Earlier this morning (see here) I wrote about my befuddlement regarding YHWH God answering King Hezekiah’s plea to extend his life since it was during those additional fifteen years that his legacy would be tainted because he showed delegates from Babylon all his riches which eventually led to Babylon deciding to invade Judah after Hezekiah’s death (39.1-8). Bryan E. Beyer (Encountering the Book of Isaiah: A Historical and Theological Survey, 142-152) has provided a possible scenario that would make better sense of it. What if the prophet’s literary point is not written chronologically?
Beyer proposes that the events of 39.1-8 occurred before 38.1-22. In 39.1-8 the delegation is from the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan seeking a political alliance with Hezekiah against Sennacherib of Assyria. Hezekiah becomes a bit arrogant as a host to Babylon’s delegates which provides Babylon with the insight they would use later to conquer Judea when Hezekiah’s son Manasseh is king. This makes more sense of Hezekiah’s prayer of relief in 39.8 that there would be peace in his day—that means Assyria would not win.
Assyria likely had already begun putting pressure on Hezekiah at this point and the prophet’s words that it would be Babylon in the days of his descendants that would conquer Judah was guarantee Assyria would not be victorious.
This may be the cause of Hezekiah’s boldness to go before YHWH in 37.14-20?
I wonder what the prophet’s literary motives may have been in reversing these stories? Thoughts?
The more we press the O.T. for moral answers…the more we are placed before a Sovereign Lord and God! We simply cannot escape HIM! (Rom. 11: 28-36)
@ Fr. Robert: True, but I think my question goes beyond the moral implications to the literary implications and theological implications. In this post in particular I am wondering what the reordering of the story tells us. In the previous post I am wondering about the nature of prayer and how God interacts with us in prayer.
Brian: Huge mysteries, but a huge, bigger God, and His Word & Church! 🙂
*It is good to rest in the Everlasting Arms!
@ Fr. Robert: Indeed, God is bigger! But isn’t this why we can confidently ponder Scripture and its implications? I am not seeking a rationalistic project, but an interpretive one.
Brian: Yes I know, have at it! 🙂 But always behind, and really “in” His Word & World is God “Incarnate”. In the end, we are drawn back to God’s Mystery! Again, here we can rest and just “know”.
This could certainly be a possibility, but then so could the straightforward, chronological read. I wonder if the Literary reordering actually doesn’t present more questions than it helps provide answers? Primary of which, is WHY would the scripture author not just provide us with the “right” order to begin with; then both the literary and chronological structure would correlate. I’m not sure I’m buying Beyer’s theory.
One of the great strengths of Beyer’s theory is that it provides further support to the argument for one author, Isaiah the prophet. If Isaiah decided to tell a story about Babylon out of chronological order in 39 it makes sense because 40-66 no longer have Assyria in view but rather Babylon’s future. It would be harder to argue that the author of 1-39 is not the author of 40-66. If the author of 40-66 is different, why did the author of 1-39 decide to throw the Babylonian encounter narrative behind the Assyria narrative even though the meeting with Babylon’s representatives would have likely occurred chronologically prior to Hezekiah’s climactic face off with Sennacherib.
Oh, okay, I see his rationale now; I like it it then, okay Beyer is my homeboy 😉 . See how fickle I am 🙂 . I’ve never ever excepted the “critical” two-book theory of Isaiah; I don’t think Jesus did either.
I have been agnostic about it in the past and I reject it now. On Sunday I will be posting Beyer’s reasons for and against Isaiah’s authorship. Beyer is for Isaiah’s sole authorship in his conclusion.
That’ll be good. Maybe I’ll have to check out Beyer’s commentary when I get past the current writing project that I’m working on (almost done . . . phew).
It is a great entry level textbook on Isaiah. It mixes historical, grammatical, literary, and theological questions while never getting too hung up on any one thing. It has a nice flow.
Is it spendy, Brian?
$19.51 on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Encountering-Book-Isaiah-Historical-Theological/dp/0801026458/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298596212&sr=8-3
I have been using the libraries copy. I am thinking of buying it though.
Sweet, thanks, Brian. I think I’ll use Mult. Lib. copy too, first, if they have it; and then maybe buy it.
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