The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew (Review)

Published: RTR 74, no. 2, 2015

The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew: Essays Honoring Joseph Blenkinsopp and His Contribution to the Study of Isaiah

Richard J. Bautch and J. Todd Hibbard, eds, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

This collection of essays on Isaiah honour Blenkinsopp and particularly acknowledge the importance of his three-volume Anchor Bible commentary on Isaiah (Yale, 2000, 2002, 2003). Comparing the impact of these commentaries to that of Duhm’s 1892 commentary might be overly enthusiastic (pp. vii, 21). Rather, Blenkinsopp follows Duhm, dividing Isaiah thrice, but his labours are noteworthy nevertheless.

The book has two halves: exegetical and thematic studies. ‘Exegetical’ is a misnomer, for these contributions take up with the historical-critical proclivities of Blenkinsopp. H. G. M. Williamson is concerned with whether the woe statement of Isa 10:1–4 originally belonged with the woe statements of 5:8–24 (so Blenkinsopp), but decides that it belongs in its current setting. Rainer Albertz examines the redactional history of Deutero-Isaiah. Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer argues that 63:7 – 64:11 has the same outlook on suffering as ch 49, even though the editors of chs 40–66 ‘did not fully agree with these sentiments’ (p. 70).

The thematic studies are more promising. Willem Beuken finds that sections of Isaiah are held together by the theme of Yhwh’s rule at Zion (without denying coherence apart from the Zion theme, and without affirming a particular redactional theory). Hyun Kim traces throughout the whole book the theme of the exaltation of the humble and the crushing of the haughty. These are useful contributions.

Ulrich Berges’ article draws particular attention. He seeks to find the missing link in the familiar argument about the relationship between kingship and servanthood. He concludes that these themes are on different—actually opposing—trajectories. The earlier desire for a Davidide is replaced by the hope for the rule of Yhwh (cf. Sweeney’s chapter on eschatology), and all authority, royal, prophetic and priestly, is transferred to the servants in Zion. They are anything but ‘royal servant’. In response, one wonders why the final redactor retained the earlier material. Reapplication of Davidic material is one thing, but contradiction of it renders the final composition at cross purposes with itself. Also, Berges adopts Otto’s thesis as his starting point (that simply has the servants applying royal honours to themselves: royal servant becomes royal servants, and so the Davidic hope is reapplied). Hence, there is no engagement with the marginalised, traditional view that the Davidic king and the Servant are one and the same: the Davidide in exaltation and humility (how would this view fit within Hyun Kim’s schema?). Berges’ article evidences the weakness of most of the book—the preoccupation with historicist readings.