Isaiah, the largest and most widely quoted prophetic book in the Bible, is unmatched in eloquence and grandeur. The prophetic figure behind this book looms large in Israel’s history because he speaks to perennial themes that echo throughout Israel’s history. John L. McKenzie here translates and comments on the portion of the book of Isaiah known as Second Isaiah (chapters 34–35 and 40–66).
Hope springs eternal for the exiles addressed by Second Isaiah. The prophet points to the rise of Cyrus and his Persian Empire as God’s chosen instrument for sealing the destruction of Babylon. With the fall of Babylon, Isaiah soothes the pain of endless exile and envisions a new age when Israel will once again return to the Promised Land. Isaiah offers the exiles the hope of restoration and paints a picture of God’s salvation.
Drawing on available material from the Dead Sea Scrolls, McKenzie’s translation captures the spirit and excitement of Second Isaiah. His examination of literary and theological issues amply illuminates this monumental prophetic book for the novice and expert alike.
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“The dominant theme of Second Isaiah is not salvation, but the mission of Israel for which the nation is saved” (Page lvii)
“Yahweh’s saving purpose can be grasped and must be accepted; but no one should be so rash as to think that he comprehends its entire scope. Yahweh cannot communicate his whole purpose to man, for man is too small to understand it. Man must surrender to the truth that there are dimensions to the ways of Yahweh that lie beyond revelation. Yahweh never stoops to the level of man, or to the lower level of human prudence.” (Page 144)
“The polemic fails somewhat of its purpose because the religions of the ancient Near East were not crass idolatry” (Page 68)
“In Hebrew ‘word’ and ‘deed’ are expressed by a single word; the unity of the two ideas is most impressive when it is the word of Yahweh, for Yahweh’s word is the externalization of his person. Yahweh’s words are acts; his acts are also words, for they are intelligible and meaningful, even if, as is stated in vss. 8–9, they escape the comprehension of man. This is the paradox of the word of God, that it is both the most meaningful and the most mysterious of words.” (Page 144)
“The period within which the literature of Isa 40–66 was composed begins with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 587 b.c. In this defeat the city was destroyed and the kingdom of Judah was reduced to a Babylonian province.” (Page xxiv)
John L. McKenzie was professor of Old Testament at De Paul University in Chicago, until his death in 1991.