Isaiah 40-66: Return and Restoration

In Isaiah 40-66, the prophet(s) built on the theological paradigms of Isaiah ben Amoz (Isaiah 1-39).

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 In this regard, we may observe that the most repeated epithets of God are those that proclaim His majesty as the one and only creator, the one and only God. He says, "I am the LORD and there is none else; beside Me, there is no god.... I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe-‑I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:5‑7). As "the LORD, who made everything," He "annul[s] the omens of diviners and fulfill[s] the prediction of [His] messengers" (44:24‑26).

This emphasis recurs in the contentions addressed to the nations and their prophetic predictions (41:22‑23; 47:10‑15), and it is repeatedly found in polemics addressed to the people of Israel. Significantly, the power of God as Lord of all is juxtaposed to polemics against the people's idolatry. He alone is the redeemer, and not the idols (42:15‑17; 45:15‑25); and He is the one who "foretold things that happened" (the present redemption) long beforehand (before the exile), so "that you might not say, 'My idol caused them, my carved and molten images ordained them'" (48:3, 5). "For thus said the LORD, the Creator of heaven who alone is God ...Who announced this aforetime? ... Was it not I the LORD? ... By Myself have I sworn ... a word that shall not turn back: To Me every knee shall bend, every tongue swear loyalty" (45:18, 21, 23).

The proclamation of redemption may be trusted because the exile has come to pass. The only and unique Creator guides Israel's national destiny--this is the prophet's challenge to all disbelievers.

Monotheism Open to the World

In Isaiah 40‑66, then, monotheism is portrayed as a total and absolute phenomenon. But this does not lead to exclusiveness or intolerance. The foreigners are repeatedly promised access to the Temple and the divine service performed there--both as pilgrims and as practitioners (56:1‑8; 66:18‑21). The strident nature of these passages, with their bold assertion of priestly service by non‑Israelites, strikes one as a polemical stance in the postexilic community. 'As for the foreigners ... who hold fast to My covenant--I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (56:6‑7).

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Michael Fishbane

Michael Fishbane is the Nathan Cummings professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. His research spans the spectrum of biblical and Jewish studies and he has written numerous books in Jewish Studies.