Isaiah 56-66*

From Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of ReligionThe Book of Isaiah   J. Blake Couey, Aug 2016

A. 56:1-8 Vindication of Jerusalem (YHWH’s holy mountain)

B. 56:9-59:14 Prophetic denunciations/communal complaints

C. 59:15-21 Description of YHWH as victorious warrior

D. 60:1-62:12 Restoration of Jerusalem and return of exiles.

C’.  63:1-6 Description of YHWH as victorious warrior

B’. 63:7-64:12 Communal complaint

A’. 65:1-66:24 Vindication of Jerusalem (YHWH’s holy mountain)



One thought on “Isaiah 56-66*”

  1. I would like to comment on Couey’s suggested chiasm in Isaiah chapters 56-66. Couey’s approach depends on his interpretation of the passage. His divisions, and the titles he ascribes to them, need to be assessed in the light of both the passage and other scripture. That they happen to form a chiasm is irrelevant if it turns out the divisions and/or their summaries are wrong. I would argue that Couey’s approach to Isaiah is fundamentally flawed, undermining the chiasm he proposes.

    Isaiah wrote his prophecy in “in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isa. 1:1) which places him in the late eighth and early seventh centuries BC.
    In the article from which Couey’s chiasm is reproduced, (Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Religion, The Book of Isaiah, J. Blake Couey, Aug 2016), he says that the “book grew and developed over a period of four to five centuries”. He argues that only chapters 1-33 were originally attributed to Isaiah and even some of these prophecies may have been written “shortly after his lifetime”. With regard to the chapters covered by the his chiasm, he says that, “The earliest core of Isaiah 56–66 comprises chapters 60–62, which seem to have been composed between the rebuilding of the Temple in the late 6th century BCE and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the mid-5th century BCE (60:10, 13). The chapters surrounding this core developed in stages, culminating in the additions of chapters 56:1–8 and 65–66”. By contrast, the Bible presents chapters 56-66 as being written by Isaiah. For example, Paul, quoting from Isaiah 65:2, says: “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me” (Rom. 10:20). That Paul says that Isaiah was “very bold” emphasises that indeed it was Isaiah, inspired by God, who wrote the words.

    Couey says that, “Isaiah 63:7–64:12 is a bitter communal complaint about the desolation of Jerusalem, suggesting that the grand promises of 60–62 did not materialize”. His interpretation of these two passages has no foundation given that Isaiah wrote both passages. In any case, his description of 63:7-64:12 as a “bitter communal complaint” does not match the text of that passage.

    Isaiah 56-66 should be read for what it is, the inspired word of God written by Isaiah, and including prophecies which will be ultimately fulfilled when Christ returns to reign in Jerusalem over the Kingdom of God.

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