Peter & Kelly

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Peter & Kelly + Lukas + Emmet + Danai

Going to Heaven: The concept of heaven in the Bible and Christian teaching
Research Paper (All Nations Christian College) 2 June 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?
Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Passages from Colossians and Hebrews compared
Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?
Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

The Gospel and the Religions
Reading Report Theology of Mission (All Nations Christian College) 11 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Efforts towards unity within the church
Assignment Churchplanting (All Nations Christian College) 27 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Jesus: transactional or transformational?
Assignment Leadership (All Nations Christian College) 20 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises
Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Do missionaries destroy cultures?
Assignment Social Anthropology (All Nations Christan College) 6 December 2002 — Peter Passchier

Temple Tumult
Assignment New Testament: Gospels and Acts (All Nations Christian College) 29 November 2002 — Peter Passchier

Acts
Initial Assignment (All Nations Christian College) 1 October 2002 — Peter Passchier

A Narrow Escape
A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier



Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises

Introduction

The major biblical information about the Syro-Ephraimite crisis under Ahaz and the Assyrian crisis under Hezekiah comes from the books of Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah. In the unfolding of these political events Isaiah's interactions with the Judean kings play a significant role. The book of Isaiah will be regarded and contrasted with those of his contemporaries, followed by an overview of the political history and a treatment of the biblical sources for the crises —first in Kings and Chronicles, then the book of Isaiah— which will lead to a conclusion about Isaiah's role in these crises.

Isaiah: prophet & prophecy

Outside of tradition, inference and speculation, very little is known about this remarkable man, to whom a significant portion of the Hebrew Scriptures is attributed. He was called in the temple, had a wife he called 'the prophetess', and had children: Shear-Jashub —Remnant Shall Return— and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz — Spoil Speeds Prey Hastes. Most commentators find it difficult to determine what exactly these names signify. Shear-Jashub carries the idea of both judgment and promise, possibly referring to the outcome of the Syro-Ephraimite crisis, but Isaiah 37:31 echoes these ideas in relation to the Assyrian crisis. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz probably refers to the downfall of king Pekah and king Rezin. Some commentators suggest that the sign of Immanuel —signifying unabated encouragement— also refers to a child of Isaiah, but this is unlikely because of dating problems and the way the mother is referred to. Many scholars argue that Isaiah is at ease in royal circles; according to Jewish tradition he is a cousin of Uzziah. Isaiah is active in Jerusalem —Zion is a key concept in his message— but at the same time both kingdoms are in view — the two houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14). The two main historical events he focuses on are the Syro-Ephraimite and Assyrian crises, and as much as Ahaz is condemned in the first, Hezekiah is lauded in the latter— in correspondence to the evaluations in Kings and Chronicles. Isaiah is called as a prophet in the year that Uzziah died (736 BC).

The message of Isaiah is foremost about salvation; this has been acknowledged by the quotes in the New Testament and by Christian thinkers, but it is also reflected in a rabbinic listing (Seitz, 1993) where Isaiah follows after Jeremiah's judgment and Ezekiel's half-judgment, half-salvation proclamation — in this arrangement the last is a place of prominence! The concept of holiness is characteristic of his writings. His prophecies apply to the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah (Clements, 1980), though he was in office when Jotham reigned and most probably still alive when Manasseh started to reign. According to tradition, Manasseh had him put to death by a wood saw.

Contemporary prophets

Dating the prophets can be difficult for lack of reference to a historical time frame — not all prophetic books have lists of kings. Two contemporaries to Isaiah stand out: Hosea and Micah. Hosea is the earliest prophet, lived very long, and illustrated his prophecy in a very graphic way by living out what Israel was doing in the Lord's eyes. He is the first to warn Israel about its ways while foreseeing ultimate destruction. His message is mainly directed to the Northern kingdom. His office spans a long time —Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah— and has a large overlap with Isaiah. Micah also largely overlapped with Isaiah's office during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He prophesied about Samaria and Jerusalem, around the time of the fall of Israel: doom-messages going as far as questioning the promises to David but interspersed with a note of hope. Spiritual harlotry and social injustice were bringing the Lord's wrath on Judah, and quite irrevocably so, although eventually a restoration was promised.

Major nations and the Israelite kingdoms

Egypt

The power of Egypt had begun to decline ever since the establishment of the house of David. Although there had been minor resurgences and occasional raids into the Syro-Palestinian corridor and vassalage of Judah, Pharaoh Necho II was decisively beaten at the Battle of Carchemish (2 Chronicles 35:20, 605 BC) by Babylonia (LaSor, Hubbard & Bush, 1996).

Assyria

Until the Hurrians of Urartu started to decline, Assyria had been tied up in war with them and other nations in the North (Jagersma, 1980). Tiglath-Pileser III, at the height of Assyrian power, defeated the Hurrians (743 BC) and was then able to move West and South towards the Syro-Palestinian corridor. Previous attempts had been partly successful under Ashur-Nasir-Pal II, but problematic under Shalmaneser III who was battling Syro-Israelite alliances, like in Qarqar (853 BC). Assyrian politics de-emphasized vassalage and were geared more towards incorporation and remigration in cases of rebellion (Soggin, 1984). Eventually even Egypt was temporarily incorporated under Esarhaddon after the Assyrian crises, but by then the decline had set in for Assyria, and its end came suddenly when the Medes combined with South-Mesopotamian Chaldeans (Gottwald, 2001) in 612 BC.

Babylonia

Babylon, among other urban centres in Mesopotamia, had been important for centuries. Although many power shifts occurred in Mesopotamia, and its influential culture tended to amalgamate rather than be substituted, the Neo-Babylonians took control of Mesopotamia defeating the Assyrians in 612 BC, after both the crises under discussion.

Syria

Syria had managed to disassociate itself from Solomon's kingdom, and when Judah had sought Syria's help against Israel they had managed to expand their power and territory, on occasion attacking Judah as well. Occasionally Syria allied with Israel against Assyria, but the house of Jehu of Israel paid tribute to Assyria and formed an alliance with them against Syria (800 BC).

Israel

In Israel, the emergence of an administrative ruling class under Solomon and the associated tax system, together with the establishment of a professional army, had gradually led to corruption, inequality and abuse of power (Lemche, 1988). The division of the kingdom after Solomon's death had left Judah with the original administrative centre, however, Israel was greater than Judah in population and military strength, although less coherent in ethnical terms. There were several dynastic lines trying to keep on the throne with associated palace revolts, consequently, the attempts by Israel's subsequent kings to unify through religio-political means is understandable. Israel's Northern neighbours managed to gradually take away land and cities from Israel, sometimes through alliances sought by Judah, to the extent that it was more often getting referred to as Ephraim —the heartland of the Northern kingdom— in accordance with Jacob's blessings to Ephraim. In 722 BC, not long after the Assyrian crisis, the Northern kingdom was taken over by the Assyrians, and some 150 years later Judah was led into exile by Babylonia.

The development of the Syro-Ephraimite crisis in Kings and Chronicles

The account of Isaiah's time begins in 2 Kings 14, when Amaziah —Isaiah's uncle, according to tradition— became king in Jerusalem, immediately after the time of Elisha in Israel. Amaziah, having become overconfident after having beaten Edom, challenged to battle Jehoash of Israel, who had beaten Syria according to Elisha's prophecy. Amaziah got beaten and captured by Jehoash. After Jehoash died, a conspiracy from Jerusalem killed him and put his son Azariah —also called Uzziah, Isaiah's cousin— on the throne. He restored Elath to Judah, but ended his days as a leper for acting as a priest in the temple (2 Chronicles 26:19). In the meantime, Jerobeam II had ascended Israel's throne, and although he is evaluated negatively in Kings, he is said to be allowed to restore the border towards the North and East because the affliction by —mainly— the Syrians had been seen by the Lord. He was followed by Zechariah, the last of Jehu's dynasty to reign over Israel (2 Kings 10:30), who was after six months killed by Shallum —possibly motivated by anti-Syrian sentiments— who was killed by Menahem — definitely leaning towards the Assyrians, and paying tribute in order to get their support for his reign (2 Kings 15:19). His son and successor Pekahiah was killed by his general, Pekah, who in turn lost a lot of land and cities to Tiglath-Pileser III's invasions. During his reign, Jotham began to reign in Jerusalem — although he may already have acquired coregency when his father became leperous. The book of Kings explains how —as a judgment of the Lord for not removing the cultic high places— Pekah and Rezin of Damascus allied against Jotham. Chronicles relates his building activities and his military success against the Ammonites. When Jotham's son Ahaz ascended the Southern throne, the stage was set for the Syro-Ephraimite crisis (2 Kings 16).

Ahaz took a turn towards idolatry, and when Rezin and Pekah came to Jerusalem, they could not harm the city. But Rezin did capture Elath, whereupon Ahaz offered tribute to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, who captured Damascus and killed Rezin. According to the book of Kings, Ahaz went for a long visit to Tiglath-Pileser III in Damascus, and had its altar replicated. History suggests that Assyria required some form of acknowledgment of their gods, so this move might not be entirely Ahaz' idea, but it seems he changed much more in the temple than would have been mandatory. Chronicles paints a different picture, also mentioning great losses to the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, moderated by the Israelites listening to the prophet Oded warning them not to go too far against Judah (2 Chronicles 28:9-15). As a judgment on Ahaz, the Edomites and Philistines also came and prevailed against Judah — this also made politico-tactical sense. The tribute to Assyria is mentioned in Chronicles, but is described as ineffectual, and the emulation of the Damascus altar is identified as an offering to the gods of Syria rather than Assyria.

Isaiah on the Syro-Ephraimite crisis

Most commentators note the difficulties in interpreting Isaiah 7-9, not only because of common exegetical problems, but also because they have trouble to properly integrate it with Kings and Chronicles. The prophecy is somewhat positive, and Ahaz might have taken this as a sign that the Lord was not entirely against him thereby feeling free to take precautions according to his own ideas. There is not much ground for speculation (Tomas, 1993) on the reasons for the Syro-Ephraimite attack on Jerusalem to be found in Isaiah's writings — the reason mentioned is to put the son of Tabeel on Judah's throne. Barton (1999) remarks that Isaiah warns against paying tribute to Assyria rather than taking defensive actions against the threat of the armies from the North. This is in line with Isaiah's admonition to be on guard and to not fear — for, out of mistrust in God's promises for the house of David, protection would be sought with Assyria. The threat may have been dealt with the same way, regardless of how king Ahaz would have responded to Isaiah's words, with the distinction that Judah would not have entered into a vassal relationship to Assyria with the accompanying tribute, and that Ahaz would have trusted the Lord and heeded His warning, instead of provoking judgment.

The development of the Assyrian crisis in Kings and Chronicles

Hezekiah more than mended his father's ways and Kings is most positive regarding him. Chronicles extensively describes how he has the temple cleansed and reconsecrated, and the whole of Israel is invited for a passover celebration — and some from the Northern kingdom came (2 Chronicles 30). The book of Kings mentions that Hezekiah beat the Philistines and refused tribute to the Assyrians. The Assyrians under Shalmaneser conquered and incorporated the Northern kingdom, and started capturing cities in Judah, at which point Hezekiah offered tribute again — but an army was sent against Jerusalem nonetheless.

The exegetical problems in interpreting the account in 2 Kings are aggravated by the noteworthy split between 2 Kings 18:17-19:9a and 19:9b-35, the latter part containing the letter of Sennacherib and the reaction to it. Bright (1980) harmonizes the biblical accounts of 2 Kings 18:13-18 and Isaiah 36-37 by arguing for two Assyrian crises, the second one 21 years later — although he mentions that no definite conclusion can be reached without further external evidence. This has the advantage of fulfilling all of Isaiah's apparently conflicting prophecies, but it is far from a straightforward reading of the biblical texts, does not have extrabiblical Assyrian support, and is nowadays outside of the general scholarly consensus (Barton, 1999). The more widely accepted solution, set out by Childs (1967), sees the account in Chronicles as a midrash on the conflicting accounts in Kings, aiming to reconcile and interpret. Clements (1980) claims that redactions of the book of Isaiah —notably under king Josiah— help account for the interpretative difficulties — but evidence for redactional modification is at best speculative.

Isaiah on the Assyrian crisis

Isaiah's 36-37 account largely matches the account in Chronicles and sets the campaign in a larger context of a raid against Egypt. The Rabshakeh's speech on the reliance on Egypt, the destruction of the high places, continuous Assyrian victory, and the option of Assyrian 'blessing' (Oswalt, 1986) challenged all Isaiah had said to Hezekiah as being mere words, questioning the tenability of Hezekiah's kingship in the face of the great king Sennacherib and his support from the Lord. The details of the situation in Lachish and the possible threat from Egypt and the tactical considerations give an intimate flavor to the story. All ends when the angel of the Lord eradicated the army that was sent against Jerusalem and king Sennacherib was killed by his sons.

Conclusion

There is a remarkable parallel in both crises, where the unfolding of events is dependent on the reaction of the respective kings to Isaiah's prophecy. Ahaz did not heed Isaiah's words and took a calculated risk, and missed the Lord's blessing, while Hezekiah actively sought the Lord, sent for Isaiah, listened and was blessed. Compared to fellow prophets, Isaiah was much more in dialogue with the kings, his warnings were not so much larded with ultimate judgment, and there was more involvement with current events, making his message more practically relevant to government. Isaiah's role can be seen as voicing the Lord's council to the house of Judah and demanding some kind of response — it could be ignored, or it could be heeded, resulting in the Lord's blessing being imparted.

Bibliography

Baker, D.W. (1996) 'Hezekiah' in D.R.W. Wood (ed.) New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: IVP), p.473.

Barton, J. (1999) Isaiah 1-39 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press), ch.2.

Bright, J. A. (1980) History of Israel (London: SCM Press), p.269-88.

Childs, B.S. (1967) Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis (London: SCM).

Clements, R.E. (1980) Isaiah 1-39 (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

Gottwald, N.K. (2001) The Politics of Ancient Israel (Louisville: John Knox Press).

Irvine, S.A. (1990) Isaiah, Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis (Atlanta: Scholars Press).

Jagersma, H.A. (1980) History of Israel in the Old Testament Period (London: SCM Press), ch.13.

LaSor, W.S., Hubbard, D.A. & Bush, F.W. (1996) Old Testament Survey (Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans).

Lemche, N.P. (1988) Ancient Israel & A New History of Israelite Society (Sheffield: JSOT Press), ch.4.

Meyers, R. (2002) 'e-SMeyers, R. (2002) 'e-Sword 6.5.0' at <http://www.e-sword.net>, November 2002.

Oswalt, J.N. (1986) The Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans).

Ridderbos, N.H. (1996) 'Isaiah' and 'Isaiah, Book of' in D.R.W. Wood (ed.) New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: IVP), p.512-8.

Seitz, C.R. (1993) Isaiah 1-39 (Louisville: John Knox Press).

Soggin, J.A. (1984) A History of Israel (London: SCM Press), ch.9-10.

Tomas, R. (1993) 'The Reason for the Syro-Ephraimite War' JSOT 59, p.55-71.

Waite, J.C.J. (1996) 'Ahaz' in D.R.W. Wood (ed.) New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: IVP), p.21.

Wiseman, D.W. (1996) 'Merodach-Baladan' and 'Sennacharib' in D.R.W. Wood (ed.) New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: IVP), p.751-2, 1075-6.


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