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The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah

The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah

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The Council of Yahweh in Second IsaiahAuthor(s): Frank M. Cross, Jr.Reviewed work(s):Source:
Journal of Near Eastern Studies,
Vol. 12, No. 4 (Oct., 1953), pp. 274-277Published by:
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THECOUNCILOF YAHWEHIN SECONDISAIAH
FRANK M.CROSS,JR.
THANKSto
striking arallelsetween
thesymbolismofthe councilofYahwehandthecouncilofthegodsinancientNear Easternmythology,in-creasingattentionhasbeengivenof latetothe roleofYahweh'sentourageintheimageryofHebrewpoetry.Ourpurposehereis nottodealwiththeancientpsalmodyofIsraelwheretheterminologyofthe"CourtofEl,"theassemblyofthe
bene
lim,orthe"holyones" istakenovermoreorlessdirectlyfrommytho-logicalsourcesandappliedtoYahweh'sheavenlycourt.' We areconcerned,rather,withtheutilizationofthecon-ceptualimageryofthe councilof Yahwehincertainliterarytypesofpropheticoracle.Thelate H.WheelerRobinsonhasstressedinarecentimportantarticleonthecouncilofYahweh2thatofteninvisionsor auditionstheprophetwas en-abledtoviewtheproceedingsinYahweh'sheavenlycourt3or tohearthedirectives
'Particularlynoteworthyare theparallelsbe-tweenthe divine councilinold Canaanitemythologyandthe councilofYahwehinIsrael's ancientorlater"Canaanizing"hymns.Suchterms aspbr'ilm(cf.Acc. puburildni),mpbrbneilm,drbn'il(cf.drbn'im,AzitawaddStela,Base 1.1),andmcdareusedregularlyinUgaritictextstodesignatetheheaven-lyassembly.Theseareparalleledin Hebrewpoetrybycadat'~l(Ps.82:1),qehalands6dqed6fm(Ps.89:6-8),s6dYahwehorIel6ah(Jer.23:18;Job15:8),andinmythologicalcontextsm6b'd(Isa. 14:13),andd6r(Amos8:14);seeF. J.Neuberg,"AnUn-recognized MeaningofHebrewD6r,"JNES,IX11950],215-17).The term m6cid in themeaning"assembly,""council,"alsoappearsinmundanecontextsinPhoenicia(seeJ.A.Wilson,"The Assem-blyofa PhoenicianCity,"JNES,IV[1945], 245)and Israel(preservedinthe name'6hel
m6c'd).
Thesamecorrespondencebetween thepolitical assemblyandtheheavenlyassemblyisfoundintheuseof
C'dd,
"(amphictyonic)assembly"or"(divine) assembly";Acc. pubrusimilarlycouldapplytoacitycouncilorthedivineassemblyinMesopotamia.The membersoftheheavenly assemblyinIsraelitethoughtare theenp'lMm,beng(hd)el6h(m,benIcely6n,qed6sm(inadditiontotheusualreadings,readalsoinExod.15:11;Deut.33:2;cf.Ugar.bn
qdA,)
etc.,etc.DivinemessengersareusuallycalledmlkmbothinUgariticandintheOld Testament. Cf.Ugar.tcdt,"councilenvoy,"and Hebrewcadat:'l,"divinecouncil."Somespecialwordshouldbe saidofthe role ofthe"heavenlyhost" or"heavens"inthecompanyofYahweh.Theheavenlybodies,given"personality'inprotologicalfashion,were conceived aspartoftheworshipinghostofbeingsaboutthe throne ofYahweh.ThusinJob38:7k6kebgbbqer,"morningstars,"maybeusedinparallelismwithbengel6him(cf.Isa.14:12;Ps.148:2,3);and the termsqdbd'or
qebda6t
applyatonce toheavenlybodies andtheangelichost(see especiallyIKings22:19;Deut.4:19).ThenameYahwehebdl6t,originally"Hebringsthehostsinto existence"(seeW.F.Albright,JBL,LXVII11948],377-81),later "Yahweh(God)of the(heav-enly)hosts,"seemstoreflectthesameconceptualpattern.The shiftbetweencouncil and host(militaryassembly)indescriptionsoftheretinueofYahwehoccasionnosurprise.Compare,e.g.,Acc.puhru(=Sum.ukkin),"council" and"army."While someoftheimageryandpoetic languagefeaturingbiblical allusionsto thecouncilofYahwehfindtheirultimateoriginintheassemblyofthegodscommon to themythologicalWeltbildofMesopotamiaandCanaan,theconceptionoftheheavenlyassemblywasradicallytransformedonbeingincorporatedintothefaithofIsrael.Evenintheearlyliterature Yahweh'scouncilconsistedofcolorless,secondarysupernaturalcreatureswhoservedhim(seeG.E.Wright,The OldTestamentagainstItsEnvironment[Chicago,19501, pp.30-41;T. H.Gaster,"Psalm29,"JQR,XXXVII[1946-471,55-65).Yahweh istypicallydescribedinOldTestament literature asenthroned amid theworshipinghost(stars)ofheaven;curiousmixedcreatures,cheru-bimandseraphim,waitupon him;athisfeetare thecorpsofangelicheraldstomediate hispronouncementsortocarryouthisdecisions.Forpertinentdiscussions,inaddition tothe litera-ture citedabove,see J.H.Patton,CanaaniteParallelstotheBookofPsalms(Baltimore,1944).p.24;T.Jacobsen,"PrimitiveDemocracyinAncientMeso-potamia,"JNES,II(1943), 159-72;and CrossandFreedman,"'TheBlessingofMoses," JBL,LXVII(1948),201,n.19.
2
"TheCouncilofYahweh,"JTS,XLV(1944),151-57;cf.Robinson,InspirationandRevelationintheOld Testament(Oxford,1946),pp.167ff.3ThejudicialfunctionofYahweh'scouncil iswellknownfromsuchpassagesas Psalm 82(seeWright,op.cit.,pp.30ff.),thePrologueofJob,andZech.3:1ff.Cf. thediscussionofthefunction ofthedivineassemblyas acourtoflawinMesopotamiainJacob-sen,op.cit.,p.169(cf. pp.162ff.).It is ofinterestthatthe technicalterm,"tostand"(i.e.,participate
274
 
THECOUNCILOFYAHWEHIN SECONDSAIAH
275
which Yahwehaddressedtohisangelicheralds.Theclassicalpassagesfortheuseofthisimageryare theMicaiahpericopein IKings,chapter22;Jeremiah'soracleconcerningfalseprophetswhodidnot"standinthecouncilof Yahweh"(Jer.23:18,22);and thecallofIsaiah(Isa.6:1-12).Inthelatterpassage,IsaiahhearsYahweh'saddresstohiscouncil,"Whowillgoforus?"4andreplieshim-self,"Sendme,"subsequentlyreceivingtheoracleof Godwhichheis to transmittohispeople.Thusonoccasiontheprophetispermittedtobecome,inef-fect,amalPakorheraldof Yahweh'scounciland,likethesupernaturalherald,to mediatethe divinepronouncement.ThesymbolismofthecouncilofYahwehforms thebackgroundalsoofseveraloraclesofSecondIsaiah(andre-latedmaterial).Thesebelongtoanoracletype(Gattmng)whichmaybedescribedasdivine directivestoangelicheralds,orthecloselyrelatedcategory,the divineprocla-mation deliveredbyaherald.Isa.40:1-8is aparadeexampleof thisliteraryforminSecondIsaiah.Thepas-sageopenswithanunusual seriesofactiveimperatives,plural:
nahamz2,
dabber,qir>i,"comfortye,""speak ye,""pro-claimye."Theproblemof theidentityofthesubjectof theseimperativeshasbaffledcommentators.Traditionallyit hasbeenheldthatYahwehheredirects"prophetsingeneral,"Israel'spriests,5ortheremnantof thefaithfultoproclaimthemessageof consolation.That suchinterpretationsareforcedhasbeenrecog-nizedbymostmoderns. C.C.Torreyhassuggestedthatthepluralis "rhetoricaland indefinite"
;6
similarlyPaulVolz con-tendsthatthepluralimperativesarenotlogicalbutforpoeticmood,tointensifythe emotionalforceof thepassage.'Buteachoftheseinterpretationsisad hoc.RatherthesettingistheheavenlycouncilinwhichYahwehaddresseshisheralds,naham~,nahamcamm","comfortye,comfortyemy people."'That suchisthe
as amember),inthe courtis used bothin Accadian(uzuzzu;seeJacobsen,p.164,n.24)and inHebrew
(h4C6medim,
Zech3:3;cf.C6mgd,Kings22:19).Theprophetic"lawsuit"(rib),afamiliaroracletype,undoubtedlyhasitsoriginsin theconceptionsofthe roleofYahweh'sheavenlyassemblyasacourt.It istrue, however,that theimageryof theheavenlycouncilhas recededfarinto thebackground,andthelawsuit oraclehas beenso modifiedastopreservereminiscencesof itsoriginonlyin itsliteraryframe-work and instereotypedintroductory phrases.Com-pare,e.g.,thelinguisticandconceptualpointsofcontact betweentheribofIsa.3:13-15 andthatofPsalm 82. Theclassicalintroductoryformulasofthepropheticrib("Hear,OMountains,the lawsuitofYahweh,and<giveear>,OFoundationsoftheearth";Mic.6:2a;"Listen,OHeavens,giveear,OEarth";Isa.1:2a;'"Be astonished,OHeavens,onthisaccount;beappalledgreatly,<OMountains>";Jer.3:12;cf. Jer.3:9,10)yetcontaindirectreminis-cencesofYahweh'saddresstothepowersofheavenand earthwhich formedhiscourt.Thelawsuitthemewoventhroughchaps.41-46and48of SecondIsaiahhasespecialrelevancetoourdiscussion.HereYahwehaddressesthepaganna-tionscalling uponthem(andIsrael)tohearhiscase.Thereallawsuit,however,isbetween Yahweh,lordofhistory,andtheidol-gods.Thereis,ofcourse,noquestionofaliteraldebatebetweentheGodofIsraeland thegodsof the nations.Nevertheless,theancientliterary patternisusedastheartisticdevicethroughwhichtheprophetpresentsthecaseof Yahwehoveragainstthe caseof thepagandivinities.Noteespe-ciallytheintroductoryformulas,couchedin im-peratives,inIsa.41:1;41:21 (onthisverseseeC. C.Torrey,The SecondIsaiah[NewYork,1928], pp.317f.);45:20;48:14-16.4BothinUgariticliteratureand alsoinbiblicalliterature,the useof thefirstpersonpluralischar-acteristicof addressin theheavenlycouncil.Thefamiliar "we"of Gen.1:26,"Let usmakemaninourimage...,"Gen.3:22,"Behold,the manis becomeasoneofus...,"andGen.11:7,"Come,letusgodownandlet usconfoundtheirlanguage...,"haslongbeenrecognizedasthepluraladdressusedbyYahwehin his council.Comparein Asherah'sspeechtotheassemblyofEl inUgariticText49:I,nmlk(20, 26),"Letusmake(N.)king,"andEl'sdecreetotheassemblyinText51:IV:43,44(cf.CAnatV:39-41):mlkn'a-Viy(n)bCltptnw'indclnh,"Ourkingis'APiyanBaal;ourjudgewithoutpeer."Theusageisquiterare,however,inpropheticmaterials.5Cf.LXX
Oe&s.lipe-C,
vs.1,2.Therenderingarose,perhaps,from atextreading~j
I
(cf.DSIsaiahA).6Torrey,op.cit.,p.304.7JesaiaII,KzAT(Leipzig,1932),p.2.8TheproclamationofYahwehtohiscouncilfrequently appearsinearly poeticorepicsourcescouchedinaseriesofpluralimperatives.Thisstyleis familiarfrom Psalm82,whereYahwehholds court

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