The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah Author(s): Frank M. Cross, Jr.

Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Oct., 1953), pp. 274-277 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 03/01/2012 15:21
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to striking between rather, with the utilization of the conparallels
ceptual imagery of the council of Yahweh in certain literary types of prophetic oracle. The late H. Wheeler Robinson has stressed in a recent important article on the council of Yahweh2 that often in visions or auditions the prophet was enabled to view the proceedings in Yahweh's heavenly court3 or to hear the directives
apply at once to heavenly bodies and the angelic host (see especially I Kings 22:19; Deut. 4:19). The name Yahweh ebdl6t, originally "He brings the hosts into existence" (see W. F. Albright, JBL, LXVII 11948], 377-81), later "Yahweh (God) of the (heavenly) hosts," seems to reflect the same conceptual pattern. The shift between council and host (military assembly) in descriptions of the retinue of Yahweh occasion no surprise. Compare, e.g., Acc. puhru (= Sum. ukkin), "council" and "army." While some of the imagery and poetic language featuring biblical allusions to the council of Yahweh find their ultimate origin in the assembly of the gods common to the mythological Weltbild of Mesopotamia and Canaan, the conception of the heavenly assembly was radically transformed on being incorporated into the faith of Israel. Even in the early literature Yahweh's council consisted of colorless, secondary supernatural creatures who served him (see G. E. Wright, The Old Testament against Its Environment [Chicago, 19501, pp. 30-41; T. H. Gaster, "Psalm 29," JQR, XXXVII [1946-471, 55-65). Yahweh is typically described in Old Testament literature as enthroned amid the worshiping host (stars) of heaven; curious mixed creatures, cherubim and seraphim, wait upon him; at his feet are the corps of angelic heralds to mediate his pronouncements or to carry out his decisions. For pertinent discussions, in addition to the literature cited above, see J. H. Patton, Canaanite Parallels to the Book of Psalms (Baltimore, 1944). p. 24; T. Jacobsen, "Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia," JNES, II (1943), 159-72; and Cross and Freedman, "'The Blessing of Moses," JBL, LXVII (1948), 201, n. 19. 2 "The Council of Yahweh," JTS, XLV (1944), 151-57; cf. Robinson, Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament (Oxford, 1946), pp. 167 ff. 3 The judicial function of Yahweh's council is well known from such passages as Psalm 82 (see Wright, op. cit., pp. 30 ff.), the Prologue of Job, and Zech. 3:1 ff. Cf. the discussion of the function of the divine assembly as a court of law in Mesopotamia in Jacobsen, op. cit., p. 169 (cf. pp. 162 ff.). It is of interest that the technical term, "to stand" (i.e., participate

the symbolism of the council of Yahweh and the council of the gods in ancient Near Eastern mythology, increasing attention has been given of late to the role of Yahweh's entourage in the imagery of Hebrew poetry. Our purpose here is not to deal with the ancient psalmody of Israel where the terminology of the "Court of El," the assembly of the bene lim, or the "holy ones" is taken over more or less directly from mythological sources and applied to Yahweh's heavenly court.' We are concerned,
' Particularly noteworthy are the parallels between the divine council in old Canaanite mythology and the council of Yahweh in Israel's ancient or later "Canaanizing" hymns. Such terms as pbr 'ilm (cf. Acc. pubur ildni), mpbr bn eilm, dr bn 'il (cf. dr bn 'im, Azitawadd Stela, Base 1. 1), and mcd are used regularly in Ugaritic texts to designate the heavenly assembly. These are paralleled in Hebrew poetry by cadat '~l (Ps. 82:1), qehal and s6d qed6fm (Ps. 89:6-8), s6d Yahweh or Iel6ah (Jer. 23:18; Job 15:8), and in mythological contexts m6b'd (Isa. 14:13), and d6r (Amos 8:14); see F. J. Neuberg, "An Unrecognized Meaning of Hebrew D6r," JNES, IX 11950], 215-17). The term m6cid in the meaning "assembly," "council," also appears in mundane contexts in Phoenicia (see J. A. Wilson, "The Assembly of a Phoenician City," JNES, IV [1945], 245) and Israel (preserved in the name '6hel m6c'd). The same correspondence between the political assembly and the heavenly assembly is found in the use of C'dd, "(amphictyonic) assembly" or "(divine) assembly"; Acc. pubru similarly could apply to a city council or the divine assembly in Mesopotamia. The members of the heavenly assembly in Israelite the 'lMm, beng (hd) el6h(m, benI thought are benp cely6n, qed6sm (in addition to the usual readings, read also in Exod. 15:11; Deut. 33:2; cf. Ugar. bn qdA,) etc., etc. Divine messengers are usually called mlkm both in Ugaritic and in the Old Testament. Cf. Ugar. tcdt, "council envoy," and Hebrew cadat :'l, "divine council." Some special word should be said of the role of the "heavenly host" or "heavens" in the company of Yahweh. The heavenly bodies, given "personality' in protological fashion, were conceived as part of the worshiping host of beings about the throne of Yahweh. Thus in Job 38:7 k6kebg bbqer, "morning stars," may be used in parallelism with beng el6him (cf. Isa. 14:12; Ps. 148:2, 3); and the terms qdbd' or qebda6t




which Yahweh addressed to his angelic self, "Send me," subsequently receiving heralds. The classical passages for the use the oracle of God which he is to transmit of this imagery are the Micaiah pericope to his people. Thus on occasion the in I Kings, chapter 22; Jeremiah's oracle prophet is permitted to become, in efconcerning false prophets who did not fect, a malPak or herald of Yahweh's "stand in the council of Yahweh" (Jer. council and, like the supernatural herald, 23:18, 22); and the call of Isaiah (Isa. to mediate the divine pronouncement. The symbolism of the council of 6:1-12). In the latter passage, Isaiah forms the background also of Yahweh his to hears Yahweh's address council, of Second Isaiah (and reoracles himseveral and "Who will go for us?"4 replies lated material). These belong to an oracle which may be described as as a member), in the court is used both in Accadian type (Gattmng) (uzuzzu; see Jacobsen, p. 164, n. 24) and in Hebrew to angelic heralds, or the divine directives (h4C6medim, Zech 3:3; cf. C6mgd,I Kings 22:19). The prophetic "lawsuit" (rib), a familiar oracle related category, the divine proclaclosely type, undoubtedly has its origins in the conceptions of mation delivered by a herald. the role of Yahweh's heavenly assembly as a court. is a It is true, however, that the imagery of the heavenly 40:1-8 Isa. parade example of this council has receded far into the background, and the Isaiah. The pasin form Second literary lawsuit oracle has been so modified as to preserve unusual series of active reminiscences of its origin only in its literary framean with sage opens work and in stereotyped introductory phrases. Com2, imperatives, plural: nahamz2, dabber pare, e.g., the linguistic and conceptual points of contact between the rib of Isa. 3:13-15 and that of qir>i, "comfort ye," "speak ye," "proPsalm 82. The classical introductory formulas of the claim ye." The problem of the identity of prophetic rib ("Hear, O Mountains, the lawsuit of of the Foundations ear and the subject of these imperatives has >, Yahweh, <give O earth"; Mic. 6:2a; "Listen, O Heavens, give ear, O baffled commentators. Traditionally it has Earth"; Isa. 1:2a; '"Be astonished, O Heavens, on this Mountains be >"; account; appalled greatly, <O been held that Yahweh here directs Jer. 3:12; cf. Jer. 3:9, 10) yet contain direct reminis"prophets in general," Israel's priests,5 or cences of Yahweh's address to the powers of heaven and earth which formed his court. the remnant of the faithful to proclaim The lawsuit theme woven through chaps. 41-46 the message of consolation. That such and 48 of Second Isaiah has especial relevance to our discussion. Here Yahweh addresses the pagan nainterpretations are forced has been recogtions calling upon them (and Israel) to hear his case. nized by most moderns. C. C. Torrey has The real lawsuit, however, is between Yahweh, lord of history, and the idol-gods. There is, of course, no suggested that the plural is "rhetorical question of a literal debate between the God of Israel and indefinite" ;6 similarly Paul Volz conand the gods of the nations. Nevertheless, the ancient device the artistic is as used through tends that the plural imperatives are not literary pattern which the prophet presents the case of Yahweh over logical but for poetic mood, to intensify against the case of the pagan divinities. Note espein imcouched the formulas, introductory the emotional force of the passage.' But cially peratives, in Isa. 41:1; 41:21 (on this verse see C. C. each of these interpretations is ad hoc. Torrey, The Second Isaiah [New York, 1928], pp. 48:14-16. 45:20; Rather the setting is the heavenly council 317f.); 4 Both in Ugaritic literature and also in biblical in which Yahweh addresses his heralds, literature, the use of the first person plural is characteristic of address in the heavenly council. The naham~, naham camm ", "comfort ye, familiar "we" of Gen. 1:26, "Let us make man in our comfort ye my people."' That such is the image ... ," Gen. 3:22, "Behold, the man is become
and Gen. 11:7, "Come, let us go as one of us ...," has down and let us confound their language ...," long been recognized as the plural address used by Yahweh in his council. Compare in Asherah's speech to the assembly of El in Ugaritic Text 49:I, nmlk (20, 26), "Let us make (N.) king," and El's decree to the assembly in Text 51:IV:43, 44 (cf. CAnat V:3941): mlkn 'a-Viy(n) bCltptn w'in dclnh, "Our king is 'APiyan Baal; our judge without peer." The usage is quite rare, however, in prophetic materials. 5 Cf. LXX Oe&s. lipe-C, vs. 1, 2. The rendering I (cf. arose, perhaps, from a text reading ~j DS Isaiah A). 6 Torrey, op. cit., p. 304. 7 Jesaia II, KzAT (Leipzig, 1932), p. 2. 8 The proclamation of Yahweh to his council frequently appears in early poetic or epic sources couched in a series of plural imperatives. This style is familiar from Psalm 82, where Yahweh holds court



dramatic background of the passage is immediately confirmed by the following verses in which herald voices (introduced are heard proclaimq6rP or q6l a6m&r)9 q61l the divine ing message quite as directed in verses 1 and 2. Their proclamation announces the imminence of Yahweh's appearance in acts of redemption and, more specifically, directs preparations for the construction of a "superhighway" on which Yahweh will march through a transformed desert at the head of his people. This herald proclamation in verses 3 and 4, to level hills and raise valleys, is directed to supernatural beings, to the council of Yahweh. This is indicated in the cosmic scale of the preparations for the divine theophany and is substantiated by Malachi's comment (3:1): "Behold I send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me."o1 In verses 6-8 an anonymous herald addresses the prophet, announcing to him his inaugural oracle, "All flesh is grass . . . but the word of our God shall stand for("judges") in the heavenly assembly and directs the bene Cely6n, "Judge ye the weak and fatherless; deal justly with the oppressed and poor... ." One may also compare the early Canaanite poem, Psalm 29 (for recent literature on this poem see Cross, "Notes on a Canaanite Psalm in the Old Testament," BASOR, No. 117 [Feb. 1950], 19-20) where the council of the beng 'il~m is directed to do obeisance to Yahweh when he makes his holy appearance before them. Similarly we find in the Canaanite mythological texts the directives of gods to messengers, the speeches of messengers in El's assembly, and the decrees of gods before the divine council. These are characteristically reiterated literary types, frequently introduced in a series of plural imperatives. All the abovenamed categories can be found, for example, in Text 137:11 ff. The repetition of identical imperative forms (nabamg, nahamg, etc.) also is frequently a mark of the style of these council directives and, indeed, is found together with other characteristic types of repetition as a stylistic feature of a variety of archaic Hebrew and Canaanite verse-forms. Cf. the discussion of W. F. Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy, ed. H. H. Rowley (Edinburgh, 1950), pp. 3-8. SSee H. Gressmann, "Die literarische Analyse Deuterojesajas," ZA W, XXXIV (1914), 262. 10 Cf. the excellent discussion of Volz, op. cit., p. 3.

ever." Verse 6a is to be read with the versions and the new Dead Sea Isaiah (A), "A (herald) voice said, 'Proclaim'; and I said,"1'What shall I proclaim?' " The parallel to Isa. 6:1-8 is remarkable.12 It is strange that the full force of the symbolism of Yahweh's council in the opening verses of chapter 40 has not been recognized."3Various modern commentators, notably Cheyne, Duhm, Gressmann, Volz, and Robinson, have recognized that a "colloquy of angelic voices" is heard in verses 3 ff. but have failed to recognize in verses 1 and 2 the typical formal opening of an oracle in which Yahweh directs his heralds in the heavenly assembly. Part of the difficulty has been the tendency, since Gressmann's important analysis of the oracle types in Second Isaiah, to split verses 1-8 of chapter 40 into three isolated auditions.14Mowinckel, while following Gressman in part, correctly grasps the programmatic character of the three parts and is moved to call the whole a "Berufungsaudition."15 The unity and orderly development of the three-part oracle becomes quite clear, however, when verses 1 and 2 as well as the herald voices following are understood as composed in the dramatic imagery of a scene in Yahweh's heavenly assembly.1" Other passages in materials of DeuteroIsaianic type must be similarly analyzed.
11 Cf.

also Zech. 1: 14.

12 DS Isa. A reads


13The writer was pleased to learn in a recent conversation with Professor James Muilenburg that he had arrived independently at a similar interpretation of Isa. 40:1 ft. It will appear in his forthcoming commentary on Second Isaiah in the Interpreter's Bible. Gressmann, op. cit., pp. 264 f. "Die Komposition des deuterojesajanischen Buches," ZA W, NF, VIII (1931), 88 f. 16Vs. 9-11 may belong with vs. 1-8; in any case, an interesting variation in form and imagery appears. Now Jerusalem-Zion, personified in the role of a herald (note mebabiret is feminine in agreement with Jerusalem-Zion), is called upon to proclaim to her daughtercities the return of the Royal Shepherd into their midst.

is S. Mowinckel,



However, the two categories distinguished above, Yahweh's proclamation to his heavenly retainers and the proclamation of the heralds in Yahweh's name, may not always be distinguished easily in a brief or fragmentary oracle. In Isa. 48:20-21 there is a brief oracle, isolated in the context and without introduction. Verse 20 aP-b reads, "Publish ye, announce ye this (message); proclaim it to the ends of the earth; say ye, 'Yahweh has redeemed his servant Jacob!' " The verbs here are the telltale plural imperatives which characteristically introduce Yahweh's commands to his heralds. The content of the proclamation is quoted in this case at the beginning of the oracle (vs. 20 aa), "Go forth from Babylon, flee from the Chaldeans. ." ... Similarly in 57:14b there is a fragmentary oracle, couched in plural imperatives, "'Andone speaks, introduced by we~amar: 'Cast up, cast up (a highway), prepare the way; lift away the barrier from the way of my people.' " Evidently we have to do with an angelic proclamation addressed to Yahweh's council," or, less probably, Yahweh's address to his attendants. Another passage of the same genre is found in Isa. 35:3-4. The writer would assign this chapter following Torrey, R. B. Y. Scott,"8 and Olmstead,'9 among
17 Cf. Vol, op. cit., pp. 216 f., who correctly connects this verse with the herald voices of Isa. 40:3, 6.

others, to Second Isaiah. The problem of authorship is of no real concern, however, in the present discussion. This passage precisely parallels chapter 40 in content, as has been recognized generally. It opens with the announcement of the transformation of nature to accompany Yahweh's redemption of his creation. Then directives to encourage and console Israel and to proclaim the day of Yahweh's rescue are given to the messengers of the heavenly host: hazzeq?. . . Dammes. . .imrz. A number of other passages of like literary type may be discovered in the late materials in Isaiah (Isa. 52:7-10; 62:1012; cf. 44:26;20 40:2621), as well as in both earlier and later prophetic literature.22 But these will serve to illustrate the role which oracle types reflecting the imagery of the council of Yahweh play in the prophetic poetry of Second Isaiah.
18 "The Relation of Isaiah, Chapter 35, to DeuteroIsaiah," (AJSL, LII (1936), 178-91. 19"II Isaiah and Isaiah, Chapter 35," AJSL, LIII (1937), 251 ff. 20Here cabdddw (MT J'jYt) is paralleled by mal'dkdw. This has frequently been interpreted as referring to the prophets (cf. 42:19); but see Job 4:18, where the same terms certainly apply to the heavenly attendants of Yahweh. 21 Here Yahweh is pictured as marshaling and mustering his heavenly army. Cf. Isa. 45:12. 22 Zech. 3:1 ff. is an especially striking passage. Note the address in imperatives plural to the assembly in vs. 4. On the interpretation and reconstruction of the corrupt text here see N. Johansson, Parakletoi (Lund, 1940), pp. 34 ff. This work was called to the writer's attention by Professor C. U. Wolf.

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