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Recent Study of Isaiah. 



SEVERAL valuable contributions to the criticism and exegesis of 
Isaiah have lately been made in this Journal. Professor Bin- 
ney's argument from the colophon at Is. 38 s in the Peshitta I must 
leave to others to appreciate ; to me it appears hazardous to assume 
that ch. 39, as well as 38 9 " 20 , was a later addition to the preceding 

Dr. Cobb's careful study, "The Servant of Jahveh," gives a grati- 
fying proof of that scholar's courage in ' repudiating' (his own word) 
an important part of his earlier critical work on Isaiah, and is further 
useful in calling renewed attention to Giesebrecht's view of ch. 53, 
already endorsed by Budde in the Theologische Literaturzcitung 
(1896, col. 288), and by Marti (Theologie ties A. T., by Kaiser and 
Marti, p. 152). That I am at present unable to follow them is no 
warrant that this will always be so. It is not so much the arguments 
of others as the inner working of one's own mind which alters con- 

Professor Porter's " suggestion " respecting Isaiah's Immanuel has 
still more interested me. The difficulties in the way of accepting it 
seem to me, I confess, insuperable ; the ulterior critical consequences 
are such as I can hardly face, and such as the author himself does 
not appear to have completely faced. I think, too, that Professor Por- 
ter's subtle mind has not yet found room for my own arguments as 
given in pp. 32-36, and 39-40, of my Introduction. But I admit 
that in the fragmentary state of the text, and with the certainty that 
it has been interpolated, we cannot hope to place any explanation 
above the reach of objection. Professor Porter, too, has certainly 
done good service by emphasizing the distance between the two 
rival beliefs respecting Jahveh's help to Judah. It is only too likely 
that mothers who soon after Isaiah's prophecy gave their children 
joyous religious names (such as Immanuel, Hizkiah, etc.) lived to 
experience gloomy doubts as to the favorable disposition of Jahveh. 


In one passage, Professor Porter virtually asks me to reconsider my 
view of Is. 8 8b " 10 . At present I would rather maintain the undogma- 
tizing attitude which I took up in my Introduction, but retain a 
certain preference for Giesebrecht's view, because I am not pre- 
pared to make a holocaust of passages in which Isaiah takes a bright 
view of the prospects of Judah. Professor Porter has read my book 
somewhat hastily if he thinks my preference for Giesebrecht's view 
" unaccountable." Were I to attempt a sketch of Isaiah's pictures of 
the future, I should at present take a different course from any of the 
German scholars who have undertaken this task. I should start from 
what I suppose to be the most probable critical facts, and explain 
Isaiah's apparent inconsistencies by the help of history and psy- 
chology. Perhaps I may add that I regard my analysis of ch. 28-31 
as on the whole unassailable. 

Dr. Cobb's interesting study, " The Ode in Is. 14," is more difficult 
for me to speak of. I have called it interesting, but I cannot add 
that it is, to me at least, altogether pleasant reading. It places me 
in an atmosphere in which I miss both " sweetness and light." I 
often marvel at the incaution, and hardly less at the tone of the 
writer. I should not care to answer some of Dr. Cobb's criticisms 
upon my Introduction ; others, like that on my argument from the 
sense of D^vIH in Is. 14, simply arise out of a misapprehension. 

I should like, however, to say something which may perhaps not be 
useless, even from Dr. Cobb's point of view, with reference (1) to 
his treatment of the metre of the great ode, (2) to a theory of 
Winckler, (3) to a theory of Gunkel, which he has adopted. 

1. That Dr. Cobb has given his support to a metrical theory which 
is destined to play no small part in critical discussions, is most satis- 
factory. As he remarks, the wonder is, not that we find some diffi- 
culties, but that our difficulties in bringing out the metre are so few. 
His suggestions are really helpful, though the only one of great 
importance fails to satisfy me. The manifest distortion and corrup- 
tion of part of vs. 19 merely makes it highly probable that there has 
been some mutilation of the text. To include vs. 20 in the fifth 
strophe argues, I think, a neglect of essential differences of style 
between vs. 22 and the preceding passage. Nor can I think that 
"P2K, without an introductory 7\}7\, is plausible, especially as it is an 
unsupported form, even from Dr. Cobb's point of view. But I quite 
agree with him in his dissatisfaction with the superfluous D , "T9 (or 
U n V ?) in vs. 21 . Perhaps the most critical course would be to enclose 
the whole word-group D , "lS TOfT^S l&Ottl within marks of inter- 


rogation. For we can hardly even be sure that 1X723 is correct ; it 
is not a good parallel to WT (cf. Addenda to Isaiah, Hebrew text, 
in Haupt's Old Testament} . 

2. As to Winckler's theory, I meant no offence in calling it 'hasty.' 
It were easy to prove that this brilliant scholar is often hasty ; indeed, 
the mode in which he delights to present his views to the world suffi- 
ciently proves his impatience. I find no fault with this ; there are 
compensations for this unusual eagerness. But I must reassert what 
I have said (Introd., p. 75) respecting the assignment of the ode to 
Isaiah. Had I supposed that this theory would attract much atten- 
tion, I should of course have said more. The question as to who 
was the king referred to in the ode is, from a critic's point of view, a 
subordinate one. The main point is, Did Isaiah, or (for this is the 
only plausible view) some contemporary writer compose it? And 
my reply is that he did not. The evidence of language and ideas is 
altogether opposed to this. And if a contemporary Jewish writer had 
spoken of Sennacherib's death, and triumphed over the murdered 
king, he would certainly not have said that he had " destroyed his 
land, slain his people," nor that his dead body should be excluded 
from the tombs appointed for kings. (Dr. Cobb will see that I do 
not yield an inch to him. He would, I think, have done better, to 
identify the king referred to with Sargon, who might plausibly be said, 
owing to his later ill success, to have " destroyed his land, slain his 
people," and then to refer by way of illustration to Is. 14 29 ). 1 

But the question still deserves to be considered whether the ode 
may not have been written in post-exilic times with reference to the 
murder of Sennacherib. That the Assyrian invasion (with which in 
Is. 37 3738 the murder of the king is brought into close connection) 
long continued to stir the Jewish imagination, I need not pause to 
show. Sennacherib and Nebuchadrezzar became the two great typi- 
cal oppressors of the Jews. Kuenen rightly points out in a context 
referred to by Dr. Cobb (Einleitung, ii. 86) that Isaiah could not 
have thrown himself into the emotional state of the author of the ode, 

1 In connection with this, he might have referred to Sir E. Strachey's Jewish 
History and Politics, ch. ix. To judge from this author's remark on p. 165 (where 
he dates I3' 2 -I4 27 " towards the end of the reign of Ahaz "), he suspected the king 
intended to be, not Sennacherib, but Sargon. At any rate, this ought to have 
been his view. The arguments which he offers for Isaiah's authorship are very 
different, mostly, from Dr. Cobb's. His great object is to show that the title 
"king of Babylon" in I4 4a might have been applied by Isaiah to a king of 
Assyria. His bias is anti-critical. 


assuming this poem to refer to the last king of Babylon, but he would 
certainly have admitted that a poetically gifted Jew in the sixth or 
fifth century B.C. might have imagined the feelings of an earlier gen- 
eration. It would have been but a slight exaggeration for such a 
man to have said that Sennacherib had " destroyed his land, slain his 
people," for he knew nothing of the successes of that king subse- 
quently to 701, and regarded the death of Sennacherib as the punish- 
ment of his treatment of Judah. The metrical resemblance of the 
ode in ch. 14 to the taunt-song in ch. 37 may be taken to furnish a 
slight corroboration of this view. 

But it is still, I think, not impossible that the king intended is the 
last king of Babylon, and, as Dr. Cobb himself remarks, the original 
title of the ode in the collection from which it was taken, most 
probably connected it with a 'king of Babylon.' It is easier to 
explain the words of I4 20 - 21 of the last king of a dynasty than of a 
king who had successors like Sennacherib; and Jer. 50, 51 cannot 
be adequately explained, except on the hypothesis that Babylon con- 
tinued to be a name of horror to the Jews even in the Persian period. 
Surely, too, Dr. Cobb's keen epigram that the satire of 14 1617 , if 
meant of Nabuna'id, would have given the author an immortality of 
ridicule, is misplaced. It is well known that the later Jewish writers 
had little historical knowledge and still less historical spirit, and we 
cannot judge them by modern standards. We do not laugh at 
Shakespeare for his historical lapses ; far less should we ridicule the 
late Jewish author of an ode of triumph on the last king of Babylon. 

3. As to Dr. Cobb's use of Gunkel's theory, 2 I can be brief. Be- 
fore Gunkel wrote, it had been proved that there was a great revival 
of mythological interest in the Babylonian and Persian period, owing 
to which the later writers contrast strongly with the sobriety and pale 
coloring of their predecessors. To Gunkel's work I have done full 
justice in the Critical Review and elsewhere, but I have not dis- 
guised its faults. It is impossible to point out a single distinct refer- 
ence to Assyrio-Babylonian mythology in the pre-Exilic prophetic 
literature. The ode in Is. 14 is prophetic in spirit, but cannot, on the 
ground of its references to that mythology, be of pre-Exilic origin. 
At earliest, it may conceivably be contemporary with Ez. 26 1 " 19 , to 
which in contents it is so closely analogous, but there are solid reasons 
for placing it later. Dr. Cobb's arguments on pp. 28-30 of Vol. xv. 

2 How is it that Dr. Cobb makes no use of Gunkel's conjecture '3HK for 'JBX 


are, I believe, as unsound as his criticism on the linguistic evidence. 
But I heartily recognize in him an earnest fellow-seeker after truth, 
and I trust that many may be stirred up by his example to a deeper 

study of the prophetic literature. 

Since this article was written I note Hugo Winckler's recent 
attempt {Altorientalische Forschungen v. 414) to make Sargon 
rather than Sennacherib the subject of the ode. This only shows 
to my mind the futility of any pre-exilian reference.