouragement is found elsewhere (see 8:11–18). According to Beuken, the
final redaction of the book of Isaiah is characterised by a tendency to present Isaiah
to its readers as an example of obedience in faith. The final words of verse 16 are
thus indirectly addressed to the readers of the book.
141
The prophet makes use of a bicolon in verse 17a with synonymous parallelism
whereby the second colon lacks an equivalent for the verb form ¬::“ . This style figure
is familiar to us as ellipsis. Watson 1984:174–177 speaks of an ‘abc // b’c’ couplet’.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 144 1/18/2007 2:17:52 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 145
a promise of salvation. In light of the apparent unity between verse
16 and verse 17a, therefore, it would be strange to say the least if the
latter were to contain just such a promise of salvation. At any rate, the
syntactic cohesion between the two verses strongly suggests that we read
verse 17a within the framework of an announcement of judgement.
The place occupied by verse 17a within such a framework, however, is
not the same as that occupied by the Zion text of verse 16, which we
characterised as a salvation-historical retrospective moment. Verse 17a
is unmistakably future oriented. This temporal transition does not come
entirely out of the blue, however, since it has already been heralded by
the fact that verse 16 ends with a monocolon, whereby the Zion text
is, to a degree, structurally detached from what follows.
142
In order to
express this transition in the translation, therefore, verse 17a is presented
as a concluding clause. The evident syntactic cohesion between verse
16 and verse 17a can be understood in the meantime as intended to
underline the unity of God’s activities.
143
The content of verse 17a confirms our suspicion that the passage
should indeed be interpreted as an announcement of judgement. Refer-
ence is made to two instruments of measurement, namely , ‘(measuring)
line’ and ¬:,:: ‘plummet’, which belong among the standard tools of
the carpenter (cf. 44:13). Unlike , , ¬:,:: only occurs elsewhere in
the Old Testament in one other place (2 Kgs 21:13). On the surface,
both , and ¬:,:: can be understood as neutral terms for tools that
carry no specific positive or negative connotations (cf. 1 Kgs 7:23; 2
Chron. 4:2; Jer. 31:39; Ezek. 47:3). The building terminology employed
in 28:16–17a is also to be found in Job 38:4–6, in which reference is
made to the foundations of the earth, using not only the verb ¬: ‘to
found’ but also the expression ¬¬:c ˆ:s ‘her cornerstone’. The use of ,
‘a (measuring) line’ is likewise presupposed. Similarities with Job 38:4–6,
however, should not lead to the conclusion that 28:17a is referring to the
construction of a (new) building (cf. Zech. 1:16), since it would appear
that , is repeatedly used as a metaphor in the context of judgement
(2 Kgs 21:13; Isa. 34:11,17; Lam. 2:8).
144
2 Kgs 21:13 is of particular
importance in this regard because it represents the only other place in
142
For the function of the monocolon in Hebrew poetry see Watson 1984:168–172
and Fokkelman 2000:54.
143
Cf. Beuken 2000:52: “. . . the past founding act (v. 16) and the present establish-
ment of a measuring line (v. 17a) can be seen as forming the one building activity
of yhwh.”
144
Cf. Beyse 1989:1224.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 145 1/18/2007 2:17:52 PM

146 chapter four
which , and ¬:,:: are used in parallel with one another, while the
judgement context is comparable with that of 28:17a. In 2 Kgs 21:13,
yhwh announces that He intends to employ the same measuring line
in his judgement of Jerusalem as He once did with respect to Samaria
and the house of Ahab: ¬: ¬:,::¬s“ ˆ¬:: , ¬s μ::¬“:. ¬::“
:s¬s (NRSV: “I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line for Samaria, and
the plummet for the house of Ahab . . .” ).
145
In contrast to 2 Kgs 21:13, the measuring line and plummet are
further concretised in verse 17a. :c:: and ¬,¬. are referred to as
benchmarks of judgement. While :c:: stands for legal order in gen-
eral, the word ¬,¬. places the emphasis more specifically on the actual
behaviour that would be expected from :c : : in general. The combina-
tion of :c:: and ¬,¬. is characteristic of the idiom of the prophet
Isaiah.
146
According to the prophecy of 1:21–26, it was God’s intention
that Jerusalem be filled with :c:: and ¬,¬. , but that He was forced
to observe that the opposite was the case. The same disappointment is
expressed in the Song of the Vineyard (5:1–7), which concludes with
the familiar and unambiguous statement: ¬,¬.: ¬c:: ¬:¬“ :c::: ,“
¬,.. ¬:¬“ (NRSV: “He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but
heard a cry.”). It could not have been considered other than threatening,
when yhwh states in verse 17a that it is precisely these two things, :c : :
and ¬, ¬ . , that would be used as measuring line and plummet by which
his own people would be measured (cf. Amos 7:7–8).
147
In spite of the fact that the building terminology employed in verse
17a is ascribed negative connotations in contrast to the Zion text of
145
It is striking that the Septuagint understood , to have stemmed from the verb
¬, ‘to hope ( for)’ and translated ¬:,:: with the noun σταθμός ‘balance’, ‘weight’ (also:
‘stopping place’, ‘doorpost’; cf. τὸ μέτρον and τὸ στάθμιον in 2 Kgs 21:13). The words
:c:: and ¬,¬. are translated by the Septuagint as κρίσις ‘judgement’ and ἐλεημοσύνη
‘compassion’: καὶ θήσω κρίσιν εἰς ἐλπίδα ἡ δὲ ἐλεημοσύνη μου εἰς σταθμούς. In 1:27
and 59:16 the Septuagint likewise translates ¬, ¬ . as ἐλεημοσύνη (cf. Deut. 6:25; 24:13;
Ps. 23:5 = MT 24:5; 32:5 = MT 33:5; 102:6 = MT 103:6), although the translation
δικαιοσύνη is also to be found in the book of Isaiah and the term ἐλεημοσύνη is the
usual translation of the Hebrew term ¬:¬ (see Prov. 3:3; 15:27; 19:22; 20:28; 21:21;
31:28). The announcement of judgement in verse 17a is thus unmistakably trans-
formed into an announcement of salvation: ‘and I will cause judgement to be for hope, and
my compassion shall be for just measures.’
146
For the combination of :c:: and ¬,¬. see Johnson 1989:907–908. Von Rad II
1980
7
:156 notes that these words have a central role to play in the preaching of Isaiah
whom he calls ‘ein unerbittlicher Wächter und Sprecher des Gottesrechtes’.
147
Donner 1964:153 incorrectly understands :c:: and ¬,¬. to be instruments in
the service of the construction work of verse 16.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 146 1/18/2007 2:17:52 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 147
verse 16, it remains important that we have a clear picture of the
cohesion between the two verses. In order to underline the seriousness
of the judgement, the prophet offers a salvation-historical retrospective
in verse 16, thus calling to mind yhwh’s salvific activity with respect
to Zion. It is precisely this activity towards Zion, however, that has
implications for the maintenance of justice. YHWH’s inhabitation of
Mount Zion (8:18) is inseparably linked to the demand for justice
and righteousness (5:16; cf. 1:27).
148
Without making use of the terms
:c : : and ¬, ¬ . , the important Zion text of 14:32 would likewise
appear to underline the relationship between God’s salvific activity
on Zion’s behalf on the one hand, and the maintenance of justice on
the other.
149
It would appear implicit from the final words of verse 16
that the rulers of Jerusalem misunderstood yhwh’s deeds on behalf of
Zion. In verse 17a, therefore, the conclusion is drawn that yhwh has
the right to ‘measure’ his people on the basis of his former deeds of
salvation. The instruments of his act of judgement are determined by
his own deeds of salvation.
150
The announcement of judgement thus
flows immediately forth from the misunderstanding of God’s salvific
deeds on behalf of Zion.
By way of summary, therefore, we can state that the , and ¬:,::
referred to in verse 17a are not intended for a (new) building project,
but function rather as instruments intended to take measure of the exist-
ing situation.
151
The use of the metaphor of the measuring line should
be understood against the background of the fact that the rulers of
Jerusalem were expected to build further on the foundations established
by yhwh, according to the same norms of justice and righteousness
that are now being introduced as benchmarks of judgement.
152
4.2.4. Isa. 28:17b–18: Actual announcement of judgement
:.: ¬:¬: ¬¬: ¬.“ 17b Then shall hail sweep away the refuge of lies,
c:: μ: ¬¬:“ and waters will overwhelm the shelter;
¬:¬s μ:¬¬: ¬c:“ 18 then your covenant with death will be wiped out!
μ,¬ s: :s:¬s μ:¬.¬“ and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
148
The motif of salvific expectation associated with :c:: and ¬,¬. enjoys a place
of primary importance (see 9:6; 11:3–5; 16:5; 32:1,16; 33:5; 56:1).
149
Cf. Beuken 2000:49.
150
Cf. Petersen 1979:111.
151
See Fohrer 1962:60, Kaiser 1976
2
:202, Clements 1980(B):231, Wildberger
1982:1077 and Schneider 1988:387.
152
Cf. 1 Pet. 3:10–15.
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148 chapter four
¬:. : π:: :: when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
::¬“:: : 쬬 you will be beaten down by it.
Having first established the benchmarks of judgement in verse 17a,
the actual announcement of judgement is further concretised in verses
17b–18. The content of the announced judgement corresponds with the
content of the accusation formulated in verse 15. A chiastic structure is
evident in both passages. The sequence in verse 15 runs as follows:
A ¬:¬s ¬¬: :¬¬: // ¬.¬ ::. :s:μ.“
B :s:“ s: [¬:. ] (¬:. ): π:: [::] (:: )
C ::¬: :.: ::: : // :¬“¬:: ¬,::
The sequence in the announcement of judgement in verses 17b and
18 runs:
C’ :.: ¬:¬: ¬¬: ¬.“ // c:: μ: ¬¬:“
A’ ¬:¬s μ:¬¬: ¬c:“ // μ,¬ s: :s:¬s μ:¬.¬“
B’ ::¬“:: : 쬬 ¬:. : π:: ::

The accusation in verse 15 and the announcement of judgement in
verses 17b–18 thus mirror one another more or less.
153
The chiastic
structure is disrupted, however, by the fact that the expression relating
to ‘the overwhelming scourge’ is removed from the central position in the
announcement of judgement. Although Fullerton is of the opinion that
the announcement of judgement would have been more eloquent had
the chiastic structure been maintained, this is open to question.
154
In
our treatment of the accusation in verse 15, we were able to determine
that the central bicolon contained the bragging statement of which the
prophet is accusing his opponents: ‘When the overwhelming scourge passes
through it will not come to us! ’ (B). In both the surrounding bicola of verse
15 (A and C), the prophet provides the background to the said boast-
ing in his own, decidedly ironic terms. The fact that the bicolon (B’),
which corresponds with the boasting statement, is no longer central
but rather concludes the chiasm, has the effect of focusing attention
on the judgement given in response to the boasting. The judgement is
153
Fey 1963:123 speaks of a ‘nahezu spiegelbildliche Gerichtsankündigung.’ Cf.
Watson 1994:61: “The chiastic pattern (. . .) is evident as is its function: to express the
reversal of existing conditions.”
154
Fullerton 1920:18.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 148 1/18/2007 2:17:53 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 149
devastating. The prophet exposes the naïve self-confidence of his oppo-
nents, confronting them with hard reality: the overwhelming scourge
will beat them down. Given the incomplete chiasm, this segment of
the announcement of judgement thus concludes with the inauspicious
::¬“::.
In like fashion to the corresponding bicola in verse 15 (A and C), both
bicola of verses 17b and 18a (C’ and A’) exhibit a chiastic structure.
While the chiasm is complete in the first bicolon (C’: abc // c’b’a’), the
second bicolon (A’), in line with the corresponding bicolon from verse
15 (A), can be understood as examples of ‘split-member chiasmus’
(a-bc // b’c’-a’).
155
The chiastic structure of verses 17b and 18 results in
the avoidance of a sequence of w
e
qatal clauses (cf. v. 13b). The poetic
character of the announcement of judgement is reinforced by the
imagery employed by the prophet. He refers to ¬¬ : ‘hail’ and μ : ‘waters’
as the elements yhwh is going to use in order to carry out his judge-
ment. Such imagery points unmistakably in the direction of Assyria (cf.
8:5–8) and is also determinative for the prophecy of judgement against
Samaria/Ephraim in 28:2.
156
In verse 15, Assyria’s imperialistic and
expansionist character had already been indicated with the expression
π: : [::](:: ) ‘the overwhelming scourge’. The prophet consciously returns
to this allusion to Assyria in verse 17b in his use of the verb π:: ‘to
flow’. As a matter of fact, the rulers of Jerusalem must face the same
misfortune as that encountered by the drunkards of Ephraim (28:2f ).
The expression :.: ¬:¬: ‘refuge of lies’ and the term ¬¬: ‘shelter’ (bico-
lon C’) echo the terminology employed in the accusation in verse 15
(bicolon C).
157
It is now evident why the prophet was already able to
characterise the refuge in verse 15 as :.: ‘lies’ and the shelter as ¬,:
‘falsehood ’. The rulers of Jerusalem are to emerge deceived from yhwh’s
judgement, because the said refuge and shelter have no protection to
offer in spite of exaggerated expectations.
158
155
Bicolon A from verse 15 is characterised by the pattern ab-c // c’-a’b’. Cf.
Exum 1982:127. See Watson 1984:203; 1994:337–338 on so-called ‘split-member
chiasmus’.
156
Kaiser 1976
2
:201 points out that here and elsewhere, hail represents an instru-
ment of eschatological judgement. Cf. also 30:30 and 32:19.
157
Donner 1964:148 considers verse 17b to be an addition intended to allow all
the elements from the accusation to return in the announcement of judgement. In
his opinon, the storm images would have been out of place in the original proverb.
See also Petersen 1979:112.
158
Verse 17b is rendered rather freely in the Septuagint: καὶ οἱ πεποιθότες μάτην
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150 chapter four
The contrast between the word-pair :c : : and ¬, ¬ . on the one hand
and the word-pair :.: and ¬,: on the other, leads one to suspect that
the prophet’s references to lies as a refuge and to deceit as a shelter are
not only aimed at a lethal politics of coalition but also at the failure of
justice as a whole.
159
One can indeed argue that the use of :c:: and
¬,¬. as the benchmarks of yhwh’s judgement introduces the motif of
social justice—or in this instance the lack thereof—into the prophecy
of judgement.
160
Reference can also be made in this regard to the fact
that the term ¬,: is particularly at home in the legal context and is
frequently used to designate a sort of ‘breach of faith’.
161
At the same
time, however, the motif of social justice evident in the use of the
word-pair :.: and ¬,: in 28:15,17 clearly does not enjoy a foreground
position, since it is particularly apparent that the words ¬:¬: and ¬¬:
in verse 17b play the most important role in determining the primary
focus of this prophecy of judgement, namely Jerusalem’s deadly alli-
ance politics.
162
It is clearer here that the term :.: in the combination
:.: ¬:¬: is intended as a further characterisation of the refuge than is
the case in verse 15, in which the formulation employed remains more
or less ambiguous.
163
This makes sense when one considers the basic
meaning of the word :. : which can be described as ‘untrustworthiness’
or ‘deceitfulness’. Rooted in this basic meaning, therefore, the term
should not in the first instance be understood in the ethical sense but
rather as a statement concerning the object in relation to which it is
employed,
164
in this case the chosen refuge to which a deceitful character
ψεύδει ὅτι οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ὑμᾶς καταιγίς (‘and you believe in vain in the lie that the storm
wind will not reach you’). The lie is thus no longer seen as a characterisation of the place
of refuge but related rather to the bragging of verse 15. The refuge and shelter are no
longer mentioned, nor are the hail and the waters. The author of 1QIsa
a
likewise places
the emphasis on the word ‘lie’ via the subtle interpolation of an extra :. 1QIsa
a
runs:
:.: ¬:¬:: ¬¬: ¬. (‘and the hail shall wash the lie out of the shelter’). Pulikottil 2001:112
considers this alteration to be one of the many interpretative emendations introduced
into the text by the author of the Isaiah scroll.
159
Barthel 1997:320.
160
Cf. Beuken 2000:53: “It is here, therefore, that we meet the ethical message of
the historical Isaiah expressed in words which were considered worthy of constituting
a refrain throughout the book.”
161
See Seebass/Beyerle/Grünwaldt 1994:466–467. Klopfenstein 1979
2
:1012 de-
scribes the original meaning of ¬,: as ‘Bruch eines vertraglich geregelten oder sonst
selbstverständlich vorausgesetzten Treue- und Vertrauensverhältnisses’.
162
See Excursus 2.
163
In line with Duhm, Marti 1900:209 considers :. : to be a gloss from verse 15b.
164
See Mosis 1982:115–117: “Was kzb I primär meint, gehört zunächst nicht in
den Bereich des verantwortlichen Tuns und somit nicht in den Bereich der Ethik,
sondern dient zur Beschreibung dessen was ist, gehört also insofern in den Bereich
einer ‘Ontologie’.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 150 1/18/2007 2:17:54 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 151
is ascribed. The fact that the word ¬,: is not repeated in verse 17 is
likewise striking in this regard.
165
The lies and deceit are not going to
be washed away by the hail and the water but rather the refuge of lies
and the shelter. This serves to suggest that the motif of social justice,
in as far as it has an echo in the chosen terminology, is not intended
at this juncture to be read in the foreground.
In our discussion of the accusation in verse 15 we noted that both the
refuge/shelter and the covenant/agreement alluded to the protection
the rulers in Jerusalem believed they had found in Egypt. In order to
characterise the deceitfulness of such political manoeuvre, the prophet
introduces a contradictio in terminis in his announcement of judgement
in verse 17b, referring to a ‘refuge of lies’ and speaking anew in verse
18a of a ‘covenant with death’ and an ‘agreement with Sheol’.
166
In this
instance, both of the latter phrases function as subject of the clause.
The prophet is convinced that judgement will not only shed light on
the deceitful character of Jerusalem’s coalition partner (verse 17b), but also
on that of Jerusalem’s coalition politics (verse 18a). By engaging in such
politics, the rulers have in fact embraced death instead of protecting
themselves against it and are now facing the disastrous consequences
thereof (verse 18b).
The precise meaning of the verb form ¬c:“ in the context of verse
18a is not entirely clear.
167
The form in question is derived from the
verb ¬c:, the pual of which means ‘to be reconciled’ (see, for example, Isa.
6:7; 22:14; 27:9). There is no consensus, however, on the etymology of
this verb. The lexica, on the one hand, presuppose a possible associa-
tion with the Arabic kafara ‘to cover’. Others are inclined to associate
¬c: with the Akkadian kapāru or kuppuru, basically meaning ‘to wipe
away/purify’.
168
In relation to 28:18, others have proposed ‘to be annulled ’
as a possible meaning for ¬c:.
169
Given the fact that alternative texts
165
Procksch 1930(A):361 presumes that a word is missing from verse 17b, because
he had expected a ‘Siebener’. He suggests that we read μ:¬¬: instead of the unclear
¬¬:. In line with several other scholars, Fullerton 1920:18 suggests we supplement
¬¬: with ¬,:.
166
The same translation problems arise with respect to μ:¬.¬“ as with ¬. ¬ in verse
15. The Septuagint translates in this instance with ἡ ἐλπὶς ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν ᾅδην.
167
GKG § 145o makes reference to the clause μ:¬¬: ¬c:“ as a deviation from
the rule that predicate and subject must agree in terms of number and gender. The
verb remains in the initial position and remains at first undetermined. See also J-M
§ 150j.
168
Cf. Maass 1978
3
:842–843 and Lang 1984:304–305.
169
See Driver 1933:34–38, KBL/HALAT. Wildberger 1982:1077 understands the
semantic development along the following lines: the covenant is gradually muffled away
= annulled, because no one wants to be reminded of it. Beuken 2000:53 suggests
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152 chapter four
supporting such a usage are unavailable, however, some have given
preference to emendation. Based on the Septuagint (μὴ καὶ ἀφέλῃ ὑμῶν
τὴν διαθήκην) some suggest that we read ¬c¬“ ‘and it shall be broken’ (cf.
8:10 in which ¬c¬“ functions as a parallel of μ, s:“ ).
170
While argu-
ments against such emendation point out its syntactic impossibility,
171

the primary objection thereto is in fact a matter of content. Verse
18a is not referring to the breaking of a covenant (by one or other of
the covenant partners, cf. 24:5; 33:8), but of its failure on account of
external (divine) intervention. In order to understand the significance
of ¬c : “, it is important that we bear its relationship with verse 17b closely
in mind. In the latter verse, the prophet announces that the refuge of
lies is to be swept away by hail and that the waters are to overwhelm
the shelter. Hail and water appeared to be a metaphor for Assyria. This
metaphor continues to function when the verb ¬c: is employed with s:
μ,¬.
172
The violence that is to break loose when ‘the overwhelming scourge’
passes through will not only sweep away the refuge of lies and wipe out
the shelter, but the same violence will also wipe out the covenant with
death, and the agreement with Sheol will be unable to stand.
173
The
presupposed subject of the activity referred to by ¬c:“ is thus not, in
the first instance, yhwh (indirectly so, of course), but the hail and the
waters referred to in verse 17b. This is supported by the fact that the
metaphor of the waters, explicit in verse 17b and implicit in verse 18a,
is made explicit once more in verse 18b. The verb π:: thus establishes
the surrounding framework of verse 18a and provides an indication for
our understanding of the verbs employed in the said bicolon.
The announcement of judgement in verse 18 concludes with the
devastating statement ::¬“:: : 쬬 whereby the boasting of verse
that we likewise take the basic meaning as our point of departure in 28:18: “It is (. . .)
the basic meaning of the root which applies here: removing the tension between two
partners—here the rulers of Jerusalem and yhwh who has laid its foundation stone —
by removing the cause of the outrage.”
170
See, for example, Fullerton 1920:17, Rohland 1956:148, Kissane 1960
2
:303 and
Dietrich 1976:161.
171
Kaiser 1976
2
:198.
172
The use of the formulation μ,¬ s: in 28:18a is closely related to the use thereof
in 7:7 and 8:10. In both these texts, reference is likewise made to the concoction of
political plans that cannot be maintained when they are confronted with the plans of
yhwh (cf. 14:24 and Prov. 19:21). Beuken 2000:53 points out that the prophet borrowed
this theme from wisdom circles.
173
The verb ¬. would appear to be a hapax. In line with Delitzsch (1889) and
Duhm 1914
3
:176, Wildberger 1982:1068 refers in this regard to the Arabic and Hebrew
. that designates the shovel with which the altar was purified.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 153
15 (:s:“ s: ) is completely turned on its head. There are no adequate
reasons to emend ::¬“:: as some have suggested.
174
Although the verb
::¬ ‘to trample’ seems less appropriate in the context of the metaphor
of ‘the overwhelming scourge’, this was also in fact the case with respect
to the verb ¬:. ‘to pass through’. Furthermore, the verb ::¬ is used in
other instances to indicate the severity of God’s judgement (cf. 26:6;
28:3).
175
The imagery surrounding ‘to trample’ might stem from the activi-
ties of the potter (cf. 41:25; Nah. 3:14) or from the treading of grapes
(cf. 63:3), but may also be related to horses’ hoofs (Ezek. 26:11; cf.
2 Kgs 9:33) or indeed to trampling by human feet (2 Kgs 7:17,20). The
same verb is employed in 28:3 as part of the description of the fall of
Samaria. It would appear that Judah and Jerusalem respectively must
undergo the same fate as Ephraim.
176
Similarly, the construction ¬¬
::¬“::, whereby ::¬“: functions in fact as an infinitive,
177
is employed
elsewhere in the book of Isaiah to designate God’s judgement (5:5;
7:25; cf. Mi. 7:10). In 10:6, ::¬“: even refers explicitly to Assyria as
God’s instrument.
4.2.5. Isa. 28:19–21: Twofold conclusion to the announcement of judgement
¬:. ¬: 19 As often as it passes through,
μ:¬s ¬, it will take you;
¬:. ¬,:: ¬,::: yes, morning by morning it will pass through,
¬:“:: μ: by day and by night;
¬..“,¬ ¬¬“ and it will be sheer terror
¬.:: ˆ:¬ to understand the message.
.¬¬:¬: ..:¬ ¬.,: 20 For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on,
:::¬¬: ¬¬. ¬:::¬“ and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.
¬¬“ μ, μ.¬c¬¬: : 21 For YHWH will rise up as on Mount Perazim,
.:¬“ ˆ.::: ,:.: He will rage as in the valley of Gibeon,
¬:.: ¬:.: to do his deed—
¬:.: ¬. strange is his deed!
¬¬:. ¬:.:“ and to work his work—
¬¬:. ¬¬:: alien is his work!
174
Duhm 1914
3
:176 suggests we read ¬::: ‘to discipline/chastise’ (cf. 30:32). The said
emendation, however, had already been rejected as unnecessary by Marti 1900:209.
175
The verb ::¬ is primarily employed in the context of prophetic announcements
of judgement; see Waschke 1993:533.
176
Cf. Exum 1982:127 and Beuken 2000:54.
177
See Waschke 1993:533. According to KBL/HALAT, ::¬“: is a deverbative noun
meaning ‘trampled pasture’ (cf. 7:25 and Ezek. 34:19). See also DCH.
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154 chapter four
Given the fact that verse 18 reaches a climax in the final word ::¬“::
and all the elements from the accusation contained in the announce-
ment of judgement have been recapitulated, we would appear to have
reached the appropriate place for the prophet to draw his prophecy
of judgement to a conclusion. A significant number of exegetes are
of the opinion that Isaiah did indeed do so and that verses 19–22 are
due to a later addition stemming from more than one hand. When
compared with the clause construction in verses 14–18, it is striking
that verses 19–21 make frequent use of the infinitive construct (six
in total). Nevertheless, the clause type characteristic of the preceding
verses is also employed. Whatever the case, it is clear that the degree
of cohesion in terms of content that was so characteristic of verses
14–18 is also present in verses 19–21. The exhortation of verse 22 will
require separate treatment.
Verse 19a can be understood as the first conclusion to the preceding
announcement of judgement that, in light of the repeated use of the
verb ¬:., would appear to be closely associated with verse 18. The
association is in fact already established by way of preparation in verse
18, where the clause concerning ‘the overwhelming scourge’ (bicolon B’) has
been located at the end of the announcement of judgement and not
in the middle thereof. As a result, the chiastic relationship between the
accusation in verse 15 and verses 17b–18 is disrupted at an important
point. In addition to the fact that this places all the emphasis on the
said bicolon, it also has the effect that verse 19a can easily take up the
verb ¬:. and provide further elaboration on the activity it represents.
Scholars have raised questions, however, as to whether verse 19a’s
extension of the preceding announcement of judgement can still be
considered poetry. If this is not the case, then the idea of a later inter-
polation or a reader’s gloss becomes all the more probable.
178
In an
ancient language such as biblical Hebrew, however, the establishment
of a clear distinction between prose and poetry is far from simple. How
one distinguishes the one from the other depends on the presence of
a number of characteristically poetic style features.
179
It makes sense
178
Cf. Wildberger 1982:1070.
179
Alonso Schökel 1988:19 insists that there is no watertight division to be established
in Hebrew between poetry and prose: “Just as we cannot distinguish strictly between
prose vocabulary and poetic vocabulary, neither can we distinguish techniques which
are exclusively poetic.” “We must speak rather of frequency, predominance, density,
intensity.” De Moor/Watson 1993:xiii agree and propose the following criteria as useful
in distinguishing poetry from prose (xiv): “acrostic pattern, comparison with passages
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 154 1/18/2007 2:17:55 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 155
at this juncture, therefore, to examine verse 19a to determine whether
it exhibits the style characteristics that would allow us to determine
whether the passage in question is to be qualified as poetry.
If we take the most important Masoretic distinctive accents as our
point of departure, then it would appear at first sight that verse 19a
consists of two parallel cola of unequal length (4 + 5 beats). The long
clause ¬:“:: μ: ¬:. ¬,:: ¬,::: , however, is easily identifiable
as a bicolon with 3 + 2 beats, whereby the expressions ¬,:: ¬,::
‘morning after morning’ and ¬:“:: μ: ‘by day and by night’ are unmistak-
ably intended as parallels.
180
The absence of a parallel for the verb
form ¬:. in the second half of the bicolon leaves the parallelism
incomplete. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘verb-gapping’ and is
known to be one of the most common forms of ellipsis (cf. 28:17a).
The recognition of this style feature represents an important argument
in qualifying the passage in question in verse 19a as poetry.
181
If we
understand the clause ¬:“:: μ: ¬:. ¬,:: ¬,::: to be a bicolon
with 3 + 2 beats, then we are obliged to ascribe a demarcative function
to the accent Tifchā [8]. The question then arises whether the same
can be said of the less important distinctive accents Paštā [10] and
Tifchā [8] employed at the beginning of verse 19a and in verse 19b.
It would appear to be acceptable at the present juncture to presup-
pose evidence of short cola as before. While it would be possible to
construe verse 19a as a tricolon, the emphatic : is more commonly
found at the beginning of a bicolon. The poetic structure of verse 19
can thus be best understood as consisting of three bicola (2 + 2, 3 +
2 and 2 + 2 beats respectively). The first bicolon establishes the link
in verse, denseness of corresponding features, lineation or stichometry, metre or rather
rhythm, repetition.” The most characteristic criteria are “parallelism, ellipsis, forms
of chiasmus, vertical grammar, overall analysis of structure.” Explicit indications with
respect to the structure of a text are likewise of importance in this regard. De Moor
and Watson also include the Masoretic distinctive accents, in the conviction that they
hark back to a pre-Masoretic tradition (xv). See in this regard Watson 1984:44–62;
1994:27, 31–44.
180
Procksch 1930(A):362 is completely without justification in suggesting that we
scrap ¬:“:: μ: because it does not fit well with the distributive ¬,:: ¬,::. Driver
1968:61 likewise suggests that a gloss had been made in order to avoid the misunder-
standing that only the morning would bring disaster. It is conceivable, however, that the
expression ¬,:: ¬,::, which occurs thirteen times in the Old Testament, acquires the
meaning ‘day after day’ in a poetic context, just as ¬,: can be employed in combination
with ¬:“: as pars pro toto for the entire day. Cf. Barth 1973:751.
181
In the context of determining the poetic character of a particular passage, Watson
1984:48 maintains that the use of ellipsis “is a powerful test and would outweigh any
other criterion . . .”
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156 chapter four
with the preceding verse 18 with the help of the verb ¬:.. The goal of
the second bicolon is to reinforce the statement made in the first. The
continued use of the verb ¬:. functions once again as a link with the
preceding bicolon, while the parallel expressions ¬,:: ¬,:: ‘morning
after morning’ and ¬:“:: μ: ‘by day and by night ’ serve as a concretisa-
tion of the conjunction ¬: ‘as often as’.
182
Wildberger is of the opinion that verse 19a exhibits a weakening of
the announcement of judgement made in verse 18. He presupposes
that a reader had wanted to emphasise the point that the judgement
announced by Isaiah for his own time was repeatable in every day and
age.
183
It is more probable, however, that verse 19a was intended to
emphasise the impending judgement rather than to enfeeble it, because
it underlines the fact that it is inescapable. The boasting of the rulers of
Jerusalem consisted in the claim that the ‘the overwhelming scourge’ would
not touch them as it passed through (verse 15). The conclusion to verse
18 clearly counters this claim, whereafter verse 19a underlines the fact
that the painful encounter will not be a one-off experience. Each time
Assyria passes through, they will not escape its destructive force. In order
to emphasise the unavoidability of the scourge, the expression ‘as often
as’ is further reinforced with the expressions ‘morning after morning’ and
‘by day and by night ’.
184
It is possible that the reference at this juncture
to a repeated confrontation with Assyria represents a later explanatory
intervention.
185
Given the fact that such an explanation can neither be
confirmed nor excluded, and in light of the explicit association between
both bicola of verse 19a and the end of verse 18, I am inclined to argue
that verse 19a ought to be understood as an original and integrative
constituent part of the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22.
186
The
statement made in verse 19a brings the preceding announcement of
judgement to an initial and provisional conclusion.
Having reached this initial and provisional conclusion to the announce-
ment of judgement, the words of verse 19b predict even further disaster:
182
¬ means ‘what is enough/necessary for’. ¬: means ‘with a view to the need’. As a con-
junctivum with an infinitive, it means ‘as often as . . .’ (see, for example, 2 Kgs 4:8).
183
Wildberger 1982:1070. See also Clements 1980(B):231f.
184
This explains my translation of the originally deictic particle : with the emphatic
‘yes’ and not with the explanatory ‘for’. Oswalt 1986:514 is of the opinion that this verse
fits well with Assyrian military procedure: several campaigns in the same territory.
185
Beuken 2000:54 presumes that the formulation of verse 19 implies an extension
of its addressees to include the readers of the book of Isaiah up to and including the
present day. The conflict between the prophet and the rulers of Jerusalem thus acquires
an exemplary character.
186
Cf. Graffy 1984:25.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 156 1/18/2007 2:17:55 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 157
¬.:: ˆ:¬ ¬..“,¬ ¬¬“ ‘and it will be sheer terror to understand the message’.
Verse 19b is a bicolon that is linked as summarising conclusion to that
which precedes it on the one hand while serving on the other as an
introduction to a new passage constituted by verses 20 and 21. Verses
20 and 21 function together as a second conclusion to the announce-
ment of judgement in the present composition of the prophecy of
judgement of 28:14–22. Verses 20 and 21 are linked to verse 19b by
way of the particle : .
The bicolon of verse 19b is immediately striking on account of the
unusual sequence whereby the subject does not follow directly after
the verb but is preceded rather by the predicate. This serves to place
the emphasis firmly on the words ¬..“,¬ ‘sheer terror’. The fact that the
word ¬..“ is found almost exclusively in the book of Jeremiah, albeit in
every instance as Ketib ¬..“: with Qere ¬..: ‘as a horror’, is frequently
employed as one of the reasons supporting the hypothesis that verse
19b is a later expansion of the text.
187
Moreover, the words ¬.:: ˆ:¬
would appear to hark back to an earlier passage in Isaiah 28, namely
in verse 9 (¬.:: ˆ: :¬s“ ), while the emphasis in verse 19b on the
terror to be experienced at the understanding of the message exhibits
a content related association with the motif of history as teacher as
is found in later apocalyptic literature.
188
In spite of the elements of
agreement with 28:9, however, the context of prophetic judgement
found here in 28:14–22 suggests that we would be better advised to
associate ¬.:: in verse 19b in the first instance with the appeal .::
in verse 14. The prophet calls his audience to listen to a message and
once he has delivered it he observes its terrifying effects. In the pres-
ent context of 28:14–22, ¬.:: is to be associated with the preceding
announcement of judgement,
189
the understanding of which will be a
source of terror.
In line with the customary syntactic sequence, some exegetes suggest
that we read ¬..“,¬ as subject of the sentence instead of ¬.:: ˆ:¬.
187
Cf. Jer. 15:4; 24:9; 29:18; 34:17; 2 Chron. 29:8. Cf. ¬..: in Deut. 28:25 and
Ezek. 23:46.
188
See, for example, Clements 1980(B):232 and Beuken 2000:55.
189
Wildberger 1982:1078 suggests the report of an uninterrupted flood of enemy
forces. According to Melugin 1974:301–311, ¬. :: refers to the message of 28:16–17a.
Its intention is ironic, since one only understands the said message at the moment
one is swept away. Eichrodt 1967:135 relates what is heard to the revelation received
in visionary form. According to Clements 1980(B):232, ¬.:: refers to the prophetic
message as a whole, which is explained at this juncture as an apocalyptic unfolding of
God’s plan. Fohrer 1962:60–61 speaks in broad terms about hearing the spoken voice
of revelation, which, in the context of judgement, can no longer be misunderstood.
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158 chapter four
The text then no longer implies that the understanding of the message
will be sheer terror but that the terror of the judgement itself will make
an essential contribution to the understanding of the message according
to the adage ‘those who refuse to listen will feel the consequences’.
190
By
analogy with 28:9, ¬. :: ˆ: ¬ in verse 19b can thus also be translated as
a causative ‘cause to/make understand ’ instead of the transitive ‘understand ’.
191

While there is much to be said for making the points of agreement with
28:9 visible in the translation of verse 19b, verses 20 and 21, which
are linked to verse 19b by way of the particle : , are best understood
as an elaboration of ¬..“,¬. This is most clearly expressed when
¬..“,¬ is read as a predicate and verse 19b is translated ‘sheer terror
shall be the understanding of this message’. The fact that the understanding
of the announcement of judgement is designated as sheer terror and
not so much the announcement itself probably goes hand in hand with
the revelatory insight that none other than yhwh is at work behind
Assyria’s military activities (cf. verse 21).
192
In order to reinforce the statement made in verse 19b, namely that the
understanding of the message will bring sheer terror, two additional
explanations follow in verses 20 and 21, both bound to the terrifying
announcement in the preceding verse with the particle :. The first
explanation stands out on account of the fact that it is formulated as
a qatal clause, most likely because it is a saying or proverb. The second
explanation is adjoined to verse 19 via two yiqtôl formulations and takes
the form of a comparison.
The first reinforcing explanation takes the form of a saying or pro-
190
Cf. Procksch 1930(A):362: “und eitel Graus lehrt Offenbarung verstehen” and
Schreiner 1963:169: “Erst Schrecken lehrt Offenbarung verstehen.” Luther also under-
stands ¬..“,¬ as the subject: “Denn allein die Anfechtung lehrt aufs Wort merken.”
According to Möller 1984:272–274, Luther’s interpretation here is in line with the
Vulgate. Möller is inclined to follow Luther’s translation because ¬.:: in both verse
9 and verse 19 can thereby be associated with Isaiah’s message (see also Fullerton
1920:17). The entire chapter is saturated with the idea that God leads his people to
inner reflection and knowledge of salvation via judgement.
191
Beuken 2000:55 offers a translation that attempts to expose the relationship with
verse 9 without making ¬..“,¬ into the subject: “It will be sheer terror to be made
to understand the message.” Beuken understands the scourge of verse 18 to be the
subject of ‘to be made to understand’.
192
The Septuagint translates verse 19b with ἔσται ἐλπὶς πονηρά μάθετε ἀκούειν,
thereby exhibiting its preference for the term ἐλπὶς once again: ‘there shall be an
evil hope’. The words μάθετε ἀκούειν possibly function as a new sentence: ‘learn to
listen’.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 158 1/18/2007 2:17:56 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 159
verb, the content of which is taken from day to day life.
193
Understanding
the message will be sheer terror because the disappearance of the ref-
uge of lies and the collapse of the covenant with death implies that
no level of protection against the might of Assyria remains. As the
saying explains, every means employed to escape will turn out to be
inadequate: ‘the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too nar-
row to wrap oneself in’.
194
Given that this adage from verse 20 leaves the
impression of having been borrowed from the wisdom tradition, and
bearing in mind that the prophet Isaiah was decidedly familiar with
the said tradition, there is no reason to doubt the authorship of the
verse in question. In terms of both structure and content, moreover,
the verse is closely related to that which precedes it. The presence of
assonance based on the repetition of ‘a’ sounds in verses 19b–20 fur-
ther reinforces the link between them. The location of the assonant ‘a’
sound in the final syllable of several words in these verses also has a
rhyming effect.
195
Verse 20 is structured as a bicolon with 3 + 3 beats.
The poetic content of the verse is augmented by the use of a form
of chiasm (ab-c // b’a’-c’) on the one hand, and the employment of
relatively uncommon words on the other. While the verb
II
¬., ‘to be
(too) short’ is reasonably common (see, for example, 37:27; 50:2; 59:1),
196

the terms used in the parallel colon—..:¬ ‘bed ’ and ¬:::¬ ‘covering/
blanket’—occur only rarely if ever in this sense.
197
Likewise, both the
193
Irwin 1977:34 suggests ‘the motif of the bed in the underworld’ (cf. Job 17:13),
but this seems a little far-fetched given the context of verse 20.
194
Once again the Septuagint offers a significantly free ‘translation’: στενοχωρούμενοι
οὐ δυνάμεθα μάχεσθαι αὐτοὶ δὲ ἀσθενοῦμεν τοῦ ἡμᾶς συναχθῆναι (‘Cornered, we are
unable to fight and we are even too weak to rally ourselves.’). The Greek text would appear to
have understood verse 20 as a reaction on the part of Isaiah’s opponents.
195
For further explanation of assonance as a style figure and its cohesive function
see Watson 1984:222–225. With regard to rhyme, Watson 1984:229 notes: “There
is some overlap with both repetition and assonance, and in Semitic particularly it is
sometimes difficult to make sharp distinctions.”
196
See Marböck 1993:112–117.
197
..: ‘bed’ is a hapax (cf. Qoh. 10:20 where BHS proposes ¸..:: ), while
II
¬:::
in the sense of ‘blanket’ is only found elsewhere in 25:7. The interpretation of ¸::“:
¬::: in 30:1 is uncertain. Scholars are inclined for the most part to opt for ‘to pour
out a libation’ as a synonym for ‘to establish a covenant’ (see Schoors 1973:178, Kaiser
1976:224, Wildberger 1982:1147–1148, Clements 1980(B):243–244), but Snijders
1969:297 favours taking
II
¬::: ‘blanket’ as the point of departure and translates the
expression ¬::: ¸::“: with ‘to weave a refuge’. He thus understands the blanket that is
too small in 28:20 to be Egypt. It is indeed surprising that ¬::: also functions here
in the context of establishing a covenant and that
I
¬::: is not found elsewhere in the
sense of ‘libation’ (where one would normally expect ¸::).
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160 chapter four
hithpael infinitives—.¬¬:¬ ‘to stretch oneself ’ (cf. Lev. 21:18; 22:23) and
:::¬¬ ‘to wrap oneself’—occur only here.
198
Verse 21 follows the adage in verse 20 with a second additional
reinforcement of the statement found in verse 19b concerning the ter-
rifying character of the judgment announced in the preceding verses.
In this instance, the verse takes the form of a comparison whereby the
work of yhwh is spoken of in typically Isaianic fashion.
199
While the
said comparison would seamlessly follow on from verse 19b without
the intervening saying in verse 20, each of the verses nevertheless
establishes its own unique accent in reinforcing the expected terror.
The accent in verse 20 revolves around the notion of protection, which
is ultimately insufficient to fend off the impending threat. The accent
in verse 21 focuses on the threat as such, against which no protection
is possible because its source is unexpected to say the least. While the
saying of verse 20 continues to hark back to the threatening advance of
the Assyrian forces, ‘the overwhelming scourge’ against which no adequate
protection is possible, the comparison in verse 21 refers explicitly to
yhwh as the one whose hand is at work in the approaching judgement.
It is this insight in particular that transforms the understanding of
the announcement of judgement into sheer terror. It is in fact yhwh
himself who is at work when the overwhelming scourge sweeps away
everything in its path.
In similar fashion to the adage of verse 20, the comparison in verse
21 exhibits a clear poetic structure and there is no convincing reason
to doubt its authenticity. Verse 21 begins with a parallel bicolon—with
ellipsis of the subject—following the pattern abc // a’b’:
¬¬“ μ, μ.¬c¬¬: : For YHWH will rise up as on Mount Perazim;
.:¬“ ˆ.::: ,:.: He will rage as in the valley of Gibeon,
The second half of verse 21 consists of two perfectly parallel bicola.
The object is repeated in the second segment of each bicolon and
further qualified, whereby the predicate precedes the substantive in
both instances for the sake of emphasis:
200
198
It is striking that the first infinitive takes the preposition ˆ: while the second takes
the preposition : . If one is intent on restoring the parallelism one ought then to follow
the suggestion offered by BHK and read :::¬¬: . This is unnecessary, however, since
the interchange of prepositions occurs elsewhere in the chapter (cf. 28:6 and 28:15a)
and it has no effect on the translation. For the use of ˆ: in a comparison meaning
‘to . . .’, see GKG § 133c. 1QIsa
a
reads :::¬¬: and is supported by Donner 1964:149,
Wildberger 1982:1068 and Oswalt 1986:515.
199
Cf. 5:12,19; 10:12; 19:25 and 29:23.
200
Cf. GKG § 132b.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 160 1/18/2007 2:17:56 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 161
¬:.: ¬:.: to do his deed—
¬:.: ¬. strange is his deed;
¬¬:. ¬:.:“ and to work his work —
¬¬:. ¬¬:: alien is his work.
Both parallel bicola together provide the second conclusion to the
announcement of judgement with a shocking climax.
The comparison with which verse 21 begins is twofold in character.
With the help of the verb μ, ‘to rise up’
201
and the verb .:¬ ‘to rage’,
the latter being employed for the most part in poetical contexts, the
author announces a new intervention on the part of yhwh.
202
The
said new intervention will be comparable with two of yhwh’s previ-
ous interventions. The first part of the comparison calls to mind an
event that took place on Mount Perazim; the second an event that took
place in the valley near Gibeon.
203
Mount Perazim is close to Jerusalem
and the reference alludes to David’s victory against the Philistines in
the same location (2 Sam. 5:17–25 // 1 Chron. 14:8–17).
204
David
explicitly ascribed his victory on this occasion to yhwh’s intervention,
comparing the latter to a flood of water with a wordplay based on
the name Perazim. A similar flood motif is also evident in 28:21 (cf.
28:17b–18).
The allusion to an intervention on the part of yhwh in the valley of
Gibeon is more difficult to establish, however. Some exegetes relate it to
the battle against the five kings of the Amorites at Gibeon mentioned
in Joshua 10, whereby the victory is similarly ascribed directly to yhwh
( Jos. 10:10–14).
205
The hailstone motif ( Jos. 10:11) exhibits a degree
of kinship with the way in which judgement is announced in 28:17.
It remains unlikely, however, that verse 21 is alluding to the days of
Joshua in addition to and even subsequent to the allusion to the time
of David. It would seem more obvious to seek an association between
the reference made in the first part of the comparison—David’s conflict
201
Cf. 2:19,21; 14:22; 31:2; 33:10. See Amsler 1979
3
:639 and Gamberoni
1989:1268–1271.
202
When the verb .:¬ is employed with God as subject (8x), it is always related to
the revelation of his power. See Vanoni 1993:330.
203
While the expected preposition : is lacking in both instances, this is not particu-
larly unusual after the preposition :; see J-M § 133h and GKG § 188t. 1QIsa
a
drops
the comparative particle : and reads ¬¬: and ,:.:.
204
The Septuagint has translated the name μ. ¬ c ¬¬ as ὄρος ἀσεβῶν ‘mountain of the
godless’. It is possible that the Greek translator had the word ≈¬c ‘tyrant’ in mind.
205
See Wildberger 1963:91–92, Kaiser 1976
2
:203, Petersen 1979:113, Clements
1980(B):232, Exum 1982:128, Oswalt 1986:520, Schneider 1988:390 and Brueggemann
1998:227.
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162 chapter four
with the Philistines—and the reference here to Gibeon.
206
As a matter
of fact, David’s conflict with the Philistines consisted of a sequence of
two confrontations. In 2 Sam. 5:25, it is stated after the second con-
frontation that David struck down the Philistines ‘from Geba all the way
to Gezer’. The Septuagint translates Geba in this instance as Γαβαων
‘Gibeon’, while the Masoretic text likewise speaks of ˆ.: : ‘Gibeon’ instead
of Geba in the parallel text in 1 Chron. 14:16.
207
It is likely, therefore,
that the prophet was alluding in verse 21a to these events, which were
presumably familiar to his audience in Jerusalem. Given that David’s
conflict with the Philistines took place immediately after the conquest
of Jerusalem, the reference in question also exhibits historical proxim-
ity to verse 16 in which reference is made to the establishment of a
stone in Zion.
The allusion to events from the time of David ascribed by the
tradition to the intervention of yhwh is intended to shock its pres-
ent addressees. Yhwh’s intervention in the time of David was on
the side of his people, on their behalf. The prophecy of judgement
contained in 28:14–22, however, implies that yhwh’s imminent inter-
vention is to be directed against his people.
208
In typically Isaianic
style, verse 21b describes the said intervention as yhwh’s ¬: . :
209

and ¬¬ : .,
210
which it then goes on to qualify as ¬. ‘strange’ and
¬¬:: ‘alien’.
211
Such an intervention against his own people stands in
206
Marti 1900:209, Ziegler 1948:86, Fohrer 1962:61, Dietrich 1976:183, Wildberger
1982:1078.
207
Based on the connection with the designation Gibeon in 1 Chron. 14:16, Kilian
1994:163 favours a late dating for verse 21a, maintaining that even the painful experi-
ence of 587, when yhwh sided with the Babylonians, ought to be presupposed.
208
Cf. Vanoni 1993:330: “die Anknüpfung an 2 Sam. 5 weist auf einen pervertierten
JHWH-Krieg [rgz qal].”
209
See Wildberger 1963:87–89, 94ff for Isaiah’s use of ¬: . : , :. c and ¬. . (see 28:29)
for yhwh’s engagement in history: “es geht nicht um einzelne Werke, die Jahwe in der
Geschichte tut, sondern um das eine Walten Gottes, das sie durchgehend bestimmt. So
darf man den Satz wagen: Die Geschichte ist das Werk des einen Jahwe der Heere, der auf dem
Zion thront und sie vollzieht sich nach dem Plan, der von ihm beschlossen ist.” (89) Cf. Von Rad
1966:290–298, Vollmer 1979
2
:367–369 and Ringgren 1989:429–430.
210
Cf. Westermann 1979
2
:200: “Der uns geläufige Begriff des Wirkens und des
Werkens Gottes ist hier, soweit wir sehen, zum erstenmal konzipiert.”
211
The Septuagint translates verse 21b with μετὰ θυμοῦ ποιήσει τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ
πικρίας ἔργον ὁ δὲ θυμὸς αὐτοῦ ἀλλοτρίως χρήσεται καὶ ἡ πικρία αὐτοῦ ἀλλοτρία
(‘In wrath He shall do his deeds, a work of bitterness, and his wrath shall act strangely and his
bitterness shall be strange.’). The Septuagint already makes reference to ὁ θυμὸς κυρίου
‘the wrath of the Lord’ in 28:2. Cf. 28:28: οὐ γὰρ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἐγὼ ὑμῖν ὀργισθήσομαι
οὐδὲ φωνὴ τῆς πικρίας μου καταπατήσει ὑμᾶς (‘for I shall not be wrathful towards you for
ever, nor shall the voice of my bitterness trample you.’).
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 162 1/18/2007 2:17:57 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 163
sharp contrast to yhwh’s familiar deeds that were recalled in the sal-
vation-historical retrospective of verse 16. Indeed, in light of yhwh’s
past salvific activity on behalf of Zion, the present condemnation of
Jerusalem can only be understood as ‘strange’ and ‘alien’.
212
The shocking
dimension of these qualifications becomes clear if one bears in mind
that yhwh’s deeds normally reveal who He is.
213
4.2.6. Isa. 28:22: Exhortation
..:¬¬:s ¬¬.“ 22 Now therefore do not be such boasters,
μ:¬:: ,.“¬ˆc or your bonds will be made stronger;
¬.:: ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬::: for I have heard a decree of destruction
¬s:. ¬¬“ :¬s ¬s: from the Lord YHWH Zebaot
≈¬s¬:::. upon the whole land.
While the announcement of judgement has reached a conclusion in
verses 19–21, an explicit exhortation still follows in the present composi-
tion of the prophecy of judgement comprising 28:14–22. Given the fact
that the presence of an exhortation at the end of an announcement of
judgement is surprising, many an exegete has come to the conclusion
that verse 22 should not be counted as part of the original prophecy.
214

While the phenomenon of an exhortatory appeal at the end of a
prophecy of judgement may be unusual, it is not as such unique (cf.,
for example, Jer. 29:20). Moreover, there is a growing insight among
biblical scholars that the prophets were more creative in their employ-
ment of particular genres than certain exegetes are willing to admit.
The originality of the first half of verse 22a—a bicolon—is supported
by clear terminological agreements with the preceding prophecy of
judgement. The imperative ..:¬¬:s harks back creatively to the
adressation ˆ.: ::“s ‘boasters’ in the imperative of verse 14. In order
to make this connection clear, the appeal ..:¬¬:s is best translated
as ‘do not be such boasters’.
215
212
According to Beuken 2000:57, the foundation for this qualification was already
established in the Song of the Vineyard (5:1–7). Based on the fact that the word ¬. is
frequently used to refer to the enemy or the aggressor, Snijders 1977:560 remarks: “jhwh
wird sich nicht benehmen wie ein Partner, sondern wie ein Feind, z.b. ein Assyrer oder
Edomiter; die Folgen sind für die Gemeinschaft vernichtend.” The term ¬ : : is likewise
used for another people, although it would appear to enjoy figurative significance in
28:21 and Jer. 2:21 (cf. Martin-Achard 1979
2
:67–68; Lang 1986:456–460).
213
Cf. Vollmer 1979
2
:367: “Wer Jahwe ist, erweist sich in seinem ‘śh. Sein Tun ist
Explication seines Namens.”
214
Cf. Wildberger 1982:1071.
215
For the translation ‘boasters’ instead of ‘scoffers’ see the exegesis of verse 14. The
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164 chapter four
In terms of content, it remains surprising that the exhortation of
verse 22a appears to leave open the possibility of a change of heart
even though following an emphatic statement in which judgement is
proclaimed as irreversible. A number of exegetes are inclined, there-
fore, to consider the link with the preceding text as artificial.
216
Much
depends, however, on one’s interpretation of the term μ:¬:: ‘your
bonds’. The mention of bonds or tethers usually alludes to a situation
of imprisonment or some similar limitation of personal freedom.
217

In the context of the present prophecy of judgement, μ:¬:: can be
understood as a reference to the threat that emanates from Assyria, a
threat that must likewise have been felt by Jerusalem as a whole.
218
In
spite of the knowledge that ‘the overwhelming scourge’ was surely to pass
through, the rulers of Jerusalem were still of the opinion that they could
maintain their freedom and avoid subjection to Assyrian constraints.
219

The prophet’s conviction that they are wrong in this regard is appar-
ent from the pointedness with which he exposed their boastfulness in
the preceding verses. The content of verse 22a is thus appropriate in
this regard. While verse 22a has the character of an exhortation and
presupposes the possibility of a change of heart, this need not be seen
as a weakening of the preceding message of judgement. It is possible
to make an announcement of irreversible judgement without by defini-
tion being required to exclude the possibility of a change of heart.
220

The prophet wants to warn his audience that the rulers of Jerusalem
might become even more indurate and by their boasting make the
judgement even worse.
The exhortation in verse 22a is reinforced in verse 22b with a refer-
ence to the decree of destruction that yhwh has decided to enforce.
The reference in question would appear to have been borrowed to a
reflexive (reduplicative) verbal root usually has an intensive significance, but it can also
be understood in the sense of reciprocity: ‘do not be such boasters to one another’. For hithpa el
and hithpolel see GKG § 54 and § 72m; J-M § 53 and § 80h. The Septuagint translates
with ὑμεῖς μὴ εὐφρανθείητε ‘do not rejoice’ (cf. 14:29 and LXX 28:26 εὐφρανθήσῃ).
216
See § 3.4.
217
See Ps. 116:16 and Isa. 52:2; cf. the use of the feminine equivalent form ¬¬::
in Ps. 2:3; 107:14; Jer. 2:20; 5:5; 27:2; 30:8; Nah. 1:13.
218
Irwin’s suggestion that the tethers refer to the covenant with death and that we
should understand verse 22a as irony seems a little contrived. See Irwin 1977:37; see
also Exum 1982:128 and Watson 1984:311.
219
For ,.“¬ as a comparative see J-M § 141gN. The root ,.¬ is also employed in
28:2 with respect to the power of Assyria.
220
Cf. Beuken 2000:58.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 165
significant degree from the text of Isa. 10:23 (¬¬“ :¬s ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬:: :
≈¬s¬:: :¬,: ¬:. ¬s:.; NRSV: “For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a
full end, as decreed, in all the earth.”) and ought therefore to be considered
a potentially later interpolation.
221
In contrast to the preceding verses,
verse 22b leaves the impression of being more prose than poetry. While
the unusual syntax whereby ¬.¬¬‘:“ ¬:: and ≈¬s¬:::. are separated
from one another by ¬s:. ¬¬“ :¬s ¬s: ¬.:: (cf. 21:10) gives the
verse half something of a poetic tint, this may also be inspired by the
sequence of terms employed in 10:23. Based on the syntax, it is possible
to consider verse 22b as a tricolon.
222
The only semantic connection
with the preceding verses is formed by the verb .:: ‘to hear’, which is
also employed in the appeal of verse 14 (.:: ) and the statement of
verse 19b (¬.:: ).
The expression ¬. ¬ ¬‘ : “ ¬: : ‘a decree of destruction’ can be understood as
a hendiadys in the sense of ‘an unavoidable destruction’.
223
The expression
in question is even emphasised by the fact that it precedes the verb form
¬.:: . A variety of exegetes are of the opinion that verse 22b should
be understood in an eschatological-apocalyptic sense.
224
The use of the
expression ¬. ¬ ¬‘ : “ ¬: : (Dan. 9:27; cf. Dan. 9:26 and 11:36) may indeed
point in this direction, although an originally Isaianic construction
cannot be excluded from the outset (cf. the connection between 10:22
and 10:23).
225
The scope of the impending devastation ≈¬ s ¬ :: :. ‘over
all the earth’ can also be understood as an apocalyptic feature. In the
present context of the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, however,
the expression ≈¬s¬:::. ought best to be translated as ‘upon the whole
land’. Nevertheless, bearing in mind that ≈¬ s ¬ :: elsewhere in the book
of Isaiah usually refers to the whole earth,
226
it is probable that this
meaning is being echoed here also in verse 22b and that the horizon
is being deliberately extended. The judgement confronting the rulers
221
See § 3.4.
222
It is difficult to determine the metre here with any degree of certainty. It is hard
to imagine the final colon as having one single beat, in spite of the fact that the words
≈¬s¬:::. are joined to one another with the Maqqēph. It is possible to read verse
22b as a tricolon with 3 + 4 + 3 or 4 + 4 + 3 beats.
223
The Septuagint reads συντετελεσμένα καὶ συντετμημένα πράγματα ‘works finished
and cut short’. Cf. LXX 10:23: λόγον συντετμημένον.
224
Duhm 1914
3
:202; Procksch 1930(A):363.
225
Cf. Beuken 2000:59.
226
See 6:3; 10:14,23; 13:5; 14:7,26; 25:8 and 54:5. Isa. 7:24 serves as the exception
that confirms the rule.
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166 chapter four
of Jerusalem thus comes to serve as a model for the judgement that
will one day confront the entire world.
227
Excursus 2: The ‘covenant with death’ and necromancy
In 1988, K. van der Toorn suggested that virtually every study of
28:7–22 to date had failed to determine the nature of the opposition
to which the prophet is reacting in this passage. In his opinion, the
addressees of verse 14 should not be sought in political circles but rather
among the priests and (cultic) prophets. In a detailed contribution, Van
der Toorn endeavours to persuade his readers that Isaiah’s opponents
not only believed in yhwh, but they also practiced necromancy.
228
In
so doing, Van der Toorn argues against a political explanation of the
‘covenant with death’. In the same year, A.C. Stewart also published
an article calling this now common interpretation into question and
proposing a relationship with the practice of necromancy.
229
In the pres-
ent excursus I will endeavour to determine whether the interpretation
of the ‘covenant with death’ offered by Van der Toorn and Stewart
stands up to test.
The primary building blocks of Van der Toorn’s hypothesis can be
summarised in seven points:
1. The basic presupposition that Van der Toorn takes as his point
of departure is the unity of 28:7–22. This presupposition implies
that the passages 28:7–13 and 28:14–22, which are generally dis-
tinguished from one another, are addressed to the same audience.
Those addressed in verse 14 with ˆ.: ::“s and ¬:s ¬:¬ μ.¬ :::
μ::¬: are thus to be identified with the subjects of the accusation
in verse 7, namely s::“ ˆ¬:. Van der Toorn observes terminological
and content-based indications that allow him to accept the presup-
posed unity of 28:7–22. The terminological indications are to be
found in the use of ¬.:: in verses 9 and 19 and of , in verses 10
(13) and 17, while the thematic agreements between 28:7–13 and
28:14–22 function as content-based indications.
230
2. The designations ¬: and :s: employed in verses 15 and 18 should
be taken literally, as is the case in a number of other places in the
227
Cf. Donner 1964:149, Clements 1980(B):232, Wildberger 1982:1071, Kilian
1994:164.
228
Van der Toorn 1988:199–217.
229
Stewart 1988:375–377.
230
Van der Toorn 1988:199–201.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 167
Old Testament, and understood as the names of divinities. The
Canaanite belief in the gods of the underworld had also established
itself among the people of Israel.
231
3. Against the background of the tendency prevalent in the Old
Testament to camouflage traces of Israel’s idolatry wherever pos-
sible, Van der Toorn suggests that we consider the designations :.:
and ¬,: in verse 15 as a cryptic allusion to the gods Chemosh and
Milcom/Moloch. He finds evidence in support of his suggestion in
the reference to idols as μ: . : ‘gods of lies’ in Am. 2:4 and in the pres-
ence of cultic centres dedicated to the chthonic gods Chemosh and
Milcom in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Both deities are identi-
fied with Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of the underworld.
232
4. While the mention of a ‘covenant with death’ says nothing as such
with respect to the religious practices associated therewith, Van der
Toorn argues on the basis of the addressees mentioned in verse
7, namely the priests and (cultic) prophets, that necromancy was
one of the forms adopted by the cult of the gods Chemosh and
Milcom.
233
5. With the help of this explanation, Van der Toorn is likewise con-
vinced that he is able to offer a satisfying exegesis of verses 10 and
13. Instead of the commonly accepted dialogue between the prophet
and his opponents in verses 9–11, Van der Toorn maintains that
only the prophet himself is speaking in the said verses. He considers
the words of verse 10 as an imitation or even a literal report of the
oracle-like utterances of the necromancers. The potential significance
of . and , is of secondary importance, because verse 10 is to be
understood as a transcription of the bird-like sounds that emanate
from the spiritist séances.
234
6. Counter to the generally accepted exegesis, the people referred to in
verse 11 who speak ¬¬ ¬ s ˆ:: : ¬c : : . : : ‘with stammering lip and with
alien tongue’ are not to be identified with the Assyrians but rather with
the priests and prophets of verse 7. Stammering lip and alien tongue
do not thus refer to the language of the Assyrians but to an esoteric
language accessible only to the initiated. The image portrayed in
verses 7–8 is that of a cultic banquet, akin to the marzē
a
familiar
231
Van der Toorn 1988:202–203.
232
Van der Toorn 1988:203–204.
233
Van der Toorn 1988:204.
234
Van der Toorn 1988:205–212.
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168 chapter four
from Ugaritic texts, at which alcohol was employed as a means to
enter into a visionary trance and thereby pass on messages from the
dead.
235
7. The verb form ¬.:: employed in verses 9 and 19 is a terminus
technicus for a specific prophetic message that was received (heard)
in a half-conscious state. Van der Toorn suggests we read ¬.:: as
the Hebrew equivalent of the Akkadian egirrû, which is used, among
other things, in the context of divination.
236
In like fashion to Van der Toorn, Stewart presupposes that the prophet
issued his complaint against the background of a cultic feast. Stewart
agrees with Gese who considered the π:: :: in 28:15 and 18 to be
a mythologoumenon that referred to the weather god Hadad who is
portrayed with a scourge in his hand. Inspired by the said Hadad-
mythologoumenon, Gese also asks himself whether the covenant
partners ¬: and :s: should not also be understood in the mytho-
logical sense. Given the problems he encountered in transposing the
characteristics of a god of vegetation into the arena of history, Gese
considered it better to interpret ¬: and :s: as personifications only,
as they occur in numerous places elsewhere in the Old Testament.
237

Stewart is able to get round Geze’s objection by presupposing a cultic
‘Sitz im Leben’ for the prophet’s complaint rather than a political one.
Arguing that the text as such contains no reference to an historical
event, he maintains that the prophet did not speak his word for political
reasons but rather on the occasion of an orgiastic feast celebrating the
covenant with Mot. Since reference is made to a covenant, the intended
ritual must have involved something more than so-called necromancy.
Stewart is of the opinion that no other interpretation can explain the
presence of a metaphor borrowed from Baal-Hadad. He suggests that
the Canaanite myth was consciously turned on its head by the prophet
when he announced that Mot would be defeated by yhwh.
238
While the practice of necromancy was also known in Israel (see
8:19; 19:3; 29:4) and the interpretation of the ‘covenant with death’
offered by Van der Toorn and Stewart provides us with a relatively
closed image, it remains problematic on account of the fact that it is
235
Van der Toorn 1988:212–213.
236
Van der Toorn 1988:213–215.
237
Gese 1970:127–134. See also § 4.2.1.
238
Stewart 1988:375–377.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 169
based on a series of presuppositions and hypotheses. The first weak
link in the interpretative chain is the presupposed unity of 28:7–22 and
the derived identification of the ˆ.: ::“s and the ¬:s ¬:¬ μ.¬ :::
μ::¬: referred to in verse 14 with the accused s::“ ˆ¬: of verse 7.
While it cannot be denied that a degree of terminological and thematic
kinship is evident between 28:7–13 and 28:14–22, the identification
proposed by Van der Toorn is not confirmed thereby. An important
objection to such an identification is the fact that the verb ::: ‘to rule’
is not employed elsewhere in the Old Testament to designate influential
individuals (priests and prophets) who function backstage on the politi-
cal arena; its use goes hand in hand rather with the actual exercise of
power.
239
It is likewise apparent from the description of the addressees’
sphere of influence—μ : : ¬: ¬: s ¬: ¬ μ. ¬ joined by way of a construct
relationship with the μ::: —that reference is being made to political
leaders. Moreover, the Septuagint, which translates : : : with ἄρχοντες,
as well as the use of μ: : : elsewhere in the book of Isaiah (cf. 14:5; 16:1
and 49:7), favour associating the prophecy of 28:14–22 with political
leaders. The parallel structure also introduces the term ‘boasters’ into the
equation but only in the second instance. There is evidence of deliber-
ate ambiguity.
240
Moreover, stylistic and form-critical arguments tend to
undermine any interpretation of 28:7–22 as an original unity.
241
Van
der Toorn’s adhesion to the latter is strongly determined by his vision
of the circles that gave rise to Isaiah’s opponents.
242
A second point of criticism revolves around the presupposition that
the terms ¬: and :s: represent the Canaanite gods Mot and Sheol.
While Mot has a role to play in a few mythological texts, the ritual
texts and onomastica found at Ugarit tend not to mention the name at
all. In contrast to other gods, there appears to have been no cult sur-
rounding Mot.
243
Although it may be possible to speak of establishing
239
Soggin 1978:930–933, Groß 1986:74–77.
240
Wolff 1973
3
:49 speaks incorrectly of ‘politisierenden Gegenpropheten’. The
designation ‘Bündnispolitiker’ employed later (123) by the same author does more
justice to the text.
241
See the discussion hereof in § 3.3.
242
Cf. Tropper 1989:329.
243
Cf. Healey 1999:600: “He is, rather, to be regarded as a demonic figure, wholly
evil and without redeeming features.” See also Healey 1999:598–599: “Mot’s absence
from the Ugarit cult and personal names suggests that he was not a deity worshipped
like others in the pantheon.” “Mot is absent from the local ‘pantheon’ and offering lists.”
“. . . it seems much more likely that Mot was not regarded as a deity to be worshipped
like others.” “. . . he is not a deity in the full sense.”
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170 chapter four
a covenant with one or other god, Mot must ultimately be excluded
from such a possibility since he did not belong to the heavenly pan-
theon. The same has to be said with respect to Sheol. There is no
single indication that Sheol was ever considered a divinity.
244
One has
to be particularly careful when speaking of personification and demy-
thologisation in the present instance.
245
In any event, there is nothing
forcing us to understand a personification of the kingdom of the dead
as having its roots in mythology, since such a personification can easily
be explained on the basis of day to day experience: death significantly
influences life.
246
In rejecting a literal interpretation of verse 15 as a reference to the
Canaanite gods Mot and Sheol, we are nevertheless left with a residual
question concerning the possibility of a concealed allusion to one or
other ritual of invocation. While Wildberger interprets the ‘covenant
with death’ metaphorically and relates it to the political situation, he
considers it conceivable nevertheless that the prophet was able to use
the metaphor because certain parties in Jerusalem were familiar with
244
Day 1989:62f is of the opinion that allusion is being made here to the cult
of Moloch, given the fact that the latter was considered to be the Canaanite god of
the underworld. Day is surprised that other exegetes appear to be unaware of this.
Blenkinsopp 2000(B):477, in turn, is surprised at the fact that, should Day’s interpre-
tation be correct, Moloch is not simply named in the text. While there is evidence
of a revival of the cult of Moloch during the Assyrian period, Day is nevertheless
obliged to admit that there is no evidence in the said cult of establishing a covenant.
The ‘do ut des’ principle has facilitated such an interpretation. Day sees a parallel
with 57:9 in this regard. As a consequence of his interpretation, we would be obliged
to date 28:14–22 during the reign of King Ahaz who, in contrast to King Hezekiah,
was associated with the cult of Moloch (2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6). Doyle 1999:190 is of the
opinion that the discoveries at Ugarit do not provide sufficient evidence to associate
Moloch directly with Mot. Heider 1999:585 considers it reasonable to accept that
Moloch was a god of the underworld, but draws the line at an association with the
worship of ancestors.
245
Gerleman 1978
3
:893–897 speaks with respect to ¬ : of weak traces of personifica-
tion in the Old Testament. He notes, in any case, that the Old Testament never ascribes
personifying attributes to death. Cf. Barstad 1999:769: “Since the texts in which we find
descriptions of Sheol personified in their present shape are purely poetical, any attempt
to go beyond the texts and ask whether these texts ultimately go back to mythological
descriptions is bound to end as sheer speculations.” “The whole issue becomes even
more vital when we know that no deity Sheol has ever been attested.”
246
Cf. Blenkinsopp 2000(B):476: “. . . some degree of personification is inevitably
present in the metaphoric language used about death . . .” He considers it equally
unavoidable “that personified Death would be identified with the deity Mot . . .” I
would venture to call the latter into question. The Old Testament itself contains no
evidence in support of such an identification. Moreover, Blenkinsopp’s claim does not
square with the observation that he himself makes, namely that Mot does not have a
place in the cult of Ugarit.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 171
magical rites with which they endeavoured to protect themselves against
the power of death. Wildberger refers in this regard to an amulet found
at Arslantas in 1939 to support his hunch. There is a possibility that the
invocation inscribed on the said amulet speaks of an eternal covenant
established with humanity and of a pact set up by Asherah on behalf
of humanity with all the sons of the gods and with the entire heavenly
pantheon.
247
The reference to a covenant is striking indeed and would
appear to agree with Isa. 28:15. Before jumping to conclusions and
identifying the content of the amulet with that of our text, it should
be borne in mind that the incantation on the amulet makes no refer-
ence to a covenant established by human beings, as is the case in 28:15,
but rather of a covenant established on behalf of human beings. The
suggestion that we are dealing here with a veiled allusion to magical
rituals is further undermined by the fact that such incantations always
appeal to the great and the good among the gods, precisely because
protection is being sought from demons and from death. A ‘covenant
with death’ thus becomes difficult to place within the context of such
an incantation. The same can be said with respect to the concept of
necromancy itself, which generally addresses itself to deceased ancestors
and not to Mot and Sheol.
248
It is also difficult to understand why the
prophet should speak only in veiled terms in 28:15 if the text were in
reality a reference to necromancy (cf. 8:19).
249
Van der Toorn’s interpretation of the designations :. : and ¬, : from
the perspective of his explanation of ¬: and :s: is hypothetical to
say the least and ultimately leads to a somewhat artificial understanding
of the terms :.: and ¬,: as cryptic references to the gods Chemosh
and Milcom.
250
His appeal in this regard to the idols designated in Am.
2:4 as μ:.: ‘gods of lies’, remains unconvincing. The meaning of this
247
Wildberger 1982:1073–1074.
248
Cf. Day 1989:61–62 and B.B. Schmidt 1996:161. In a recent study on the family
and private religion in Babylon, Syria and Israel, Van der Toorn has endeavoured to
chart the presence of ancestor worship in Israel (1996:206–235): “A hidden heritage:
the Israelite cult of the dead.” Van der Toorn makes a distinction in this regard
between the cult of the dead found within family circles, and necromancy as practised
among specialists.
249
Cf. B.B. Schmidt 1996:160: “it should be noted that rites related to the ancestor
cult or necromancy are nowhere explicitly mentioned in Isa. 28:7–22.”
250
Gruber 1999:517 agrees with Van der Toorn’s interpretation without further
motivation. Cf. also the more general interpretation of Blenkinsopp 2000(B):479: “From
the point of the prophetic author of Isa. xxviii 15 the lie and the falsehood refer, in the
last analysis, to foreign deities, the cult offered to them, and accommodations with them
which, on the prophetic view, were endemic in foreign alliances sealed by treaty.”
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172 chapter four
designation has its roots in the fact that the gods tempt and mislead.
In Am. 2:4, there can be no misunderstanding: μ¬:.“: is not a desig-
nation but rather a typification of the idols in question.
251
The idols are
characterised as unreliable.
252
When 28:15 speaks of :.: as a refuge,
it is reasonable to assume that also in this instance the intention is not
to name the refuge but to typify it. This is further reinforced by the use
of :.: ¬:¬: ‘refuge of lies’ in 28:17. It is highly unlikely that a cryptic
designation of one or other idol is intended here. It is a question, rather,
of an unambiguous typification of the refuge as a place from which one
is likely to emerge deceived. The political leaders in Jerusalem have
allowed themselves to be misled.
253
A meaningful comparison can also
be made in this regard with Ps. 62:10, in which the :s :: ‘those of
high estate’ are designated as :.: because they are not to be trusted.
254

It is better to trust in God and to say ::¬:¬: μ¬:s‘ (Ps. 62:9). There
is no conclusive reason to read the terms :.: and ¬,: in 28:15 as a
251
Cf. Klopfenstein 1964:236f: “Eine bestimmte, in ihrem Wesen liegende Haupt-
eigenschaft der Götzen wird hier zum Namen für sie: Ihr Wesen ist Lüge, Täuschung,
Schein; sie scheinen zu existieren und etwas zu vermögen, wo sie doch nichts sind.
So heißen sie denn einfach ‘Lügen’.” Klopfenstein argues that this designation of
the idols signifies more or less the same as the designation μ¬::¬ ‘(their) vanities’ in
Deut. 32:21, referring in support of his argument to Jer. 10:14f; 16:19; Ps. 62:10 and
to the Septuagint, which translates μ¬:.“: in Am. 2:4 with τὰ μάταια. Klopfenstein
considers Am. 2:4 as the only scriptural text in which :.: refers with certainty to the
religious domain.
252
Van Leeuwen 1985:74 argues that idols are not only spoken of as lies “because
they cannot save and thus proclaim lies when they present themselves as saving gods,
but primarily because they themselves are the product of the false notions of human
beings.” The aspect to be emphasised depends on the primary significance one ascribes
to :.:. Klopfenstein 1978
3
:817–823 takes the notion of ‘speaking lies’ as his point of
departure whereby a speaking subject is presupposed. Mosis 1982:111–130 is more
inclined to associate the primary significance of the term with the object: ‘unreliable’,
‘deceptive’.
253
Mosis 1982:126 makes note of the important theological perspective that :.:
also contains an implicit critique, not only of the object designated by the term but
also of those who allow themselves to be deceived by expecting reliability and truth
therefrom.
254
Klopfenstein 1964:151 concludes that :.: and ¬,: designate rather ‘eine religiös
verkehrte innere Haltung’: “:. : und ¬, : in v. 15c sind theologische Urteile Jesajas über
eine falsche religiöse Haltung des judäischen Volkes in einer Zeit äußerster Bedrängnis
durch die Assyrermacht.” This conclusion goes hand in hand with Klopfenstein’s
understanding of the primary meaning of :.: (speaking untruths, see 1978
3
:818). The
word :.: thus represents an ethical statement with respect to the people of whom it
is employed. The significance ascribed by Mosis 1982:116–117 to :.: (unreliability,
deceptiveness), however, does greater justice to 28:15. :.: is thus employed in the first
instance in direct relationship to the object. In determining this primary significance,
Mosis points out that :.: is frequently employed as an antonym for ˆ:s, ˆ: and ¬:.
Two of the aforementioned verbs are also employed in the context of 28:15.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 172 1/18/2007 2:17:59 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 173
reference to specific gods. Van der Toorn’s interpretation is speculative
since it bases the identification of :.: and ¬,: with the gods Chemosh
and Milcom on the presupposition that ¬: and :s: also refer to
gods.
255
The fact that Milcom is known to have had a connection with
the underworld and to have potentially played a role in necromancy
256

remains an insufficiently stable basis upon which to justify such an
exegesis of the clause in question.
Since the interpretation of the ‘covenant with death’ as an allusion
to the phenomenon of necromancy is now barely tenable on exegetical
grounds, the most important pillar of Van der Toorn’s exegesis of verses
10 and 13 is also forced to collapse. His presupposition that the verses
in question represent a transcription of birdlike utterances stemming
from spiritist séances is likewise considerably speculative. Moreover, his
explanation completely ignores the relationship between the words .
and , in verse 10 and the terms s, ‘vomit’ and ¬s. ‘filth’ in verse 8.
The association between the words of the prophet (verse 8) and the
words of his opponents (verse 10) is intended to give expression to the
incomprehensibility of Isaiah’s message as well as its indigestibility. While Van
der Toorn does indeed suggest that we understand verse 10 as an echo
of verse 8, his exegesis offers no further explanation in this regard.
A further weak link in the chain of Van der Toorn’s explanation
lies in the fact that the relationship between verses 11 and 12 is insuf-
ficiently accounted for in his exegesis. Verse 12 is clearly connected at
the level of syntax to the preceding verses via the relative pronoun ¬: s .
Given that the content of verse 12 is determined by the motif of ‘rest’
and the latter clearly has a political tone in the preaching of Isaiah,
the announcement of judgement in verse 11 thus calls for a political
interpretation. Van der Toorn does not factor this political context into
his argument when he presupposes that the incomprehensible language
and alien tongue should be understood as an allusion to the esoteric
utterances of the priests and prophets referred to in verse 7. There
can be little doubt that verse 11 is intended to announce the arrival
of the Assyrians (cf. 33:19). Van der Toorn ignores the association
between God’s words in the near future and God’s words in the past
established in verses 11 and 12. Ultimately this is due to the fact that
255
Tromp 1969:47, 97 considers ¬¬: in Isa. 45:19 and Ps. 139:15 to be one of the
many names for the kingdom of the dead. Irwin 1977:28–29 concludes on this basis
that :.: and ¬,: in 28:15 are symbolic names for ¬: and :s: .
256
Cf. Puech 1999:575.
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174 chapter four
he still considers this passage to be a complaint, while the customary
pattern of the prophecy of judgement would clearly have us begin the
announcement of judgement in verse 11.
Furthermore, the obvious character of the link drawn by Van der
Toorn and others between the phenomenon of the marzē
a
(cf. ¬:
¬.¬“: in Jer. 16:5) and necromancy is open to negotiation in a variety
of ways.
257
In a detailed study of the cult of the dead in Ancient Israel
and Ugarit, Lewis has called the apparent obviousness of this link into
question.
258
His study points out that only one single text (KTU 1.21)
would appear to suggest a link with a funeral ritual, while the majority
of texts in which marzē
a
occurs relate it to a drinking party.
259
Lewis’s conclusion that the marzē
a
refers exclusively to a drinking
party has been reconfirmed in a recent monograph by McLaughlin
on the phenomenon. After a thorough discussion of all the relevant
texts, McLaughlin concludes that the phenomenon of the marzē
a
can
be recognised throughout the centuries as having three different char-
acteristics:
1. the participants at a marzē
a
belong to the upper echelons of the
population,
260
257
For the association in question see also Jackson 1974:94–96, Pope 1981:176–179
and Halpern 1986:109f.
258
Lewis 1989:80–94. See also Fabry 1986:11–16.
259
Cf. Lewis 1989:88: “In other words, the raison d’être of the marzē
a
organizations
may have been the desire to have a drinking club. The men of the marzē
a
organiza-
tion could have been known for their drinking.” And: “its association with funerary
customs could have arisen due to the abundant beer imbibed by mourners to console
themselves. It would also have been consoling to the mourners to know that their
‘dear departed loved one’ is having a jolly good time drinking away with the rp’m and
El, the ‘partier’ par excellence.” Lewis 1989:134–135 is not particularly consistent in
his treatment of 28:15,18 when he agrees with Halpern 1986:109f who suggests that
Isaiah was ridiculing his opponents as ‘participants in the ancestral cult’ with refer-
ence to the phenomenon of the marzē
a
. Halpern even states that “The logical home
of this complex is in the ancestral or funeral cult.” Halpern bases his conclusion in
this regard, however, entirely on the study of Pope 1981:176–179, while Lewis himself
had introduced a necessary degree of nuance with respect to Pope’s opinions on the
marzē
a
as a ‘funerary banquet’ in an earlier chapter (1989:80–94). Cf. also Lewis’ own
conclusion: “In fact, there is nothing explicitly funerary about the marzē
a
documented
at Ugarit. The strongest evidence for its funerary character (though problematic) is the
association of the rp’m with the [m]rz‘ in KTU 1.21 (CTA 21).” “In other words, the
evidence looked at above does not demonstrate that the marzē
a
can ever be dissociated
from the funerary ritual. Yet the case for the marzē
a
as always involving a funerary
banquet is quite weak.” (172) B.B. Schmidt arrives at the same conclusion in a recent
study 1996:62–66, 144–147, 246–249.
260
McLaughlin 2001:66–68. The suggestion that those who participated at a marzē
a

enjoyed a relatively elevated social status is not only apparent from the texts that speak
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 174 1/18/2007 2:18:00 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 175
2. the marzē
a
took place in a religious context in the sense that a par-
ticular deity served as its patron,
261
and
3. the most important goal of the marzē
a
was the excessive intake of
alcohol.
262
The suggestion that the marzē
a
also had something to do with the dead
is firmly denied in McLaughlin’s study.
263
Bearing this in mind, it is
difficult to understand why McLaughlin explicitly agrees with Van der
Toorn’s interpretation of 28:7–22
264
and even concludes that the text
in question represents an important development in the study of the
phenomenon of the marzē
a
, since it would seem for the first time to
establish a relationship with the cult of the dead (cf. Jer. 16:5).
265
If Van
der Toorn’s explanation of 28:7–22 is no longer tenable for the reasons
outlined above and McLaughlin fails to introduce new elements into the
argument beyond those already proposed by Van der Toorn, then the
of the marzē
a
themselves but also from the place in which they were found: “Simply
put, the sites where the various marzē
a
tablets were excavated favour situating the
marzē
a
itself among the upper levels of society.” (67)
261
McLaughlin 2001:68–69. It is important to note in this regard that the marzē
a
,
according to McLaughlin, cannot be typified as a cultic activity: “So while the vari-
ous deities are best interpreted as divine patrons, worship of these patrons does not
seem to be the primary purpose of the marzē
a
s dedicated to them. The marzē
a
and
its gathering was religious, in the sense that it was connected with a patron deity or
deities, but it was not cultic.” (69)
262
McLaughlin 2001:69–70: “. . . it is likely that a major purpose of the marzē
a

itself was to get drunk.”
263
McLaughlin 2001:66: “A fourth element, namely a funerary connection, is often
claimed as an essential aspect of the marzē
a
, but the evidence does not support that
view.” For the argumentation in support of this claim see McLaughlin 2001:70–79.
264
See McLaughlin 2001:179: “More directly, since Moth is their patron, he is the
more probable source of a revelation. Thus, I think Karel van der Toorn is correct
when he suggests that the syllables in v. 10 are a slightly deformed reproduction of
that revelation.” McLaughlin is nevertheless inclined to consider Van der Toorn’s pro-
posed identification of :.: and ¬,: with the gods Chemosh and Milcom somewhat
speculative.
265
See McLaughlin 2001:180: “In conclusion, vv. 7–8 reflect the basic elements of a
marzē
a
, namely a definable portion of the elite getting drunk in an explicitly religious
context. At the same time, the larger context presents the first clear connection between
a marzē
a
and the cult of the dead.” Cf. McLaughlin 2001:184: “This has great impor-
tance for the marzē
a
’s history. Isa 28:7–22 is the first instance of a marzē
a
text that also
exhibits an explicit link with the cult of the dead. As such it sets a precedent, but not
a requirement, for subsequent instances of a marzē
a
. Since this particular one was a
means for contacting the realm of the dead, the possibility that later ones might be as
well is increased. But that possibility should not be mistaken for a necessity. Funerary
elements cannot establish a passage as a marzē
a
allusion. Drinking in a religious context
by a definable portion of the elite remain essential characteristics of a marzē
a
, and
subsequent texts will still have to be evaluated on the basis of those criteria.”
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176 chapter four
most important grounds for presupposing a development with respect
to the said text in the direction of the cult of the dead is completely
undermined. It is unfortunate that McLaughlin’s critical yet careful
analysis of extra-biblical texts is not maintained to the same degree in
his exegesis of 28:7–22.
266
The hypothesis maintained by Stewart, namely that 28:7–18 should
not be understood as a historical text as there would appear to be no
particular historical event to which it alludes, must also be rejected.
When Stewart argues that the storm and hail mentioned in verses 17
and 18 do not refer to Assyria but rather to yhwh himself, to whom
the attributes of Baal-Hadad are ascribed, then it becomes clear that
he is not familiar with the function of the said metaphor elsewhere
in the preaching of Isaiah (cf. 28:2 and 8:5–8). Stewart’s endeavour
to get round any political explanation of the ‘covenant with death’ is
clearly contrived. He is of the opinion that the only point of support
for a political explanation of the text is lost when we translate the term
μ::: in verse 14—together with Fohrer—as ‘composers of proverbs’ and
he presupposes that the context itself must have given initial impetus to
a political interpretation of the ‘covenant with death’.
267
I am inclined
to argue, however, that the addressees referred to in verse 14 (see above)
as well as the contrast with Zion in verse 16 together favour a political
explanation of the ‘covenant with death’, with Egypt serving as back-
ground. The prophet similarly refers to Zion in 14:32 as a safer place
of refuge against the background of political negotiations in which
the assistance of Egypt had an important role to play. Stewart takes
the easy way out when he argues that both verses 16–17a and verses
11–13 are later interpolations, when the political explanation of the
‘covenant with death’ had already been introduced.
268
We can affirm, in summary, that there are no convincing arguments
266
It is worthy of note that in spite of his agreement with the careful conclusions
of Lewis, Blenkinsopp 2000(B):481 nevertheless asserts a relationship between the
‘covenant with death’ and the practice of necromancy: “These reservations having
been expressed, it seems that some form of necromantic practice is not only compatible
with the making of a covenant with Death but a necessary part of it.” Blenkinsopp
appeals in this regard to 57,8b–9, which he is inclined to consider a parallel text. In
so doing, however, he is forced to emend the clause μ¬: ¸:¬¬:¬ ‘you have agreed on
your wage from them (whose copulation you have loved)’ (57:8b) to read μ¬:. ¸:¬¬:¬ ‘you
made a pact for yourself with them.’
267
Stewart 1988:376.
268
Cf. Stewart 1988:377: “Before the addition of this material we have one unified
oracle, the work of a cult prophet.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 176 1/18/2007 2:18:01 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 177
available to relate the ‘covenant with death’ referred to in the context of
the prophecy of 28:14–22 with the phenomenon of necromancy. The
arguments proposed in support of such an association are hypothetical
to say the least and, to a degree, even speculative in character.
4.3. Isa. 28:7–13
In like fashion to the prophecy of 28:14–22, Isa. 28:7–13 also belongs
to the prophecy of judgement genre and clearly exhibits the usual
pattern of accusation and announcement of judgement. The accusa-
tion is made up of verses 7–10 and the announcement of judgement
of verses 11–13. At the same time, however, both the accusation and
the announcement of judgement contain an element that deviates to a
certain degree from the expected pattern. The accusation is dramatised
in verses 9–10 by the insertion of a quotation borrowed by the prophet
from the words of his opponents. In the context of the announcement
of judgement, the prophet also inserts a quotation in verse 12, but in
this instance taken from the words of yhwh. Once again, the prophet
appears to have employed the pattern of the prophecy of judgement
in his own creative fashion.
Two important questions need to be raised with respect to the exegesis
of these verses. The first concerns the cohesion between 28:7–13 and
the preceding prophecy against Samaria/Ephraim in 28:1–4(6). The
second concerns the addressees and the context of the prophecy of
judgement of 28:7–13. The discussion will be divided into three sections
and will focus on verses 7–8, 9–10 and 11–13 respectively. As with our
treatment of 28:14–22, the discussion of each segment is preceded by
the Hebrew text and an English translation.
4.3.1. Isa. 28:7–8: Accusation
:: ˆ: ¬:sμ:“ 7 But these also reel with wine
.¬ ¬::: and stagger with strong drink:
¬::: :: s::“ ˆ¬: priest and prophet reel with strong drink,
ˆ¬ˆ: .::: they are clouded with wine,
¬::¬ˆ: .¬ they stagger with strong drink;
¬s¬: :: they totter in vision,
¬::c ,c they stumble in giving judgement.
¬:¬:::: : 8 Yes, all tables
¬s. s, s:: are covered with filthy vomit,
: μ,: :: no place is clean!
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178 chapter four
The accusation with which the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13
begins is connected to the preceding prophecy concerning Samaria/
Ephraim at the levels of both content and redaction. Everything would
seem to suggest that the entire bicolon with which verse 7 (ˆ: ¬:sμ:“
.¬ ¬::: ::) commences is in fact redactional.
269
While verse 7b is
characterised by a sequence of asyndetic qatal clauses, verse 7a consists
of two w
e
-x-qatal clauses, which are intended to establish a link between
the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13 and that of 28:1–4. The use of
the opening ¬: s μ: “ harks back explicitly to the μ ¬ c s ¬ : : ‘drunkards of
Ephraim’ (cf. the same formula ¬: s μ: in Prov. 25:1) already mentioned in
the woe statement of 28:1 while the words .¬ ¬: : : :: ˆ : anticipate
what follows. The accusation of this prophecy of judgement must have
originally started in the tricolon with which verse 7b begins.
270
The fact
that the redactor responsible for the redactional passage of verse 7a had
acquired a degree of sensitivity with respect to style, is apparent from
the reversal of the clause sequence when compared with what follows.
The location of both ˆ: and ¬::: in verse 7a before the verb, draws
attention to this important word-pair.
271
The said word-pair ˆ ‘wine’
and ¬:: ‘strong drink’ is not only used in verses 7a and 7b, it also has
an important role to play in the woe statement of 28:1. In terms of
meaning, the verbs ¬:: ‘reel’ and ¬.¬ ‘stagger’ are virtually synonymous,
both referring in the context of this accusation to the uncontrolled
progress of someone who has had too much to drink.
272
Verse 7b is structured as a tricolon (4 + 2 + 2) and a bicolon (2 + 2),
which together form a single sentence. The tricolon begins with an
introductory formulation in which the spiritual leaders against whom
the accusation is directed are presented. Moreover, s::“ ˆ¬: ‘priest and
prophet’ are given a foreground position in verse 7b as the subject of all
269
See Donner 1964:148, Kaiser 1976
2
:194, Dietrich 1976:151, Petersen 1979:108,
Clements 1980(B):226, Wildberger 1982:1055–1056, Gonçalves 1986:188, Kilian
1994:159 and Beuken 2000:36.
270
Beuken 2000:11 considers the beginning of verse 7b to be a bicolon followed by
a tricolon. Bearing in mind the use of the word-pairs ˆ ‘wine’ and ¬:: ‘strong drink’
on the one hand and ¬s¬ ‘vision’ and ¬::c ‘judgement’ on the other, however, such a
subdivision of the text is not so evident.
271
Cf. Watson 1984:134. For the use of word-pairs in general see Watson 1994:262–
312 and Alonso Schökel 1988:61–63.
272
Seidl 1994:1059. See also Sawyer 1979
2
:1056. The Septuagint of verse 7a twice
employs a form of the verb πλανάω ‘to mislead’: οὗτοι γὰρ οἴνῳ πεπλανημένοι εἰσίν
ἐπλανήθησαν διὰ τὸ σικερα.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 178 1/18/2007 2:18:01 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 179
the expressions relating to drunken behaviour that follow.
273
The motif
of drunkenness is already evident in the first introductory colon. In
the remainder of the tricolon and the associated bicolon, the motif is
elaborated in pairs with the ellipsis of the subject. The emerging pat-
tern can be visualised as follows:
¬::: :: s::“ ˆ¬: A a-b-c
ˆ¬ˆ: .::: B *-b-c // *-b’-c’
¬::¬ˆ: .¬ B’
¬s¬: :: C *-b-d // *-b’-d’
¬::c ,c C’
It is striking that each of the four cola that elaborate the motif of
drunkenness in pairs begins with a different verb:
III
.:: ‘confuse’ (B),
274
¬.¬ ‘stagger’ (B’), ¬:: ‘totter’ (C) and ,c ‘stumble’ (C’).The parallel cola B
and B’ (ˆ¬ˆ: .::: // ¬::¬ˆ: .¬) continue the motif of drunken-
ness while the parallel cola C and C’ (¬s¬: :: // ¬::c ,c) let the
reader see what the combination of spiritual leadership and drunken-
ness can signify. Drunkenness obstructs the priest and the prophet
in the exercise of their duties and is even explicitly forbidden where
priests are concerned in Lev. 10:8–11. The words ¬s ¬ ‘vision’ and
¬ : : c ‘judgement’ allude to the exercise of spiritual leadership, the former
focusing on the prophet’s visionary qualities,
275
and the latter on the
273
The Isaiah Targum of 28:7 and indeed 9:14 reads ¬c: ‘scribe’ instead of s::
‘prophet’. According to Wildberger 1982:1053, this is an indication that the rabbis wanted
to spare the prophets the serious accusation of drunkenness. Nevertheless, the word-
pair s::“ ˆ¬: ‘priest and prophet’ occurs with relative frequency in the Old Testament,
especially in texts from the late period of kings (cf. Jer. 2:8,26; 6:13; 8:10; 14:18; 18:18;
23:11,33; 32:32). The function of both must have been particularly similar in those
days (see Jeremias 1979
2
:10; Müller 1986:158 and Dommershausen 1984:77–78). It is
probable that Isaiah saw himself—in line with his older colleague Amos—more as a
¬.¬ ‘seer’ (cf. 1:1; 2:1; 30:10) than as a s:: ‘prophet’ (cf. 37:2; 38:1; 39:3).
274
HAHAT derives .::: from
I
.:: ‘to devour’ (cf. ¬:.:: in 28:4). A derivative of
III
.:: ‘to confuse’ (an equivalent form of :::), however, seems closer to the parallels
employed in 7b (in DCH
II
.::). The translation ‘clouded’ is an attempt to give adequate
expression to the confusion brought on by wine. See also 3:12 and 9:15 in which the
verb
III
.:: is used as here in 28:7, in both instances side by side with a form of the
verb ¬.¬ ‘to stagger’. Cf. Duhm 1914
3
:172, KBL/HALAT, Wildberger 1982:1053,
Barthel 1997:291.
275
Given the fact that the vocalisation of the Masoretic text is unusual, BHS sug-
gests in line with Procksch 1930(A):352/354 that we vocalise as follows: ¬s¬: . While
this does indeed appear to be better Hebrew, it is not impossible to presume that we
are dealing here with a form of
II
¬s¬ ‘apparition, vision’ (cf. Vetter 1979
2
:700 and Fuhs
1990:263).
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180 chapter four
( judicial) statements expected among other things from the priest.
276

The prophet’s formulation of verse 7b effectively expresses the core of
his accusation.
277
In order to underline his accusation of spiritual incompetence, the
prophet offers his readers a portrayal of the drunkenness of their
spiritual leaders in verse 8. The structure of this verse is usually taken
to be a bicolon
278
although the individual cola differ considerably from
one another in length (5 + 2). Given that the first colon appears to be
too long and the second to be too short, the suggestion is sometimes
made that we should relocate the Atnāch to s, .
279
The present author
is of the opinion that this relocation would be ill-advised. When the
Masoretic distinctive accents are taken as the point of departure, verse
8 is clearly to be understood as a tricolon with three short cola (2 + 3
+ 2). This obviates the need to relocate the Atnāch. The resulting struc-
ture, moreover, fits well with the fact that ¬s. s, can be understood
as a hendiadys (see below). The use of short cola in both verse 7 and
verse 8, furthermore, can be understood as an expression of outrage
or indignation.
The scene portrayed by the prophet is far from edifying. The sub-
ject ¬:¬:::: ‘all tables’ is placed in first position for emphasis (cf.
the same sequence at the beginning of verses 7a and 7b). The tables
intended for sacrificial meals in the temple are completely soiled.
280
The
prophet expresses his disgust with the terms s, ‘vomit’ and ¬s. ‘filth’.
The word s, is also used elsewhere in relation to drunkenness—cf.
19:14 and Jer. 48:26. The term ¬s. suggests images of human filth
276
Von Rad 1978
7
:257: “Auf dem Dienst des Priesters stand der gesamte Verkehr
des Jahwevolkes mit seinem Gott; so war er vor allem als Vermittler jeder Art von
Gottesentscheiden zuständig.” The verb ::c is used in this sense in 1 Sam. 2:25.
A nominal form ¬::c (hapax) is also to be found in Isa. 16:3 (see Gerstenberger
1989:613). Several exegetes suggest we place a : before ¬::c by analogy with ¬s¬: .
Wildberger 1982:1053 is even inclined to consider such an emendation unavoidable.
GKG § 119hh points out, however: “In poetic parallelism the governing power of a
preposition is sometimes extended to the corresponding substantive of the second
member.” Isa. 28:7 can thus be added to GKG § 119hh as an example.
277
The structure of verse 7b is no longer recognisable in the Septuagint, which has
combined colon A and B to read ἱερεὺς καὶ προφήτης ἐξέστησαν διὰ τὸν οἶνον and
rewritten colon B’ as ἐσείσθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς μέθης τοῦ σικερα. Colon C is translated as
ἐπλανήθησαν τοῦτ’ ἔστι φάσμα, while colon C’ has disappeared in the translation.
278
See, for example, Beuken 2000:11.
279
See BHS and Wildberger 1982:1053.
280
Reference is also made in the books of Chronicles to the presence of various
tables in the temple (1 Chron. 28:16; 2 Chron. 4:8,19; cf. Ezek. 40:39–43).
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 180 1/18/2007 2:18:02 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 181
in general (cf. ¸¬s. in Deut. 23:14 and μ¬s¬ ¬s. in Ezek. 4:12; see
also the use of ¬s. in 4:4; Qere 36:12 and Prov. 30:12),
281
although it
probably functions in the present context of 28:8 as a parallel concept
to s, , albeit with strongly negative connotations. Given the fact that
s, and ¬s. are joined together asyndetically, it is possible to under-
stand the combined expression ¬s. s, as a hendiadys in the sense of
‘filthy vomit’. The prophet’s abhorrence of the way in which the priests
and the prophets go about their duties could not be more pointedly
expressed.
282
The short colon of verse 8b functions in this regard as a
climax and can be understood as an expression of profound indignation:
nothing is sacred! The intended climax would be missed if one were
to relocate the Atnāch to s, and transform the verse into a bicolon.
283
The meaning of this exclamation is that there is actually nothing left
that is clean.
284
In light of the purity that had to be maintained in the
(temple) service of yhwh, the prophet’s accusation is grave and requires
no further explanation.
285
In a recent study based, among other things, on the phenomenon
of the marzē
a
known to us from Ugarit, McLaughlin presupposes that
28:7–8 contains reference to such a drinking feast. While the criteria
established by McLaughlin are indeed useful, the question remains
nevertheless whether they are also applicable to 28:7–8. As a matter
of fact, McLaughlin himself has explicitly argued that a marzē
a
should
not be understood as a cultic activity but rather as a drinking feast at
which one or other god served as patron.
286
The scene portrayed in
281
Tanghe 1993:236.
282
Cf. Ernst 1994:78: “Drastischer als Jes 28,8 kann ein prophetischer Schuldaufweis
fehlende Erkenntnis von Priester und Prophet in religiös-sittlichen Bereich kaum aus-
drücken.” Strangely enough, B.B. Schmidt 1996:161 interprets s:: as a prophetic
perfect. Such an interpretation, however, is out of place in the context of an accusa-
tion and interrupts the recognisable pattern of the prophecy of judgement evident
in 28:7–13.
283
Cf. Oswalt 1986:503.
284
Dietrich 1976:153 suggests we scrap both concluding words because they do not
fit well with ¬:¬::. The present author can see no valid reason to agree with him.
285
The Septuagint would appear to offer a rather free translation of verse 8: ἀρὰ
ἔδεται ταύτην τὴν βουλήν αὕτη γὰρ ἡ βουλὴ ἕνεκεν πλεονεξίας ‘a curse shall devour that
plan, for this plan is (rooted in) greed ’. The Septuagint thus clearly understood verse 8 as
an announcement of judgement, the plan in question being a possible allusion to the
politics of those days that had been rejected by the prophet. Cf. the use of βουλή in
LXX 29:15; 30:1 and 31:6. See also LXX 24:6 in which reference is made to a curse
that will devour the earth.
286
See McLaughlin 2001:69: “So while the various deities are best interpreted as
divine patrons, worship of these patrons does not seem to be the primary purpose of
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182 chapter four
28:7, however, would appear to be cultic in nature, as McLaughlin
readily admits.
287
The fact that McLaughlin’s description of 28:7–8
argues nevertheless in favour of the presence of the phenomenon of
the marzē
a
, has to do with the association he establishes, in line with
Van der Toorn, with the ‘covenant with death’ in 28:15,18.
288
Based on
this association, he argues that the god Mot functioned as the patron
of the marzē
a
described in 28:7–8. In the excursus on the ‘covenant
with death’ and necromancy (Excursus 2) preceding § 4.3., I offer a
detailed rejection of such an explanation. If the association between
the description offered in 28:7–8 and the ‘covenant with death’ in
28:15,18 is removed and one upholds the basic criteria proposed by
McLaughlin, it becomes difficult to maintain the idea that the scene
presented in 28:7–8 should be understood as a marzē
a
.
289
The situation
described in 28:7–8 is better understood in general terms as a cultic
activity in the temple.
4.3.2. Isa. 28:9–10: Rejoinder
¬.¬ ¬¬ :¬s 9 “Whom will he teach knowledge
¬.:: ˆ: :¬s“ and to whom will he explain the message?
::¬: :::“ Those who are weaned from milk,
μ¬:: ,¬. those taken from the breast?
.: . .: . : 10 For it is all filth
,: , ,: , that he vomits over us;
μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ a little here, a little there.”
Having reached its climax in verse 8, the prophet’s accusation is fol-
lowed in verses 9–10 by a passage in which two critical questions are
posed (9a), provisionally answered (9b) and further motivated (10). Verse
9 consists of two carefully paralleled bicola; verse 10 is a tricolon of
the type A-A’-B.
The character of verses 9–10 is not immediately evident. A difference
with verses 7–8 in which qatal clauses predominated consists nevertheless
the marzē
a
s dedicated to them. The marzē
a
and its gathering was religious, in the sense
that it was connected with a patron deity or deities, but it was not cultic.”
287
Cf. McLaughlin 2001:178: “. . . intoxication coincides with the performance of
their religious duties.”
288
Cf. McLaughlin 2001:178: “In sum, Isa. 28:7–8 reflects the basic elements of
a marzē
a
. But further information about the religious component of this particular
marzē
a
can be derived from the larger context of those verses.”
289
Other Old Testament texts in which McLaughlin 2001:80–213 detects allusion
to the phenomenon of the marzē
a
include Am. 4:1; 6:1,3–7; Hos. 4:16–19; Jer. 16:5
and Ezek. 29:17–20.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 182 1/18/2007 2:18:02 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 183
in the use of yiqtôl clauses (verse 9) and a series of nominal clauses (verse
10). It is not exactly clear how the Masoretes understood the relationship
between these and the preceding verses. The transition from verse 8
to verse 9 is provided with a pericope indicator (Setumah), while this is
lacking at the beginning of the announcement of judgement in verse
11. It is possible that the Masoretes also struggled in determining the
correct interpretation of these verses. This surely goes hand in hand
with the fact that it is not immediately clear who is speaking in verses
9–10 or who should be understood as the subject of ¬¬ and ˆ: in
verse 9a. There are four possibilities:
1. The prophet himself is the subject of ¬¬ and ˆ: and he is quoting
his opponents. The priest and the prophet from verse 7 are included
in the dialogue and they respond with indignation to the accusation
addressed against them by the prophet in verses 7–8. They are no
longer open to correction and they see the prophet as a know-it-all
who is treating them as if they were children. This is the most cur-
rent hypothesis.
2. The priest and the prophet are the subjects of ¬¬ and ˆ: . The
prophet himself is speaking and he is still addressing the same ˆ¬:
s::“ referred to in verse 7. In 9a, he poses a twofold sarcastic ques-
tion: to whom do the spiritual leaders think they are going to impart
knowledge in their drunken condition? The prophet has no need
to wait for an answer, however, since he is able to provide one for
himself in verse 9b: they can only teach infants.
3. Yhwh is the subject of ¬¬ and ˆ:. Verses 9–10 are spoken by the
prophet and addressed to the s::“ ˆ¬: referred to in verse 7. The
question is posed with a degree of irony: to whom shall yhwh now
direct his attention inasmuch as the spiritual leaders have given up?
With whom should yhwh now share knowledge and revelation?
4. Yhwh is the subject of ¬¬ and ˆ:, but as with the first option, it
is the opponents of the prophet who are speaking in verses 9–10.
According to this option, the speakers not only reject the prophet
but their reaction represents an open rejection of the message of
yhwh.
Our preference with respect to the four interpretative possibilities
will ultimately determine our understanding of the difficult words in
verse 10.
Options two and three are supported by the fact that the text does
not contain any explicit indication that verses 9–10 should be read
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 183 1/18/2007 2:18:02 PM

184 chapter four
as a quotation as is the case with respect to the accusation in 28:15.
Moreover, reference to God as the explicit subject of ¬¬ hi. ‘to teach’ in
verse 26 (:¬ ¬:s‘ ‘his God teaches him’) supports the option in which
verse 9a likewise presupposes yhwh to be the subject of ¬¬ and ˆ:
(option 3).
290
The fact that yhwh is left unmentioned while the prophet
himself is said to be speaking in these verses, however, represents an
insurmountable objection to such an explanation. The same objection
applies to the fourth interpretative option, which is likewise improbable
on account of its presupposed explicit blasphemy (option 4).
291
The
words ¬.¬ ‘knowledge’ and ¬.:: ‘revelation’ would appear to point more
in the direction of the priest and prophet referred to in verse 7, since
the terms in question respectively designate the activity of both.
292
In
verse 7, the exercise of their tasks had already been designated with
the terms ¬s¬ ‘vision’ and ¬::c ‘judgement’, whereby the former was to
be associated with the prophet and the latter with the priest. In verse
9a, the presupposed subject of ¬.¬ ¬¬ can easily be understood as
the priest and the subject of ¬.:: ˆ: as the prophet (option 2).
293

Two important objections can be raised against this explanation. In the
first instance, the presupposed subjects s::“ ˆ¬: (verse 7b) are actually
located at too great a distance from the verbs in question, namely ¬¬
and ˆ: (verse 9a). In the second instance, the said s::“ ˆ¬: would
appear to continue to function as the plural subject of the verb forms
employed in verse 7b. Similarly, the function of prophet and priest is
not split into two distinct subjects with respect to the designations ¬s¬
and ¬::c employed in verse 7b, but this verse continues rather to use
the plural form. This fact undermines the hypothesis which posits an
unexpected and otherwise unexplained division into two single subjects
in relation to the verb forms employed in verse 9a.
290
Cf. Calvin and the translators of the Dutch Authorized Version. See also Petersen
1979:109, Exum 1982:120 and Halpern 1986:114.
291
Gonçalves 1986:189 mentions this option as a tempting interpretation but in the
end does not accede to it.
292
Cf. Wildberger 1982:1059. The term ¬.¬ (cf. Ps. 73:11; Jes. 11:9; Jer. 3:15)
employed here is closely related to the expression μ¬:s‘ ¬.¬ , which is to be found
in Hosea and Jeremiah in particular as a key concept and can be seen as a ‘termi-
nus technicus für das priesterliche Berufswissen’ (Schottroff 1978
3
:695–696; see also
Liedke/Petersen 1979
2
:1035, Botterweck 1982:509–510 and Wagner 1982:925–926).
For the connection between priesthood and knowledge see Hos. 4:6: the rejection of
¬.¬¬ by the priests leads to the rejection of the ˆ¬: by God! Rüterswörden 1994:278
speaks with respect to ¬. :: of a ‘Bezeichnung für prophetische Offenbarung’
(cf. 28:19; Jer. 49:14 and Ob. 1:1).
293
For this hypothesis see in particular Deck 1991:243–244 and Barthel 1997:
298.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 184 1/18/2007 2:18:03 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 185
The present author is thus inclined to follow the most current option
(option 1) and to understand verses 9–10 as a response addressed to the
prophet on the lips of his opponents.
294
The argument that there is no
evidence of an explicit introduction to the quotation at this juncture
cannot be taken as critical.
295
The location of a Setumah at the end of
verse 8 suggests that the Masoretes had accepted the presence of some
kind of caesura between verses 8 and 9. This need not imply that the
connection between verses 7–8 and 9–13 was not original.
296
By intro-
ducing his opponents into the dialogue, the prophet allows them to
demonstrate the effects of their ‘cloudedness’ in person. The drunken
stupefaction of the s: : “ ˆ¬ : is not only evident in their facial expression
but also in their speech. They consider themselves insulted and react
with indignation, as if the prophet still had to teach them knowledge
and as if they needed his help to achieve any degree of insight into the
message. In addition, this option also incorporates the fact that the words
¬.¬ and ¬.:: serve to designate the specific character of the priestly
and prophetic task respectively. The priest and the prophet pose the
questions in verse 9a, considering themselves slighted in their spiritual
competence. When compared with verse 7, it is striking that the priestly
is mentioned first in verse 9a and that the prophetic is associated with
hearing (¬.:: ) instead of with seeing (¬s¬ ).
297
In the second half of verse 9 it becomes clear that the opponents of
the prophet consider themselves to have been slighted in their profes-
sional competence by his critique. Indignant and not without a degree
of scorn, they ask him if he sees them as infants.
298
By referring to
the ::¬: :::“ ‘those who are weaned from milk’ and the μ¬:: ,¬. ‘those
294
See, for example, Gonçalves 1986:189 and Beuken 2000:36.
295
For dialogue as a style feature see Alonso Schökel 1988:170–179.
296
The connection between verses 7–8 and 9–13 is occasionally considered to be
problematic because the priest and the prophet are no longer mentioned in what fol-
lows. In addition, verses 9–13 do not repeat concepts that are reminiscent of verses
7–8. Cf. Van Selms 1973:332 and Exum 1982:137n. The fact that the images of
staggering and falling backward portrayed in verse 13 correspond with the images
of drunkenness portrayed in verse 7, however, already serves as sufficient argument
in support of the unity of 28:7–13 (cf. Gonçalves 1986:190–191). Duhm 1914
3
:171
and Marti 1900:205 consider verses 7–8 as a later redactional association with 28:1–4
inserted by the prophet himself.
297
Given its use of the first person plural, the Septuagint would also appear to
have considered verse 9 as a reaction on the part of the priest and the prophet: τίνι
ἀνηγγείλαμεν κακὰ καὶ τίνι ἀνηγγείλαμεν ἀγγελίαν (‘to whom have we revealed misfortune,
to whom have we revealed tidings? ’). Instead of ¬.¬ ‘knowledge’the Septuagint probably
read ¬.¬ ‘evil’.
298
Beuken 2000:36 characterises this argumentation as a reductio ad absurdum.
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186 chapter four
taken from the breast’ they suggest an answer to their own question. The
::¬: :::“ are children who have recently made the transition from
the breast-feeding phase to the phase of playing and learning (cf. ,:
‘nursing child’ and ::: ‘weaned child’ in 11:8).
299
The parallel designation
μ¬:: ,¬. functions in this regard as a synonym.
300
Verse 10 likewise forms a part of the passage in which the prophet
introduces his opponents into the dialogue in the context of his accu-
sation. This verse is a crux interpretum and has given rise to many and
various interpretations. Everything revolves around the words . and
, , the most important question being whether one should ascribe any
meaning to the said terms or simply take them to suggest something
incomprehensible. While . is sometimes associated with the verb ¬.
‘to command’ and , with the verb ¬, ‘to hope’, the majority of exegetes
have nevertheless abandoned any efforts in finding substantial meaning
in the terms . and ,.
301
The sound of the clause , .: . .: . :
,: , ,: is taken to be more important than its meaning. The entire
phrase is understood as the imitation of a speech deficiency on the
part of Isaiah
302
or as the imitation of the prophet’s ecstatic speech.
303

Others presume that we are dealing with meaningless ‘babble’
304
or
the imitation of the slurred speech of a drunkard.
305
Others still sug-
299
See Seybold 1977:28.
300
Cf. Schmoldt 1989:488.
301
The NRSV proposes a meaningful interpretation: “For it is precept upon precept,
precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” As is apparent from
the translation θλῖψιν ἐπὶ θλῖψιν προσδέχου ἐλπίδα ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ἔτι μικρὸν ἔτι μικρὸν
(‘distress upon distress, expect hope upon hope, still a while, still a while’), the Septuagint also
seems to have made an effort to discover meaning in the words in question. It is prob-
able that the Septuagint read ¬. ‘distress’ instead of . and derived , from ¬, ‘to hope’.
By introducing the imperative προσδέχου in connection with ἐλπίδα, the Septuagint
appears to aim at a positive interpretation of verse 10 and to appeal for perseverance
hope in the context of distress. The words ἔτι μικρὸν ἔτι μικρὸν likewise point in this
direction. Cf. LXX Job 2:9: ἰδοὺ ἀναμένω χρόνον ἔτι μικρὸν προσδεχόμενος τὴν ἐλπίδα
τῆς σωτηρίας μου (‘see, I continue to have hope in my salvation a little longer ’). The suggestion
of Rise 1973/4:16 that we read ¬. at this juncture and translate: ‘A stone, a stone, a
stone, a stone, a line, a line, a line, a line, a few here, a few there’ is unusual and in
the context of 28,7–13 somewhat confusing. Kissane 1960
2
:306 is of the opinion that
the root of , can also mean ‘to speak’ and he translates the term as ‘oracle’. He sees
verse 10 as a summary of the content of Isaiah’s preaching: obedience to the law – the
threat of judgement – promise of restoration.
302
Wildberger 1982:1059 makes reference to I.P. Seierstad (1946) in this regard.
303
See KBL under . .
304
Duhm 1914
3
:173. Beuken 2000:38 refers to the translation of The Revised English
Bible: “A babble of meaningless noises, mere sounds on every side.”
305
Ridderbos 1922:171. Driver 1968:56, 64 interprets verse 10 as a call for ‘another
little drink’.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 186 1/18/2007 2:18:03 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 187
gest it has to do with a sort of baby-talk
306
or sounds intended to help
children learn to walk.
307
Several exegetes have followed the suggestion
that verse 10 constitutes an allusion to the teaching of the Hebrew
alphabet.
308
Van Selms even argues that the apparently meaningless
words are to be understood as an Assyrian transcription.
309
Van der
Toorn understands verse 10 as the imitation of the spiritist oracular
utterings of Isaiah’s opponents.
310
None of these explanations do justice to the careful structure to
be found in the first part of the prophecy of judgement (accusation,
including response). After the redactional verse 7a, the prophet pieces
together his accusation in two corresponding parts, structured in a more
or less parallel fashion. In the first part (7b–8) it is the prophet himself
who is speaking, while in the second part (9–10) he lets his opponents
have their say. For the sake of clarity and to allow for comparison we
have printed both parts of the accusation side by side:
Verse 7b Verse 9
¬::: :: s::“ ˆ¬: ¬.¬ ¬¬ :¬s
ˆ¬ˆ: .::: ¬.:: ˆ: :¬s“
¬::¬ˆ: .¬ ::¬: :::“
¬s¬: :: μ¬:: ,¬.
¬::c ,c
306
Schoors 1972:166. Cf. Kilian 1994:160: “Was soll sein Gestamel, sein Papper-
lapapp, sein Geschwätz bald hier, sein Geschwätz bald dort?”
307
Marti 1900:206 is even of the opinion that the verse imitates the patter of tiny
feet.
308
See Montgomery 1912:141–142, Procksch 1930(A):354, Kennett 1933:12, Driver
1948, Hallo 1958:237f, Herbert 1973:163, Jackson 1974:86, Fohrer 1962:51–52,
Snijders 1969:282, Pfeiffer 1972:343–345, Irwin 1977:22f, Petersen 1979:109, Clements
1980(B):228, Gonçalves 1986:189, Brueggemann 1998:223 and HALAT. For Wildberger
1982:1053, the possibility of this interpretation depends on our understanding of
μ: ¬..“, which is mostly taken as a neutral form in the sense of ‘a little’. Procksch
1930(A):355 presupposes a masculine form: ‘Kleiner hier, kleiner dort’ and understands
the expression as the words of a school teacher addressing his pupils one after the other.
Driver 1948:90 proposes that we should read μ: as μ: and translate: ‘Attend child!’
Kaiser 1976
2
:193 follows this suggestion. Twenty years later, Driver 1968:62 offers an
alternative translation ‘another drop here’, seeing the expression as an invitation to
have another drink of wine. Dietrich 1976:155 follows this suggestion.
309
Van Selms 1973:338 translates: “Go out! Let him go out! Go out! Let him go out!
Wait! Let him wait! Wait! Let him wait! Servant, listen! Servant, listen!”, arguing that
the entire statement is an appeal to those Judeans set aside for exile. Watson 1984:277
agrees with this suggestion. See also Jackson 1974:98.
310
Van der Toorn 1988:206 is of the opinion that verse 10 does not contain a
quotation. He argues that the prophet himself is speaking at this juncture and that he
is imitating the speech of his opponents as they pursue their necromantic practices.
See Excursus 2.
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188 chapter four
Verse 8 Verse 10
¬:¬:::: : .: . .: . :
¬s. s, s:: ,: , ,: ,
: μ,: :: μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“
Words are employed in both verse 7b and verse 9 that refer to the pro-
fessional activities of the priest and the prophet: in verse 7b ¬s¬ ‘vision’
and ¬ : : c ‘judgement’, in verse 9 ¬. ¬ ‘knowledge’ and ¬. :: ‘message’. Both
word-pairs cross-reference one another: ¬s¬ and ¬.:: allude to the
work of the prophet, ¬::c and ¬.¬ to the work of the priest. At the
beginning of verse 7b, the prophet designates his opponents as ˆ¬:
s::“ ‘priest and prophet’. This designation is not repeated in verse 9, but
set in contrast with the small children referred to in the second half of
the verse, whereby the term ::¬ ‘milk’ functions as a counterpart to the
word-pair ˆ ‘wine’ and ¬:: ‘strong drink’ employed in verse 7b. Verse 7b
refers to the professional functioning of the priest and the prophet while
verse 9 refers to the professional status of the priest and the prophet.
The prophet’s accusation with respect to the unbefitting behaviour of
his opponents elicits a reaction on their part whereby they consider
themselves treated unbefitting their status. They resort to a familiar
defence strategy and ask the prophet if he is at all aware of the status
of his addressees. He should address them as professionals and not as
if they were little children.
Verses 8 and 10 likewise correspond with one another. Both verses
are introduced with the particle : and provide further motivation
with respect to the preceding accusation and response. Once again
there is an evident terminological cross-reference. The words . and
, in verse 10 correspond with s, and ¬s. in verse 8, whereby the
multiple repetition is intended as a caricature of Isaiah’s accusation.
In an effort to arrive at a correct interpretation of this crux interpretum,
I follow the line established by Driver who argued that the words .
and , are an allusion to the words s, and ¬s. in verse 8a.
311
An
appropriate translation in which the allusion continues to be evident is
virtually impossible. As a matter of fact, no translation can do justice to
the striking sounds of the Hebrew, which as such already confirm that
311
Driver 1968:55. Schmidt 1923:80 and Kennett 1933:12 already offered sugges-
tions in this direction, although Kennett himself was inclined to think of the letters
of the alphabet. It is probable, however, that Theodotion’s translation of Isaiah read
. as ¬s. : δεισαλια and , as (s), : ἔμετος (see Van der Kooij 1981:152 and Halpern
1986:113). Görg 1985:16 and Halpern 1986:119 return to this ancient interpretation
and Sweeney 1996:371 follows. Görg 1985:15–16 endeavours to find an etymological
basis in Egyptian. Floß 1990:77 correctly insists on prudence in this regard.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 188 1/18/2007 2:18:04 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 189
the priest and the prophet are indeed in a state of inebriation. In an
endeavour to maintain this important allusion to verse 8a, the present
author opts for a paraphrasing and perhaps unconventional translation:
‘For it is all filth that he vomits over us’.
312
Isaiah’s opponents find his cri-
tique just as hard to digest as s, and ¬s. . The striking accumulation
of the words . and , in verse 10 is not only intended to express the
incomprehensibility of Isaiah’s message from the perspective of his
opponents but also the indigestibility thereof.
In light of the evidently artistic formation of verses 7b–10, one might
consider the question whether the clause μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ in verse
10b is intended in one way or another to correspond with μ,: :: in
verse 8b. With the exception of the present text, the word ¬..“ is to be
found only one more time elsewhere. It is a diminutive form related
to the root ¬.., which has the primary meaning ‘to be/become small’
and is regularly used to designate ‘triviality’ and ‘insignificance’.
313
It
became apparent from the exegesis of verse 8b that the text functions as
a climax and as an expression of serious outrage, the prophet employ-
ing the expression μ,: :: ‘no place is clean!’ to illustrate his horror at
the fact that the vomit left by his opponents is everywhere. Given the
association observed between verses 8a and 10a, it is reasonable to
suggest that the clause μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ ‘a little here, a little there’ should
likewise be understood as a climax in verse 10b. In their turn, Isaiah’s
opponents are also outraged that nothing is spared the prophet’s critique.
It seems that no matter when or where, Isaiah always has a comment
about everything: something insignificant here, something trivial there.
There always seems to be something the matter.
4.3.3. Isa. 28:11–13: Announcement of judgement
¬c: :.:: : 11 Truly, with stammering lip
¬¬¬s ˆ::: and with alien tongue,
¬:¬ μ.¬:s ¬:¬“ He will speak to this people,
μ¬:s ¬:s ¬:s 12 to whom He has said,
¬¬::¬ ¬s. “This is the resting place;
π.: ¬:¬ give rest to the weary;
¬.:¬“:¬ ¬s.“ and this is the place of repose.”
.:: s:s s:“ But they would not listen.
312
As a variant on the interpretation that sees these words as baby-talk (Papperlapapp),
Tanghe 1993:246–248 speaks of ‘Kackerlakack’.
313
Cf. Saebø, 1989:1083–1087. See GKG 86g
1
on diminutives, which are mostly
formed in Semitic languages by the insertion of a after the second radical.
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190 chapter four
¬¬“¬:¬“ μ¬: ¬¬“ 13 Therefore the word of YHWH will be to them:
.: . .: . it is all filth
,: , ,: , which is vomited over them;
μ: ¬..“ μ: ¬..“ whenever and wherever,
¬¬s :::“ :: ˆ.:: in order that they may go, and fall backward,
π ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ and be broken, and snared, and taken prisoner.
The announcement of judgement begins in verse 11. Following the accu-
sation, the announcement constitutes the second part of the prophecy
of judgement. This is introduced by the particle : , which functions
here in its original deictic sense, and as such is not out of place at the
beginning of a proverbial statement. The judgement being announced
corresponds with the mocking rebuttal on the lips of priest and prophet,
spiritual leaders who no longer understand a simple word from yhwh.
They are no longer open to correction and refuse to let Isaiah teach
them anything. For this reason, yhwh is now obliged to speak to them
in a different way, namely ‘with stammering lip and with alien tongue’. This
statement should be understood as an allusion to the people of Assyria,
the clause ¬c: :.:: being associated with the stammering impression
made by the Assyrians when they spoke.
314
In verse 11, the expression
in question stands in cross-referenced parallel with ¬¬¬s ˆ:::. Isaiah
thus introduces the incomprehensibility of the Assyrian language (see
the similar designation of the people of Assyria in Isa. 33:19: ,:. μ.
¬:: ˆs ˆ:: :.:: .::: ¬c: ‘the people of an obscure speech, which you
cannot comprehend, stammering in a language that you cannot understand’) and
refers thereby to the incomprehensibility that will characterise yhwh’s
future communications.
315
314
While the customary meaning of the verb :.: is ‘to mock ’ (cf. Septuagint: διὰ
φαυλισμὸν χειλέων), this meaning does not fit in the present instance. For this reason
we have opted for the translation ‘stammer ’, though aware that this word also carries
connotations of mockery. GKG § 116b translates with ‘men of stammering lips’ and
notes thereby that “a character is ascribed to them which is inseparably connected
with their personality.” Wildberger 1982:1054 likewise places the emphasis on the
stammering aspect of Assyrian speech: ‘unter Lippengestammel’.
315
Tanghe 1993:249 has difficulty designating God’s speech as stammering and
prefers to interpret the verb as meaning ‘mock’ (see Barth 1984:583; similarly, Kedar-
Kopfstein 1984:602 can see no reason to ascribe the meaning ‘to stammer ’ in 28:11 and
33:19 instead of the more usual ‘to mock ’: “Die unverständliche Laute einer fremden
Sprache reizen uns zu Spott, wie sie andererseits auch uns zu verhöhnen scheinen.”
At a later date, however, Kedar-Kopfstein 1992:844 is nevertheless inclined to employ
‘Stammellippe’). According to Tanghe, the expression ¬¬¬s ˆ:: should be understood
in the same sense, namely as ‘slanderous language’ rather than ‘alien language’. He appeals
for support in this regard to the Babylonian Talmud, which is said to understand ‘slander’
as a sort of ‘third language’. YHWH speaks “mit spottender Lippe und in zweideutiger
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 190 1/18/2007 2:18:05 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 191
The poetic structure of verse 11 is that of a tricolon. Although
verse 12 begins with the relative ¬:s (see the comparable situation in
verse 1b), the Masoretic accentuation supports the suggestion that we
should envisage the beginning of a new tricolon at this juncture. In
spite of this suggestion, a semantic link can be found between verse 12
and the preceding verse in the correspondence between the verbs ¬:¬
(verse 11b) and ¬:s (verse 12a) on the one hand, and the designation
of the addressees via ¬:¬ μ.¬:s (verse 11b) and μ¬:s (verse 12a) on
the other. If one were to take the most important disjunctive accents
of verse 12 as one’s point of departure, it would appear at first sight
that the verse in question is made up of two bicola.
316
Given that the
summons π.: ¬:¬ ‘give rest to the weary!’ functions in terms of syntax
as an independent clause and that the use of short cola is a character-
istic feature of verses 11 and 12, however, I am inclined to ascribe a
demarcative function to the accent Paštā [10] employed in association
with this clause. This implies that verse 12 is made up of a tricolon
(3 + 2 + 2) and a bicolon (2 + 3) rather than two bicola.
An important piece of syntactic evidence that should not be over-
looked is the fact that the actual subject of the judgement announced
in verses 11–12 has not been nominalised. Even though the subject is
traced out in further detail in verses 11 and 12 given that reference is
made to the words of yhwh in former times, it is not until verse 13
that the name of yhwh is actually and explicitly mentioned! This strik-
ing element of style is not without significance. The prophet skilfully
employs this procedure not only as far as content is concerned, but also
with respect to his choice of words in order to express the concealed
involvement of yhwh behind the speech of the Assyrians. Judgement
carries with it a divine eclipse. The Assyrians will continue the dialogue
between yhwh and his people in a different and incomprehensible
manner.
317
The detached sounding ¬:¬ μ.¬:s ‘to this people’ (cf. 6:9,10;
Sprache zu den Propheten.” The incomprehensibility of their language, however, would
appear to be a characteristic of the Assyrians (cf. Deut. 28:49; Jer. 5:15 and Ezek. 3:5–6).
Fohrer 1962:53 refers in this regard to the confusion of tongues in Genesis 11, whereby
the inability to understand one another’s language is seen as a sign of being cursed by
God. In light of the aforementioned texts, Van der Toorn’s 1988:212 suggestion that
this verse refers to the esoteric language of the initiated, only comprehensible to the
priests and the prophets mentioned in verse 7, is unacceptable.
316
See, for example, Beuken 2000:12.
317
The Septuagint has removed the edge from verse 11 by translating the singular
verb form ¬:¬“ with the plural form λαλήσουσιν. It is striking that Paul quotes this
verse, with its unequivocal judgement character, in 1 Cor. 14:21 in order to underline
the fact that he values the gift of prophecy above the phenomenon of glossolalia.
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192 chapter four
8:6,11,12; 9:15; 28:14; 29:13,14) is an expression employed consistently
in the book of Isaiah in reference to the population of Judah.
318
In the
context of verse 11, the expression emphasises the strange and extraor-
dinary character of the alternative manner with which yhwh is soon
going to address his people. The fact that the entire people is involved
in the judgement while the spiritual leaders are its actual target should
not be surprising since the leaders represent the people and the people
bear the consequences of their shortcomings.
319
In order to underline the change in yhwh’s speech as well as its new-
ness and strangeness, verse 12 offers a brief summary of yhwh’s words
in former times employing a relative clause. This summary reference
to the past deviates from the customary pattern expected within the
framework of an announcement of judgement. A similar deviation
had been observed in 28:16, in which instance reference was made
to yhwh’s deeds in former times rather than to his words (cf. also
30:15–17).
320
While the relative clause with which the link with the
preceding verse (11) is established comes across as rather prosaic, verse
12 as a whole is nevertheless characterised by a recognisable poetic
structure in which the clauses ¬¬::¬ ¬s. ‘this is the resting place’ and ¬s.
¬.:¬“:¬ ‘and this is the place of repose’ and the exclamations π.: ¬:¬ ‘give
rest to the weary!’ and .:: s:s s:“ ‘yet they would not listen’ correspond
with one another. Given the fact that verses 11 and 12 are also clearly
linked at the level of content, there is insufficient reason to accept the
318
See Beuken 2000:38.
319
Barthel 1997:300 is of the opinion that the people in general are not the targets
of judgement but rather the religious and political uppercrust mentioned in verse 12a.
There is no evidence to support the reading of ¬:¬ μ.¬:s as the corruption of an
original μ¬:s‘ as proposed by Donner 1964:147f who maintains that the corruption
took place after μ¬:s had mistakenly found its way into verse 12. There is no reason,
however, to scrap μ¬:s from verse 12 since it fits well within the relative clause that
relates back to the preceding ¬:¬ μ.¬ . Dietrich 1976:154, Wildberger 1982:1054 and
Barthel 1997:292, therefore, correctly reject Donner’s proposal. For Becker 1997:230,
the extension of judgement to include the entire people is an important argument in
favour of seeing verse 11 as a secondary re-interpretation. He uses the following argu-
ments in this regard: 1. : is only a loose connection; 2. verse 11 aims at interpreting
the stammering of verse 10 as a foreign language; 3. YHWH is unexpectedly introduced
as indirect speaker. His arguments remain unconvincing, however. Verse 11 functions
well as the beginning of an announcement of judgement and employs both the char-
acterisation of the Assyrians as well as the hiddenness of the subject to emphasise the
aspect of divine eclipse with which the said judgement goes hand in hand.
320
For a description of similarities and differences in structure between 28:7–13;
28:14–18 and 30:15–17, see Gonçalves 1986:192–193.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 193
suggestion that verse 12 should be considered a later addition.
321
The
explicit reference to yhwh’s words in former times serves to underline
the strangeness with which his dialogue with his people is about to be
continued and thus functions exceptionally well in the context of the
present announcement of judgement.
The words of yhwh in former times were characterised by intel-
ligibility and consisted in concrete terms of directions to the path of
rest. The prophet, however, has announced a divine utterance in which
this is no longer the case. YHWH is going to conceal himself behind
the incomprehensible language of the Assyrians and as a consequence
any form of rest will disappear. Reference to the designated place of
rest and place of repose in the words of yhwh in former times was
made with the two parallel key words ¬¬::¬ and ¬.:¬“:¬ (cf. Mi. 2:10:
¬¬::¬ ¬s.s:). The word ¬¬:: ‘place of rest’, is best understood in the
first instance as an actual place of rest and not as an abstract concept.
This is in agreement with the use of the term elsewhere in the Old
Testament (see, for example, Num. 10:33; Deut. 12:9; Isa. 11:10; Mi.
2:10; Ps. 95:11 and 132:8,14).
322
It falls within the contours of Isaiah’s
preaching, however, to then associate the said place of rest with Zion,
the place in which yhwh himself had found a ¬¬:: (Ps. 132:8,14),
which could be extended to the people of Israel (1 Kgs 8:56; cf. Isa.
14:32).
323
While a link with the motif of entry into the promised land
is less evident in the context of the book of Isaiah, the entry into the
promised land and the election of Zion line up well with each other
elsewhere (see, for example, Ex. 15:17 and Psalm 132) and while they
can be distinguished from one another they cannot be separated. Ps.
95:11, for example, makes the close association between the land and
Zion as place of rest particularly clear. Given the fact that the retrospec-
tive glance towards Israel’s period in the wilderness is to be found in the
context of a psalm that calls upon pilgrims to bow down before yhwh,
the latter’s oath that the hardened generation shall never find its place
of rest can refer to either the land or the temple.
324
The second word
321
Kaiser 1976
2
:196 speaks of “eine aus dem Rückblick formulierte Zusammenfassung
der Predigt Jesajas durch den frühestens zwischen 597 und 587 anzusetzenden
Bearbeiter.” Kilian 1994:161 follows this opinion. Clements 1980(B):228, Wildberger
1982:1060 and Oswalt 1986:513 correctly reject the idea as unnecessary.
322
See Gonçalves 1986:193f and Beuken 2000:39–40.
323
Cf. Preuß 1985:305, Gonçalves 1986:194 and in particular De Jong 2002:12–43.
For Becker 1997:231, the allusion to Zion is already sufficient reason to consider verse
12 as secondary.
324
Braulik 1986:33–44 offers a plausible argument for interpreting Ps. 95:11 as a
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194 chapter four
¬. : ¬“ : ‘repose’ is only found here (cf. . :¬“ : ‘rest’ in Jer. 6:16), although the
meaning is clear on the basis of the verb .:¬ ‘to rest’ and the parallel
with ¬¬::.
325
It is striking that the Septuagint translates ¬.:¬“: ‘repose’
with τὸ σύντριμμα ‘rupture’ or ‘destruction’ (cf. LXX Isa. 22:4; 30:14,26;
Rom. 3:16): τοῦτο τὸ ἀνάπαυμα τῷ πεινῶντι καὶ τοῦτο τὸ σύντριμμα
‘this is the place of rest for the hungry and this is the destruction’ rather than
as a parallel of ¬¬:: ‘place of rest’. As was the case with verse 10 (and
13), the Septuagint would appear to have conjoined the preaching of
salvation and of doom at this juncture as well.
The short appeal to give rest to the weary is central to verse 12.
326

The appeal in question, which is absent oddly enough in the Septuagint,
indicates yhwh’s intention with respect to the place of rest He has
designated. From the very beginning, the choice of God’s resting place
enjoyed a social dimension. Zion was intended as the place of rest
and refuge for the unfortunate (cf. 14:32). The term π. ‘weary’ stands
for those who are exhausted and in need of compassion whatever the
reason (cf. Job 22:7). It is part of the prophetic expectation that God
himself will replenish the ¬c. :c: ‘the weary soul’ ( Jer. 31:25). In line
with the other prophecies of Isaiah, we can observe in the final colon
of verse 12 that the realisation of the said social justice had not taken
place in the prophet’s day, though not as a consequence of impotence
but rather as a result of the obstinacy of the spiritual leaders of Judah
and Jerusalem respectively. In their very refusal to give ear to yhwh’s
appeal and to grant rest to the weary, the incapacity of the priest and
the prophet to provide spiritual leadership is painfully exposed. Their
stubborn reaction to the words of yhwh in former times is summarised
in a brief but powerful statement: .:: s:s s:“ ‘but they would not listen’
(cf. 30:15: μ¬:s s:“ ‘but you refused . . .’).
327
This disappointing reaction
reference to the temple, but incorrectly opposes this to interpreting the said place of
rest as the land. The psalm itself does not occasion such a contrast. The land and Zion
can be seen as a continuation of one another (cf. 1 Chron. 23:25).
325
See Kronholm 1990:347–350.
326
I see no reason to follow Roberts 1980:50 and supplement π.: ¬:¬ ‘give rest to
the weary’ with ˆ:s: .:¬¬ ‘let the poor rest’. While such a suggestion serves to restore a
degree of symmetry, it misunderstands existing correspondence between the expressions
π.: ¬:¬ ‘give rest to the weary’ and .:: s:s s:“ ‘but they would not listen’.
327
The orthography of s:s is unusual. GKG § 23i presupposes the possibility that
the concluding s may represent an early scribal error (cf. Aramaic s:s). 1QIsa
a
and
many other mss have :s. Given the fact that this reading would appear to be the more
correct (cf. 30:9), Procksch 1930(A):356, Donner 1964:148 and others emend the text.
Wildberger 1982:1054 points out, however, that similarly unusual orthography can be
encountered elsewhere in the Masoretic text. Oswalt 1986:503 refers in this regard
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exegesis of individual pericopes 195
on the part of the spiritual leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, which was
already evident in verses 9 and 10, is now extended to include the
people themselves. Given the fact that the subject of .:: s:s s:“
is not nominalised in verses 12 and 13, it is possible to understand it
as both the s::“ ˆ¬: ‘priest and prophet’ referred to in verse 7 and μ.¬
¬:¬ ‘this people’ in verse 11. The explicit observation of their refusal to
listen at the end of verse 12 serves to underline the inevitability of the
approaching judgement (cf. 1:19–20).
The announcement of judgement is concluded in verse 13 with a
description of the effect yhwh’s new and strange manner of speaking is
going to have on ‘this people’. In the first half of the verse, the prophet
returns to the reaction of his opponents in verse 10. While this remains
difficult to render with satisfaction, the correspondence between the
rejection and ridicule expressed by the spiritual leaders of Judah and
Jerusalem in response to the prophet and his message on the one hand
and the judgement of yhwh that they brought upon themselves in so
doing on the other hand becomes all the more clear. Isaiah’s opponents
accused him of always and everywhere having something to say about
everything. The approaching judgement represents a confirmation of
this state of affairs in which they are to be presented with the bill in
full. If they considered the prophet’s accusation to be incomprehensible
and unpalatable, then their experience of the judgement they are about
to encounter from yhwh will definitely be the same.
While the words of yhwh in former times offered a place of rest and
refuge for his people (verse 12), his words are now focused on the
destruction of ‘this people’. Those who refuse to listen must face the
consequences. Where divine instruction is rejected, destruction inevitably
follows.
328
It would appear from the second half of verse 13 (introduced
by ˆ.::) that the said destruction is to be the new and terrifying goal
of God’s present speech. Its addressees will stumble and fall backwards.
Three w
e
qatal clauses then present us with a picture of the intended
goal of this fall: ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ ‘they shall be broken, and snared, and
taken prisoner’ (cf. 8:15: ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ :c:“ μ:¬ μ: :::“ ‘and
many among them shall stumble, and they shall fall and be broken; they shall be
to Jos. 10:24. It is similarly unnecessary to follow 1QIsa
a
and read .:::. The : is
also lacking in 30:9, a fact that is not entirely unusual with respect to the infinitive (cf.
GKG § 114m and the examples mentioned in Gerstenberger 1978
3
:23).
328
Exum 1982:121.
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196 chapter four
snared and taken prisoner.’). If yhwh turns against his people, the conse-
quences are devastating. The piling up of verb forms (1 × yiqtôl and
4 × w
e
qatal ) at this juncture underlines the totality of the destruction
in similar fashion to the fact that piling up of verb forms in verse 7b
(5 × qatal ) demonstrated the total character of the ‘confusion’ of the
priest and the prophet on account of their drinking.
329
As a matter of
fact, verses 7b and 13 also correspond with one another in terms of
content: drunken confusion and devastation both result in one mas-
sive fall!
330
The fact that the terms employed in verse 13b transcend
those employed in verse 7b in terms of force, serves to underline the
seriousness of the refusal to listen. The destructive force of the word
of yhwh is ultimately more powerful than that of wine!
The poetic structure of verse 13 is surprising in the sense that a
monocolon is followed by a tricolon, an unusual phenomenon in Old
Testament poetry.
331
The use of the tricolon in verse 13a, however, is
related to the fact that it refers back literally to verse 10. The precise
configuration of the bicolon in verse 13b requires a slight deviation
from the Masoretic accentuation. It is difficult to determine why the
Masoretes placed a Zāqēf parvum [5] with the word ¬:::“. This is
somewhat unexpected if one bears in mind the imbalance it creates
in the bicolon (5 + 2) and the interruption it introduces into the series
of verb forms ¬:::“ :,:“ ¬:::“ ‘they shall be broken, snared and taken
prisoner’, which are otherwise closely associated with one another in
terms of form and content (cf. 8:15). A departure from the Masoretic
accentuation is thus advised in this instance with a bicolon consisting
of 4 + 3 beats. I can see no reason, however, to consider verse 13 as
a secondary interpolation.
332
The fact that the conclusion to verse 13
agrees with 8:15 is insufficient reason to support the designation of verse
13 as secondary. Indeed, both 13a and 13b are too closely related to
the accusation of the present prophecy of judgement to be considered
secondary. In addition, verses 11 and 13 do not contain mutually exclu-
sive announcements of judgement. The ¬¬“¬:¬“ contained in verse 13
can be considered a further concretisation of ¬:¬ μ.¬:s ¬:¬“ in verse
11. Following the beginning of the announcement of judgement in
329
Cf. Barth 1984:370. For the specific meaning of the verbs employed here see
Groß 1984:573–576, Knipping 1993:1027–1040 and Ringgren 1982:866–868.
330
Cf. Exum 1982:122, Barthel 1997:293 and Beuken 2000:41.
331
See also verse 28.
332
Donner 1964:148, Kaiser 1976
2
:194, Clements 1980(B):228–229 and Wildberger
1982:1054, 1061.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 197
verse 11, the effect of yhwh’s new and strange manner of speaking as
described in the concluding verse 13 is given priority (cf. 28:4, likewise
a w
e
qatal clause). After the observation of the refusal to listen to the
words of yhwh in former times at the end of verse 12, a concluding
description of the approaching judgement is far from out of place at
this juncture (cf. 30:15–17). Indeed, without verse 13, verse 12 would
constitute a rather unusual conclusion to a prophecy of judgement and
a further concretisation of the judgement alluded to in verse 11 would
thus be lacking. The delay in revealing yhwh himself as the subject of
the words spoken in verses 11 and 12 until verse 13, serves to confirm
that the announcement of judgement only reaches its final conclusion
in this latter verse.
4.4. Evaluation
Given that the pericopes 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 are closely related with
one another in the present composition of the book of Isaiah, it seems
appropriate at this juncture to provide an evaluation of the exegesis so
far. In so doing, we will endeavour to establish a picture of the simi-
larities and points of connection between the two pericopes as well as
the differences.
The relationship between 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 goes much further
than the redactional connection created by the particle ˆ: : at the begin-
ning of verse 14. The careful comparison of both pericopes provides
evidence of formal points of association together with agreement in
terms of content:
• Both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 belong to the prophecy of judgement
genre, whereby the common pattern of accusation followed by
announcement of judgement is clearly recognisable. In the prophecy
of judgement of 28:7–13, the accusation consists of verses 7–10, with
the announcement of judgement following in verses 11–13. In the
prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, the accusation consists of verses
14–15 and the announcement of judgement of verses 16–22.
• Both prophecies of judgement likewise agree with one another in
the sense that the traditional pattern of the accusation is interrupted
in each instance in a comparably creative fashion. The prophet has
integrated a quotation which is clearly marked as such in the accusa-
tion of the second prophecy of judgement (28:15). In the exegesis
of 28:7–13, it likewise became apparent that verses 9–10 can best
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198 chapter four
be explained as a reaction on the part of Isaiah’s opponents. The
prophet thus appears to have incorporated this latter reaction into his
accusation in the form of a quotation. While verses 9–10, in contrast
to 28:15, are not explicitly introduced as a quotation, both prophecies
of judgement have nevertheless created space in the formulation of
the accusation for the words of the accused (see also 30:16).
• A similar interruption in the customary pattern of the announce-
ment of judgement is likewise evident in both prophecies. In the
announcement of judgement in the first prophecy, the prophet makes
an explicit reference to the past, namely to the words spoken by
yhwh in former times (verse 12). The announcement of judgement
in the second prophecy contains a similar reference to the past in
verse 16, namely to the deeds undertaken by yhwh in former times
(see also 30:15).
333
• The connection between the prophecies of judgement in 28:7–13
and 28:14–22 is not only a formal one, it is also content based.
Both prophecies refer to the past and are related specifically to Zion.
God’s designation of Zion as place of rest (verse 12) corresponds
with the establishment of Zion or, more specifically, of a stone in
Zion (verse 16).
• While both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 clearly belong to the prophecy
of judgement genre and the reference to Zion has been ascribed a
place in the context of the announcement of judgement, the allusion
in both instances is related nevertheless to yhwh’s original plan of
salvation.
• It became evident from our exegesis of the texts in question that both
prophecies presuppose Judah/Jerusalem as addressees. While 28:14
explicitly identifies its addressee, the content of 28:7–13 makes it clear
that the addressee of the prophecy in question should be identified
as Judah and Jerusalem respectively. This can be determined on the
basis of the reference to ‘this people’ in verse 11 as well as the words
concerning the place of rest in verse 12. It would appear that the
expression ¬:¬ μ.¬ always refers to the population of Judah in the
book of Isaiah, while the term ¬¬::¬ in the same context points
unmistakably in the direction of Zion.
• Formulations are employed in the announcement of judgement in
both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 that suggest that the world power Assyria
333
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:201: “C’est à la lumière de Is., XXVIII, 7b–13 et XXX,
15–17 que l’on doit interpréter la fonction de Is., XXVIII, 16.”
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exegesis of individual pericopes 199
is to be understood as the executor of divine judgement. Allusion is
made in 28:11 to the incomprehensible language of the Assyrians
with the words ¬¬ ¬ s ˆ:: : ¬c : : . : :. In 28:(15,)18, the designation
π: : :: constitutes a reference to the imperialism and expansionism
that characterised the Assyrians.
• The prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 correspond
in the way they make reference to the hiddenness of God in the
approaching judgement. Both prophecies allude to the fact that yhwh
is going to conceal himself behind Assyrian hostilities. This takes
the form of a dramatic transformation in the speech of yhwh in
28:7–13. God is going to continue his interaction with his people in
an incomprehensible language and in an alien tongue (verse 11). The
suggestion emerging from this observation is that God’s own words
are going to become incomprehensible and alien. In the prophecy
of judgement of 28:14–22, this element of alienation is related to
God’s deeds—as opposed to his words—, which shall be strange and
out of the ordinary (verse 21). There is thus a clear link between the
strange deeds of yhwh in verse 21 and the strange words of yhwh
in verse 11. The announcement of judgement in both prophecies
implies a complete turnabout in God’s interaction with his people.
Yhwh conceals himself behind the hostile advance of Assyria. Judah
is about to undergo the shocking experience of a hitherto unknown
divine eclipse. The shocking aspect is not only related to the divine
judgement as such but primarily to the insight that yhwh himself is
at work behind the Assyrian advance (cf. verse 19b).
A number of differences in accent, however, are also evident between
28:7–13 and 28:14–22, which are likewise both formal and content
based:
• The prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 is explicitly addressed to
the political leaders to whom it refers as the ¬:¬ μ.¬ ::: (28:14).
The prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, on the other hand, refers
to the spiritual elite and identifies the latter as the s::“ ˆ¬: (28:7).
• While both prophecies presuppose Judah and/or Jerusalem as their
addressee, the latter is only localised explicitly in 28:14–22 in which
both Jerusalem (28:14) and Zion (28:16) are mentioned. 28:7–13
lacks indicators of place. The prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22
is thus more explicit in the localisation of its message.
• An important difference between both prophecies relates to the use of
direct address in the second person, which significantly determines the
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200 chapter four
timbre of both the accusation and the announcement of judgement
of 28:14–22. The prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13 is composed
entirely in the third person.
• While both prophecies have included a significant reference to God’s
salvific plan in their announcement of judgement, the accent in 28:12
is placed on yhwh’s words in former times and in 28:16 on his deeds
in former times.
• Likewise in terms of content, both Zion texts have a specific accent.
In 28:12, the socio-ethical implications of God’s choice of Zion are
in the foreground, in 28:16 the political implications thereof. One
can derive from 30:15 that the refusal of Jerusalem’s leaders to listen
had to do with both the social and the political dimension related
to God’s choice of a place of rest. While both aspects can be dis-
tinguished in practice, they nevertheless cannot be strictly separated.
It is possible that a political background existed to the statement of
28:12, since it would primarily have been the ordinary citizen who
would have suffered as a result of the political options stemming from
Jerusalem.
334
In the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, however,
politics does not enjoy a foreground position.
One can conclude on the basis of the differences in accentuation evident
between 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 that both prophecies of judgement can
be distinguished from one another in terms of clarity and focus. The
prophecy of 28:7–13 is characterised by a striking degree of reserve in
the orientation of its message. While it is unmistakably clear that the
prophecy in question intends to be understood in relation to Jerusalem
and Zion, further detailed localisation is lacking. The effect of the
composition of Isaiah 28 as we now have it is thus a visible increase in
clarity and focus with respect to 28:7–13 and 28:14–22. This increasing
definition is also expressed in the use of direct speech in the second
person. Together with the explicit localisation of the addressees and
the mention of Zion, the said direct speech provides the prophecy
of judgement of Isa. 28:14–22 in its present literary context with the
character of a climax.
335
Given the fact that both prophecies of judgement (28:7–13 and
28:14–22) are closely connected with one another in terms of form and
334
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:534–536. The term π. is used here as “kollektivisch den
Israeliten der Jesajazeit, der durch alle Kriegswirren und Ausbeutung erschöpft ist.”
(Hasel 1982:716)
335
Cf. Beuken 2000:44.
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exegesis of individual pericopes 201
content, it would thus seem reasonable to date them both to the same
period.
336
The message in both instances is best understood against
the background of the revolt against Sennacherib, which reached its
dramatic conclusion in the year 701. Terminological kinship, in par-
ticular between 28:14–22 and 30:1–5, serves to support such a dating.
The prophet expresses his revulsion concerning the policy adhered to
in Jerusalem during the years of the revolt, a policy that sought help
from Egypt as a means of protection against the power of Assyria.
He denounces the bragging self-assuredness of the political authorities
with stern language in 28:14–22. In their endeavour to seek the help
of Egypt they have ultimately signed their own death warrant. Their
covenant with Egypt will turn out to be a covenant with death. Their
self-destructive policy is explained by the prophet as a grave misunder-
standing of God’s salvific deeds in former times. In opting for Zion,
God established a rock-solid foundation, a rock-solid foundation that
invites faith. Judgement is the natural consequence of such a misun-
derstanding of God’s former salvific deeds. The prophet announces
this forthcoming judgement by staying as close as he can to the words
of the initial accusation. The security sought by Jerusalem’s leaders in
a covenant with Egypt will not hold out against the violence of the
Assyrians that is about to be let loose upon them. The seriousness of
the said judgement is underlined by the divine eclipse with which it is
accompanied.
The prophecy of 28:7–13 is likewise best understood against the
background of Judah’s uprising against Sennacherib. In 28:7–13, the
prophet expresses his disgust concerning the spiritual leaders of Judah,
namely the priests and (cultic) prophets who overindulge themselves
by participating in extravagant feasts. Much is made of the motif of
drunkenness in exposing the incompetence of Judah’s spiritual lead-
ers. The priests and prophets of Jerusalem are completely incapable
of providing the people with spiritual leadership.
337
This incompe-
tence is evident in the first instance in their refusal to allow the place
336
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:195.
337
A difference of opinion exists with respect to the cultic or political nature of
the feast in question. In line with Procksch 1930(A):353, Dietrich 1976:155 emphati-
cally opts for the latter. It is probable, however, that both cult and politics are being
mixed together at this juncture, although a more or less generalising description is
not unthinkable (see Barthel 1997:296). In any event, the focus of Isaiah’s critique is
without doubt the drunken confusion of Judah’s spiritual leaders (see also 22:12–14).
Cf. Donner 1964:151 and Clements 1980(B):226.
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202 chapter four
designated by yhwh as a place of rest to be likewise a place of social
justice. Once again God’s salvific plan with respect to Zion has been
completely misunderstood. The judgement subsequently announced by
the prophet at this juncture again corresponds with the accusation and
likewise implies a dramatic divine eclipse expressed in the transforma-
tion of yhwh’s words. Instead of a clear message of rest, the people
are now confronted with an incomprehensible and unpalatable message
of judgement, which, in line with 28:14–22, will be brought about at
the hands of the Assyrians.
It is probable that the Assyrians already constituted a growing threat
to Judah at the moment both prophecies were uttered. Bearing in mind
the remaining prophecies collected in this segment of the book (chapters
28–32[33]), it seems reasonable to date both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 to
the period prior to the siege of Jerusalem in 701.
338
There would appear to be no reason to call the authenticity of
either prophecy of judgement into question. Theme and terminology
together with creative interaction with the genre of prophetic judge-
ment and masterful use of poetic technique point in both instances to
the prophet Isaiah himself. There is no evidence to suggest that one
or both of the prophecies in question was not composed by Isaiah.
Significant unanimity in this matter exists among exegetes. The Isaianic
character of the prophecy of 28:7–13 is virtually undisputed and the
same is true, albeit to a lesser degree, of the prophecy of 28:14–22.
The question of authenticity has already been discussed in considerable
detail in § 3.5. The fact that both prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13
and 28:14–22 exhibit such a degree of cohesion further reinforces our
conviction that the Isaianic authorship of 28:14–22 cannot be denied.
While it is difficult to be certain with respect to the concluding verses
19–22, it would be exegetically irresponsible to question the authentic-
ity of verses 14–18. The same can thus be said for the Zion text of
28:16. The evident structural and content based agreement with the
338
Fohrer 1962:49 dates 28:7–13 to the period of Ashdod’s uprising against Sargon
(713–711). A similar suggestion is to be found in Schoors 1972:165 and Schneider
1988:382. The location of this prophecy prior to 28:14–22, and the associations
between both prophecies in terms of form and content, make a later date more prob-
able. Wildberger 1982:1057 considers this prophecy to be the earliest statement of
Isaiah on the occasion of the revolt against Sennacherib. Cf. also Ridderbos 1922:169,
Procksch 1930(A):353, Donner 1964:151, Eichrodt 1967:122, Kaiser 1976
2
:187 and
Clements 1980(B):226. The date ascribed by Schmidt 1923:82 during the period of
the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734–732) is striking, but highly improbable. Cf. also Kissane
1960
2
:299 and Lindblom 1955:128–129.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 202 1/18/2007 2:18:08 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 203
preceding prophecy in which allusion is made within the framework
of an announcement of judgement to the words of YHWH uttered in the
past concerning Zion (28:12), leads unavoidably to the conclusion that the
allusion to the deeds of JHWH performed in the past on behalf of Zion (28:16),
likewise within the framework of an announcement of judgement, must
also be ascribed to the prophet Isaiah.
The fact that some exegetes nevertheless find it difficult to accept the
authenticity of verses 16–17a has to be seen in combination with two
additional factors. On the one hand, their reticence is a consequence
of the hitherto widely affirmed hypothesis that the verses are to be
interpreted as a promise concerning the future, and that they do not
fit well in their present context for this reason. On the other hand, the
assignment of a later date to the Zion tradition likewise has a clear
role to play in this regard. It has become evident from the exegesis,
however, that verses 16–17a should not be explained as a statement of
promise. Indeed, verse 16 does not appear to make reference to God’s
salvific deeds in the future but rather to his salvific deeds in the past. The
content of verse 17a likewise makes it clear that this verse should not
be interpreted as a promise of future salvation but rather as already
containing the announcement of judgement. While the use of the first
person and the striking location of the verses in question—in between
a pair of statements that more or less mirror one another—do indeed
distinguish verses 16–17a from their context, one would misunderstand
the content-based and terminological associations with their own context
and the content-based and structural associations with the prophecy
of judgement of 28:7–13, were one to remove these verses from their
context and question their Isaianic origins. The exegesis of our text
still has to draw its final conclusions with respect to the dating of the
Zion tradition. It goes without saying, however, that one should not
exclude the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 from the discussion in advance. On
the contrary! The present author is convinced that his exegesis of both
prophecies (28:7–13 and 28:14–22) has provided sufficient evidence to
include the Zion text of 28:16 as part of the authentic preaching of
the prophet Isaiah.
4.5. Isa. 28:1–6 and 28:23–29
While the exegesis of both the prophecies of judgement 28:7–13
and 28:14–22 is of primary importance for our research, it neverthe-
less seems appropriate to conclude the present chapter with some
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204 chapter four
considerations related to the external pericopes of chapter 28, namely
28:1–6 and 28:23–29. Both texts constitute a part of the transmitted
composition of Isaiah 28 and function thereby as the most proximate
context for the central pericopes of the chapter. Following a discussion
of the individual texts we will endeavour to determine and evaluate
the relationship of both with the prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13
and 28:14–22 within the context of Isaiah 28 as a whole.
4.5.1. Isa. 28:1–6: Prophecy of judgement and promise of salvation
The pericope formed by verses 1–6 of Isaiah 28 consists of a proph-
ecy of judgement (28:1–4) and a promise of salvation (28:5–6), both
of which are linked at the thematic level. The pericope can thus be
understood as a redactional unity. A prophecy of judgement is com-
monly made up of a complaint and an announcement of judgement.
In the case of 28:1–4, the function of the complaint is fulfilled by a
woe saying (28:1), which is followed immediately by the announcement
of judgement (28:2–4), introduced by the interjection ¬:¬.
339
In rather
‘florid’ language, the prophet announces the fall of Samaria, the once
so proud capital of the northern kingdom, Ephraim. The challeng-
ing message of the prophecy of judgement is followed in 28:5–6 by a
promise of salvation, which sets an understandably more friendly tone.
Although the Masoretes have marked the latter off as a separate unit
(Setumah), it remains closely linked to the preceding prophecy of judge-
ment in terms of theme and terminology. In the exegesis of the text in
question, we will discuss whether the promise of salvation of 28:5–6
was linked to the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 from the outset
or whether it should be understood as a later addition. A further yet
related question concerns the addressation of the pericope, whether the
promise of salvation is addressed to Samaria, the primary addressee
of the prophecy of judgement. We will conclude our discussion of
this part of the text with a number of considerations related to the
authenticity of 28:1–6. We begin, as usual, with the Hebrew text and
its English translation:
339
According to Janzen 1972:54, the formal characteristics of a prophecy of judge-
ment are not evident in 28:1–4: “While punishment is to come upon the haughty, the
formal structure is determined by this ‘reversal of imagery’, rather than the balance
of Begründung und Ankündigung.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 204 1/18/2007 2:18:08 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 205
¬ 1 Woe
μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. the proud garland of Ephraim’s drunkards,
¬¬“sc¬ :. ::: ≈.“ the fading flower, its glorious jewel,
μ:::s: :s¬:. ¬:s which is at the head of the fertile valley,
ˆ ::¬ of those overcome with wine.
:¬s: ≈:s“ ,.¬ ¬:¬ 2 See, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong
::, ¬.: ¬¬: μ¬.: like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest.
μc:: μ¬:: μ: μ¬.: Like a storm of mighty overflowing waters,
¬: .¬s: ¬:¬ he slaps to the ground with his mighty hand,
[¬:::¬¬ ] (¬:::¬¬ ) μ::“¬: 3 trampled underfoot he will be,
μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. the proud garland of Ephraim’s drunkards.
¬¬“sc¬ :. ::: ¬.. ¬¬“¬“ 4 And the fading flower, its glorious jewel,
μ:–:: s: :s¬:. ¬:s which is at the head of the fertile valley,
≈, μ¬:: [¬¬::: ] (¬¬::: ) will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer,
¬¬s ¬s¬¬ ¬s¬“ ¬:s whoever sees it
: ¬:.:: c:: ¬¬.: and while it is still in his hand, eats it up.
s¬¬ μ: 5 On that day
:. ¬¬:.: ¬s:. ¬¬“ ¬¬ YHWH Zebaot will be a garland of glory
:. ¬s:: ¬¬sc¬ ¬¬c.:“ and a diadem of beauty to the remnant
of his people.
:c::¬:. ::: :c:: ¬¬: 6 And (he shall be) a spirit of justice to
: ¬¬ . : ¬: ¬ : : : : : ¬¬ ::“ : “ the one who sits in judgement,
and (a spirit of ) strength to those who
turn back the battle to the gate.
The complaint with which the judgement prophecy of 28:1–4 begins
takes the form of a woe saying, a frequently employed genre borrowed
from the funerary lament or mourning cry.
340
Prophets regularly made
use of the woe saying to make clear that the judgement they had
announced was inevitable.
341
The fact that the exclamatory ¬ stands
outside the metre of verse 1 (anacrusis), serves to reinforce this
inevitability.
342
The object of the woe saying is referred to as ‘the proud
340
Westermann 1968
3
:137–140 presumes that the woe saying has its roots in the
imprecation, but this hypothesis no longer enjoys any following. Whedbee 1971:80–110
follows Gerstenberger ( JBL 81, 1962) who argues that the genre of the woe saying
originated from wisdom circles, in spite of the fact that the expression rarely occurs
in wisdom literature as such. Whedbee bases himself, nevertheless, on Isa. 3:10–11
and Qoh. 10:16–17. On the genre of the woe saying see Williams 1967:75–91, Wolff
1969:284–287, Janzen 1972, Zobel 1977:382–388, Jenni 1978:474–477 and Hillers
1983:185–188.
341
Zobel 1977:387: “Wenn die hoj-Worte der Propheten auf den Totenklageruf
zurückgehen, dann bedeutet das Lautwerden des hoj soviel wie Todesansage, wie
Verkündigung des Gerichts jhwhs.” Cf. Beuken 2000:3: “It colours the prophetic oracles
with the suggestion of death as the inevitable consequence of immoral behaviour.”
342
Beuken 2000:23.
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206 chapter four
garland of Ephraim’s drunkards’. The word ¬¬ : . represents the most
important key to the entire pericope (see also verses 3 and 5). In spite
of the fact that the term is commonly translated as ‘crown’, our option
for ‘garland’ is not without reason and is related to the motif of drunken-
ness that sets the tone of the prophecy.
343
It would appear that wealthy
individuals from the upper echelons of society frequently gathered in
those days for drinking feasts at which it was the custom to tie a garland
of flowers around one’s head.
344
Ezek. 23:42 likewise appears to allude
to this custom.
345
In the woe saying of 28:1, the prophet denounces
such drinking sprees and masterfully transforms the garland associated
therewith into an image for Samaria, the proud capital of Ephraim
located high above the valley (cf. 7:9: ˆ¬:: μ¬cs :s¬“). By typifying
the garland as ¬s: ‘proud’, the prophet underlines its metaphorical
character from the outset.
346
The parallel between ¬s: ¬¬:. ‘proud
garland’ and ::: ≈. ‘fading flower’ confirms the translation of ¬¬:. as
‘garland’.
347
The syntactical connection between ::: ≈. and ¬¬“s c ¬ : .
‘the jewel of its glory’, or ‘its glorious jewel’, is not entirely clear.
348
Some
exegetes understand the segment to be a nominal clause, describing
the pathetic state of the proud garland: ‘for its glorious jewel is a fading
flower’.
349
The present author is more inclined to understand ¬¬“ s c ¬ : .
as appositional to ::: ≈.
350
or to treat the ‘stilted’ sentence structure as
343
Cf. Steins 1989:1030. According to Kellermann 1989:24, ‘garland’ even precedes
‘crown’ in terms of etymology.
344
See Asen 1996:73–87 whose explanation revolves around the relationship between
flowers, drunkenness and religion. Asen argues that Ephraim’s leaders, in like fashion
to their counterparts in Judah (cf. 28:7–13), “participated in lavish banquets reminis-
cent of the ancient marzē
a
, where flowers, food, unguents and wine were essential
ingredients.” (73) McLaughlin 2001:169 disputes the suggestion that the presence of
flowers in 28:1–4 serves as evidence in support of an allusion to the marzē
a
. On the
marzē
a
see Excursus 2.
345
Ezek. 23:42: “The sound of a raucous multitude was around her, with many of the rabble
brought in drunken from the wilderness; and they put bracelets on the arms of the women (i.e. Oholah
and Oholibah = Samaria and Jerusalem, JD), and beautiful crowns (¬¬sc¬ ¬¬:.) upon
their heads.” (NRSV)
346
Reference is made in Ps. 93:1; Isa. 12:5 and 26:10 to the ¬s: of God which
clearly alludes to God’s magnificence. When used of persons, however, the term
quickly acquires the negative connotation of ‘pride’. See Kellermann 1973:881–882
and Stähli 1978
3
:381.
347
The word ≈. literally means ‘blossom’, but can also serve to designate a form of
headdress with a flower motif (cf. the golden rosette on Aaron’s turban in Ex. 28:36).
348
On the strength of a number of philological and archaeological considerations,
Gilula 1974:128 suggests that we understand :. as the designation of a form of head-
dress. Görg 1977:17–23 has disputed this proposal.
349
See Deck 1991:80 and Barthel 1997:280, both of whom appeal to Vogt.
350
Wildberger 1982:1042.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 206 1/18/2007 2:18:09 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 207
a conscious allusion to the pompousness of the accused drunkards.
351

In spite of these alternatives, however, the message of the woe saying
is clear: from the prophet’s point of view, Samaria already counts as
part of Ephraim’s faded glory.
In the subordinate clause that forms the second part of verse 1,
the allusion to Ephraim’s capital is more explicit, although the name
Samaria remains unspoken both here and in the remainder of the
prophecy.
352
A number of exegetes are of the opinion that μ:::s:
‘the fertile valley’ in verse 1 is a later interpolation taken from verse 4,
insisting that the original text only referred to the garland on the heads
of those drunk with wine.
353
In such an instance, reference to the city
of Samaria would thus have to be deferred until verse 4.
354
The use of
the suffix in ¬¬“ s c ¬ : . ‘its (not: their) glorious jewel’ suggests, how-
ever, that the prophet is referring to Samaria from the start. It would
seem ill advised, therefore, to take the expression μ:::s: as a later
interpolation.
Other exegetes point their arrows at the concluding expression ::¬
ˆ ‘those overcome with wine’.
355
Arguing that it is syntactically clumsy
to associate the expression ˆ ::¬ as a genitive with the preceding
μ:::s: ‘the fertile valley’, they suggest relocating these words to the
beginning of the verse where they then take their place as parallel to
μ¬cs ¬:: ‘Ephraim’s drunkards’,
356
or alternatively to understand the
words ˆ ::¬ as a gloss.
357
Nevertheless, the association of ˆ ::¬
351
Beuken 2000:24.
352
The suggestion proposed by Marti 1900:202, namely that μ: : : is a corrupt gloss
rooted in ˆ¬:: ‘Samaria’ is unacceptable. It is more likely that the prophet intentionally
left Samaria unidentified as an expression of his contempt. This style figure is known
as aposiopesis. See Beuken 2000:24.
353
Kaiser 1976
2
:189 draws this conclusion on the basis of the syntax and refers in
this regard to GKG § 128c in which the text is determined to be ‘almost certainly cor-
rupt’ on account of the unusual genitive following a status absolutus. Cf. also Williams
1967:79. Duhm 1914
3
:169 and Procksch 1930(A):349, however, had already objected
to this solution because it suggests that the drunkards in question wore Samaria on
their heads.
354
Wildberger 1982:1042.
355
See also Prov. 23:35 for the use of the verb μ:¬ ‘to cast down’ in relation to
drunkenness.
356
Kissane 1960
2
:303. Loretz 1977:362 considers the entire intervening clause as a
gloss on account of its presumed prose character. Donner 1964:76 relocates the words
ˆ ::¬ to the end of verse 2. Laberge 1982:162 maintains that verse 1b as a whole
exhibits a secondary character.
357
Barthel 1997:281. In an attempt to get round the problem of the genitive, Driver
1968:48 suggests we accept an ancient text correction and read in line with 1QIsa
a
,
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208 chapter four
with :s¬:., without the elimination of μ:::s: , deserves serious
consideration. We would then be left with a translation along the fol-
lowing lines: ‘Woe the proud garland of Ephraim’s drunkards, the fading flower,
its glorious jewel, which is at the head of the fertile valley, (on the heads) of those
overcome with wine.’ Such a solution is the least problematic in terms of
syntax, requires minimal interference with the text and respects the
ambiguity of the woe saying.
358
The poetic structure of verse 1 becomes clear if one takes two bicola
as one’s point of departure, verse 1a consisting of a bicolon with 4 +
4 beats (¬ taken as anacrusis), and verse 1b consisting of a bicolon
with 3 + 2 beats. At first sight, however, the Masoretic system leaves
one with the impression of a tricolonic structure, since the important
distinctive accent (see nr. 1 to 7 of the Tabula Accentuum in BHS) is
missing with respect to μ:::s:. The fact that ˆ ::¬ is syntactically
dependent on :s¬:. ¬:s , however, suggests the presence of ellipsis
in verse 1b. This firmly supports the reading of verse 1b as an inde-
pendent bicolon. By way of exception, the accent Tif hā [8] related to
μ:::s: thus serves to demarcate a colon.
The announcement of judgement in verses 2–4 follows the woe saying
in verse 1, the latter functioning as a complaint or accusation. The
former also begins with a nominal clause introduced with the help of
an interjection. This syntactical datum confirms the connection between
verses 2–4 and the woe saying. Prediction is made, in the first instance,
of God’s (: ¬ s ) imminent intervention in verses 2–3. Emphasis, however,
is not placed on :¬s himself, but rather on the fronted expression ,.¬
≈:s“ ‘one who is mighty and strong’, which serves as subject.
359
Reference is
clearly being made here to Assyria. The emphasis with which the said
subject is presented in the text corresponds with the activities ascribed
thereto in verses 2–3.
360
As part of his announcement of the coming
μ:::s: ‘men proud of fat things’. He agrees with Rost 1935:292 in this regard. Herbert
1973:160–161 and Asen 1996:83 follow Driver’s explanation. For further information
on this text-critical question, see De Waard 1997:118.
358
See Oswalt 1986:507 and Beuken 2000:14.
359
Laberge 1982:164 considers it possible that the expression ≈:s“ ,.¬ ‘one who is
mighty and strong’ represents an allusion to the familiar exhortation ≈:s‘ ,.¬ ‘be strong and
courageous’, which is often used in the context of the War of YHWH (see, for example,
Jos. 1:6–9).
360
Verses 2–3 are structured as three bicola (4 + 4, 4 + 3 and 2 + 4 beats respec-
tively). An important distinctive accent is missing in verse 2b. From the perspective of
consistency, however, it seems reasonable to take this likewise as a bicolon (4 + 3). The
accent T
e
vîr [12] thus functions at this juncture as the demarcation of a colon.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 208 1/18/2007 2:18:09 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 209
judgement, the prophet makes use of metaphors that function elsewhere
as phenomena accompanying a theophany (cf. Hab. 3:10 and Ps. 18:13;
see also Isa. 30:30). Reference is made to a hailstorm, a whirlwind and
a powerful flood of water.
361
The presence of theophanic terminology
in 28:2–3, however, is completely focused on the appearance of Assyria
rather than the appearance of God. The phenomena accompanying
the theophany function here and in other prophecies in the book of
Isaiah as metaphors for the Assyrian army (cf. 8:7–8; 17:12–13 and
28:17). The fact that the name of Assyria is not explicitly mentioned
is likely related to the prophet’s desire to focus attention completely on
the activity of God, which goes hand in hand with the suggestion of a
theophany called to mind by the metaphors he employs.
The announced divine judgement is presented in the form of a double
comparison (2x μ¬.: ‘like a storm of . . .’ ), which alludes effectively to the
unrestrained violence that characterised Assyrian military interventions.
The fact that violence was Assyria’s trademark is not only expressed
in the double comparison but also in the term with which verse 2
concludes. While the word ¬: can be translated simply as ‘with power’,
this would leave the evident parallel with μ::“¬: ‘underfoot’ at the begin-
ning of verse 3 unaccounted for. We thus opt for the translation ‘with
mighty hand’ (cf. the familiar formula ¬,.¬ ¬:). Given the surprising
parallelism between the conclusion of verse 2 (¬:) and the beginning
of verse 3 (μ::“¬:), however, it is no longer evident that the subject of
¬: .¬s: ¬:¬ ‘he slaps to the ground with his mighty hand’ is the Lord, as the
Dutch Authorised Version would appear to presuppose.
362
The passage
in question refers rather to the behaviour of Assyria already alluded
to in the words ≈:s“ ,.¬ ‘one who is mighty and strong’, and represents
a more detailed description thereof. The Lord is at liberty to make
use of Assyria in his plans because He has the might and strength of
Assyria at his disposal. This is a familiar motif in the book of Isaiah
(cf. 10:5–15). With respect to the object of ¬: ≈¬s: ¬:¬ it is likely
361
For the various semantic nuances associated with these words for rainstorm see
Zobel 1984:827–830. Zobel is of the opinion that 28:2,17 takes ancient images from
the context of the War of yhwh and redirects them against Israel (835–836). It is
also possible that the verses in question contain a reminiscence of the cosmic chaos
powers, particularly when reference is made to the μc:: μ¬:: μ: (cf. Clements
1984:853, 861).
362
See also Wildberger 1982:1048. Exum 1982:115–116 argues that the subject
should be left open on account of the ambivalent character of the metaphorical lan-
guage. Cf. also Beuken 2000:27.
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210 chapter four
that reference is being made to the garland metaphorising Samaria in
verse 3 (taken up from the woe saying of verse 1).
363
It is thus Ephraim’s
proud garland that is being slapped to the ground with force . . . and
trampled underfoot.
While verse 2 limits itself to the humiliation of the city of Samaria,
the message of verse 3 clearly suggests that the destruction of Samaria
is imminent. The use of the verb ::¬ ‘to trample’ leaves little over to
the imagination (cf. ::¬“:: ‘to be beaten down’ in 28:18).
364
After being
cast to the ground with mighty hand, the proud garland of Ephraim
will be trampled underfoot by the Assyrian army. It would appear in
the first instance that the plural ¬:::¬¬ ‘they will be trampled’ does not
square with the singular subject ¬¬:. ‘garland’. In order to solve this
problem, some suggest the emendation of the subject to read a plural:
¬¬:. or ¬¬:. ‘garlands’.
365
The difficulty with this suggestion, however,
lies in the fact that ¬¬ : . is used throughout the pericope in the singular,
and a plural ¬¬:. in verse 3 would make the imagery—the garland
alluding to Samaria—incomprehensible. The solution, therefore, is
best found in an alternative vocalisation of the verb, namely as a forma
energica of the third person singular (fem.): ¬:::¬¬ ‘she (i.e. the garland)
will be trampled’.
366
The announcement of God’s intervention is concluded in verse 4 with
a depiction of the consequences of the said intervention. The poetic
structure of this verse can be determined without difficulty on the basis
of the Masoretic accents, namely a bicolon followed by a tricolon.
Verse 4 initially gives the impression of being a later expansion of the
announcement of judgement.
367
The opening ¬¬“¬“ (w
e
qatal ) represents
363
Donner 1964:76 suggests we relocate the expression ˆ ::¬ ‘those overcome with
wine’ from verse 1 to verse 2 and take it as the object of ¬:¬. Such an emendation of
the text seems to the present author, however, to be unnecessary.
364
The verb ::¬ ‘to trample’ is used primarily in the context of prophetic announce-
ments of judgement. See Waschke 1990:533.
365
See BHK, Kissane 1960
2
:304 and Kaiser 1976
2
:189. Cf. the Dutch Authorised
Version.
366
See Procksch 1930(A):350, Driver 1968:50, BHS and Wildberger 1982:1043.
There is some difference of opinion among scholars with respect to the existence of
(the remains of ) a modus energicus in Hebrew. GKG § 42c maintains that there is
little evidence in support of the suggestion that the remains of a modus energicus with
ending -anna should be accepted in Hebrew by analogy with the Arabic. Cf., however,
Lettinga § 42c. Landy 1993:140 considers the unusual combination ¬:::¬¬ μ::“¬: to
be “a conflation of ‘feet shall tread down’ and ‘with feet it (the crown, etc.) is trodden
down’, thereby achieving an ellipsis, a collision of active and passive experiences.”
367
Cf. Laberge 1982:163.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 210 1/18/2007 2:18:10 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 211
a new beginning whereby verse 4a harks back almost literally to the
imagery of verse 1 with the imagery in question suddenly changing in
verse 4b. Moreover, the expression μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. ‘the proud
garland of Ephraim’s drunkards’ at the conclusion of verse 3 forms a perfect
inclusion with the same expression in verse 1. The manner with which
the words from verse 1 are recapitulated in verse 4a does indeed sug-
gest evidence of redactional activity in the text. Nevertheless, it is not
unusual to find reference to the consequences of a divine intervention
in the context of an announcement of judgement (see 28:13, likewise
a w
e
qatal clause; cf. also 29:4). In order to give expression to these con-
sequences, the author first employs the metaphor of the fading flower,
taken almost literally from verse 1, and then uses it as the subject of a
strikingly new comparison. The prophet compares the fading flower,
Ephraim’s glorious jewel, with a first-ripe fig that is greedily devoured.
The repetition of the subordinate clause μ::: s: :s¬:. ¬:s ‘which
is at the head of the fertile valley’ from verse 1 with the omission of ::¬
ˆ ‘of those overcome with wine’, makes verse 4 less ambiguous than the
woe statement of verse 1 and facilitates the introduction of the new
metaphor. Only Samaria, Ephraim’s capital, can now be understood
as the subject of the comparison.
In spite of this fact, some exegetes still consider the transition from
fading flower to first-ripe fig to be too sudden. They suggest that we
relocate the verb form ¬¬ “ ¬ “ with which verse 4 begins to the beginning
of the second half of the verse,
368
thereby getting rid of the somewhat
strange comparison between the fading flower and the first-ripe fig.
According to this scenario, the expressions :: : ≈. ‘fading flower’ and : .
¬¬“sc¬ ‘its glorious jewel’ are to be taken in apposition to ¬¬:. ‘garland’
(verse 3). Such an emendation, however, remains unnecessary. Given
that the ambiguity of the metaphor employed in verse 4 has disappeared
and the fading flower is to be identified exclusively with Samaria, there
is no reason to argue that the prophet would not have made such a
368
See, for example, Duhm 1914
3
:169, Procksch 1930(A):347, Donner 1964:76,
Wildberger 1982:1043 and Barthel 1997:282. According to some, the relocation of
¬¬“¬“ to the beginning of verse 4 simultaneously led to the unexpected feminine form
of the subject in verse 1 ::: ¬.. ‘the fading flower ’. The use of this feminine form,
however, also goes hand in hand with the equally feminine ¬¬“sc¬ :. ‘its glorious jewel’.
Since verse 1 lacks a verb form, such gender harmonisation was thus irrelevant with
respect to verse 1. It is thus unnecessary to reconstruct the text of verse 4 on the basis
of verse 1 as proposed by Marti 1900:203, Donner 1964:76 and Steins 1989:1031. For
the verb forms employed in the text reference should be made to GKG § 128p and
128w and to J-M § 135n and 141f.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 211 1/18/2007 2:18:10 PM

212 chapter four
sudden transition in his use of imagery.
369
Indeed, a similarly sudden
transition can be found in 30:12–14.
370
The new comparison with the greedy consumption of the first-ripe
fig
371
does not only underline the attractiveness Samaria must have
had to those who beheld her, but also the inevitable and unavoidable
destructiveness of God’s judgement.
372
We are left with the impression
that Assyria is impatient, as it were, and ready to attack with greater
speed that many will have expected. The fact that Assyria’s siege of
Samaria was to last two years, does not detract from the swiftness of
the judgement that has befallen the city and as such does not provide
reason to suggest that these words are not original. The contrary seems
much more probable. The consequences for Samaria of the announce-
ment of divine intervention will be dramatic in every respect.
The prophecy of judgement against Samaria is followed in verses 5
and 6 with a promise of salvation for the remnant of the people of
yhwh. The most important key words from the prophecy of judge-
ment of 28:1–4 return in the promise of salvation: ¬¬:. , :. and
¬¬sc¬ , serving as evidence of a conscious endeavour to link up with
the preceding material.
373
The use of terminology in this promise of
369
Cf. Laberge 1982:165: “The image is new in the context, but it agrees with the
general source of wealth for the northern kingdom . . .”
370
Based on 30:12–14, Exum 1981:334 has demonstrated that it is typical for the
style of Isaiah that the core of one comparison forms the point of departure for the
following comparison. With respect to 30:12–14 she speaks of an “enclosed simile, or a
simile within a simile, in which a vehicle of the first has become the tenor of a second.”
The present author is of the opinion that the same can be said of 28:4.
371
It is preferable to read ¬¬::: without a suffix in line with the MT. See, for
example, Driver 1968:50. The suffix, which is lacking in the ancient Versiones, may
be a later endeavour on the part of the MT to associate the comparison with the
metaphor of the ‘garland’ (μ::: s: as antecedent).
372
Cf. Hausmann 1990:28: “Nach Jes 28,4 werden die Früchte gleich von der Pflanze
weggegessen—analog, und d.h. vernichtend, wird es auch Samaria ergehen.” The
term employed—.::—means ‘verschwindenlassenden Verschlingens’ and is used in
contexts of judgement and destruction (see Schüpphaus 1973:658–661). While some
exegetes emend the expression ¬s¬¬ ¬s¬“ ‘whoever sees’ to read ¬s¬¬ ¬¬s ‘whoever sees
it, plucks . . .’ (
II
¬¬s ‘to pluck’; see, for example, Procksch 1930(A):351, Kissane 1960
2
:303,
Driver 1968:50 and Asen 1996:84), the present author is inclined to consider this
unnecessary. As it now stands, the imperfect in combination with a determined par-
ticiple of the same verb functions perfectly in designating the impersonal ‘whoever’
(cf. Lettinga § 65i and J-M § 155d).
373
Ziegler’s 1948:84 hypothesis that 28:5–6 originally stems from a different context
I am inclined to consider unlikely. The same can also be said for the concretisation of
the said hypothesis by Procksch 1930(A):351, who was of the opinion that the verses
in question originally preceded 4:2–3. Terminological kinship and (partial) agreement
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 212 1/18/2007 2:18:11 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 213
salvation likewise bears a typically Isaianic character. In spite of this,
however, it is quite likely that the promise of salvation of verses 5 and
6 was added to the preceding prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 at a
later period. The following information serves to confirm the secondary
character of this promise of salvation:
1. The use of the typically redactional formula s¬¬ μ: ‘on that day’,
frequently employed in the context of such interpolations.
374
2. The designation of God with ¬s:. ¬¬“ ‘YHWH Zebaot’ instead of
:¬s ‘Lord’ in verse 2.
3. Reference to the :. ¬s: ‘the remnant of this people’ instead of ¬::
μ¬cs ‘Ephraim’s drunkards’ in verse 1.
4. The alternative association that is created between the key words
¬¬:., :. and ¬¬sc¬ . Verse 1 speaks of the ¬s: ¬¬:. ‘the proud
garland’ and of the ¬¬“sc¬ :. ::: ≈. ‘the fading flower, his glorious
jewel’, while verse 5, by contrast, speaks of yhwh becoming ¬¬:.:
¬¬sc¬ ¬¬c.:“ :. ‘a garland of glory and a diadem of beauty’.
5. The introduction to the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, which
harks back to the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 and ignores the
promise of salvation of 28:5–6.
This secondary promise of salvation is intended to be read as a clear
antithesis to the preceding text. Given its use of the same key words
as those employed in the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4, it is prob-
able that it never existed independently. While the garland with which
Ephraim is itself adorned is to be cast to the ground and trampled
underfoot, a different garland is introduced in these verses. The first
garland is characterised by ‘pride’, and that which is characterised by
pride will not survive. The second garland is identified with ¬s:. ¬¬“
‘YHWH Zebaot’, a designation frequently employed in the first part of the
at the level of content with 4:2–3 is unmistakably evident. Petersen 1979:107 thus
presupposes that the author of 28:5–6 also wrote 4:2–4 and that he interpreted 28:1–4
with the help thereof.
374
In the book of Isaiah, this redactional formula occurs more than thirty times,
and almost exclusively in the first part of the book. De Vries 1995:38–63 has made
a detailed study of the formula. After a discussion of each relevant passage in Isaiah
1–35 he concludes: “There are no authentic futuristic transitions in Isaiah with integral
bayyôm hahû; this is therefore eo ipso a mark of redaction.” (124) De Vries 1995:118
dates the interpolation of 28:5–6 in the period before the exile. Cf. Beuken 2000:28:
“The expectation of a decisive appearance of YHWH who would put the world in
order, entailed the projection of all particular divine interventions into one unknown
moment in the proximate future.”
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214 chapter four
book of Isaiah and an expression indicating that God’s exaltedness
puts every form of human pride to shame (cf. 2:12). In contrast to the
preceding prophecy of judgement, the divine name now functions as
subject. This syntactic fact corresponds with the message of verse 5–6,
namely that in the future yhwh will draw complete attention to himself
and that the divine eclipse is over. The contrast with the garland men-
tioned in 28:1 could not be greater. The first garland already bore the
seed of its own decay while the second garland brings salvation and
justice (cf. 60:19). In order to do justice to the antithetical character of
the promise of salvation in 28:5–6, the term ¬¬:. ought likewise to
be translated as ‘garland’ in preference to ‘crown’. The future expecta-
tion of God’s people is that yhwh himself will be its true garland.
375

It is striking, however, that of the four key words in the text, the word
employed for flower in verse 1 and 4 (≈. / ¬.. ) is the only one to be
avoided in the promise of salvation of 28:5–6! Associations with exces-
sive drinking and drunkenness would appear to be inappropriate with
respect to yhwh! Instead of ≈. or ¬.. the writer employs the term
¬¬c. , which in the sense of ‘diadem’ is probably a no hapax.
376
In contrast to the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4, which is
addressed to ‘Ephraim’s drunkards’—Samaria’s leading upper crust—, the
promise of salvation of 28:5–6 is intended for the :. ¬s : ‘the remnant of
his (i.e. YHWH’s) people’. It is perfectly clear that the designation ‘remnant’
in the promise of salvation presupposes a preceding judgement. In itself,
reference to the remnant of God’s people bears a degree of ambivalence,
since it implies both doom and salvation (‘a mere remnant’ . . . ‘a rem-
nant nevertheless’). The negative aspect of such expression will originally
have enjoyed priority (cf. 10:19; 14:22; 16:14; 17:3; 21:17). One can
determine on the basis of the name ascribed to one of Isaiah’s sons—
:: ¬s: ‘a remnant shall return’ (7:3)—that reference to ‘a remnant’ here
harks back to the witness of the prophet himself and is not of post-exilic
origin. The exile nevertheless stimulated such language, shifting the
emphasis to the salvific character of the notion of the remnant. The
Isaianic familiarity with the concept, however, is difficult to deny.
Bearing this in mind, the promise of salvation in 28:5–6 is most
probably to be dated in the exilic or post-exilic period, since it not
375
Cf. Asen 1996:85. In the post-exilic prophecy found in Isa. 62:3, the people of
Zion are themselves referred to as ¬¬“¬: ¬¬sc¬ ¬¬:. ‘a crown of beauty in the hand
of the Lord’.
376
The same word is only found elsewhere in Ezek. 7:7,10, but its meaning remains
unclear.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 214 1/18/2007 2:18:11 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 215
only appears to presuppose the fall of Samaria in 722 but also that
of Jerusalem in 586. The connection with the prophecy of salvation
in 4:2–6 clearly points in this direction.
377
While the expression ‘the
remnant of my people’ consistently refers to those who had remained in
Zion (cf. 4:3: ˆ. : ¬s : : ¬ ‘those who are left in Zion’ // μ : : ¬: ¬¬ :¬ ‘those
who remain in Jerusalem’), it is possible that the point of reference in 28:5
is intentionally more general with a view to including the northern
kingdom of Ephraim in the promise of salvation.
378
Although the
primary focus of references to the remnant of the people of yhwh will
have been Judah and Jerusalem respectively, the absence of the name
‘Zion’ can be explained on the basis of an intentional association with
the preceding prophecy of judgement.
379
Following the more generally formulated promise of salvation in verse
5, verse 6 introduces a more specific concretisation. It would appear
from verse 5 that an honourable existence has been set aside for the
remnant of God’s people whatever the circumstances and that yhwh
himself is the guarantor thereof. The concretisation of this honourable
existence is provided in verse 6 in which yhwh promises to establish a
well-ordered and safe society, a society that will be characterised inter-
nally by the maintenance of justice and externally by resolute protection.
Reference is made in the first half of the verse to a :c:: ¬¬ ‘spirit
of justice’. Reference is likewise made to a :c:: ¬¬ in 4:4. Given the
context and the parallel with ¬.: ¬¬ ‘spirit of burning’, however, the
:c:: ¬¬ in 4:4 acquires a negative connotation. God has cleansed the
bloodstains of Jerusalem with ‘the spirit of justice and of burning’. In 28:6,
by contrast, the :c:: ¬¬ acquires a positive connotation on account
of the context and the parallel with ¬¬::“ ‘(spirit of ) strength’. By way of
the spirit of justice, God ensures a new future in which justice shall be
maintained.
380
The term :c : : belongs among Isaiah’s typical vocabulary
377
Cf. also 62:3.
378
Cf. Höffken 1993:194: “Nach Lage der Dinge handelt es sich um eine Stimme,
die die samaritanische Gemeinschaft nicht aus dem kommenden Heilsbereich Israels
ausgeschlossen sein lassen möchte.” See also 11:11–16 where reference to ‘the remnant
of his people’ forms an inclusion in a prophecy of salvation in which Ephraim is also
explicitly involved. The prophecy of salvation found in 10:20–23, which would appear
to be exclusively addressed to the northern kingdom, speaks of ‘the remnant of Israel’
and ‘the remnant of Jacob’.
379
Krauss 1945:18–21 derives the meaning of the name ‘Zion’ from :., whereby
verse 5 becomes more than just a fine metaphor. While a phonological allusion to Zion
may be present, Krauss’ etymology is far from certain.
380
The connection between the granting of God’s spirit and the presence of justice
is also expressed in 32:15–16 and in the first song of the servant in 42:1.
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216 chapter four
and refers to legal order in general. A king, for example, is expected
to ensure :c:: in his kingdom (cf. 32:1). Given the fact that yhwh
presents himself here in regal fashion as ‘a garland of glory and a diadem
of beauty to the remnant of his people’, this also implies that He will take
the responsibility for legal order upon himself as befits a king.
381
As such, it is possible to explain the second half of verse 6 on the
basis of the same theme of legal order. The gate referred to is the place
in which justice is given concrete form. Nevertheless, the expression
‘those who turn back the battle at the gate’ would seem more obviously to
refer to a hostile, external threat that has found its way into the city
and now has to be repelled. Indeed, the enemy’s forces need to be
kept outside the city gate.
382
Such a notion fits better with ¬¬::“ ‘(spirit
of ) strength’. Given the parallelism with the first half of the verse, it is
not inconceivable that ¬¬::“: should be understood as an ellipsis of
¬¬::“ ¬¬:. This idea is reinforced by 11:2, which speaks of a ¬.. ¬¬
¬¬::“ ‘a spirit of counsel and might’. The fact that the word ¬¬ is not
repeated in the second half of verse 6 may have its roots in metrical
considerations.
383
The latter remains tentative, however, since the Masoretic accentua-
tion of verses 5 and 6 is not unambiguous enough to determine the
poetic structure of the verses with absolute certainty. At first sight,
the many distinctive accents might appear to point in the direction of
short cola (a tricolon + bicolon in verse 5 and two bicola in verse 6).
The final bicolon of verse 6, however, then acquires the improbable
metrical pattern of 1 + 3 beats, unless the addition of the now absent
¬¬: to ¬¬::“: is presupposed. On account of the speculative character
that tends to typify such metrical emendations, I am inclined to ignore
the Atnāch in both verse 5 and verse 6 and to presuppose the presence
of long cola. The formula s¬¬ μ: in verse 5 is understood as an
extra-metrical element (anacrusis).
384
In this instance, verses 5 and 6
381
The return of justice and righteousness is a familiar eschatological motif in the
book of Isaiah.
382
In line with Delitzsch, Barthel 1997:282 associates the words ¬:¬:: and ¬¬.:
with one another: ‘the battle against the gate’ (cf. 22:7).
383
In Qoh. 10:17, the term ¬¬::“ is employed in contrast to getting drunk. The rul-
ers of a land should excel ¬:: s:“ ¬¬::“: ‘in strength and not in drinking’. Cf. Kosmala
1973:904. A similar contrast is evident in 28:1–6. Given the fact that the promise of
salvation of 28:5–6 is located in a context of drunkenness, a sharp contrast is evident
here also between the ‘drunkards of Ephraim’ and the ‘(spirit of ) power of YHWH Zebaot’.
384
While the formula s¬¬ μ: functions as a temporal indicator and does not enjoy
any particular deictic value, its syntactic significance for what follows is irrelevant and
can thus be understood as anacrusis.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 216 1/18/2007 2:18:12 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 217
can be seen as consisting of a single bicolon each with 5 + 4 and 4 + 4
beats respectively.
Looking back at the exegesis of 28:1–6, one can conclude that the
prophecy of judgement in 28:1–4 and the promise of salvation in 28:5–6
form a clear unity at the thematic and redactional levels. Nevertheless,
only the prophecy of judgement in 28:1–4 can be ascribed to the
prophet Isaiah with any degree of certainty. Generally speaking, schol-
ars have expressed little doubt as to the authenticity of the two central
prophecies of judgement in this chapter 28:7–13 and 28:14–22. The
Isaianic character of 28:7–13 is virtually undisputed and the same is at
least true with respect to 28:14–18 as the core of the second prophecy
of judgement. The most important indicators of authenticity revolve
around their use of Isaianic themes, typically Isaianic terminology,
the creative employment of the prophecy of judgement genre and the
clear-cut poetic structure evident in both texts. On the basis of the same
arguments, it is likewise possible to accept the prophecy of judgement
in 28:1–4 as authentic.
Reference should be made in the first instance to the creative manner
with which the prophecy of judgement genre is employed. The genre in
question follows a fixed structure of complaint followed by announce-
ment of judgement. In 28:1–4, however, the prophet has creatively
employed the said structure by presenting the complaint of 28:1 as a
woe saying. In so doing, the prophet has in fact ingeniously combined
two different genres into one, with the result that the complaint ele-
ment of the prophecy of judgement already implies in fact an element
of the announcement of judgement itself. Borrowed from the dirge or
funerary lament genre, the woe saying is employed to underline the
inescapability of the imminent judgement. Similarly, the prophet has
introduced an element of complaint into the announcement of judge-
ment segment of both central prophecies of judgement in 28:7–13 and
28:14–22 by referring to God’s salvific words from the past (28:12) and
God’s salvific deeds from the past (28:16). The rhythm of the text, its
abundant use of metaphors, the initial ambiguity and the surprising
combination thereof, all contribute to the poetic contours of 28:1–4
and reveal the work of a master. The use of one comparison as the
starting point of the following comparison is typical of the style of the
prophet Isaiah (cf. 30:12–14).
385
385
See Exum 1981:334.
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218 chapter four
The theme of the prophecy of judgement concerning Samaria is
likewise unmistakably Isaianic. As a matter of fact, the prophet Isaiah
turned against every form of pride and self-aggrandisement as no other
(cf. 2:12ff ). The announcement of the coming of Assyria as the instru-
ment of God’s judgement counts in equal measure as an important
element of Isaiah’s preaching (cf. Isa. 10:5ff ). The metaphor of hail and
flood employed for Assyria’s intervention is also to be found in other
prophecies of Isaiah (cf. 8:7–8; 17:12–13 and 28:17). While there are
no indications that the prophet Isaiah himself had already used the
prophecy of judgement concerning Samaria as a warning example
addressed to the people of Judah, the arguments outlined above make
it difficult to call the authenticity of the prophecy into question.
The same cannot be said, however, for the promise of salvation of
28:5–6, which was introduced into the prophecy of judgement at a
later date. While the vocabulary employed in the said promise exhibits
Isaianic characteristics and there is little doubt that the remnant theme
harks back to the prophet himself, other more conclusive arguments
nevertheless confirm that the promise of salvation should be understood
as a secondary addition. Given its strong connections with the prophecy
of salvation in 4:2–6, it can be argued that the promise of salvation of
28:5–6 must have been added to the preceding prophecy of judgement
after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 at the earliest and as a result, the text
can no longer be understood to stem from Isaiah himself.
386
4.5.2. Isa. 28:23–29: Prophetic instruction
Up to this point, the various pericopes we have been examining in Isaiah
28 have belonged for the most part to the genre of the prophecy of
judgement. The concluding pericope of Isaiah 28, however, no longer
presents itself as a prophecy of judgement but can be understood rather
as a teaching or instruction based on the opening formula. The instruc-
tion itself can be divided into two more or less analogous parts, the first
consisting of the verses 24–26, the second of the verses 27–29. Both
parts conclude with an explicit reference to God and yhwh Zebaot.
The instruction genre is typically chokmatic in character. Our task is to
determine whether the instruction of 28:23–29 also contains prophetic
elements and, if so, whether it is possible to speak of a comparison or
even a prophetic discussion, as several exegetes presuppose. The present
386
See the exegesis of 28:5–6 in § 4.5.1.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 218 1/18/2007 2:18:12 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 219
sub-paragraph will conclude with some observations concerning the
authenticity of 28:23–29. Prior to the exegesis, however, we present
the Hebrew text and the English translation:
:, .::“ :.s¬ 23 Listen, and hear my voice;
¬¬:s .::“ ::,¬ Pay attention, and hear my speech!
μ¬ ::¬ 24 Is it continually,
.¬.“: :¬¬¬ :¬¬ that the farmer ploughs for sowing,
¬:¬“s ¬¬: ¬¬c“ that he opens his ground and harrows?
s:¬ 25 Is it not like this?
¬:c ¬:μs When he has leveled its surface,
¬., ≈c¬“ Then he scatters dill
,¬.“ ˆ::“ and sows cumin.
¬¬: ¬:¬ μ:“ Then he plants wheat in rows,
ˆ::: ¬¬.: and barley in its proper place,
¬:::“ ¬:::“ and spelt as the border.
:c::: ¬:“ 26 For He instructs him well,
:¬ ¬:s‘ his God teaches him.
≈¬¬: s: : 27 However, it is not with a threshing sledge
¬., :¬ that dill is threshed,
¬::. ˆcs“ nor is the wheel of a cart
:: ˆ:::. rolled over cumin.
¬., ::¬ ¬::: : But dill is beaten with a stick,
:::: ˆ::“ and cumin with a rod.
,¬ μ¬: 28 Grain on the other hand is crushed for bread.
::¬“ :¬s ¬.:: s: : But even then one does not thresh it forever;
:¬c ¬::“. :::: μ:¬“ one drives the cart wheel and horses
:,¬“s: over it,
but does not pulverize it.
¬s. ¬s:. ¬¬“ μ.: ¬s.μ: 29 This also comes from YHWH Zebaot.
¬.. s:c¬ He is wonderful in counsel
: ¬:¬ :¬:“¬ and excellent in wisdom.
The introductory formula in verse 23 with which this pericope begins,
generally referred to as a ‘Lehreröffnungsformel’,
387
is familiar to us
from wisdom literature (cf. Ps. 49:2; 78:1; Prov. 4:1,20; 5:1; 7:24; Job
13:17; 33:1; 34:2), and contains a strongly worded appeal to listen.
The same opening formula is likewise employed by the prophet Isaiah
on a number of occasions (1:2,10; 32:9; cf. 34:1; 49:1; 51:4).
388
Such
an opening line qualifies the words that follow as an instruction. The
appeal to listen in verse 23 consists of a perfectly parallel bicolon, each
of the cola containing two imperatives that give rise to a persuasive
387
See Wolff 1961:122–123. Mosis 1993:202 prefers to speak of a more general
‘feierliche Aufforderung zur Aufmerksamkeit’, which is not tied to a specific genre.
388
See also Gen. 4:23; 49:2; Deut. 32:1; Judg. 5:3; Hos. 5:1.
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220 chapter four
appeal. The imperative .::“ repeated in both cola serves to reinforce
the first imperative. It is already striking that, in contrast to its use
elsewhere, the appeal in verse 23 does not appear to have a specific
addressee. The absence of the latter creates the initial impression that
the instruction that will follow enjoys a timeless character (see however
vv. 27–29). Similarly, the subject contained in the words :, ‘my voice’
and ¬¬:s ‘my speech’ is not further identified. This need not imply,
however, that the instruction of 28:23–29 was intended for a read-
ing audience rather than a listening audience.
389
The option for the
expression :, ‘my voice’ makes it clear that the prophet was addressing
himself in the first instance at least to a listening audience (cf. Gen.
4:23 and Isa. 32:9).
390
The first part of the instruction to which the audience is called to
give ear begins in verse 24. Two rhetorical questions are employed
to present a general truth related to the agricultural activities of the
farmer. As a matter of fact, :¬¬¬ ‘the farmer’ (lit. ‘the one who ploughs’, cf.
Am. 9:13; Ps. 129:3), is the subject of all the active verbal formulations
in verses 24–25. The rhetorical question as style feature has a didactic
purpose and presupposes a positive or negative response from those
to whom it is addressed. In the case of verse 24, a negative reaction
is to be expected. It goes without saying that a farmer, whose activi-
ties require more than ploughing and harrowing, does not continue to
repeat the same activities ad infinitum.
391
While verse 24 would appear at first sight to be a bicolon (5 + 3
beats), the Masoretic accentuation suggests that the verse is intended
389
Kaiser 1976
2
:206 speaks of an originally literary Sitz im Leben. Idem Beuken
2000:63.
390
Based on the use of :, and ¬¬:s and the absence of any clear reference
to the word of yhwh, Whedbee 1971:65 deduces that Isaiah is rendering his own
thoughts at this juncture and cannot speak with the same degree of certainty as he does
elsewhere: “I have no special message from Yahweh; so I cannot give a special word
of promise. Yet I can give you my reflections as to the probable course of Yahweh’s
future actions.” The text of verse 23, however, does not support such a distinction. If
a prophet employs the wisdom style, this need not imply that his prophetic authority
is thereby mitigated. By way of comparison: the presence of the same formula in the
prophecy of 32:9 is unlikely to lead to a similar distinction!
391
The verb ¬¬: pi. ‘to harrow’ is only found elsewhere in Job 39:10 (MT) and Hos.
10:11. In the latter text, it is found in parallel with the verb :¬¬ ‘to plough’, as is the
case here in 28:24. The verb ¬¬c ‘to open’ is employed as a synonym for ‘to harrow’. As
a matter of fact, there is some doubt as to the adequacy of the translation ‘to harrow’,
since some maintain it to be a practice that was still unknown in ancient Palestine.
Healey 1984:114 presupposes, therefore, that the term refers to a form of ploughing:
“We see here then a progression of three types of ploughing, repeated ploughing of
the type already referred to. śiddēd may be the climax.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 220 1/18/2007 2:18:13 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 221
to be read as a tricolon (2 + 3 + 3 beats). The first colon consists of
a short interrogative clause,
392
upon which both the second and third
cola are dependent. The latter cola parallel one another in terms of
content and in part in terms of syntax. The two verb forms ¬¬: ¬¬c“
‘he opens and harrows’ correspond with the preceding verb form :¬¬ ‘he
ploughs’. While the second colon makes explicit reference to the subject
(:¬¬¬ ‘the farmer’) and, anticipating the following verse, the purpose of
his activities (.¬.“: ‘for sowing’),
393
the third colon only makes explicit
reference to the object (¬:¬“s ‘his land’).
Verse 25 is closely linked to the preceding verse and is also formulated
in terms of a rhetorical question. The style feature that employs the
sequence of two rhetorical questions would appear to have been a
respected didactic technique.
394
In response to this second rhetorical
question, however, an affirmative answer is expected. Reference is
made once again to a general and familiar fact. Verse 25 begins with
the interrogative s:¬, which in the present context is best translated
with a separate clause: ‘Is it not like this?’
395
The verse goes on to detail
the various and highly systematic activities of the farmer.
The poetic structure can be designated as follows: verse 25 consists
of two tricola. The establishment of the structure of the verse is based
in part on the presence of the Masoretic accents Tifchā [8] (see ¬.,)
and Paštā [10], which enjoy a demarcative function. The same can be
said for the use of the accent Paštā [10] in relation to the interroga-
tive s:¬ . Partly because this interrogative does not make an essential
contribution to the syntax of the following sentence, one can consider
392
For our translation of the expression μ¬ ::¬ see J-M § 139g.
393
In line with Duhm 1914
3
:178 and Marti 1900:210, BHS suggests we scrap .¬.:
for metrical reasons. See also Procksch 1930(A):364, Kaiser 1976
2
:205, Clements
1980(B):233, Barthel 1997:329 and Beuken 2000:64. Irwin 1977:38 suggests we read
.¬.: as part of the second colon and translates the expression as an equivalent .¬.:
‘without sowing’, but this is somewhat contrived. Watson 1984:219, however, refers to
verse 24 as an example of a ‘pivot pattern’ couplet, a style figure he describes as fol-
lows: “Basically, the ‘pivot pattern’ is a couplet where the expected final word is not
expressed as it is implied by the last word (or words) of the first line.” (214) According
to Watson, the said ‘pivot pattern’ functions primarily to demarcate the beginning of
a new text unit.
394
Whedbee 1971:60 refers by way of example to Am. 6:12; Jer. 12:5; Prov. 6:27–28;
Job 6:5–6 and 8:11.
395
The word s:¬ at the beginning of a clause does not always have the value of
an interrogative particle, but sometimes functions rather in the same sense as ¬:¬ . See
Beuken 1992:50 and Brongers 1981:180–181.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 221 1/18/2007 2:18:13 PM

222 chapter four
it as extra-metrical (anacrusis). The first tricolon, which is made up of
2 + 2 + 2 beats, begins with a short initial clause. This is followed by
a long concluding clause that runs on into the second tricolon and in
terms of both structure and content is made up of two parts. The first
part of the concluding clause consists of two cola in chiastic formation:
verb—object // object—verb. The objects referred to are ¬., and
ˆ:: , two different types of herb that only occur in the present pericope
and can be translated as ‘dill’ and ‘cumin’ respectively. The verb forms,
both of which designate a ‘sowing’ movement, are more common.
396

The second part of the concluding clause is formed by the second
tricolon (verse 25b, a tricolon of 3 + 2 + 2 beats) and characterised
by the ellipsis of the verb in the second and third cola. Following the
verb referring to a careful placing of the seed, we are introduced to
three different sorts of grain as object: ¬:¬ , ¬¬.: and ¬:::. The first
two terms are the most common. The term ¬:¬ means ‘wheat’ and the
term ¬¬.: ‘barley’.
397
The term ¬::: is less common (found only two
times elsewhere) and means something like ‘spelt’.
398
The three sorts of
grain are each explained in further detail with respect to the manner
in which they are sown. The precise significance of the terms ¬¬: and
ˆ::: raises some difficulties, however, since both are hapax legomena.
399

This has led some exegetes to follow the Septuagint and propose that
we scrap the terms in question, but such a solution is hardly adequate.
400

Only one exegete is of the opinion that the terms refer to different spe-
396
The verb ≈c hi. means ‘to disperse’ or ‘to scatter’ and is usually employed for the
scattering of people or nations. The verb ,¬. means ‘to sprinkle’ and is frequently used
for blood sprinkled around an altar; it can also be used for sprinkling with water and
dust. Cf. Ringgren 1989:545 and André 1977:687.
397
Both words are used more frequently in the plural (Ruth 2:23; 2 Sam. 17:28;
2 Chron. 2:9,14; 27:5; Jer. 41:8; Ezek. 4:9; 45:13) than in the singular (Deut. 8:8;
Job 31:40; Joel 1:11) and occur together with some regularity.
398
See sg. in Ex. 9:32; see pl. in Ezek. 4:9.
399
According to Wildberger 1982:1084, ¬¬: can be understood as an example of
dittography on account of the following ¬¬.: and on the basis of the metre and the
LXX (see also Fohrer 1962:63). KBL opts for the translation ‘millet’ (HALAT speaks
of an undetermined grain sort), but a fourth grain sort (also presupposed by Eichrodt
1967:138, Auvray 1972:254, Schoors 1972:170, Kaiser 1976
2
:207 and De Waard
1997:120) would disrupt the structure of the verse. The word ˆ::: is explained by
KBL/HALAT as a niphal ptc. of ˆ::, but left untranslated. According to Wildberger
1982:1084, the word does not fit the metre. The majority of exegetes follow the
translation found in the Targum, which renders the words ¬¬: and ˆ::: as locatives:
‘in rows’ and ‘in its proper place’.
400
See Duhm 1914
3
:178, Marti 1900:211, Procksch 1930(A):366, Kaiser 1976
2
:205
and Clements 1980(B):234.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 222 1/18/2007 2:18:13 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 223
cies of grain.
401
The structure of the tricolon, however, favours three
similar subordinate clauses. Given the fact that ¬:::“ clearly functions
as a locative, it therefore makes sense to understand ¬¬: and ˆ:::
likewise as locatives.
402
Verse 26 concludes the first part of the instruction. In a tersely for-
mulated bicolon, in which the Masoretes have surprisingly enough
employed the less important distinctive accent Tifchā [8] instead of the
expected Atnāch, the farmer’s systematic approach is brought back to
its divine origins: ‘For He instructs him well, his God teaches him’ (cf. Ex.
35:30–35).
403
While the use of the term :c:: ‘justice’ is characteristic
of the prophet Isaiah, it reflects more in the present instance on the
order of creation than on the legal order to which it usually refers (cf.
28:6,17). Nevertheless, it can also be used to designate a certain rule or
customary order (see, the expression :c:: ¬. ‘time and way’ in Qoh.
8:6). The verb forms ¬: ‘to instruct’, ‘to discipline’ (see also 8:11) and
III
¬¬ ‘to teach’ (see also 2:3; 9:14; 28:9) have a primary role to play in
the wisdom literature.
404
It is worthy of note that the subject of ¬:“ in
the present verse is only identified in the second colon: ‘his God teaches
him’ (cf. the same phenomenon in 28:11–13!).
405
The bicolon of verse
26 may be short (2 + 2 beats), but it has a great deal to say. It marks
the conclusion of the first part of the instruction.
After the conclusion to the first broadly chokmatic part of the instruction
with its reference to God in verse 26, verse 27 introduces the second part
thereof, which distinguishes itself in terms of syntax by its exclusive use
of passive verb forms (in verse 27: :¬ ‘. . . is threshed’, :: ‘. . . is rolled
over’ and ::¬ ‘. . . is beaten’; in verse 28a ,¬ ‘. . . is crushed’).
406
What is
important at this juncture, however, is the shift in content within the
instruction that goes hand in hand with the verb forms employed. The
first part of the instruction gave pride of place to the process of sowing
while the second focuses rather on the process of harvesting. As such,
401
Schuman 1981:92–93, cf. the Dutch Authorised Version.
402
For a detailed analysis see Barthélemy 1986:195–200.
403
Cf. Whedbee 1971:55.
404
See Saebø 1978
3
:738–742, Branson 1982:688–697 and Wagner 1982:920–930.
405
Watson 1984:336–337 refers to this style feature as ‘delayed identification’. Irwin
1977:40 spoke earlier of ‘delayed explicitation’.
406
1QIsa
a
has changed the verb forms in the second part of the instruction from
passive to active.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 223 1/18/2007 2:18:13 PM

224 chapter four
therefore, the chokmatic instruction takes on an unmistakably prophetic
character, the harvest being a familiar metaphor for judgement among
the prophets (see, for example, Jer. 51:33; Joel 3:13 and Hab. 3:12)! Our
initial question concerning whether the instruction of 28:23–29 also
exhibits prophetic features can now, in principle, be answered in the affir-
mative. While the agricultural terminology continues apparently without
interruption, the use thereof cannot conceal the fact that the prophet
has shifted from culture to history, a shift the attentive reader/listener
will not have missed. The shift of focus to the process of harvesting
and its associated judgement metaphors deprives the instruction of its
initially timeless character.
407
In the second part of the instruction, the
prophet endeavours to convince his audience that the events confront-
ing them at the level of history also come from God. With hindsight,
even the word ‘to plough’ in verse 24 now acquires negative connotations
(cf. Ps. 129:3). The instruction of 28:23–29 is evidently not intended
to be a lesson in agriculture—otherwise the powerful call to listen in
verse 23 would have been exaggerated to say the least—but is related
to the contemporary history of its audience!
Verse 27 consists of three bicola, the first and the last of which begin
with the particle : :
408
≈¬¬: s: : However, it is not with a threshing sledge
¬., :¬ that dill is threshed,
¬::. ˆcs“ nor is the wheel of a
:: ˆ:::. cart rolled over cumin.
¬., ::¬ ¬::: : But dill is beaten with a stick,
:::: ˆ::“ and cumin with a rod.
The first two bicola are dependent on the negative particle s: and thus
contain a negative statement. The third bicolon, on the other hand,
is affirmative. We noted a similar interchange in the use of rhetorical
questions in the first part of the instruction. The question in verse 24
expects a negative answer and that of verse 25 an affirmative answer.
The structural relationship between the first part (28:24–26) and the
second part (28:27–29) of the instruction, however, extends beyond
this observation:
407
Wildberger 1982:1085 speaks incorrectly of a ‘double comparison’ whereby both
segments are intended to say the same thing.
408
Without justification, Kaiser 1976
2
:205 suggests we scrap the first : on account of
the metre. In so doing he ignores the important bridging function of the said particle,
joining the two segments of the instruction.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 224 1/18/2007 2:18:14 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 225
• Verse 27a begins with the negation s:, which is determinative for both
bicola. The question μ¬ :: ¬ ‘is it continually . . .?’ fulfils the same func-
tion with respect to the cola following this phrase in verse 24.
409
• In like fashion to the tricolon in verse 25b, the bicolon of verse 27b
is characterised by an ellipsis of the verb. The verb form ::¬ ‘. . . is
beaten’ is not repeated.
As was the case with sowing, there are rules for the harvest of every
sort of crop. The crops in question now function as the subjects of
almost all of the verbs, whereas attention was focused on the :¬¬¬
‘the farmer’ as subject in the first part of the instruction. Reference is
first made to the herbs ¬., ‘dill’ and ˆ:: ‘cumin’. The suggestion that
the instruction of 28:23–29 also exhibits prophetic elements is further
supported by the choice of words in verse 27. The verb :¬ ‘to thresh’,
together with the instruments thereof, ≈¬¬ ‘threshing sledge’, ¬: : ‘stick’ and
::: ‘rod’, are all used elsewhere in the book of Isaiah in the figurative
sense, particularly where there is reference to punishment by God or
by human persons.
410
This represents an important confirmation of the
prophetic character of the instruction given in the present pericope.
The precise significance of the ¬::. ˆcs ‘the wheel of a cart’ is difficult
to determine since it can refer to the wheel of a cart carrying the har-
vest or the wheel of a threshing cart.
411
It is not unimportant to note,
however, that the same term—ˆcs—is employed more than once for
the wheel of a battle chariot (Ex. 14:25; Nah. 3:2; cf. esp. Prov. 20:26),
while the term ¬: : . in Ps. 46:10 clearly refers to such chariots!
412
At the
very least, therefore, one should bear in mind that the expression ˆcs
¬::. ‘the wheel of a cart’ may be introducing an association with battle
chariots. Such an association establishes a degree of ambiguity in verse
27, reinforcing the prophetic character of the instruction.
409
See J-M § 160
q
.
410
For :¬ ‘to thresh’ see 21:10; 25:10 and 41:15 (cf. Judg. 8:7; 2 Kgs 13:7; Am. 1:3;
Mi. 4:13 and Hab. 3:12). For ≈¬¬ ‘threshing sledge’ see 41:15 (cf. Am. 1:3). For ¬:: ‘stick’
and :: : ‘rod ’ see 10:5,15,24,26; 11:4; 14:5,29 and 30:31–32. Cf. Schuman 1981:94–96.
In 27:12, the verb ::¬ ‘to beat (out)’ likewise acquires a figurative meaning, albeit in
the positive sense.
411
See the discussion in Kellermann 1986:1065. Kellermann himself follows the
hypothesis proposed by Gese 1962:419, which maintains that ¬: : . “nur den Lastwagen
als Erntewagen, nicht jedoch einen Dreschwagen oder eine Dreschwalze bezeichnen
kann.” (cf. 1 Sam. 6:7; 2 Sam. 6:3)
412
Procksch 1930(A):364 suggests we scrap ˆc s, while Kaiser 1976
2
:205 suggests we
scrap ¬::. . The present author is inclined to agree with Wildberger 1982:1084 who
considers neither suggestion convincing.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 225 1/18/2007 2:18:14 PM

226 chapter four
Verse 28 is firmly adjoined to the preceding verse via the use of a
passive verb form in the first colon ( ,¬ ‘. . . is pulverized’), although it
also marks the transition from herb sorts to grain sorts. The second
part of the instruction thus follows the same sequence as the first in
this respect (see verse 25). With the emphasis now placed on threshing
and the various instruments employed in the process, verse 28 restricts
its reference to the various grain sorts mentioned in verse 25b to the
summary μ¬: ‘grain for bread’.
413
The structure of verse 28 is unusual. It consists of four cola, of
which the first and the last form an inclusion based on the use of the
verb ,,¬ ‘crush’, ‘pulverize’:
414
,¬ μ¬: Grain on the other hand is crushed for bread.
::¬“ :¬s ¬.:: s: : But even then one does not thresh it forever;
:¬c ¬::“. :::: μ:¬“ one drives the cart wheel and horses over it,
:,¬“s: but does not pulverize it.
The relationship in terms of content between the first and last colon
is not clear at first sight. The suffix attached to :,¬“s: ‘but does not
pulverize it’ refers back to the ‘grain for bread’ in the first colon. Both
statements, however, would appear to contradict one another: ‘grain
is crushed for bread’—‘one does not pulverize it’. The problem here can be
solved in a variety of ways:
1. The first colon can be understood as a (rhetorical) question: ‘Is grain
not crushed for bread? ’
415
2. The words ¬.:: s: : are sometimes relocated to the beginning
of verse 28, giving rise to a construction similar to s: : in verse
27.
416
3. The particle of negation in :,¬“s: is understood in the absolute
sense: ‘No —one pulverizes it.’
417
413
Wildberger 1982:1084 points out that the interpretation of μ¬: as ‘grain for bread’
is established on the basis of 30:23 and Ps. 104:14. Schuman 1981:97 also considers
this a possible interpretation for the same term in Gen. 41:54 (cf. Dommershausen
1984:540).
414
Schuman 1981:97 points out that the verb is employed in the figurative sense in
the context of disciplinary measures (cf. 2 Sam. 22:43; Isa. 41:15; Mi. 4:13).
415
Delitzsch 1889:321, Marti 1900:211, Ziegler 1948:87, Eichrodt 1967:138,
Schoors 1972:170, Clements 1980(B):234, Healey 1984:116 and Kilian 1994:165.
Duhm 1914
3
:179 even suggests that an interrogative particle be inserted for the sake
of clarity (see also BHK).
416
BHS in line with Procksch 1930(A):364. See also Kissane 1960
2
:303. Kaiser
1976
2
:205 restricts the relocation to the particle :.
417
Thexton 1952:81–82.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 226 1/18/2007 2:18:14 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 227
4. The last colon can also be understood as adding further nuance to
the first. In the last analysis, grain is indeed crushed for bread, but
not during the threshing process.
418
Our evaluation of the various options requires us to account for the
contrast with the preceding verse established by the striking location of
μ¬: ‘grain for bread’ at the beginning of the first colon. The said con-
trast has already been prepared for in verse 27 via its reference to the
threshing sledge and cartwheel, two instruments utilised for heavy-duty
types of work. The use of such instruments with herbs such as dill and
cumin would be disastrous. The herbs in question call for much more
careful handling, but grain for bread is a different matter. Grain for
bread has to be crushed, finely ground, but this does not take place
during the threshing process!
The entire clause beginning with ¬.:: s: : is best understood
as a tricolon providing further information with respect to the short
monocolon ,¬ μ¬: with which verse 28 opens. While the sequence
monocolon—tricolon is unusual, this structure of verse 28 is nevertheless
supported by the verb forms employed therein. The monocolon employs
the passive verb form ,¬ ‘. . . is crushed’ and establishes a link thereby
with verse 27. The tricolon, on the other hand, is held together by the
use of active verb forms in the first and last colon, both of which take
the energic form and are provided with a suffix: ::¬“ ‘one threshes it’
419

and :,¬“ ‘one does not pulverize it’. In addition, the emphatic character of
the particle : , which is generally not found in the initial colon, rein-
forces the idea that the poetic structure of verse 28 is best understood
as a monocolon followed by a tricolon rather than two bicola.
Only when one interprets the tricolon as a further nuancing of the
preceding monocolon is it possible to do justice to the intended contrast
with the preceding verse 27 (see 4th option). If one interprets the mono-
colon ,¬ μ¬: as a rhetorical question (1st option) or reorganises the
418
Fohrer 1962:65, Kaiser 1976
2
:208, Irwin 1977:41, Schuman 1981:99–100, Watts
1985:374.
419
Given the fact that the paranomastic construction ::¬“ :¬s ‘keep on thresh-
ing’ consists of a combination of two different roots (inf. abs. of :¬s impf. of :¬),
Wildberger 1982:1084 suggests we read :¬s as an example of dittography (see also
Duhm 1914
3
:179). BHS, KBL/HALAT and HAHAT read an inf. :¬ (cf. GKG
§ 113w—note 3) in line with Kissane 1960
2
:303. Procksch 1930(A):367 suggests the
reading ::s‘ ‘a person’ but has found little following for his proposal. Barthel 1997:331
substitutes :¬s with :¬¬ ‘the thresher’ thereby providing the verse with an appropriate
subject by analogy with verse 24.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 227 1/18/2007 2:18:15 PM

228 chapter four
word order to obtain the same construction as in verse 27 (2nd option),
then one loses the said contrast. Such is clearly not the intention, how-
ever, since the short monocolon with which verse 28 begins and which is
asyndetically linked via the passive verb form with verse 27, deliberately
implies contrast. The contrast in question is then further elaborated in
the tricolon that follows (: as adversative) in order to introduce elements
of hope into the message of judgement: ‘But even then one does not thresh
it forever.’ The expression ¬.:: s: : ‘but not forever . . .’ corresponds in a
certain sense with μ¬ ::¬ ‘is it continually . . .?’ in verse 24 and should
be understood against the background of the lament (cf., for example,
the use of ¬.:: in Ps. 44:24; 74:1,10,19; 77:9; 79:5; 89:47; Lam. 5:20
and the use of ¬.::s: in Ps. 103:9 and Isa. 57:16). The second and
third part of the tricolon are best understood as a concessive clause in
which the nuancing provided in 28a is further elaborated: ‘Even if one
drives the cart wheel and horses over it, one does not pulverize it.’
420
The sugges-
tion that the negation in the latter clause should be taken as absolute
(3rd option) is unacceptable. Such a hypothesis is not only strained from
the linguistic perspective, it also ignores the content-based cohesion
with the nuancing given in verse 28a. Wildberger suggests we read the
said term :¬c ‘its horses’ in relation to the last colon.
421
In spite of the
fact that the clause :,¬“s: is asyndetically adjoined to the preceding
clause, however, Wildberger’s proposal cannot be recommended since
the plural ‘horses’ does not square with the singular verb form.
422
As was the case in verse 27, the present verse also contains a number
of terms that substantiate the prophetic character of the instruction and
confirm its orientation towards the activity of yhwh in history:
420
This conditional clause consists of a protasis without an introductory conditional
particle adjoined asyndetically to the apodosis. Such a construction is not entirely
uncommon (see GKG § 159b, J-M § 167a and Lettinga § 80g). For the interpretation
of verse 28b as a conditional clause see also Irwin 1977:42 and Watts 1985:375.
421
Wildberger 1982:1083.
422
Barthel 1997:331 thus understands the said horses as a sort of accusative and
adds the preposition ‘with’ to his translation: “with his horses he does not pulverize it.” For
a similar translation see Beuken 2000:16. Given the fact that the verb μ:¬ ‘to confuse’
is more often employed in combination with armies and horses as its object, Beuken
is uncomfortable with the direct association of the horses mentioned in 28:28 with
‘threshing’. Bearing in mind the intentional ambiguity employed in this second part of
the instruction, however, Beuken’s objection need not be considered crucial. In line with
Duhm 1914
3
:179 and Marti 1900:211, BHS suggests we read as follows: s :“ :¬ c ‘thus
he separates it out’ = ‘he winnows’ instead of the more difficult reading of the MT: :¬c
s:. This emendation is also followed by Fohrer 1962:64, Eichrodt 1967:138, Schoors
1972:171 and Kaiser 1976
2
:205. For a detailed discussion see Barthélemy 1986:200–201.
Ehrlich suggests we read :¬c¬“ and that we emend μ:¬ to read ¬:¬: “Und wenn die
Räder seines Wagens zu knarren anfangen, dann scheidet man es —das Korn —aus.”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 228 1/18/2007 2:18:15 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 229
• The verb μ:¬, which normally means ‘to confuse’, is almost exclusively
employed in the Old Testament in the context of the so-called Wars
of yhwh (see, for example, Ex. 14:24; Jos. 10:10 and Judg. 4:15).
423

It is quite possible that the prophet had the same idea in mind in
verse 28.
• The use of the word :: : : for ‘wheel’ as an alternative for the word ˆc s
‘wheel’ employed in verse 27 is striking. We noted that the term ˆcs,
in some instances, is used to refer to the wheel of a war chariot (Ex.
14:25; Nah. 3:2; cf. Prov. 20:26). Wherever the term :: : : is employed
to designate a wheel, however, it always refers to the wheel of a war
chariot (Isa. 5:28; Jer. 47:3; Ezek. 23:24; 26:10; cf. Ps. 77:19)!
424
• Given the preceding remarks, it is remarkable that the text employs
the term ¬::. (cf. verse 27) instead of the term ::¬ ‘(war) chariot’
(cf. Jer. 47:3; Ezek. 23:24; 26:10). Nevertheless, the prophet speaks
in this regard of :¬c ‘its horses’ rather than the ‘oxen’ usually associ-
ated with a ¬::..
425
The term :¬c normally refers to a horse used
in battle (see 31:1)!
426
• The word μ¬: ‘(grain) for bread’ is used more than once in the book
of Isaiah in a situation of threatening annihilation (3:1,7; 4:1; 21:14;
30:20,23; cf. 33:16 and 36:17).
427
It is evident from the above survey that the instruction of 28:23–29 has
made ample use of words that allude to battle and war. This confirms
our suspicion that 28:23–29 is not an ordinary wisdom poem, but is
intended rather to be understood against the background of contem-
porary history and as focusing primarily on the realisation of God’s
judgement. In the context of the book of Isaiah, it is difficult to imagine
anything but the appearance of Assyria in this regard. Even the ele-
ment of hope implicitly present in verse 28 acquires different contours
against such a background. YHWH used Assyria as an instrument of
his judgement, but did not desire to annihilate his people completely
423
See Stolz 1978
3
:503 and Müller 1977:450–453.
424
See Münderlein 1977:22. Instead of the vocalisation :: : : ‘wheel’, which is
employed only here, BHS suggests we read the more conventional :::: . The present
author sees little need to adopt this suggestion.
425
Cf. Kellermann 1986:1065: “Die Erwähnung der Pferde ist insofern auffällig,
als man im Altertum Pferde nicht zu wirtschaftlichen Arbeiten gebrauchte.” See also
Schuman 1981:98. De Waard 1997:120 and Barthel 1997:331, 338 maintain that there
are indications that horses were also employed in farming.
426
Niehr 1989:785–786.
427
Beuken 2000:66.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 229 1/18/2007 2:18:15 PM

230 chapter four
(cf. 10:5ff ). Even when God comes for judgement, He nevertheless
deals carefully with his people.
428
In the course of history, however, it
became evident that Assyria had surpassed itself in fulfilling its task.
Its advance was characterised by the brute violence of its chariots and
horses.
429
Nevertheless, even in this situation God’s people had the
right to know that yhwh would not allow his people to be completely
pulverized by his judgement. While it is evident that God opted for a
firm approach in the current circumstances, even the grain for bread
that requires such an approach in the process of threshing as opposed
to dill and cumin is not pulverised completely. The element of hope
implicitly ascribed to the instruction of 28:23–29 by this verse consists
of the fact that although it is yhwh who is at work in the judgement
confronting his people, He is also in control of the situation! Believers
can thus console themselves in the midst of judgement that yhwh’s
anger will not be forever (cf. 57:16). The Septuagint translation has
even made this aspect of the message explicit:
μετὰ ἄρτου βρωθήσεται The bread, by contrast, shall be eaten,
οὐ γὰρ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἐγὼ ὑμῖν for I shall not be angry with you forever
ὀργισθήσομαι and the voice of my bitterness shall not
οὐδὲ φωνὴ τῆς πικρίας μου crush you.
καταπατήσει ὑμᾶς
The second part of the instruction is rounded off in verse 29. The
surprising use of three qatal clauses (¬s . , s: c ¬ and :¬ :“ ¬) immediately
draws our attention, bearing in mind the preceding use of primarily
yiqtôl and w
e
qatal clauses.
430
This can be understood as a formal indica-
tion that the intended scope of the entire pericope is being presented
in the tricolon of verse 29. It is here that the instruction reaches its
goal. Childs characterises such concluding formulations as ‘summary
appraisals’ (cf. Job 8:13; 18:21; 20:29; 27:13; Ps. 49:14; Prov. 1:19; Isa.
14:26).
431
Emphasis is placed on the fronted expression ¬s.μ: ‘this also’
in 28:29. From the structural perspective, ¬s.μ: joins together both
analogous parts of the pericope. In terms of content, it refers to the
instruction concerning threshing provided in the second part of the
428
Cf. Botterweck-Freedman-Lundbom 1982:233: “Israel ist in seinen Augen wie Dill
und Kreuzkümmel und muß mit einer Rute oder einem Stock geschlagen werden.”
429
Cf. Simian-Yofre 1984:825: “Assyrien hatte einen Auftrag, den es mit Stock und
Stab vollbringen sollte, hat ihn aber mit den Rädern seiner Streitwagen vollbracht.”
430
Cf. Schuman 1981:105.
431
Childs 1967:128. See also Whedbee 1971:75–79.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 230 1/18/2007 2:18:16 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 231
pericope. The first part of the instruction was concluded in verse 26
and concerned a general truth that could count on self-evident approval.
Such is not the case with respect to the second part of the instruction.
It is difficult to understand judgement in the form of Assyrian aggres-
sion as likewise stemming from yhwh. It is the prophet’s goal, never-
theless, to bring his audience to this realisation and he thus states with
emphasis: ‘This also comes from YHWH Zebaot. He is wonderful in counsel and
excellent in wisdom.’ Should a member of his audience have missed the
transition in the preceding verses and not have interpreted the state-
ment on threshing as a metaphor, then the terminology employed in
verse 29 insists once again that the instruction is related to history and
is thereby prophetic in nature:
• The expression ¬s:. ¬¬“ ‘YHWH Zebaot’ makes it clear that the
prophet is speaking of the God of history and not only the God
who instructs the farmer.
432
As a matter of fact, the expression μ.:
¬s:. ¬¬“ is typically Isaianic (see 8:18 and 29:6).
• The use of the verb s:c ‘to deal wonderfully’ almost always refers to
the activities of God in history. It is used of divine salvific activity
in specific situations in which human imagination ultimately falls
short. The Psalms in particular make frequent reference to God’s
¬s:c: ‘wonderful deeds’ (cf. s:c ¬:. // ¬.. ) in Isa. 25:1; see also
the name ≈. s:c ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ in 9:5).
433
The prophet uses
the verb s:c in 28:29, however, with the same negative connotations
as in 29:14: God’s wonderful intervention implies judgement and
not salvation (cf. Lam. 1:9).
434
The same is true for the great things
that God does (in contrast to the use of :¬: hi. ‘do great things’ in
1 Sam. 12:24; Joel 2:21 and Ps. 126:2,3). God’s dealings bring about
alienation because they appear to be directed against his own people
(cf. 28:21).
432
Wildberger 1982:1094. See also Schuman 1981:100. Procksch 1930(A):364 and
Kaiser 1976
2
:206 consider ¬s:. to be a later addition.
433
Cf. Albertz 1979
2
:417 and Conrad 1989:570–575.
434
I thus do not share the conclusion reached by Clements 1980(B):234: “The
meaning of the various questions is clear: there is a time for gentler, ‘saving’ work
on the farm, and so also is this true of God in his dealings with Israel.” Clements’
1980(B):233 suggestion that “the parable seems to be directly designed to soften the
implication of v. 21 that God will execute a strange work of judgment against his
people” is untenable in light of the exegesis.
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232 chapter four
• One can determine on the basis of Jer. 18:18b that the word ¬..
‘counsel’ probably stems from the wisdom tradition (cf. Isa. 19:11).
435

This likewise holds true for the term ¬ : ¬ ‘policy’, ‘plan’, use of which
is almost exclusively confined to the books of Job and Proverbs (Isa.
28:29 and Mi. 6:9 serve as the only exceptions). The primary func-
tion of the term ¬.. in the book of Isaiah, however, is as a terminus
technicus for (the possibility of ) God’s intervention in human history
(see 5:19; 14:26–27; 19:17; 25:1; 46:10–11). As is the case in 5:19,
where the words :s¬: :¬, ¬.. ‘the plan of the Holy One of Israel’
parallel ¬:.: ‘his work’ (cf. 28:21), the emphasis in 28:29 is placed
on judgement.
436
By way of summary we can state that 28:23–29 clearly exhibits the
character of an instruction from start to finish. Indeed, the very open-
ing formula presents the textual unit as an instruction. In the second
part thereof, however, there would appear to be a significant number
of prophetic features that transcend the framework within which the
general wisdom orientation of the first part is located. The use of
rhetorical questions as a style feature in both parts of the instruction
confirms from the outset that it was the prophet’s intention to convince
his audience of the veracity of a particular insight,
437
an insight that
had to do with contemporary history. In concrete terms, the prophet
wants to convince his audience that the judgement confronting them
in the form of Assyrian aggression stems from yhwh, and that God’s
hand is at work therein. The statement found in 5:19 implies that not
everyone had accounted for such an eventuality. God’s wonderful wis-
dom, however, is diametrically opposed to the wisdom of Jerusalem’s
politicians. Its core is as follows: God has the capacity to intervene in
human history and that in so doing He can also turn against his own
people (cf. 29:14; 31:2). This insight is both shocking and encouraging
at the same time. It is shocking because it confirms that the misfor-
tune confronting the people of God comes from God Himself and
contradicts all the plans of the politicians of Jerusalem who consider
themselves to be wise. It is encouraging because God, in like fashion
to the farmer whom He instructs, proves to work according to a plan
435
Cf. Whedbee 1971:111–148.
436
Cf. Wildberger 1972:188–189, 192, Stähli 1978
3
:752 and Ruppert 1982:
738–742.
437
Cf. Barthel 1997:338.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 232 1/18/2007 2:18:16 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 233
and is not interested in total destruction. God’s hand is not only at work
in judgement, it is also in control of it.
Given the fact that the terminology employed in the present instruc-
tion is consciously ambiguous and repeatedly suggests metaphorical sig-
nificance, 28:23–29 has been frequently defined as a parable.
438
While a
certain degree of kinship with the parable genre is unmistakably present,
such a designation is not completely adequate with respect to 28:23–29.
Not only does the pericope lack the characteristically narrative form of
the parable, it also lacks an interpretation of the metaphors employed,
which is consistently present where a parable or an allegory is concerned
(cf. Judg. 9:8–15; 2 Sam. 12:1–4 and Isa. 5:1–7).
439
A few commenta-
tors are inclined to typify 28:23–29 as a ‘prophetic discussion’ or as a
‘prophetic dispute’.
440
The evident associations with wisdom incline the
present author to speak of an instruction or didactic teaching, more
specifically defined as a ‘prophetic instruction’.
This prophetic instruction clearly bears an authentic character.
Indeed, our discussion of the authenticity of the prophecy of judge-
ment in 28:1–4 can be repeated here with slight variation concerning
28:23–29. In his use of the genre—in the present instance that of
instruction—the prophet exhibits a surprising degree of creativity.
Scholarly research has revealed that the prophet Isaiah was decidedly
familiar with the wisdom tradition. He made use of it in a creative
fashion, however, in order to communicate his prophetic message.
The prophetic instruction of 28:23–29 represents a fine example of
poetic artistry both with respect to the two-part, more or less analogous
structure of the instruction as a whole as to the repeated use of com-
pact and powerful rhythm in the individual verses. This reinforces our
conviction that the textual unit stems from Isaiah himself.
441
Similarly,
several of the words employed in the instruction are typically Isaianic
438
See Delitzsch 1889:319, Procksch 1930(A):364, Ziegler 1948:87, Eichrodt
1967:138, Snijders 1969:288, Whedbee 1971:51–68, Schoors 1972:170, Kaiser
1976
2
:208, Clements 1980(B):232, Watts 1985:373 and Motyer 1993:235. Sweeney
1996:366 is even inclined to speak of an allegory. For a detailed survey of the
various opinions concerning 28:23–29 see Schuman 1981:114–126 and Wildberger
1982:1087–1089.
439
Cf. Schuman 1981:105, 127, 131–132.
440
Schuman 1981:131–132. Cf. Burden 1981:42–45: “I (. . .) conclude that this pas-
sage is in form a parable and in function a disputation-mashal.” Fohrer 1962:64 speaks
of a wisdom poem, implying a prophetic ‘Diskussionswort’.
441
Wildberger 1982:1084 considers the rhythm to be an indication of a decisive
Isaianic statement.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 233 1/18/2007 2:18:16 PM

234 chapter four
(verses 26 and 29), while the ambiguity of the agricultural terminol-
ogy (verses 27 and 28)
442
as well as the theme of judgement stemming
from yhwh together with his wonderful plan that is simultaneously
expressed therein (verse 29), unmistakably point in the direction of the
great prophet. The number of exegetes who dispute the Isaianic origin
of this prophetic instruction is fairly limited.
443
4.5.3. Evaluation
Having now discussed both external pericopes of Isaiah 28, we are now
obliged to focus our attention on the question as to how the prophecy
of judgement of 28:1–4(6) and the prophetic instruction of 28:23–29
relate to the prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22. Is
there a degree of cohesion within the present context of Isaiah 28 that
associates the two external pericopes with the two internal pericopes
and if so what is its nature?
To begin with the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4, the thematic
association with 28:7–13 is perhaps the most apparent. The said
association is based on the drunkenness motif, which represents a
significant portion of 28:1–4 and is firmly present in the first verse
of 28:7–13. While the orientation of the prophecy of judgement of
28:1–4—Samaria—differs from the orientation of both central prophe-
cies of judgement 28:7–13 and 28:14–22—Jerusalem—the accusation
elements of both texts are in clear agreement: both the leaders of
Ephraim/Samaria and those of Judah/Jerusalem are subject to accusa-
tion on account of their deteriorating leadership. As a matter of fact,
the motif of drunkenness functions as the adjoining link. The nature of
the deteriorating leadership, however, is not further elaborated in the
woe saying of 28:1, while it clearly is in both the central prophecies of
judgement—28:7–13 and 28:14–22. The accusation of 28:7–10 makes
reference to a spiritual elite in decline while that of 28:14–15 makes
reference to a similarly degenerating political elite.
Important motifs that serve to associate the prophecy of judgement
of 28:1–4 with those of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 are not only evident
442
In line with Fohrer 1962:69–70, Snijders 1969:289 and Schoors 1972:170–171,
Beuken 2000:65 is also of the opinion that the farmer mentioned in the first part of
the instruction functions as a symbol for the prophet Isaiah who himself was instructed
by God concerning God’s activities in history. See also Höffken 1993:201.
443
See Cheyne 1895:184ff, Marti 1900:210, Kaiser 1976
2
:206–207, Clements
1980(B):233 and Kilian 1994:164.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 234 1/18/2007 2:18:16 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 235
in the accusation element but also in the announcement of judgement
itself. Without explicit reference to the name Assyria, it remains clear
nevertheless that the unmistakably brutal advance of this world power
is being announced in each of the prophecies of judgement. The
metaphors of hail and flood serve as the primary points of associa-
tion between the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 and what follows,
particularly with the announcement of judgement in 28:17b–18. An
important motif that likewise exhibits an associative function in the
context of Isaiah 28 is the element of divine eclipse that accompanies
Assyria’s advance. In both 28:2ff, 28:11–13 and 28:17b–22, emphasis
is placed on the divine intervention that is being announced. While the
name Assyria is not mentioned explicitly, 28:2 refers nevertheless to : ¬ s
who has someone mighty and strong at his disposal. In the announce-
ment of judgement of 28:11–13, it is ¬¬“ who will speak (through
human persons) with stammering lip and with alien tongue, while
28:21 explicitly refers to ¬¬“ rising up for a strange deed and an alien
work. The hiddenness of yhwh in the announcement of judgement is
made explicit in both of the central judgement prophecies in which the
contrast is indicated between yhwh’s former salvific words (28:12) and
deeds (28:16), and yhwh’s words (28:11) and deeds (28:21) of judge-
ment now being announced.
444
The motif of divine eclipse is already
implicitly present in the announcement of judgement of 28:2. From
the perspective of syntax, the term :¬s does not function as subject
in verse 2 but rather ≈:s“ ,.¬ ‘one who is mighty and strong’. Moreover,
though the metaphors employed in the text would suggest a theophany,
it is rather the destructive advance of Assyria that is announced where
one might expect a divine manifestation.
While the announcement of Assyria’s aggression represents a the-
matic link between the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 on the one
hand and the central prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22
on the other, the origin of the prophecies cannot be reduced to the
same historical situation. While both central prophecies of judge-
ment of Isaiah 28 are best understood as having been born against
the background of Judah’s revolt against Sennacherib (705–701), the
prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 is to be situated twenty years earlier
and dated prior to the fall of Samaria (722). The prophecy of judge-
ment of 28:1–4 will thus have been intended originally for the northern
kingdom of Ephraim rather than Judah. This important difference in
444
See also § 4.4.
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236 chapter four
historical origin, however, does not undermine the fact that 28:1–4 in
its present literary context must be understood as being addressed to
Judah and Jerusalem respectively. In the literary context of Isaiah 28,
the prophecy concerning Samaria is primarily a warning addressed to
Judah and Jerusalem inviting them to learn a lesson from the fate of
Ephraim’s former pearl. This is evident in the first instance from the
way in which the prophecy of 28:7–13 is redactionally associated with
that of 28:1–4 (via verse 7a), but also with respect to the terminologi-
cal correspondences between 28:1–4 and the two central prophecies of
Isaiah 28. The schematic survey below makes it clear that a significant
number of cross-references are apparent in the use of terminology in
Isaiah 28:
28:1–4(6) 28:7–13 28:14–22 28:23–29
1 ¬:: 7 ¬::
3 ¬:: ‘strong drink’ (3x)
‘drunkards’
1 ˆ 7 ˆ
‘wine’ ‘wine’ (2x)
2 ,.¬ 22 ,.“¬
‘strong’ ‘they become
stronger’
2 :¬s 22 :¬s
‘Lord’ ‘Lord’
2 ¬¬: 17 ¬¬:
‘hail ’ ‘hail ’
2 μ: 17 μ:
‘waters’ ‘waters’
2 μc:: 15 en 18 π::
‘overflowing’ ‘overflowing’
2 ≈¬s: 22 ≈¬s¬:::.
‘down to the earth’ ‘upon the whole land’
3 ¬:::¬¬ 18 ::¬::
‘he is trampled ‘to be beaten down’
underfoot’
4 ¬s¬¬ ¬s¬“ 7 ¬s¬
‘whoever sees’ ‘vision’
4 ¬:.:: 7 .:::
from the verb .:: from the verb
III
.::
‘he eats it up’ ‘they are confused’
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 236 1/18/2007 2:18:17 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 237
28:1–4(6) 28:7–13 28:14–22 28:23–29
5 ¬s:. ¬¬“ 22 ¬s:. ¬¬“ 29 ¬s:. ¬¬“
‘YHWH Zebaot’ ‘YHWH Zebaot’ ‘YHWH Zebaot’
6 :c:: 17 :c:: 26 :c::
‘justice’ ‘justice’ ‘justice’
9 ¬¬ 26 :¬
‘he shall teach’ ‘he teaches him’
9 ¬.:: ˆ: 19 ¬.:: ˆ:¬
‘he shall explain the ‘understanding the
message’ message’
10 , 17 ,
‘vomit’ ‘measuring line’
11 ¬:¬ μ.¬ 14 ¬:¬ μ.¬
‘this people’ ‘this people’
12 ¬:s 15 쬬“:s
‘he said’ ‘you say’
16 ¬:s
‘he says’
12 .:: 14 .:: 23 .::“
‘listen’ ‘hear!’ ‘and listen!’ (2x)
22 ¬.::
‘I have heard’
13 ¬¬“¬:¬“ 14 ¬¬“¬:¬“
‘the word of YHWH’ ‘the word of YHWH’
15 ::: 25 μ:“
‘we have made’ ‘and he places’
17 ¬::“
‘I will make’
The above survey offers evidence of an extensive terminological kin-
ship between the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 and both central
prophecies of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22. This fact reinforces the introduc-
tory function fulfilled by the prophecy of judgement against Ephraim/
Samaria in the present context of Isaiah 28. The fall of proud Samaria
is held up as a warning example to Judah/Jerusalem.
445
Bearing this in mind, therefore, it does not come as much of a sur-
prise that a promise of salvation would be added at a later date to the
445
Stansell 1996:80–82 is even inclined to see 28:1–6 as a thematic link serving to
join together Isaiah 1–12 and 28–33.
Table (cont.)
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238 chapter four
prophecy of judgement against Samaria, a promise that now addresses
itself to the remnant of Judah. The verses 5 and 6 contain a promise
of salvation that is closely related to the preceding prophecy concern-
ing Samaria in terms of themes and word options. The relationship
is clearly antithetical in character, making it unlikely that the promise
of salvation ever enjoyed an independent existence. In spite of the
relationship with the preceding verses, however, a remarkable shift in
focus takes place in 28:5–6. Although Judah and Jerusalem are not
mentioned by name, it is evident from the context of the book of Isaiah
that the remnant referred to in verse 5 should be sought precisely in
Judah and Jerusalem. Based on the parallel text in 4:2, it is plausible
that the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE announced in 28:1–4 was already
presupposed in the interpolated verses 5 and 6 together with the fall of
Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The addition of a promise of salvation for the
remnant of Judah to the prophecy of judgement against Samaria was
in fact prepared for in advance by the redactional process in which the
prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4 was held up to Judah/Jerusalem as
a warning example. The interpolation of the promise of salvation of
28:5–6 presupposes that the warning contained in the fall of Samaria
had little lasting effect on Judah.
446
Not only did Samaria succumb to
Assyrian aggression, but Jerusalem was also to encounter the same fate a
century and a half later at the hands of the Babylonians. The promise
of salvation of 28:5–6 makes it clear that these dramatic events did not
augur the end of God’s involvement with his people. The remnant of
his people were to expect a glimmering new future, which would be
guaranteed against assault from within and without. When that day
dawned, yhwh himself would be the glorious garland of his people.
It is likewise apparent from the above survey that the instruction of
28:23–29 is associated terminologically with both the central prophecies
of judgement of Isaiah 28. In contrast to the preceding prophecies of
judgement, however, the instruction of 28:23–29 is primarily character-
ised by its use of typically chokmatic terminology (¬: ‘instruct’, ‘admon-
ish’;
III
¬¬ ‘teach’; ¬.. ‘counsel’ and ¬:¬ ‘policy’, ‘plan’) and style features
typical of the wisdom tradition (‘Lehreröffnungsformel’, sequence of
446
Beuken 2000:22 prefers to avoid the word ‘interpolation’ and is inclined to
consider 28:1–6 as a whole as the work of a post-exilic redactor. The said redactor,
Beuken maintains, reworked an originally Isaianic prophecy and addressed it to his
own time. The connection between 28:7 and 28:1–4, however, leaves the impression
that 28:1–4 originally functioned without verses 5 and 6 and alerts the reader to the
secondary character of the verses in question.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 238 1/18/2007 2:18:17 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 239
rhetorical questions, ‘summary appraisal’). The genre of instruction as
such already exhibits the tone of the wisdom tradition.
447
It became
apparent in our exegesis of the text that the instruction of 28:23–29
also contained prophetic elements and that it can thus be best defined
as a ‘prophetic instruction’. Within the present context of Isaiah 28, this
combination of prophetic and chokmatic elements gives the instruction
of 28:23–29 the character of a summary conclusion.
The fact that the motif of divine eclipse resounds once again in
28:23–29 is particularly appropriate for such a summary conclusion.
The motif in question is most explicit in the two central prophecies of
judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22, but it is also implicitly present
in the announcement of judgement of 28:2. It would appear to be a
thread that runs through the whole of Isaiah 28 and serves to bind its
various textual units together. This is likewise true for the prophetic
instruction of 28:23–29. The concluding verse, in which the instruction
reaches its goal, speaks emphatically of yhwh’s wonderful deeds and
the great things that He has done. Such words usually refer to God’s
salvific actions for which He is worthy of praise. As was the case in
29:14, however, yhwh’s wonderful deeds and the great things that
yhwh does refer in 28:29 to the fulfilment of his judgement! Indeed,
the wonder of God’s actions would appear to be the fact that they are
turned against his own people. The use in this regard of terminology
from the domain of the Wars of yhwh (verse 28) makes this fact all
the more painful (cf. 28:21). Based on this observation with regard to
the motif of divine eclipse, it is apparent that the prophetic instruction
of 28:23–29 is thematically closely related to the central prophecies of
judgement of Isaiah 28.
While the audience addressed in 28:23 is not further defined, it is
conceivable nonetheless that the addressees of the prophetic instruction
may have enjoyed their home at the court of Jerusalem, more specifi-
cally within the circles of wise men who would have functioned more
or less as political advisors (cf. 5:19). In the present context of Isaiah
28, these circles of wise men coincide with the rulers of Jerusalem
referred to in 28:14. We were already able to determine in our exegesis
of verses 14–22 that the ˆ.: ::“s ‘scoffers’ (cf. μ.: ) addressed in 28:14
represent the opposite counterpart to the μ::¬ ‘the wise’! Given that
the opponents addressed by the prophet considered themselves to be
447
Cf. Whedbee 1971:54–55.
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240 chapter four
wise and understanding in political terms (cf. 29:14), it is possible to
identify the same group as the addressees of the prophetic instruction of
28:23–29.
448
Bearing in mind the instructional character of 28:23–29,
however, it is also possible that Isaiah’s own followers qualify as his
addressees as well. Since the instruction of 28:23–29 does not appear
to be a general wisdom poem, but is focused rather on the fulfilment of
God’s judgement, it seems evident that it would owe its historical origins
to the experiences endured in confrontation with Assyria. The eclipse of
God preached by Isaiah and potentially experienced in the meantime
by his audience will doubtless have raised the same question among
his disciples as he himself had been inspired to ask at the moment of
his calling: ¬:¬. ‘how long?’ (6:11). It is possible that this question, or
one similar to it, served as the direct occasion of the instruction and
that it received its answer in verse 28 in the words ¬.:: s: ‘not forever’,
words which implicitly contain an element of hope. Given the scope
of 28:23–29, which is strongly defined by judgement motifs, it is to be
recommended that the identity of the addressees be sought among the
readers of the book of Isaiah only in the second instance.
The cohesive terminological, thematic and historical relationship
between the central prophecies of judgement (28:7–13 and 28:14–22)
and the instruction (28:23–29) is done insufficient justice if one under-
stands the latter as a sort of general treatment of the relationship
between judgement and salvation in the preaching of Isaiah.
449
The
instruction in question is also, and in the first instance, a form of
judgement preaching in which there is evidence once again of divine
eclipse. This observation, however, is not undermined by the fact that
the instruction contains an element of hope. The prophetic instruction
is decidedly not designed to justify a particular transition from judge-
ment preaching to salvation preaching that took place according to
some at a given moment in the year 701 BCE.
450
Such an approach has
the potential to quickly lead to the interpretation of the instruction as
448
Idem Barthel 1997:343–345. Beuken 2000:61 excludes this possibility on the
grounds that it is difficult to imagine that one and the same group would be confronted
with a radical judgement only to be invited thereafter to marvel at God’s magnificent
wisdom. Cf. Exum 1982:130–132 and Beuken 1995:25–26. Such an objection need
not be seen as critical, however, where God’s magnificent wisdom has to do with the
realisation of his judgement (cf. 29:14 and 31:2).
449
Contra Procksch 1930(A):365 and Clements 1980(B):233.
450
Contra Fohrer 1962:67 and Wildberger 1982:1089. See also Dietrich 1976:127
and Simian-Yofre 1984:825 who locate the transition around 713 BCE. Duhm 1914
3
:178
proposes a period of greater calm: 711–705 BCE.
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 240 1/18/2007 2:18:18 PM
exegesis of individual pericopes 241
a promise of salvation. The statement in verse 29, however, in which
the scope of the entire prophetic instruction is to be found, does not
revolve around the promise of Jerusalem’s liberation. On the contrary,
God’s wonderful deeds consist precisely of his capacity to intervene in
human history and even to turn against his own people in judgement!
The suggestion proposed by Beuken that 28:23–29 bestows a certain
paradigmatic character to the conflict between the prophet and the
leaders of Jerusalem deserves consideration in this regard.
451
Indeed, it
is not by accident that a prophetic instruction, in which the language of
wisdom is employed, is located precisely at the end of Isaiah 28. It is
conceivable that the said paradigmatic expansion of the present conflict
was prepared for in redactional terms in the verses 19–22.
452
451
Beuken 2000:20.
452
Childs 2001:211 underlines the theocentric character of 28:23–29 and refers
specifically to 28:21 in this regard: “The transition is made in v. 21: ‘The Lord will
rise up . . . to do his work.’ Strange and alien is this work. Yet the final oracle makes
clear that even the farmer’s activity seems strange and incoherent as he tears open the
ground before sowing his seed, so also Yahweh’s apparently violent acts of judgment
also follow a wise purpose. In his own time and according to his own counsel he will
also bring forth suitable fruits from his creation (cf. 4:1).”
dekker_f5_109-241.indd 241 1/18/2007 2:18:18 PM

dekker_f6_242-264.indd 242 2/12/2007 10:56:30 AM
CHAPTER FIVE
THE PLACE AND FUNCTION OF ISAIAH 28:14–22 IN THE
CONTEXT OF ISAIAH 28–33
5.1. Introduction
An important shift has arisen within scholarly research into the book of
Isaiah in recent years.
1
For a considerable time, the threefold subdivision
proposed by Duhm as far back as 1892 (Proto-Isaiah: 1–39; Deutero-
Isaiah: 40–55; Trito-Isaiah: 56–66) served as the immutable point of
departure for every study of the book. The value of this approach for
our historical understanding of the book of Isaiah remains to the present
day. On the other hand, however, the said threefold subdivision created
a tendency to presupposition with respect to the historical situation of
the various individual texts within each of the three parts of the book
and to the simplification of the origin and evolution of the book as
a whole. Indeed, it ultimately led to a threefold division of the book,
whereby researchers exhibited little if any interest in the present unity
of the book of Isaiah. An important and necessary correction can be
observed in the last twenty years in this regard. More than before,
contemporary scholarly research into the book of Isaiah addresses the
book according to its present unity.
2
The question remains nevertheless whether one should be looking for
the unity of the book of Isaiah in a strictly determined total structure.
The search for such a total structure has lead in practice to a variety of
highly sophisticated analyses that often lack the capacity to convince.
The danger of a degree of arbitrariness seems to be substantial in this
regard. An example thereof can be found in the work of O’Connell who
considers the book of Isaiah to be an extremely complex composition
1
For a recent survey of the current state of affairs in Isaiah research see Becker
1999:1–37, 117–152 and Höffken 2004. The disadvantage of Becker’s descriptions and
evaluations is to be found in the fact that he allows himself to be lead by the much dis-
puted literary-critical and redaction-historical insights of Kaiser.
2
Cf. Sweeney 1993:141: “Studies of the component parts of Isaiah continue to ap-
pear, but the recent focus on the final form of the book has clearly established itself as
the central issue of Isaiah studies.” See also § 1.2.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 243 2/12/2007 10:56:30 AM
244 chapter five
made up of seven asymmetric, concentric units, each supported by a
complex framework of repetitions.
3
The slightly more dated work of
Watts might be less complex, but given its speculative character it is
no less implausible. Watts characterises the book of Isaiah as a vision
presented in the form of a drama in twelve acts, each of which is
geared towards a new and different historical situation.
4
Berges typifies
the book of Isaiah as a sevenfold literary drama concerning the fate of
Judah and Jerusalem in the midst of great misfortune.
5
While this latter
typification is attractive, and Berges is not pressed to introduce forced
demarcations within the book of Isaiah as a whole, it is nevertheless
necessary to bear in mind that every endeavour to search for a unifying
literary total structure within a book that clearly exhibits the character
of a redactional collection might perhaps be doomed to failure from
the outset.
6
The characterisation of the book of Isaiah as a drama
maintained by Berges and others, for example, seems to work better
for the second part of the book than for the first. The present author
is nevertheless inclined to support the idea that the final redactors of
the book of Isaiah probably allowed themselves to be guided more by
religious motivations than by literary-aesthetical ones.
7
The unity of the
book of Isaiah appears more often in practice to be theological and
lexicographic in nature rather than literary-aesthetic.
8
3
See O’Connell 1994:19–20. O’Connell interprets the entire book of Isaiah as ‘an
exemplar of the prophetic covenant disputation genre’.
4
Watts 1985:xliv–liv.
5
Berges 2003:207. The seven acts distinguished by Berges are 1–12; 13–27; 28–35;
36–39; 40–48; 49–55 and 56–66. He considers the central act as the narrative climax
of the book of Isaiah.
6
Cf. Childs 2001:7: “. . . it is a modern anachronism to require a clear and rational
reason for every structural division.” The designation of the book of Isaiah as a ‘col-
lection’ is no longer burdened with negative connotations. Cf. Tate 1996:50: “The col-
lection concept can accommodate the highly complex unity in Isaiah without having
to assume a tight, precisely fitted macro-literary structure. A collection should not be
regarded as simply a haphazard agglomeration of materials.”
7
Cf. Höffken 2004:90: “Die Lektüre des Gesamtzusammenhangs ist ein modernes
Leseinteresse. Dagegen ist nichts zu sagen, aber antike Juden und Christen pflegten
ganz offensichtlich eine andere Lesepraxis, die nicht am Gesamtbuch, sondern an Tex-
ten im Gesamtbuch interessiert und orientiert war. Sie hat immer wichtig erscheinende
Texte und Aussagen hervorgehoben. Das Buchganze war ein Sammelbecken für diese
wichtigen Texte.”
8
Cf. Clements 1997:6: “It is then an exciting and stimulating advance of recent
methodology to have begun the task of tracing carefully the basic motives and themes
which give the book its essential unity.” Cf. also Clements 1982:126: “the factors which
have led to the bringing together of its various sections of sayings were essentially the-
matic and religious rather than literary or biographical.”
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 244 2/12/2007 10:56:30 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 245
While differences of opinion exist with respect to the various sub-
divisions of the book of Isaiah, there is a reasonable degree of unanimity
when it comes to the global division of the book into a number of
redactional units that can be distinguished yet but not separated from
one another: 1–12; 13–23; 24–27; 28–33; 34–35; 36–39; 40–55; 56–
66.
9
Given the fact that the present study focuses on Isa. 28:14–22, I
will limit myself in the present chapter to determining the place of the
said pericope within the redactional unit of Isaiah 28–33. Redaction-
historical questions will have to be left aside in this process. While such
questions, which touch on the origins of the book of Isaiah, are enjoying
an increasing amount of attention in contemporary research, consensus
has yet to be achieved on the matter.
10
5.2. Isaiah 28–33 as a redactional unit
The most accessible studies written in recent years on Isaiah 28–33
as a redactional unit within the book of Isaiah are the articles of
G. Stansell from 1996 (“Isaiah 28–33: Blest Be the Tie that Binds (Isaiah
Together)”)
11
and W.A.M. Beuken from 1998 (“Women and the Spirit,
the Ox and the Ass. The First Binders of the Booklet Isaiah 28–32”).
12

I will use both studies as a guide in describing first the structural and then
the content based cohesion that is evident within Isaiah 28–33.
13
I will
restrict myself at the present juncture to the main lines of inquiry.
5.2.1. Structural cohesion
Following a brief status quaestionis, in which he focuses on the long
and complex origins and evolution of Isaiah 28–33, Stansell endeavours
to read the said chapters as a redactional unity in the book’s present
9
Traditionally speaking, and in line with Duhm, the transition to Isaiah 40 is seen
as the most important demarcation within the book of Isaiah. Recent endeavours have
been made nonetheless to include chapters 34–39 within the second part of the book.
Such endeavours go hand in hand with the bridging function both 34–35 and 36–39
would appear to fulfil. See Watts 1985/1987 and especially Sweeney 1996.
10
See, for example, Seitz 1991, Barthel 1997, Becker 1997 and Berges 1998. The
first steps towards a redaction-historical approach to the book of Isaiah were taken by
Kaiser 1976
2
(1973), Barth 1977 and Vermeylen 1977.
11
Stansell 1996:68–103.
12
Beuken 1998:5–26. Unfortunately, the dissertation of M.J. O’Kane, Isaiah 28–33: a
literary and contextual analysis, diss. Edinburgh 1989, was unavailable for consultation.
13
For the present state of research on Isaiah 28–35, see Höffken 2004:129–134.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 245 2/12/2007 10:56:30 AM

246 chapter five
canonical form. The first formal element he takes as his point of departure
is the structure of this segment of the book, which, as Duhm already
noted in 1892, is determined by the six so-called woe statements:
μ¬cs ¬:: ¬s: ¬¬:. ¬ 28:1 Woe to the proud garland of Ephraim’s
drunkards
:s¬s :s¬s ¬ 29:1 Woe, Ariel, Ariel
¬.. ¬¬:: ¬¬: μ,:.:¬ ¬ 29:15 Woe! You who hide a plan too deep for YHWH
쬬“: μ:: ¬ 30:1 Woe, rebellious children
¬¬.“.: μ¬.: 쬬“¬ ¬ 31:1 Woe, to those who go down to Egypt for help
¬¬: s: ¬¬s“ ¬¬: ¬ 33:1 Woe, you destroyer, who yourself have
not been destroyed
The six woe statements serve as a skeleton framework for Isaiah 28–33
and fulfil a unifying function.
14
It is striking, however, that the first rib
of the skeleton, the woe statement addressed to Samaria in 28:1, bears
a paradigmatic character. The sixth and last rib, the woe statement in
33:1, even appears to be something of a floating rib since it is addressed
against the enemy (Assyria)
15
while the first five are addressed against
God’s own people (the first against Samaria; the second against Ariel/
Jerusalem; the third to the fifth against the leaders of Jerusalem).
16
The
sixth woe statement in 33:1 thus exhibits a different character to those
who hear/read it. The call to mourn in 32:9–14 appears, moreover, to
function as an appropriate conclusion to a segment of the book that is
structured around a pattern of woe statements.
17
Based in part on the
remaining content of Isaiah 33, certain authors hesitate in associating
this chapter with Isaiah 28–32 as a component of the same segment of
the book.
18
The fact that Isaiah 33 begins with a woe statement, however,
14
Cf. Laberge 1982:157–190.
15
Cf. Laberge 1982:157–190.
16
Barthel 1997:269–270 draws attention to the content based and terminological
cohesion between the third, fourth and fifth woe statements, which provide a degree of
focus to the series after beginning with Samaria and Jerusalem. Berges 1998:209–214
points out that the five woe statements found in Isaiah 28–31 exhibit a logical structure.
He maintains that the first two woe statements allow for a certain degree of hope, while
this is no longer the case in the third woe statement. Berges considers the statement
made in 31:3 to be the prophet Isaiah’s last word.
17
Cf. Beuken 2000:3 “. . . one can justifiably consider the five woe cries together with
the call to go into mourning (28:1–31:9 and 32:9–14) as an original literary composi-
tion. Given its content, the announcement of disaster, this composition clearly stems
from before the exile.” See also Beuken 1998:6–7.
18
Fohrer 1962 and Kaiser 1976
2
consider Isaiah 28–32 to be a literary unity, while
Wildberger 1982 takes Isaiah 28–31 as his point of departure.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 246 2/12/2007 10:56:31 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 247
represents a formal indication that this chapter also constitutes a part
of the redactional unit Isaiah 28–33 in the present form of the book of
Isaiah.
19
On account of its compositional character and the multiple
allusions it contains with respect to both earlier and later texts in the
book of Isaiah, Isaiah 33 functions in addition as the conclusion to the
said redactional unit and demarcates the transition to the second part of
the book.
20
The diptych Isaiah 34–35, which can be comfortably read
as an independent redactional unit in spite of its various connections
with preceding chapters, probably fulfils a bridge function within the
context of the book of Isaiah as a whole towards Isaiah 40ff.
21
The same
can be said for the narratives concerning the liberation of Jerusalem
contained in Isaiah 36–39. The very presence of diverse textual units,
each fulfilling one or other bridging function, allows us to argue that
the present form of the book of Isaiah was preceded by an extremely
complex process of genesis and evolution.
In addition to the structuring principle provided by the woe statements,
Stansell has pointed out an even more complex structuring principle
in Isaiah 28–33 based on the interchange of prophecies of judgement
and prophecies of salvation.
22
He illustrates the said principle with the
following diagram:
Woe Woe Woe
Judgement 28:1–4 28:7–22 29:1–4 29:9–14 29:15–16
Salvation 28:5–6 28:23–29 29:5–8 29:17–24
Woe Woe Woe
Judgement 30:1–17 31:1–4 32:9–14 33:1
Salvation 30:18–26 31:5–8 32:1–8 32:15–20 33:2–24
It is indeed striking that the woe statements do not follow one another in
any form of sequence, but are interrupted rather by words of salvation.
19
Berges 1998:199 considers the pithy statement at the end of Isaiah 33 concerning
the forgiveness of injustice for the people that live in Zion (33:24), as a content based
confirmation of the structure based conclusion that Isaiah 28–33 ought to be read as
a unity.
20
Beuken 1991:5–35 characterises Isaiah 33 as a ‘Mirror text’ in the book of Isaiah.
Cf. also Beuken 2000:245.
21
For Isaiah 34 and 35 as a diptych see Peels 1995:148–160. Berges 1998:199–265
treats Isaiah 34–35 in association with 28–33 (idem Childs 2001:199–258) and refers
in this regard to a consistency of motifs between 32–33 on the one hand and 34–35
on the other (202–203). He goes on, however, to focus on the elaboration of the func-
tion fulfilled by Isaiah 34–35 in the broader context of the book of Isaiah as a whole
(203–207).
22
Stansell 1996:70–71.
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248 chapter five
The pattern that thus emerges, however, taking chapters 28 to 33 as
a whole, is not consistent enough to speak of a genuine structuring
principle. Moreover, 28:23–29 is better understood as an example of
judgement preaching rather than salvation preaching.
23
It is also unclear
why the woe statement in 33:1 is counted as part of the preaching
of judgement. This is confusing since the target of the judgement
expressed therein is Assyria and not Jerusalem. Judgement for Assyria
thus implies salvation for Jerusalem. Moreover, had 30:27–34, in which
God’s judgement concerning Assyria is announced, not been missing
from his diagram, Stansell would doubtless have included it as part of
the preaching of salvation. Stansell’s observations are only relevant
with respect to chapters 28–31 whereby one can speak prudently of a
structuring principle.
24
While the redaction history of the book of Isaiah
falls outside the framework of the present study, it remains worthy
of note that precisely these chapters—Isaiah 28–31—are frequently
considered to be the original core of this part of the book. The particle
ˆ¬ ‘see’ with which Isaiah 32 begins, stands in contrast to the fivefold ¬
‘woe’ of the preceding chapters and functions more or less as a point
of demarcation.
25
In the present form of the book of Isaiah, however,
chapters 28–33 are intended as a redactional unit.
23
See § 4.5.2. Cf. also Berges 1998:202 and 2003:212 who adopts Stansell’s dia-
gram, but modifies it with respect to 28:16–17 (word of salvation) and 28:23–29 (word
of judgement). Berges also adds Isaiah 34 ( judgement) and 35 (salvation) to the survey
of texts.
24
Barthel 1997:256f also typifies the interchange of prophecies of judgement with
words of salvation as a structural characteristic of Isaiah 28–32. In contrast to the sub-
division proposed by Stansell, Barthel takes larger units as his point of departure, main-
taining that the character of the various words of salvation is not always the same. In
some instances the judgement announced is overturned, by way of ‘Fortschreibung’, in
the following message of salvation (the latter presupposing a judgement that has already
taken place), while in other instances the message of salvation consists of a judgement
against one of the nations (styled by Barthel, in line with Barth, as a non-Isaianic layer,
but dated in part later than the Josianic period presupposed by Barth). As such, the
structure of the text would appear to be more complex than Stansell’s subdivision would
lead us to believe. Barthel distinguishes four large substructures within Isaiah 28–32,
each being characterised by the interchange of judgement and salvation: A. 28:7–29:24;
B. 30:1–33; C. 31:1–32:8; D. 32:9–20. Given the exemplary character of the inter-
change of judgement and salvation apparent at the beginning of this segment of the
book, Barthel considers Isa. 28:1–6 as ‘eine Art Exposition des Ganzen’.
25
Sweeney 1996:354f is even inclined to consider the particle ˆ¬ here as the intro-
duction to Isaiah 32–33 as a ‘climactic unit’. Sweeney sees the focus of Isaiah 28–33 in
the announcement of a royal redeemer in Jerusalem who will take the place of the city’s
corrupt leadership. The suggestion that 28–31 represents the original core is confirmed
by the study of Beuken 1998:16–17, although the latter also includes the prophecy of
32:9–14 as part of the said original core.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 248 2/12/2007 10:56:31 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 249
5.2.2. Content based cohesion
In addition to the structural cohesion evident in Isaiah 28–33, one can
clearly observe elements of consistency at the level of content within
these chapters. The prophecy of judgement with which this segment of
the book begins in 28:1–4 is continued in the present redactional state
of the book in an announcement with respect to the exaltation of yhwh
as a garland/crown of glory and a diadem of beauty for the remnant
of his people (28:5). This corresponds with the announcement at the
end of the segment, namely that yhwh is exalted and dwells on high
(33:5). Reference is likewise made in 33:17 to a King who will be looked
upon in all his beauty.
26
As King, yhwh shall also be Judge and Lawgiver
(33:22). This expression corresponds with what was already implied in
28:6, namely that yhwh will establish a safe and well-ordered society
(cf. also 33:5). As a consequence, Zion/Jerusalem may also be looked
upon in the future. It is to become a safe city (33:20). The contrast
with Isaiah’s observations concerning the Jerusalem of his own day is
enormous. Isaiah 28–33 cuts through the announcement of judgement
and destruction with a visionary experience that is reminiscent of the
prophet’s vocational vision (6:1–5). Even the inhabitants of Zion will
behold yhwh as King, an experience that is inconceivable without the
observation that the purification from injustice undergone by Isaiah
himself (6:7) will also be the fate of the inhabitants of Zion (33:24; cf.
the contrast with 1:4 and the elaboration of this motif in 40:1–2).
5.2.2.1. Themes
Cohesion in terms of content within the framework of Isaiah 28–33
as outlined above is largely determined on the basis of a number of
important themes that represent a continuous presence throughout this
part of the book. No less than eight important themes return time and
again in the segment under analysis. Once we have established a list of
the said themes we will describe them in sequence and make reference
to relevant texts in each instance:
27
26
Beuken 2000:246–247 considers it plausible that the king in question does not
refer to yhwh, but rather to the Davidic king promised in 32:1–8, since one would be
more likely to speak of the glory of yhwh rather than of his beauty. See also Childs
2001:247–248. While there is certainly something to be said for this argument, the
accent on the beauty of yhwh is not out of place if one accounts for the imagery em-
ployed in 28:5–6. It is possible that 33:17 is intentionally ambiguous.
27
Stansell 1996:72–78 maintains a more global identification of four themes: Zion/
Jerusalem, the exaltation of yhwh, hearing/seeing/insight, and foreign alliances and
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250 chapter five
1. Judgement concerning Zion/Jerusalem,
2. Liberation and a new future for Zion/Jerusalem,
3. Exaltation of yhwh,
4. (Not) hearing/(not) seeing/(lack of) insight on the part of Judah,
5. Social injustice and the restoration of justice respectively,
6. Turning to Egypt for support,
7. Assyria as instrument of God’s judgement,
8. Judgement concerning Assyria.
1. Judgement concerning Zion/Jerusalem
The first time Zion/Jerusalem becomes the explicit point of discussion
in Isaiah 28–33 it is as the object of God’s judgement in the prophecy of
judgement of 28:14–22. The leaders of Jerusalem are confronted with
strongly worded accusation and presented with unavoidable judgement.
Jerusalem returns again in 29:1–6 under the name Ariel/altar hearth
and is referred to as a city that will be visited by yhwh Zebaot. In the
prophecy of 32:9–14, allusion is made for the last time in this segment
of the book to God’s judgement of Jerusalem, the latter designated in
this instance as ‘the city’.
28
2. Liberation and a new future for Zion/Jerusalem
While the prophecy of 28:5–6 alludes early in the segment to a new
future for the remnant of the people of yhwh in Judah and Zion
respectively, clear associations with the preceding prophecy of judgement
addressed to Samaria restrict such an allusion to general terminology.
The first time that explicit reference is made to the liberation of Zion
is in 29:7–8. Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that the struggle of the
hostile nations against Ariel and Mount Zion respectively is pointless.
Liberation is at hand, but further motivation thereof remains lacking.
The reader is presented with the motivation, however, in the prophecy
of salvation of 30:18–26: yhwh is a God of justice and He shall respond
with mercy to the cry of the people that live in Zion. 31:4–5 presents
us once again with an intervention on the part of yhwh in favour of
Zion. Yhwh descends on Mount Zion to engage in battle with those
the threat from Assyria. Along with the central themes of judgement and restoration for
Jerusalem, Brueggemann 1998:217–218 draws special attention to the motifs of ‘ears
and eyes’ and ‘Jerusalem’s readiness for obedience to Yahweh’.
28
According to some exegetes, the theme of yhwh Zebaot visiting Zion/Jerusa-
lem is also present in 31:4–5 (see Wildberger, Fohrer, Schoors). See, however, Beuken
2000:194–203.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 250 2/12/2007 10:56:31 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 251
who threaten Zion. He shall protect and liberate Jerusalem. Without
explicit reference, 32:15–20 also describes a new future set aside for
Zion. The theme of liberation and a new future for Zion/Jerusalem
ultimately reaches its climax in 33:20–24, in which the eye of the reader
is turned towards the new Zion/Jerusalem.
3. Exaltation of YHWH
The third theme that enjoys significant presence in Isaiah 28–33 is
that of the exaltation of yhwh with its antithesis in the humiliation
of every form of human power and every form of human pride. The
theme is immediately and robustly present in 28:5–6 in a magnificent
set of images intended to be read in contrast with 28:1. Yhwh Zebaot
will be a garland of glory and a diadem of beauty for the remnant of
his people. The second place in which we find reference to the theme
of the exaltation of yhwh is in 30:18, the beginning of the prophecy
of salvation. Yhwh will rise up and show mercy to Zion. The third
place in which the theme is evident is 33:5 (cf. also 33:3,10,21). Stansell
makes the important observation that a close association is apparent in
all the aforementioned texts between the exaltation of yhwh and the
establishment of justice (:c::). In addition, 30:18 and 33:2 would also
appear to contain a link with the reception of mercy (ˆ:¬).
29
4. (Not) hearing/(not) seeing/(lack of ) insight in Judah
The fourth theme occurs in a variety of different forms in Isaiah 28–
33.
30
In the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, the priests and the
prophets of Judah are accused of refusing to listen to God’s earlier
words in which He had shown them the path to rest (28:12). Both the
prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 and the prophetic instruction of
28:23–29 make an urgent appeal to the reader/listener to pay heed
to yhwh’s present message. Lack of insight among the spiritual elite
of Judah is already evident in the mocking question of 28:9 and in the
sheer terror predicted in 28:19. The theme is also implicitly present in
the prophetic instruction of 28:23–29 (see 28:26). In the prophecy of
29
Stansell 1996:74: “These three texts, 28.1–6; 30.18; and 33.2–24, occurring at
the beginning, middle, and end of the section, exhibit close thematic and linguistic ties
which further suggest a thematic unity of the section.”
30
Carroll 1997:79–93 points to the importance of this theme for our understanding
of the entire book of Isaiah: “From 1:2–3 to 66:24 the book of Isaiah is about seeing
and perceiving, lacking understanding and being blind.” (80)
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252 chapter five
judgement of 29:9–14, the accent is placed on the spiritual blindness
of Judah’s prophets, which would appear to serve as a reason for guilt
and an element of judgement simultaneously. While allusion to the
said theme was already evident in 28:7, it is elaborated at this juncture
in greater detail. ‘Refusal’ in God’s judgement becomes a ‘no longer
able’.
31
In both instances this is associated with the motif of drunkenness.
Cohesion in terms of content is confirmed with respect to Isaiah 28–
33 when the prophecy of salvation of 29:17–24 presents the renewed
capacity to hear and to see (29:18) and to receive insight (29:24) as
essential elements of the predicted new future.
Once again, the theme of refusal to hear and refusal to see is part of
the complaint in 30:9–11 (cf. 30:15), while the promise of future seeing
and hearing returns in 30:20–21.
32
The prophecy of salvation in 32:1–8
is even more explicit in this regard, speaking as it does of the future
restoration of Judah’s capacity to hear and see, including the capacity to
receive insight and knowledge. It is worthy of note that 32:3–4 exhibits
particular kinship with 29:18. The presence of the theme in question
constitutes an important point of association between 32:1–8 and Isaiah
28–31,
33
while the presence of the motif of the royal redeemer also
establishes a firm link between this prophecy and 33:17–24. The theme
of (not) hearing/(not) seeing/(lack of ) insight on the part of Judah is
also evident, albeit in a slightly modified form, in the last pericope of
this segment of the book. ‘Seeing’ is no longer oriented towards the way
revealed by yhwh to his people or the way along which He accompanies
his people, but rather towards the King who is to come (33:17; cf. 30:11
by way of contrast) and towards Zion/Jerusalem (33:20).
34
31
For the motif of hardening within God’s judgement, see in particular Isaiah’s vi-
sion of call in Isaiah 6. Beuken 1998:19 sees a connection between the call to lament in
32:9–14 and the motif of Judah’s inability to listen. The call to listen (32:9) is intended
to connect the call to lament (32:11f ) with Isaiah 28–31: the addressees who refused to
listen to the message of yhwh are now forced to listen to the call to lament.
32
Stansell 1996:76 includes 30:30–31 in his treatment of this motif, but the question
of hearing and seeing refers in this instance to the enemy Assyria and not Judah.
33
Beuken 1998:14–15 points to additional semantic associations with the preceding
text.
34
After his discussion of this motif, Stansell 1996:77 concludes: “The many instances
of the theme, albeit in a variety of forms and contexts, and their close interrelationships
are further indicative of coherence and unity of chs. 28–33.” Stansell 1996:78–87 also
turns his attention in this regard to the important points of cohesion between Isaiah
28–33 and Isaiah 1–12. He begins by noting a number of structural agreements and
then goes on to emphasise the importance of the introductory 28:1–6, which functions
as an important associative link with Isaiah 1–12. Stansell speaks of a pattern with
respect to the theme of ‘Zion’ (“Zion indicted/threatened then rescued”), which enjoys
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 252 2/12/2007 10:56:32 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 253
5. Social injustice and the restoration of justice respectively
The theme of justice is already present in the promise of salvation of
28:5–6. Yhwh promises that He will stand as guarantor of a future,
well-ordered society. In the prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, it
becomes clear that said well-ordered society is not yet a reality since
Judah’s priests stumble in giving judgement (28:7). They refused to
listen to God’s earlier words, which also bore social implications (28:12).
Given the fact that justice and righteousness are so important to God, it
should not come as much of a surprise that they would appear to serve
as the measure of God’s judgement in the announcement of judgement
of 28:17. The need to restore justice is referred to once again in the
prophecy of salvation of 29:17–24. The new future will primarily
bring joy to the socially weak, for those who commit injustice will be no
more (29:19–21). It is probable that 30:8–11 and 30:12–14 also contain
allusion to all the injustices of which the people are guilty.
35
They have
turned aside from the path God has shown them. Nevertheless, the first
part of the prophecy of salvation of 30:18–26 also makes reference to
a future change in this regard (30:18–21), for yhwh is a God of justice
(30:18). While the prophecy of judgement of 31:1–3 is addressed in the
first instance against Judah’s political activities, allusion is also made in
31:2 to the social injustice present within Judah itself.
The same theme of social injustice is also prominent in Isaiah 32–33,
although the emphasis here is placed on the restoration of justice. Firstly,
it is stated in 32:1–8 that the future king will reign in righteousness and
the princes will rule with justice (32:1). Social injustice will be no more.
36

Some forms of social injustice are mentioned by name in 32:5–8 (cf.
29:21). 32:16–17 once again presents a transformation. The future
shall be filled with justice and righteousness. In 33:15 this new future
a thematic and structural parallel in Isaiah 1–12. In 28–33, however, a further develop-
ment takes place of the complex presence of yhwh in Jerusalem, already referred to in
Isaiah 1–12. On the basis of this further development of the theme of ‘Zion’, Stansell is
inclined to consider Isaiah 28–33 more as a complement to Isaiah 1–12 than a supple-
ment to it (thus Clements 1980[B]:3): “These chapters also participate in the function
of enhancing and completing the ‘presentation of a prophet’ begun in chs. 1–12. It may
therefore be suggested that chs. 28–33 are not a supplement but rather a complement
to chs. 1–12.” (85) This conclusion is further reinforced with a reference to the ongoing
development of the theme of (not) seeing/(not) hearing in Isaiah 28–33.
35
Exum 1981:335–336 has Judah’s coalition politics in mind with regard to 30:
12–14.
36
Beuken 1998:14 underlines the conscious antithesis between the king and princes
in 32:1 on the one hand, and the princes referred to in 31:9 on the other.
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254 chapter five
is focused on Zion: God has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
The consequences of this become visible in 33:14–16 where it is stated
that there is only place in a renewed Zion for those who have radically
rejected every form of social injustice.
6. Turning to Egypt for support
In spite of the fact that Egypt is not yet mentioned by name, it is
clear that allusion is already being made in 28:15 to Judah’s political
endeavours to seek the support of Egypt in defending itself against
Assyrian imperialist expansionism. In the eyes of yhwh, such a policy
is ultimately a dead end street since Egypt is unreliable as a place of
refuge. The woe statement in 29:15 likewise gives expression to yhwh’s
abhorrence of Judah’s behaviour in this regard. This only becomes
explicit, however, in the prophecy of judgement of 30:1–5, which
exhibits terminological kinship with 28:15ff. The oracle concerning the
animals of the Negev (30:6–7) represents a similar rejection of Judah’s
foreign policy. Egypt is disqualified as a source of help and designated
‘Rahab who sits still’. Egypt is a nation that brings no advantage (30:6;
cf. 30:5). The last time we find reference in Isaiah 28–33 to the theme of
turning to Egypt for support is in the prophecy of judgement of 31:1–3,
which begins with a woe statement. Egypt’s unreliability as an ally is
succinctly stated one final time in the almost axiomatic formulation
found in 31:3: ‘the Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and
not spirit.’ The presence of the theme of turning to Egypt for support
is limited to what is generally seen as the original core of the present
segment of the book (Isaiah 28–31).
7. Assyria as instrument of God’s judgement
While the threat of Assyrian aggression (a consequence of Judah’s
rebellion) also represents the occasion whereby help was sought from Egypt,
the threat itself is only discussed within Isaiah 28–31 as a consequence
of Judah’s coalition politics. God will use Assyria as an instrument of
his judgement. It is striking that Assyria is never mentioned by name
within the framework of the theme under discussion. This only happens
when Assyria itself is confronted with God’s judgement (see below).
The presence of Assyria as instrument of God’s judgement is palpably
evident, however, in a variety of metaphors. This begins immediately in
28:2 (‘one who is mighty and strong, like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest . . .’ ),
although the prophecy in question refers strictly speaking to Ephraim
and not to Judah. In the prophecy of judgement of 28:11, the expression
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 254 2/12/2007 10:56:32 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 255
‘people with an incomprehensible language’ likewise refers to Assyria. In the
prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, the threat of Assyrian aggression
is first portrayed with the metaphor of ‘the overwhelming scourge’ (28:15,18),
and then with a return to the metaphors of hail and water (28:17; cf.
28:2). An allusion to the Assyrian army is similarly contained in the
terminology employed in verse 28 of the prophetic instruction (28:23–
29; see exegesis above). 29:3 also alludes to the army of Assyria, which
will be used by God together with its towers and siege-works as an
instrument of God’s judgement. To conclude, the ‘pursuers’ mentioned
in 30:16 refer to none other than the forces of Assyria.
8. Judgement concerning Assyria
While the varied announcements of judgement concerning Judah/
Jerusalem tend to dominate in terms of number, the theme of God’s
judgement concerning Assyria also occurs from time to time. The first
allusion to a change in the fortunes of the nations is to be found in 29:7–8,
but explicit reference to God’s judgement concerning Assyria only
emerges in 30:27–33. The fall of Assyria is likewise spoken of in 31:8–9,
a text that makes emphatic allusion to God’s personal involvement in
the said fall. Finally, the woe statement concerning the destroyer in 33:1
alludes to Assyria, which is now to be the subject of destruction. Yhwh’s
intervention on behalf of Jerusalem clearly has consequences for the
nations that threaten the city (33:3–4,12). The fact that God is bringing
about a change in the fortunes of his people unavoidably implies that
Assyria must be removed from the scene (33:19).
5.2.2.2. Metaphors
Cohesion at the level of content within Isaiah 28–33 is not only
determined by a variety of recurring themes, the text also employs a
number of metaphors with a degree of regularity that likewise enjoy a
cohesive function within the framework of this segment of the book. The
three most important metaphors are drunkenness, waters/rainstorms
and fire.
The first chapter of the segment of Isaiah under analysis is conspicuous
for its various references to the drunkenness of the spiritual leaders of
both Ephraim (28:1–3) and Judah (28:7–8). While there is doubtless
a degree of reality behind these references, the motif of drunkenness
functions in the first instance as a metaphor for failing leadership. The
same metaphor is employed in 29:9 to express the reasons for Judah’s
inability to see (cf. 32:10,12).
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256 chapter five
The metaphor of waters/rainstorms is primarily employed in
the book of Isaiah in reference to the threat emanating from Assyria
(see, for example, 8:5–8). The frequency of this usage is particularly
striking in Isaiah 28–33. The first text to be mentioned in this regard
is the prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4. The words employed within
the framework of the said metaphor are: ¬¬…:… μ¬. ‘hailstorm’, ::,… ¬.:
‘tempest’ and finally μc:: μ¬:: μ: μ¬. ‘storm of mighty overflowing waters’
(28:2). When the threat from Assyria is mentioned once again in the
prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, it is striking that the metaphor
of waters/rainstorms likewise makes its return. In verses 15 and 18,
Assyria is designated as π:: [::] (:: ) ‘the overwhelming scourge’, while
in verse 17 reference is made once again to ¬¬: ‘hail ’ and μ: ‘waters’ in
combination with the verb π:: ‘to flow’ (cf. 28:2). While reference is made
in the prophecy of judgement of 29:1–6 to yhwh’s visitation, whereby
elements of nature serve as metaphors (see verse 6), the metaphor of
waters/rainstorms is not explicitly present in the said text. The use of
the metaphor in the prophecy of judgement of 30:27–33 is particularly
interesting. Although the metaphor is evident in verse 28 (π:: :¬: ‘an
overflowing stream’) and in verse 30 (¬¬: ˆ:s“ μ¬. ≈c: ‘cloudburst, tempest and
hailstones’), it is no longer employed as a reference to the threat stemming
from Assyria but rather for the punishing intervention of yhwh against
Assyria. The substance of God’s judgement concerning Assyria would
appear to be in harmony with the threat that once emanated from
Assyria. The waters/rainstorms metaphor reappears in the prophecy
of salvation of 32:1–8. The king who is to come and the princes will
be a refuge from the tempest (μ¬. ¬¬:, 32:2). The use of this particular
metaphor clearly contains an echo of the threat once posed by Assyria.
37

The same can also be said for the hailstorm referred to in 32:19, a
hailstorm (¬¬: ) that can no longer harm God’s people.
A third metaphor employed repeatedly in Isaiah 28–33 and which
further serves to bind these chapters together is that of devouring fire,
first mentioned in 29:6. In the prophecy of judgement against Jerusalem,
the altar hearth (:s¬s , 29:1,2,7), God’s own people are given the
message that it is going to be visited by yhwh with, among other things,
¬::s :s ‘a devouring fire’ (29:6). In the prophecy of judgement of 30:27–
33 Assyria also receives this message in turn, namely that yhwh’s tongue
37
The streams of water spoken of in the same verse have a positive significance and
as such do not form part of the present survey. The same can be said of the rivers and
broad streams referred to in 33:21.
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 256 2/12/2007 10:56:33 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 257
is a devouring fire (¬::s :s: , 30:27) and his wrath a devouring flame
of fire (¬::s :s :¬:, 30:30). The same message addressed to Assyria
is to be found in a slightly different form in 30:33, in which reference is
made to the presence of a place for burning (¬¬c¬), its pyre (¬¬¬¬:), and
of fire and wood in abundance (¬:¬“¬ μ..“ :s). While the metaphor of
devouring fire is not explicitly present in Isaiah 31, verse 9 announces
nevertheless that yhwh’s fire is in Zion (ˆ.: : ¬s) and his furnace is in
Jerusalem (μ::¬: : ¬:¬“). 33:11, however, explicitly returns to the fire
that will consume (μ:::s¬ :s). The extraordinary aspect of the use of
the metaphor at this juncture lies in the fact that the devouring fire that
will consume the destroyer comes from himself. The metaphor reaches
its highpoint in 33:14 when the inhabitants of Zion are asked ‘who can
live with a devouring fire?’ (¬::s :s). This is close to the statement
found in Deut. 4:24 (cf. Hebr. 12:29), in which God himself is referred
to as a devouring fire.
5.2.3. Evaluation
The chapters of Isaiah 28–33 would appear to exhibit a high degree
of cohesion at the level of both structure and content. The six woe
statements (28:1; 29:1; 29:15; 30:1; 31:1 and 33:1) serve as the skeleton
of this segment of the book. Nevertheless, the tone and content of Isaiah
28–33 is not only determined by the said woe statements, since it is
characteristic of these chapters that the woe statements are interchanged
to an increasing degree with words of salvation. Cohesion at the level
of content within Isaiah 28–33 is evident in the themes described
above, which present themselves repeatedly throughout the chapters
in question. Together with the repeated use of certain metaphors, the
aforementioned themes confirm the conclusion already established by
the structure of the segment, namely that it is intended to be read as a
redactional unity.
38
Cohesion at the level of content within Isaiah 28–33 can be explained
to a significant degree on the basis of the historical background against
which the original core of this part of the book in all probability
came into existence: Isaiah’s involvement during the Assyrian crisis,
while Hezekiah was on the throne, which culminated in the ‘siege’ of
38
Childs 2001:200 also points out that this segment of the book of Isaiah, to which
he adds chapters 34 and 35, is characterised by an abundant use of expressions stem-
ming from the wisdom tradition together with the technique of intertextual allusion. He
borrows the latter insight from the studies of Beuken in particular.
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258 chapter five
Jerusalem around 701.
39
As a matter of fact, the crisis in which Jerusalem
found itself under threat from Assyria forms the narrative setting within
which a variety of texts, some of a later date, have been incorporated
on the basis of redactional reworking and actualisation.
40
What is clear,
nevertheless, is that the content of Isaiah 28–33 as we now have it is not
only determined by the threat from Assyria but also—and in increasing
measure—by Jerusalem’s liberation therefrom.
41
5.3. Isaiah 28 as overture
Within the structure of Isaiah 28–33 as outlined above, the woe statement
with which Isaiah 28 begins constitutes the first of a series of six woe
statements. While this initial woe statement has to do with Samaria,
its present place in this segment of the book of Isaiah is unmistakably
related to Jerusalem. The location of a prophecy of judgement
against Samaria (28:1–4) prior to the prophecies of judgement against
Jerusalem and Judah has been determined by a redactional motif. The
fate of Ephraim had to be held up as a warning example to Judah. It is
conceivable as such that 28:1–6 is intended as an introduction to Isaiah
28–33 as a whole, certainly in light of the motif of yhwh’s exaltation
that connects 28:1–6 with 33:5,17 (see § 5.2.2.). Given that the prophecy
of 28:7–13 resolutely continues the theme presented in 28:1–4 and given
that the four pericopes of Isaiah 28 form a close unity at the level of
both redaction and content within the larger redactional unit of Isaiah
28–33, it seems more reasonable to accept that Isaiah 28 in its entirety
is intended as a sort of overture.
39
Cf. Gonçalves 1986:138: “Indépendant de leur position au sujet de l’histoire de la
rédaction de Is., l-XXXIX, la plupart des critiques situe entre 705–701 la plus grande
partie sinon la totalité des oracles isaïens de Is., XXVIII, 7–XXXII (XXXIII). De l’avis
d’un grand nombre, à la base de ces chapitres il y aurait justement un recueil d’oracles
isaïens relatifs aux événements des années 705–701.”
40
Childs 2001:200 calls this ‘the context of the narrative sequence’.
41
Watts’ 1985:352 one-sided characterisation of Isaiah 28–33 as a ‘Requiem for the
Kingdom of Judah’ does not do justice to the way in which the present form of this
segment of the book of Isaiah presents itself. Indeed, the characterisation ‘requiem’ is
based in part on the fact that Watts reads Isaiah 28–33 against the background of the
final period of Judah’s existence as an independent nation during the reigns of kings
Josiah and Jehoiakim (640–605). This unusual choice of historical setting does not make
Watt’s characterisation any less one-sided. The characterisation proposed by Sweeney
1996:353 of Isaiah 28–33 as a ‘Prophetic instruction concerning yhwh’s plans for Je-
rusalem: announcement of royal saviour’ is for the present author similarly one-sided,
since it places all the emphasis on chapters 32–33. Cf. Berges 2003:199: “The divine
king and the Zion community” (Isaiah 28–35).
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 258 2/12/2007 10:56:33 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 259
An important argument in favour of my suggestion that Isaiah 28
be read in its entirety as the overture to the chapters 28–33, lies in
the observation that Isaiah 28 leaves the impression of being a highly
intentional composition. Both prophecies of judgement (28:7–13 and
28:14–22) constitute the core and function together as a diptych (see
§ 4.4.). The said diptych is enclosed on one side by the introductory
prophecy of judgement of 28:1–4(6) and by the summarising prophetic
instruction of 28:23–29 on the other. The presupposition that Isaiah
28 is an intentional composition is confirmed by the realisation that
three of the four individual pericopes of which the chapter is made up
are connected with one another at the redactional level by copulative
particles: μ:“ in 28:7 (it is probable that 28:7a as a whole is redactional)
and ˆ:: in 28:14. In the chapters that follow this never emerges as
prominently as it does here in chapter 28. It also became apparent that
the individual units within Isaiah 28 are closely related to one another
via a striking degree of word repetition and the use of words of the
same root. One or more cross-references can be found between all four
pericopes of Isaiah 28 (see § 4.5.3.).
Not only does the composition of Isaiah 28 support our understanding
of the chapter as the overture to a new segment of the book, the content
thereof also favours such a reading. As a matter of fact, the most impor-
tant themes treated in Isaiah 28–33 are already present in Isaiah 28:
1. While judgement concerning Jerusalem/Zion is the central message
of 28:14–22, this is already prepared for in the prophecy of judgement
of 28:7–13.
2. Allusion is already made in the prophecy of 28:5–6 to the deliverance/
new future for the remnant of the people of yhwh in Judah/Zion.
3. The exaltation of yhwh is referred to explicitly in 28:5–6, where it is
overtly held up against the pride and arrogance of Ephraim’s leaders
(28:1). The same theme is also implicitly present in the announcement
in 28:21 that yhwh will rise up to confront the boasters mentioned in
28:14.
4. The theme of (not) hearing/(not) seeing/(lack of ) insight is explicit
in 28:12.
5. The theme of justice is present in 28:5–6. Yhwh promises that He
will stand as guarantor of a well-ordered society. This contrasts with
28:7 in which reference is made to priests who stagger and reel in
the exercise of justice. The theme of justice and righteousness also
resounds in the important prophecy of 28:14–22 (see verse 17).
6. Turning to Egypt for support is alluded to in 28:15.
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260 chapter five
7. The theme of Assyrian threat is very prominently present in 28:2–4;
28:11 and 28:15,17–19.
The theme of deliverance for Jerusalem/Zion, which becomes increas-
ingly important in the remainder of Isaiah 28–33, is only spoken of
in general terms in Isaiah 28. The same can also be said of a closely
related theme, that of the judgement concerning Assyria. The centre of
gravity of Isaiah 28 turns unmistakably around the divine judgement
announced concerning Jerusalem that is to be realised through the
instrumentality of Assyria. Nevertheless, the references to yhwh’s salvific
deeds with respect to Zion in 28:16 and the element of hope enclosed
within the prophetic instruction of 28:23–29, already constitute the
necessary points of departure for further elaboration in what follows.
As the reader progresses in his or her reading of Isaiah 28–33, he or she
will discover that echoes of salvation are becoming louder and louder,
reaching their climax in the final chapter in the woe statement (33:1)
concerning the destroyer (Assyria).
Before the reader arrives at the joyful tidings of the final woe statement,
however, he or she must still pass through four other woe statements
that function as tidings of misfortune for Jerusalem/Judah (29:1; 29:15;
30:1; 31:1). After the first introductory and paradigmatic woe statement
of 28:1, the four central woe statements of this segment of the book
exposes the seriousness of the situation in which Jerusalem finds itself. For
the reader who has read beyond Isaiah 28, this revelation should come
as no surprise. The announcement of imminent judgement concerning
Jerusalem already constitutes the focal point of the individual pericopes
of this first chapter. The emphasis on judgement fits hand in glove
with the message of the four woe statements that are central to Isaiah
28–33. Taken together, the woe statements in question give expression
to the inevitability of the judgement with which Jerusalem/Judah are
to be confronted. At the same time, however, the woe statements are
increasingly interrupted with words of salvation. The message of this
structural feature of the text is clear: the salvation towards which this
part of the book is working, which constitutes its ultimate goal, reveals
God’s deepest plans for Jerusalem and its leaders, but remains a goal
that can only be achieved in and through judgement.
42
42
From the perspective of the book of Isaiah as a whole, Berges favours an ab-
stracting interpretation of the five woe statements in 28–31, claiming that they are not
intended to expose concrete guilt but rather to draw attention to the behaviour ex-
pected of the Zion community; cf. Berges 1998:200: “Sie dienen im Gegensatz zu ihren
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 260 2/12/2007 10:56:34 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 261
In terms of the judgement itself, Jerusalem is to undergo the same fate
as Samaria. The reader is lead to this conclusion on the basis of the first
woe statement in 28:1. The fact that Samaria functions as the paradigm
for Jerusalem and its leaders, however, only becomes evident in the course
of the chapter. Initially, 28:1–4 appears to be nothing more than the
continuation of the prophecies against the nations described in Isaiah
13–23. Via the motif of drunkenness, which connects the prophecy
of judgment of 28:7–13 with the woe statement of 28:1, however, a
surprising analogy is established between Ephraim and Judah: ‘Judah
also staggers with wine’. Nevertheless, the addressees are only explicitly
localised in Jerusalem in the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22. While
the place of rest mentioned in 28:12 refers unmistakably to Zion, the
absence of a more precise localisation in the prophecy of judgement
of 28:7–13 might initially leave the impression that the drunkards of
Ephraim are its addressees. Isaiah 28 is edited in such a way that the
transition from Samaria to Jerusalem is only gradually made explicit.
The effect of such a refined structure is that the paradigmatic woe
statement of 28:1 ascribes the character of an introduction to Isaiah
28 as a whole. By placing Samaria and Jerusalem on an equal footing,
it assures itself of an attentive audience and raises the albeit implicit
question how such a confrontational identification can be reconciled
with God’s past salvific deeds on behalf of Jerusalem/Zion (cf. 28:16).
It is this question that ultimately receives an answer in the remainder of
this segment of the book with its characteristic structure. God’s plan of
salvation for Zion is to be maintained, but it implies that Jerusalem must
first endure judgement.
Based on the above considerations and observations, which relate to
the internal structure and content of Isaiah 28 as well as the place of
this chapter within the framework established by the six woe statements
around which Isaiah 28–33 is constructed, one can conclude that Isaiah
28 enjoys a unique character and a unique function within Isaiah 28–
33, thus justifying its typification as an overture.
Vorgängern (the woe statements from Isaiah 5, JD) nicht mehr dem Nachweis konkreter
Schuld, sondern sind die dunkle Folie, auf der sich hell abzeichnet, was von Volk und
Führern erwartet wird, die jhwh als ihren Richter, König und Retter bekennen: allei-
niges Vertrauen auf ihn, auf keine andere Macht im Himmel oder auf Erden!” The
present author does not share Berges’ position in this regard.
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262 chapter five
5.4. Isaiah 28:14–22 as key text and guide
If we are correct in understanding Isaiah 28 as the overture to the
redactional unit Isaiah 28–33, then the next step would be to further
determine the place of Isa. 28:14–22 in the given context. We already
noted in § 4.4. above that the prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13 and
28:14–22 occupy a central place in the context of Isaiah 28 and are
both closely connected in terms of structure and content. Given the fact
that both prophecies differ from one another in clarity and pointedness,
however, and that an increase in clarity and pointedness is evident with
respect to 28:14–22, everything would seem to suggest that the prophecy
of judgement of 28:14–22 functions as a core text within the context
of Isaiah 28.
While the prophecy of 28:7–13 is striking on account of its guardedness
with respect to the setting of its message and limits itself to the spiritual
elite, the political leaders, who are responsible for the imperfect course
that is being followed, are directly addressed for the first time in the
prophecy of 28:14–22 (cf. the use of the 2nd person) and explicitly
located in Jerusalem. This provides the prophecy of judgement of
28:14–22 with the character of a climax within Isaiah 28. Moreover,
the said prophecy informs us for the first time of the precise situation
in which Jerusalem finds itself: political crisis resulting from a misplaced
alliance policy. Jerusalem is under serious threat from the imperialistic
and expansionist advance of Assyria and its leaders are of the opinion
that their alliance with Egypt offers them sufficient protection. This pro-
Egyptian policy serves as the historical background to the majority of
the prophecies of judgement in the remainder of the present segment
of the book. The fact that yhwh despises this coalition policy is made
increasingly explicit in the four central woe statements. While the first
woe statement of 29:1 addresses Jerusalem itself under the name Ariel,
the following woe statement of 29:15 speaks of a clandestine plan. The
woe statement of 30:1 characterises this plan as not having stemmed
from yhwh and refers to it as an alliance. In the further elaboration of
this woe statement mention is made of Egypt as the alliance partner
sought by Jerusalem. The woe statement of 31:1 addresses itself most
directly against the content of the alliance policy so despised by yhwh,
namely the request for assistance in the form of Egyptian horses and
chariots instead of assistance from yhwh, the Holy One of Israel. The
fact that this alliance policy is already referred to in the prophecy of
judgement of 28:14–22 and that the alliance with Egypt is typified as a
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 262 2/12/2007 10:56:34 AM
the place and function of isaiah 28:14–22 263
covenant with death, underlines the core character of 28:14–22 within
the context of Isaiah 28.
If the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 does indeed function
within Isaiah 28 as a core text, and if the chapter as a whole bears the
character of an overture, then we are obliged to ask ourselves what the
precise meaning of the said prophecy might be for the reader faced
with this entire segment of the book of Isaiah, namely the chapters
28–33. It has become apparent from our exegesis of 28:14–22 that the
uniqueness of these verses lies primarily in their theological dimension,
which this prophecy of judgement discloses. The judgement announced
concerning Jerusalem would appear to contain a profound theological
motif, a motif expressed in the extremely fundamental statement made
with respect to Zion. Yhwh’s salvific engagement on behalf of Zion, an
engagement intended to establish a reliable foundation for the future
of God’s people, has been rejected. It is this rejection of his salvific
engagement that is so offensive to yhwh and that functions as the deepest
motif of the judgement facing Jerusalem and its leaders in the prophecy
of 28:14–22 and in the remainder of this segment of the book of Isaiah.
If the reader bears this theological motif of the announced judgement
in mind, it will help him or her to understand the woe statements that
directly follow the overture of Isaiah 28 as they give expression one by
one to the inevitability of the impending judgement.
At the same time, the reader will find security in the knowledge—
which he or she can derive from both central pericopes of the overture—
that the judgement announced in this segment of the book is a matter of
divine eclipse. The prophecies of judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22
are both characterised by their emphasis on the element of alienation
that is to accompany the divine judgement (see 28:11 and 28:21). Yhwh’s
words and deeds will be strange because it appears that He is behind the
advance of Assyria. In addition to the fact that Jerusalem’s experience
of divine eclipse is in itself extremely dramatic and an extraordinary
shock, the very notion of divine eclipse implies that, for yhwh, speaking
and acting in judgement are profoundly uncharacteristic divine features.
In other words, following the initial shock (see verse 19b), the careful
reader will already be able to derive an element of hope from the way
in which divine judgement is announced in the central pericopes of the
overture, namely that judgement is not God’s final word with respect
to Jerusalem. In other words, the statement concerning Zion in 28:16
in particular is so fundamental that its significance and eloquence rises
above the context of the announcement of judgement within which
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 263 2/12/2007 10:56:34 AM

264 chapter five
it is located. The emphasis placed by the Zion text of 28:16
43
on the
rock-solid character of the foundation being established by yhwh has
the capacity to stimulate the expectation among its readers that yhwh’s
salvific deeds with respect to Zion will endure through the period of
divine eclipse and will never be undone by the announced judgement,
no matter how inevitable the latter presently seems. While there is an
absence of faith among its addressees, the prophecy of judgement of
28:14–22 does not state that yhwh intends to go back on his plan of
salvation for Zion. Even in the context of the prophecy of judgement,
therefore, the terminology employed for ‘the stone in Zion’ serves to
underline the reliability of the foundation laid by yhwh in the past. It
should not come as a complete surprise to the reader of Isaiah 28–33
that the remainder of this segment of the book contains an increasing
number of promises of salvation for Zion.
Based on the abovementioned considerations, the present author is
able to conclude that the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22 serves as
a guide for the reader of Isaiah 28–33, more so than the closely related
prophecy of judgement of 28:7–13, and in particular because of the Zion
text of 28:16.
43
As a salvation-historical retrospective in the context of
the announcement of judgement, the Zion text exposes the theological
motif behind the various statements of judgement concerning
Jerusalem and yhwh’s detestation of the alliance politics of its leaders.
As a reference to the reliability of yhwh’s salvific deeds, the Zion text
simultaneously opens a new perspective for its readers, namely that the
impending judgement of Jerusalem cannot be yhwh’s last word. This
is underlined by the fact that the judgement itself is designated in this
prophecy as an uncharacteristic and strange work of yhwh. As core text
within the context of Isaiah 28 understood as an overture, the prophecy
of judgement of 28:14–22 can thus be understood as an interpretative
key to the remainder of this segment of the book.
43
Cf. Watts 1985:368–369: “The strategic position of this episode (28:14–22, JD) in
Act V (Isaiah 28–33, JD) is clear. It states the terms of tension which will dominate the
act as they had the history of Judah during its final decades of existence.”
dekker_f6_242-264.indd 264 2/12/2007 10:56:34 AM
CHAPTER SIX
THE ZION TEXT OF ISAIAH 28:16 AND THE
ZION TRADITION IN ISAIAH
6.1. Introduction
The present volume has limited itself to the Zion text of Isa. 28:16,
with the presentation of an exegesis of the said Zion text in its present
context as its primary goal. This exegesis is to be found in the fourth
chapter, in which Isaiah 28 as a whole serves as the context. In chapter
five, the context of our study was expanded to include Isaiah 28–33.
In the present chapter, we will offer the results of our research with a
view to drawing some provisional conclusions as a point of departure
for further research into the place of Zion and the Zion tradition in
the preaching of Isaiah.
Given that the only point of access we have at our disposal to the
preaching of the prophet Isaiah is via the book that bears his name,
we will begin the present chapter with a survey of the extent to which
‘Zion’ as a theme is represented in the first part of the book of Isaiah
(1–39) together with the manner with which it is presented therein.
While limiting ourselves to the first part of the book of Isaiah might
seem strange at a time in which the book in question has come to be
considered more and more as a unity, the procedure nevertheless goes
hand in hand with the goal of our study, which is oriented in the first
instance towards the preaching of the prophet Isaiah. As a matter of
fact, Isaiah’s preaching serves as the point of departure that ultimately
made it possible for the book of Isaiah to evolve and crystallise through
the centuries into the book we now have at our disposal, the book
in which the theme of ‘Zion’ has acquired such a prominent role.
Even though contemporary research into the book of Isaiah tends to
approach the text as a unity and is less inclined to speak of a Proto-
Isaiah, a Deutero-Isaiah and a Trito-Isaiah, it remains a fact that the
book of Isaiah as a whole came into existence against the background
of a variety of temporal frameworks (globally subdivided as pre-exilic,
exilic and post-exilic) and that the original preaching of the Jerusalemite
prophet was ultimately written down in the first part of the book. The
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 265 1/18/2007 1:36:40 PM
266 chapter six
survey we plan to provide in the present chapter, therefore, is intended
to offer an impression of the prominent place already enjoyed by the
theme of ‘Zion’ in this first part of the book.
The promised survey will be followed by a presentation of the results
of our exegesis of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16. To this end, we will refer
back to the observations made in chapter four of the present volume
and to the step by step evaluation already provided therein. The said
observations can now be brought together with the results of chapter
five concerning the place of 28:14–22 in the context of Isaiah 28–33
as we move towards the formation of a more complete picture.
A detailed and extensive study of the Zion tradition would take us
far beyond the boundaries of the present work. The numerous biblical-
theological dimensions of the theme and the many religio-historical
questions that accompany them, deserve independent study. The same
is ultimately true even if we were to limit ourselves to a study of the
Zion tradition within the preaching of Isaiah as a whole. Indeed, an
adequate treatment of the subject would demand the submission of
many more texts from the book of Isaiah to exegetical analysis than
has been possible in the present study. The author remains convinced
nevertheless that this exegetical study of the Zion text of 28:16 can
contribute to the understanding of the place of Zion and the Zion
tradition in the preaching of Isaiah. Bearing this in mind, a survey of
the history of research into the Zion tradition represents an essential
element of this chapter. The survey will limit itself to the more signifi-
cant moments in this history, confronting them with the results of our
research into the Zion text of 28:16.
6.2. Zion in the first part of the book of Isaiah (1–39)
The name ˆ. ‘Zion’ occurs with considerable frequency in the book
of Isaiah: 47 references in total, consisting of roughly one third of the
references found in the Old Testament as a whole (153)
1
and precisely
the same number as all of the remaining prophetic texts taken together.
2

1
Otto 1989:1007 arrives at a total of 152 references in the Old Testament and 46
in Isaiah because he does not include Isa. 30:19. Stolz 1979
2
:544 arrives at a total of
154 places in which Zion is referred to in the Old Testament because he counts more
references in the Psalms.
2
For the sake of comparison: Jeremiah: 17x, Joel: 7x, Amos: 2x, Obadiah: 2x, Micah:
9x, Zephaniah: 2x, Zechariah: 8x. Among the historical books of Samuel, Kings and
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 266 1/18/2007 1:36:41 PM
the zion tradition in isaiah 267
Of the 47 references in the book of Isaiah, no less that 29 are to be
found in the first part of the book (Proto-Isaiah, 1–39).
3
In the present
paragraph we will offer a brief overview of the various contexts in which
the name Zion is referred to in the first part of the book of Isaiah.
In order to establish a clear picture of the various contexts in which
the name Zion is employed in Isaiah 1–39, we subdivide its usage into
three distinct categories:
1. Texts in which explicit reference is made to Mount Zion (9);
4
2. Texts in which reference is made to the daughter of Zion (3);
5

and
3. Texts in which Zion is employed independently (17).
6
1. Mount Zion
References to ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount Zion’ in the book of Isaiah are numerous.
The designation usually bears theological connotations, in the sense
that Mount Zion no longer represents a hill in the south-eastern part
of Jerusalem with a fortified stronghold on top as was originally the
case (see 2 Sam. 5:7; 1 Chron. 11:5), but rather the hill to the north-
east of Jerusalem upon which the presence of the temple can be
dated back to the tenth century. The said theological connotations are
already evident in 8:18, in which Mount Zion is explicitly designated
as the dwelling place of yhwh Zebaot (ˆ. ¬¬: ˆ::¬ ¬s:. ¬¬“ ).
7

Mention of Mount Zion in Isaiah 1–39 is consistently related to the
presence of yhwh and his temple in the location. This is evident, for
example, from 18:7, in which ¬s:. ¬¬“μ: μ,: ‘the place of the name of
Chronicles, the name Zion is only found 6x. The Psalms contain 37 references, Song
of Songs 1, and Lamentations 15.
3
When compared with the Masoretic text, the name Zion is found on 8 more
occasions in the Septuagint of Isaiah. In the following texts, the presence of the name
represents a plus in the LXX: 1:21; 9:10; 22:1,5; 23:12; 25:5; 32:2 and 52:1. The only
Old Testament biblical book to exhibit the same phenomenon is the book of Daniel.
This information stems from a reading given by A. van der Kooij to the Jesaja Werkplaats
(Isaiah Workshop) on September 20th, 2002.
4
See Isa. 4:5; 8:18; 10:12; 18:7; 24:23; 29:8; 31:4 and 37:32. I also include 10:32
(Ketib: ‘the mountain of the house of Zion’) in this category. Cf. 16:1 (‘the mountain of the
daughter of Zion’).
5
See Isa. 1:8; 16:1; 37:22; cf. Qere 10:32.
6
See Isa. 1:27; 2:3; 3:16,17; 4:3,4; 10:24; 12:6; 14:32; 28:16; 30:19; 31:9; 33:5,14,20;
34:8; 35:10.
7
Cf. Ps. 74:2: : ¬:“:: ¬. ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount Zion, where you came to dwell’. The same idea
is also present in Ps. 68:17: ¬::: μ¬:s‘ ¬:¬ ¬¬¬ ‘the mount that God desired for his abode’.
See also Ps. 78:68: :¬s ¬:s ˆ. ¬¬ ‘Mount Zion, which He loves’.
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 267 1/18/2007 1:36:41 PM
268 chapter six
YHWH Zebaot’ is identified with Mount Zion, and from 24:23, in which
Mount Zion is explicitly associated with the kingship of yhwh Zebaot
(ˆ. ¬¬: ¬s:. ¬¬“ ¸::: ‘for YHWH Zebaot will reign on Mount Zion’).
The connection between Mount Zion and the temple of yhwh pres-
ent upon it is most clearly expressed in 10:32, in which the unaltered
Masoretic text speaks of ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the house of Zion’.
8

This designation is akin to the manner with which reference is made
to ¬¬“¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the house of YHWH’ in 2:2. Even where the
connection between mountain and temple is not explicit, as in 10:12, its
implicit presence should nevertheless be maintained.
9
A less emphatic
association with the temple is only evident in 37:32, in which Mount
Zion is mentioned as a parallel of the house of Judah and of Jerusa-
lem. In the majority of instances, however, the sequence is the other
way round with Jerusalem functioning as a parallel of Mount Zion (see
10:12 and 24:23; cf. 2:3).
10
If the presence of the temple or the dwelling of yhwh is included
within the reference to Mount Zion, then it is understandable that the
mountain also functions as a place of religious assembly. This is clearly
the case in 4:5, in which Mount Zion is mentioned in connection with
the gathering of the holy remnant (ˆ.¬¬ ˆ:::: :. // ¬s¬,::.“).
11

While the prophecy of 1:14 announces that yhwh abhors Israel’s festive
assemblies (μ:¬.:) and that his people are ripe for judgement, Zion
in the future, in its capacity as :¬.: ¬¬“, ‘city of our festive assemblies’,
shall be a secure habitation, a tent whose stakes will never be pulled
up (33:20).
The book of Isaiah not only makes reference to the assemblies of
God’s own people of Israel on Mount Zion but also alludes to the sur-
rounding nations. In 2:2–5, the otherwise unidentified peoples come
8
The Targum of 10:32 speaks of ‘the mountain of the sanctuary in Zion’ (see
Chilton). The reference to the sanctuary follows the Ketib of the Hebrew text. The
Septuagint translates, however, with τὸ ὄρος τὴν θυγατέρα Σιων (cf. the Qere of the
Masoretes: ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the daughter of Zion’).
9
Via the plus ‘Mount Zion’ in 9:10, the Septuagint also indicates that this moun-
tain is the place in which God is at work: καὶ ῥάξει ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ἐπανιστανομένους
ἐπ’ ὄρος Σιων ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς.
10
The author of 1QIsa
a
has adapted the text of 37:32 to the usual sequence.
Pulikottil 2001:46, 65–66 mentions this as an example of the harmonising tendency
of 1QIsa
a
.
11
It is announced in 27:13 that the lost and driven out children of Israel will come
from Assyria and Egypt to bow down before yhwh μ::¬: :¬,¬ ¬¬: ‘on the holy
mountain in Jerusalem’.
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 268 1/18/2007 1:36:42 PM
the zion tradition in isaiah 269
to Mount Zion to receive teaching from the Torah and the word of
yhwh. While the designation ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount Zion’ is itself not present in
this prophecy, related terminology is used that makes it clear that the
Zion referred to in 2:3 is primarily a reference to Mount Zion. The text
alternates between ¬ ¬“ ¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the house of YHWH’ (2:2) and
¬¬“¬¬ ‘the mountain of YHWH’ (2:3; cf. 30:29). In 18:7, a more specific
announcement is made that the people of Ethiopia are going to bring
a gift for yhwh Zebaot on Mount Zion. Mount Zion, however, can also
stand for the place against which all the nations set out to war (29:8).
In 31:4, Mount Zion is the place upon which yhwh Zebaot descends
in order to go to war against those who threaten Zion!
12
Only the first part of the book of Isaiah speaks of ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount
Zion’ as such.
13
In the remainder of the book of Isaiah, Zion appears
to function as a person, both the subject and object of spoken address.
Reference to Zion as a mountain would seem to be less appropriate in
such instances.
14
The third part of the book of Isaiah evidently exhibits
a strong preference for the designation :¬“,¬¬ ‘my holy mountain’ (56:7;
57:13; 65:11,25; 66:20; cf. 11:9 and μ::¬: :¬,¬ ¬¬: in 27:13), a
designation that is also to be found in the Psalms (see Ps. 2:6), albeit in
the majority of cases with a different suffix.
15
Reference is also made to
Mount Zion outside the book of Isaiah, especially, once again, in the
Psalms (see Ps. 48:3,12; 74:2; 78:68; 125:1; cf. Ps. 133:3).
16
2. Daughter of Zion
A number of references are made in the first part of the book of Isaiah
to the ˆ.¬: ‘daughter of Zion’.
17
This designation, which exhibits a
degree of affection, is consistently used as a personification of the city of
12
The expression ˆ.¬¬:. in 31:4 is sometimes translated as ‘against Mount Zion’
instead of ‘on Mount Zion’. This interprets the text in question in light of yhwh’s coming
judgement rather than as a defensive operation on his part (cf. 29:1–4).
13
The Septuagint also refers to a ‘valley of Zion’. The expression ˆ:¬ s: ‘valley of
the vision’ is translated in 22:1 as τῆς φάραγγος Σιων and in 22:5 as ἐν φάραγγι Σιων.
14
See Berges 2001:64.
15
Cf. :¬“,¬¬ in Ps. 3:5; 48:2; 99:9 and ¸:¬“, ¬¬ in Ps. 15:1; 43:3.
16
The remaining locations are: 2 Kgs 19:31 (= Isa. 37:32); Lam. 5:18; Joel 2:32;
Ob. 1:17,21 and Mi. 4:7.
17
Stinespring 1976:985 suggests we translate ˆ. ¬: as ‘maiden Zion’, meaning
something like ‘darling Zion’. While such a translation correctly renders the intention
of the expression, ‘daughter of Zion’ has become a fairly standard expression in Old
Testament exegesis and thus deserves to be maintained if for this reason only. In some
manuscripts of the Septuagint, ˆ¬.¬: ‘daughter of Sidon’ in 23:12 is also translated as
τὴν θυγατέρα Σιῶν ‘daughter of Zion’.
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 269 1/18/2007 1:36:42 PM
270 chapter six
Jerusalem (and its inhabitants).
18
The said personification is most explicit
in 37:22 in which the name μ::¬“ ¬: ‘daughter of Jerusalem’ is used by
analogy with ˆ.¬: (¬:¬: ).
19
The fact that ˆ.¬: already functioned
as a personification of Jerusalem at a relatively early date is apparent
from a particular Isaianic text—1:8—in which ˆ.¬: is identified with
¬¬.:“ ¬. ‘a besieged city’ (BHS: ¬¬.:“ ¬.). Of particular interest in this
regard is the expression ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the daughter of Zion’,
employed in 16:1. The theological connotations originally associated
with reference to Mount Zion would appear to be lacking here. It is
conceivable that the designation ˆ.¬: in 16:1 already refers to the
community of the remnant that had gathered round Mount Zion. If
we follow the Masoretic Qere, then it might be possible to say the same
with respect to 10:32, in which ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the daughter
of Zion’ would then be read instead of ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the
house of Zion’, further designated in the same verse as μ::¬“ ¬.:: ‘the
hill of Jerusalem’.
20
In the remainder of the book of Isaiah, the expression ˆ. ¬: ‘daughter
of Zion’ is only found elsewhere in 52:2 and 62:11. The designation is
much more frequent in Jeremiah and Lamentations. The same can be
said for the related expression :.¬: ‘daughter of my people’, which, as
far as the book of Isaiah is concerned, only occurs in 22:4.
21
3. Zion (used independently)
The majority of examples of the name Zion in the first part of the
book of Isaiah represent independent use. This occurs within a variety
18
Van der Kooij (reading Jesaja Werkplaats [Isaiah Workshop] dated September 20th,
2002) presupposes that the expression ‘daughter of Zion’ in the Septuagint of Isaiah
serves as a designation of Mount Zion and not of the city of Zion. He appeals in this
regard to 10:32, in which the words ˆ.¬: ¬¬ ‘mountain of the daughter of Zion’ (Qere
MT) are rendered in the Greek text in such a fashion that both expressions are unre-
lated: τὸ ὄρος τὴν θυγατέρα Σιῶν. The designation ‘daughter of Zion’ would appear
in this instance to function as an explicitation of ‘the mountain’.
19
The designation ˆ.¬: ¬:¬: ‘virgin Zion’ only occurs elsewhere in the Old
Testament in 2 Kgs 19:21 (= Isa. 37:22) and Lam. 2:13. Cf. :.¬: ¬:¬: in Jer. 14:17;
:s¬: ¬:¬: in Jer. 18:13; 31:4,21; Am. 5:2 and ¬¬¬“¬: ¬:¬: in Lam. 1:15. The
designation μ::¬“ ¬: ‘daughter of Jerusalem’ is also found in 2 Kgs 19:21 (= Isa. 37:22);
Lam. 2:13,15; Mi. 4:8; Zeph. 3:14 and Zech. 9:9.
20
Cf. 31:4 in which ¬¬.:: ‘her hill’ is used as a parallel for ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount Zion’.
21
Of the 23 uses of the expression ˆ.¬: ‘daughter of Zion’ in the Old Testament,
the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations account for no less than 11. Distribution
throughout the remaining books is as follows: Kings: 1x, Psalms: 1x, Micah: 4x,
Zephaniah: 1x, Zechariah: 2x. In addition to Isa. 22:4, the expression :.¬: is only
found elsewhere in Jeremiah (9x) and Lamentations (5x).
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the zion tradition in isaiah 271
of semantic frameworks. While it is impossible to make a strict distinc-
tion between them, the texts containing an independent use of Zion
can nevertheless be subdivided into two groups: (a) those in which
Zion stands for the city of Jerusalem, with or without its inhabitants;
(b) those in which Zion stands for the place of God’s presence and/or
salvific deeds.
22
a. The name Zion can be used simply to designate the city of Jeru-
salem. This is the case in 1:27, in which it is stated that Zion shall
be redeemed by justice. Reference here is being made to the city of
Jerusalem. According to 1:21, Jerusalem was once known as ¬¬“,
¬::s‘: ‘a faithful city’ and via the intervention of yhwh it will once
again be called ,¬ . ¬ ¬. ‘a city of righteousness’ and ¬: : s‘ : ¬ ¬“ , ‘a faith-
ful city’ (1:26).
23
Given the fact that the parallel second colon of 1:27
makes reference to ¬::“ ‘those in her who repent’, it is highly likely that
the use of the name Zion in the first colon includes its inhabitants.
A statement similar to that of 1:27 can be found in 33:5, which
states that yhwh has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. It
is likewise evident at this juncture that reference is being made to
the city of Jerusalem, which will once again do justice to the name
already mentioned in 1:26. This element is also part of the expres-
sion found in 33:20, in which Zion/Jerusalem is designated as ¬:
ˆ:s: ‘a safe habitation’.
The name Zion is likewise used with frequency in the remainder
of the book of Isaiah as designation for the city of Jerusalem (see,
for example, 40:9; 41:27; 64:10), and in most instances the term is
22
Rendtorff 2001:149–159 maintains a slightly different subdivision: a. Zion as
location of the temple; b. Zion as location of God’s throne; and c. Zion as designa-
tion of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Given that the association between
Zion and both the temple and the motif of the kingship of yhwh is most explicitly
employed in reference to ˆ.¬¬ ‘Mount Zion’ in the first part of the book of Isaiah,
I have not adopted Rendtorff ’s distinction. When the name Zion is employed with a
theological connotation, it seems preferable to speak in more general terms of Zion as
the place of God’s presence and/or his salvific deeds. It remains true, of course, that
both these notions can only be explained against the background of Jerusalem as the
temple city and that the kingship of yhwh had an important role to play in Isaiah’s
conceptualisation of God.
23
The Septuagint of 1:26 has translated the words ¬::s‘: ¬¬“, as μητρόπολις πιστὴ
Σιων, whereby the name Zion comes from the following verse 27. The Greek transla-
tor has likewise anticipated verse 27 in 1:21 by adding the name Zion and translating
πόλις πιστὴ Σιων. The designation of Zion as μητρόπολις in 1:26 is striking, given that
LXX speaks elsewhere of Zion as πόλις.
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 271 1/18/2007 1:36:43 PM
272 chapter six
also to be understood as inclusive of the city’s inhabitants and/or
the entire people of God (see, for example, 46:13; 49:14; 51:16).
When reference is being made to the population of Jerusalem in
the first part of the book of Isaiah, this is generally made explicit.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem, for example, can be spoken of as
ˆ. :: :. ‘my people who live in Zion’ (10:24) or in short as ˆ. ¬::
‘the inhabitants of Zion’ (12:6). The expression employed in 30:19 is
a little more elaborate: μ::¬: :: ˆ.: μ. ‘people in Zion, inhabit-
ants of Jerusalem’. All three of the aforementioned expressions are
used in the context of encouragement. This is likewise the case, in
a certain sense, with respect to the only text in which reference is
made to ˆ.: ¬s::¬ ‘those who are left in Zion’ (4:3 // μ::¬: ¬¬:¬“
‘those who remain in Jerusalem’) or ˆ. ¬¬: ¬::c ‘a band of survivors
from Mount Zion’ (37:32 // ¬¬s: s.¬ μ::¬: ‘from Jerusalem a rem-
nant shall go out’). Such language presupposes that divine judgement
has been brought to bear upon Zion and the people of Jerusalem
respectively (cf. 1:9).
It is striking that—with the exception of 2 Kgs 19:31 (= Isa.
37:32)—there are no Zion texts outside the book of Isaiah itself
that speak of a remnant in Zion, although there are numerous texts
in which a return to Zion and a restoration of Zion are presented
as future events. The prophecies in the second part of the book
of Isaiah in particular reveal that Zion is to remain God’s beloved
in spite of his judgement and that yhwh will comfort her (see, for
example, 51:3). The name of Zion acquires a broader significance
at this juncture, which then functions as a synonym for Israel as a
whole (cf. 46:13 and 51:16). A small number of places in the first
part of the book, however, already make reference to a return to
Jerusalem/Zion on the part of μ ¬ . : ≈¬ s : μ¬ ¬ : ¬ “ ¬:s ≈¬ s : μ¬ : s ¬
‘those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the
land of Egypt’ (27:13), and of ¬¬“ ¬c ‘the ransomed of YHWH’ (35:10;
cf. 51:11). Reference is similarly made in 34:8 to ˆ. :¬ ‘Zion’s cause’,
namely that yhwh plans to side with the city and seek his revenge
against the enemies of his people.
24
The necessity of such judgement is evident, for example, from
texts in which reference is made to ˆ. ¬:: ‘the daughters of Zion’. In
24
52:8 even speaks concisely of the return of yhwh to Zion. According to the
prophecy of 60:14, Zion shall even be called :s¬: :¬, ˆ. ¬¬“ ¬. ‘the city of YHWH,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel’.
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the zion tradition in isaiah 273
contrast to Song 3:11, this designation is not used as a respectable
term of address in the first part of the book of Isaiah. It would
appear from Isa. 3:16–17 that the expression ˆ. ¬:: refers to
female inhabitants of Jerusalem who are noteworthy for their whor-
ish behaviour whereby they have called yhwh’s judgement upon
themselves. Isa. 4:4 even speaks of a spirit of judgement and a spirit
of burning, whereby the Lord shall wash away ˆ.¬:: ¬s. ‘the filth
of the daughters of Zion’ and cleanse the bloodstains of Jerusalem. In
more general terms, 33:14 makes reference to μs:¬ ˆ.: ‘the sinners
in Zion’.
25
b. The designation μs:¬ ˆ.: ‘the sinners in Zion’ employed in 33:14 is
actually a contradictio in terminis, since the presence of yhwh would
appear to be included along with the name of Zion. There is an
evident awareness that people who behave unjustly cannot live in
proximity to yhwh, for He is ¬::s :s ‘a devouring fire’ (see also 29:6
and 30:30) and μ: . ¬ , : ‘an everlasting furnace’ (cf. 31:9). Several texts
can be mentioned in which the presence of yhwh echoes explicitly
in the use of the name Zion. In addition to the aforementioned
33:14, this is clearly the case with respect to 31:9, which states that
yhwh has a fire ˆ. : ‘in/on Zion’ and a furnace μ : : ¬: ‘in Jerusalem’.
In spite of the parallel with the name Jerusalem, the use of Zion
in this instance does not refer to the city as such, but rather to the
place of God’s presence. Zion is likewise placed in the foreground
here. Reference is also made in the immediate context to Mount
Zion (see 31:4), a designation with explicit theological connotations.
It can also be said of Isa. 2:5 that the name Zion does not func-
tion in this instance as a simple parallel for the city of Jerusalem.
In the preceding verses, reference is made to the pilgrimage of the
nations to ¬¬“¬: ¬¬ ‘the mountain of the house of YHWH’ (2:2), ¬¬“¬¬
‘the mountain of YHWH’ and :,. ¬:s‘ ¬: ‘the house of the God of Jacob’
(2:3). When it is then stated that Torah goes forth from Zion and
the word of yhwh from Jerusalem, it is clear that allusion is being
made to the temple as the place of God’s presence. Once again,
Zion enjoys pride of place in this instance.
25
Rendtorff 2001:158 concludes: “Bei allen Unterschieden im einzelnen zeigt sich,
daß die Bezeichnung ›Zion‹ für die Stadt und ihre Bewohner vor allem dort verwendet
wird, wo von ihrer Bedrohung und Verletzlichkeit bis hin zur Zerstörung, dann aber
auch von ihrer Tröstung und Wiederherstellung die Rede ist.”
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274 chapter six
While the name Zion in the remainder of the book of Isaiah
usually functions as the addressee of salvation and thereby as repre-
sentative of the people of yhwh, the return of yhwh to Zion (52:8)
implies at the same time that Zion can be designated ˆ. ¬¬“ ¬.
:s¬: :¬, ‘city of YHWH, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel’ (60:14).
Jerusalem is similarly referred to in the second part of the book as
:¬ , ¬ ¬. ‘the holy city’ (48:2; 52:1; cf. ¸: ¬“ , ¬ . ‘your holy cities’ in 64:9,
translated by LXX as: πόλις τοῦ ἁγίου σου ‘city of your sanctuary’).
The Psalms in particular make frequent reference to Zion in this
theological sense.
26
An important theological connotation is also present in the two
texts in which reference is made to the foundation of Zion. The
Zion text of 14:32 proclaims that yhwh has founded Zion (¬: ¬¬“
ˆ. ) and that the afflicted of his people find refuge in her. Isa. 28:16
makes reference to the foundation stone that yhwh has laid in Zion
26
In Ps. 9:12 we find the expression ˆ. :: ¬¬“ ‘YHWH, who dwells in Zion’ (cf. also
Ps. 135:21: μ : : ¬“ ˆ: : ˆ. : ¬ ¬“ ¸¬: ‘blessed be YHWH from Zion, He who dwells in Jerusalem.’).
Ps. 76:3 explicitly proclaims that God’s dwelling is in Zion (ˆ.: ¬:.:), a fact that has
its roots in a choice that ultimately gives expression to God’s love (Ps. 87:2; cf. Ps. 78:68
and 132:13). Psalm 132 in particular employs a selection ¬ of words to describe God’s
dwelling on Zion: ¬¬: μ,: ‘a place for YHWH’ (v. 5), :,. ¬:s: ¬:::: ‘a dwelling place
for the Mighty One of Jacob’ (v. 5; cf. v. 7: ¬:::: ‘his dwelling place’), ::“¬ 쬬 ‘his footstool’
(v. 7), ¸¬¬::: ‘your resting place’ (v. 8; cf. v. 14: ¬¬:: ‘my resting place’) and : ::: ‘his
habitation’ (v. 13). It is possible that Psalm 132 was one of the songs of Zion, sung on
joyous occasions (cf. Ps. 137:3), especially while travelling along ‘the roads to Zion’ (:¬“ ¬
ˆ. , Lam. 1:4). Rooted in God’s preference, the Psalms describe Zion as μ¬:s‘¬.
(Ps. 46:5 // ˆ:. :::: :¬, ‘the holy habitation of the Most High’), and μ¬:s‘¬ ¬. ‘the city
of God’ (Ps. 87:3). This also explains the call to count Zion’s towers in Ps. 48:13. While
the latter clearly has to do with Jerusalem as a city, it also goes hand in hand with the
fact that the city in question is :¬ ¸:: ¬¬“, ‘the city of the great King’ (Ps. 48:3) as well
as ¬s:. ¬¬“¬. ‘the city of YHWH Zebaot’ (Ps. 48:9 // :¬:s‘ ¬. ‘the city of our God’,
cf. v. 1). Ps. 101:8 likewise makes reference to Jerusalem as ¬¬“¬. ‘the city of YHWH’.
Indeed, Jerusalem is the place in which his temple is located (cf. Ps. 68:30). Given
that yhwh dwells in/on Zion, it is possible to address Him as ˆ.: μ¬:s‘ ‘God in Zion’
(Ps. 65:2; see also 84:8), and praise Him as ˆ.: ¬¬“ ‘YHWH in Zion’ (Ps. 99:2). It is clear
in both Psalm 65 and Psalm 84 that the temple is the point of reference. Since Zion
functions as the dwelling place of yhwh, the Psalms likewise give relatively frequent
expression to the expectation that help and salvation for Israel is to come from Zion
(Ps. 14:7 = 53:7). Particular reference can be made in this regard to the sanctuary,
as is evident from the parallel use of :¬,: ‘from the sanctuary’ and ˆ.: ‘from Zion’ in
Ps. 20:3 (cf. Ps. 3:5). The appeal to yhwh to bless those who fear God/his servants from
Zion echoes repeatedly throughout the Psalms (Ps. 128:5; 134:3). Zion is the location
par excellence from which the glorious manifestation of God can be expected (Ps. 50:2)
and from which the priest-king receives divine legitimation for the exercise of his rule
(Ps. 110:2). Observed from this perspective, it is thus inconceivable that anyone who
hates Zion should go unpunished (Ps. 129:5).
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the zion tradition in isaiah 275
(ˆ:s ˆ.: ¬: ::“¬). It would be wrong to argue that the name of
Jerusalem could just have easily been employed in both texts. Yhwh’s
salvific deeds are associated in particular with the name of Zion.
The foundation of Zion refers to the place created by yhwh for his
deeds of salvation. The moment of Zion’s foundation coincides with
the actual realisation of yhwh’s option to dwell therein.
In the remainder of the book of Isaiah, no further reference is
made to the earlier foundation of Zion. Yhwh presents himself as
the one who founded the earth (48:13; 51:13,16). In 51:16, the said
foundation of the earth is mentioned in one and the same context
as God’s deeds in relation to Zion: ˆ.: ¬:s:“ ≈¬s ¬::“ μ:: .::“:
¬¬s:. ‘I, who stretch out the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth,
and say to Zion: You are my people.’ Reference is also made in a few
places to a new foundation in Zion. In 54:11, for example, Zion is
informed that yhwh intends to lay her foundations on sapphires
(μ¬c:: ¸¬¬“: ¸::s ¸c: ≈:¬“: ::s ¬:¬ ‘See, I will set your stones
in sparkling ore and lay your foundations with sapphires’). In the context of
the announcement of the advance of Cyrus, moreover, Jerusalem
is similarly informed that the temple shall be provided with a new
foundation (44:28).
One can conclude, by way of summary, that the name Zion is most
frequently used independently in the first part of the book of Isaiah
(1–39). In contrast to the remainder of the book of Isaiah, Mount Zion
is also referred to with regularity. Much less frequent reference is made
to the daughter of Zion. When Zion is used independently it often
refers to the city of Jerusalem, sometimes including its inhabitants. Of
greater importance are the texts in which the name Zion functions as
the place of God’s presence and/or his salvific deeds. Such theological
connotations resound, for the most part, automatically when reference
is made to Mount Zion, since the latter is primarily associated with the
presence of the temple.
6.3. Results of the exegesis of the Zion text of Isaiah 28:16
The Zion text of Isa. 28:16 constitutes part of a prophecy of judge-
ment that stretches from verse 14 to verse 22. This represents the text’s
most immediate context, which is particularly determinative for the
way in which the Zion text functions. While the expression concerning
‘the stone in Zion’ in the New Testament and in the tradition of the
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276 chapter six
church is almost universally understood as a promise of salvation for
the future, there are four important indications to suggest that such an
interpretation of Isa. 28:16 is not so evident as it might seem:
1. In the first instance, the Masoretic vocalisation and punctuation of
the construction ¬: ::“¬ would appear to point in a different direc-
tion. Indeed, the Masoretes used their vocalisation and punctuation
in all probability to prevent the careless reader from interpreting the
verb ¬: as a futurum instans (¬: ::“¬ ) and thereby associating the
Zion text with some future salvific deed on the part of God. While
Qumran and the Septuagint presuppose an interpretation of 28:16
as a promise of salvation in contrast to the Masoretic text, there is
no compelling reason to suggest that the vocalisation of the latter
(the lectio difficilior) be thus emended. Theological conviction within
the community of Qumran and the liberty the Greek translators
permitted themselves provide sufficient explanation of the variant
readings of 28:16.
2. The reading of the Masoretic text is supported by the semantic
value of the piel of the verb ¬:. While the qal of ¬: has a broader
meaning, the piel thereof has a specific architectural significance,
namely ‘to lay a foundation’. The Masoretic vocalisation ¬: thus fits
well within the semantic field of 28:16.
3. Agreement with the Zion text of 14:32b, moreover, likewise rep-
resents an important indication that the Zion text of 28:16 should
not be ascribed a future meaning but should be understood rather
as calling to mind a former salvific deed with respect to Zion.
4. The Zion text 28:16 is located within the framework of a prophecy
of judgement. In line with the usual pattern exhibited by such a
prophecy (accusation + announcement of judgement), we would
expect an announcement of judgement from verse 16 onwards,
following the formulation of the accusation in verses 14 and 15. A
salvation-historical retrospective moment fits better within such a
context than a promise of salvation for the future.
Based on this information it seems logical not to understand the Zion
text of 28:16 as a promise of salvation but rather as a salvation-historical
retrospective moment within the framework of an announcement of
judgement. The seriousness of the judgement being announced by the
prophet is underlined by an explicit reminder of God’s misunderstood
salvific deeds with respect to Zion: ‘See, I am the one who laid in Zion a
foundation stone, a weighty stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.’
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the zion tradition in isaiah 277
With the reference to the foundation stone laid in Zion, the prophet
alludes to the tradition that yhwh has chosen Zion as his dwelling
place. While this tradition is referred to explicitly in 8:18, the belief
that yhwh dwelt on Zion is implicitly contained in a number of state-
ments concerning Zion, particularly those in which Zion is referred
to as Mount Zion. The appositional expression ‘in Zion’ should not
therefore be understood in the locative sense, which would otherwise
mean that the said stone was to be distinguished from Zion as such and
further located within Zion, but rather as functioning as an additional
qualification. Yhwh has established a rock-solid foundation in Zion itself.
The message of 28:16 agrees more or less with that of 14:32b, which
speaks of the founding of Zion. In line with the text of the Septuagint,
the stone referred to in 28:16 acquires a Messianic interpretation in the
New Testament and in the Early Church (Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6).
This Messianic interpretation presupposes an understanding of 28:16
as a promise of salvation for the future, whereby the stone and Zion
are automatically distinguished from one another. We are then in fact
dealing with the announcement of something new, of a new deed on
the part of yhwh that is to take place in an already existing Zion. The
faith referred to at the end of 28:16 is associated in the New Testament
with Christ, as personification of the stone laid in Zion. As the plus in
the Septuagint (ἐπ’ αὐτῷ) and the New Testament suggests, however,
the Masoretic text does not associate the said faith with the foundation
stone as such but rather with the entirety of the aforementioned salvific
deed with respect to Zion. The verb ˆ:s hi., employed in the absolute
form, is intended to underline the reliability of this salvific deed. The
concluding words of 28:16 also implicitly expose a lack of faith in the
case of the rulers of Jerusalem, since those who believe in God’s salvific
deeds would not have had reason to hurry off. The prophet implies at
this juncture that he is already aware that Jerusalem’s political leaders
had misunderstood the salvific deeds of yhwh with respect to Zion.
The announcement of judgement in 28:17a is the immediate result of
this knowledge. Yhwh is going to take measure of his people on the
basis of his previous salvific deeds with respect to Zion. The norms of
justice and righteousness that were established together with yhwh’s
dwelling in Zion would now appear to be employed as the standard
criteria for judgement.
In the context of the prophecy of judgement of 28:14–22, the politi-
cal implications of the foundation stone laid in Zion are perhaps the
most conspicuous. The salvific deeds of yhwh with respect to Zion
DEKKER_f7_265-337.indd 277 1/18/2007 1:36:45 PM
278 chapter six
imply the promise of a safe refuge for his people (cf. 14:32). The fact
that the leaders of Jerusalem misunderstand these deeds, however, forces
them to depart in haste in search of an alternative place of refuge.
Their behaviour is evocatively described in the accusation as establish-
ing a covenant with death. This latter expression does not serve to name
the futile efforts of the powerful in Jerusalem in seeking refuge in the
protection of Egypt against the Assyrian advance but rather to char-
acterise these efforts. In order to disqualify Jerusalem’s coalition politics
on religious grounds also, the prophet employs words of a strikingly
religious hue. In spite of their expectations, their choice of refuge will
turn out in reality to be deceptive. The prophet gives expression to this
conviction by speaking about the ‘covenant with death’ with a degree
of irony. By looking to Egypt for refuge instead of placing their trust
in the promise contained in God’s salvific deeds with respect to Zion,
the leaders of Jerusalem ultimately signed their own death warrant. In
the deluded process of securing sufficient protection against death they
ultimately embraced death. There would appear to be no convincing
arguments in support of a connection between the said ‘covenant with
death’ and the phenomenon of necromancy. The arguments raised in
this regard tend to be extremely hypothetical and, in certain instances,
even speculative.
The broader context of the Zion text of Isa. 28:16 is constituted by
the prophecies of judgement found in 28:7–13 and 28:14–22, which
function together as a sort of diptych. Both prophecies of judgement
are closely related to one another in terms of structure and content.
Taking the traditional structure of a prophecy of judgement as our
point of departure, namely the formulation of an accusation followed
by an announcement of judgement, it is striking that both prophecies
each contain two surprising elements:
1. In the formulation of the accusation, the prophet has integrated
a quotation into both prophecies, whereby the accused themselves
are given a verbal role in the debacle. In the accusation of the first
prophecy of judgement, the quotation consists of verses 9 and 10;
verse 15 is marked as a quotation in the accusation of the second
prophecy.
2. In the announcement of judgement of both prophecies, the prophet
includes a reference to the past: in verse 12 to the salvific message
spoken by yhwh in the past, in verse 16 to a salvific deed performed
by yhwh in the past.
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the zion tradition in isaiah 279
Cohesion at the level of content between both prophecies of judgement
(28:7–13 and 28:14–22) is both historical and theological in nature:
1. From the historical perspective it is important that the world power
Assyria represents the executor of God’s judgement in both instances.
Although the name of Assyria is not mentioned explicitly, the
prophet alludes to the incomprehensible language of the Assyrians
in verse 11, and employs a metaphor in verse 18 (cf. v. 15), which
refers to their imperialism and expansionism. Both prophecies are
best understood against the background of Judah’s revolt against
Sennacherib and both can thus be dated to the period prior to the
siege of Jerusalem in 701.
2. From the theological perspective it is important to note that both
prophecies of judgement introduce the theme of Zion. This takes
place in verse 12 without reference to the name of Zion as such. It
would be difficult to identify the place of rest designated by yhwh,
however, as anywhere else. The name Zion is explicitly mentioned
in verse 16. While the theme of Zion is raised in both instances
in the context of the announcement of judgement, it nevertheless
enjoys a special place therein as a salvation-historical motif intended
to underline the seriousness of the announced judgement. Already
proclaimed in former times and now misunderstood by the accused,
yhwh’s salvific plans are here associated with the theme of Zion.
3. While requiring separate treatment, a further theological component
is evident that goes hand in hand with the above, namely the motif
of divine eclipse, which binds both 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 together.
Both prophecies allude to the fact that yhwh is concealed behind
the advance of the Assyrians. The said concealment is present in
verse 11 in the incomprehensible speech and alien language of the
Assyrians. It is in fact God’s own speech that has become alien
and incomprehensible. The motif of divine eclipse is present in
verse 21 in the unusual and strange deeds of yhwh. Reference is
made to a complete turnaround in God’s dealings with his people
against the background of God’s salvific message and salvific deeds
respectively.
Based on the kinship outlined so far, with its structural, content-based,
historical and theological features, it is clear that both prophecies of
judgement of 28:7–13 and 28:14–22 function as a diptych. They can
be understood as two originally independent prophecies, each addressed
to a specific addressee, namely the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem on the
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280 chapter six
one hand (see v. 7) and the political leaders in Jerusalem on the other
(see v. 14). Both prophecies are now so closely associated that they can
be read as complementing one another.
If we expand the context a little further, Isaiah 28 as a whole comes
into view. The individual prophecies out of which this chapter is con-
structed would appear to be linked redactionally with one another to
such an extent that the entire chapter can be understood as a redac-
tional composition.
The prophecy with which this chapter begins in 28:1–4, was originally
addressed to the deteriorating leaders of Samaria and should thus be
dated prior to the fall of Samaria. In the present context, however, the
prophecy in question is so closely adjoined to what follows with the
help of the redactional verse 7a that it now functions as a warning to
the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, that they should learn a lesson
from the fate of Samaria, the former pearl of Ephraim. In addition
to the semantic cross-references between the prophecy of 28:1–4 and
both central prophecies of judgement of Isaiah 28, evident cohesion
is also observable at the level of content. The said cohesion is created
in particular via the motif of drunkenness (accusation) and the motif
of divine eclipse (announcement). In the present context of Isaiah
28, the prophecy of 28:1–4 enjoys an introductory function. Against
the background of the fall of Samaria, which was also announced in
advance, the lack of historical awareness on the part of Jerusalem’s
leaders becomes all the more apparent. Their misunderstanding of
yhwh’s salvific deeds with respect to Zion is now supplemented by their
misunderstanding of God’s righteous judgement that had already been
executed against Samaria. They are faced with an urgent question:
what guarantee does Jerusalem have that Samaria did not that can
protect her against the aggressive advance of the Assyrians? The most
important difference between Jerusalem and Samaria is to be found in
the promise hidden within God’s salvific deeds with respect to Zion. If
these salvific deeds are misunderstood, then Jerusalem’s downfall will
be just as inevitable as that of Samaria.
It is conceivable that the prophetic instruction with which Isaiah
28 concludes originally also existed independently of the preceding
prophecies. In contrast to the introductory pericope of 28:1–4, this
concluding instruction is probably uttered in the same historical con-
text as Jerusalem’s revolt against Sennacherib. In the present literary
and redactional context of Isaiah 28, however, 28:23–29 functions
as a summarising conclusion. Once again the motif of divine eclipse
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the zion tradition in isaiah 281
enjoys an important place. In contrast to what one would expect in
relation to the announcement of God’s wonderful deeds, it appears
that yhwh’s wonderful deeds announced in 28:29 are directed against
his own people. This motif establishes a strong link between 28:23–29
and the preceding material, inc