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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The book of Isaiah takes on new meaning when read in the aftermath of the Shoah in which some six million Jews were deliberately murdered, along with six million Gentiles, by Nazi Germany and its European sympathizers during World War II. The book of Isaiah attempts to interpret the period from the late eighth century bce through the early fourth century bce, when both Israel and Judah were destroyed respectively by the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, and Judah was ultimately restored as a subject province of the Persian Empire. In the aftermath of this experience, the ideals articulated in Isaiah are not realized by the end of the book. Isaiah’s failure to realize its ideals raises questions concerning Yhwh’s power, presence, and righteousness in relation to Yhwh’s own failure to protect Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel from invasion and destruction by foreign empires. Insofar as such questions arise in relation to the modern experience of the Shoah, it is appropriate to raise critical questions about Yhwh’s fidelity to the covenant with Israel analogous to those raised in relation to the Shoah. This chapter therefore proceeds by examining several key features of the book that raise such questions, including Isaiah’s commission account in Isa 6; the portrayal of King Ahaz of Judah in relation to the Syro-Ephraimitic War and the hiddenness of Yhwh in Isa 7–12; the identification of Yhwh with the Persian Empire in Isa 13–27 and 40–55; and the attempts to blame the people of Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel in Trito-Isaiah and elsewhere in the book rather than Yhwh for the failure to ensure national security. Overall, this essay argues that humans cannot depend upon G-d for protection. Instead, humans must take their share of responsibility for ensuring the righteousness, holiness, and integrity of the world in partnership with G-d.

Keywords: Ahaz, Davidic covenant, fidelity, Holocaust, Isaiah, prophetic commission, Shoah

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