First Isaiah Affirmed or Superceded?; Pure Gentiles

1.  In my reading today of Messianism Within the Scriptural Scrolls of Isaiah, Randall Heskett argues that Cyrus within the Book of Isaiah as a whole has been de-Messianized, even though Cyrus is called God’s Messiah in Second Isaiah (Isaiah 45:1). 

My understanding of Randall’s argument is as follows: Granted, the Book of Isaiah as a whole acknowledges that Cyrus defeated Israel’s enemy, Babylon, brought Israel’s exile to an end, and contributed to the restoration of Jerusalem.  In doing these things, Cyrus acted as God’s instrument, as Assyria and Babylon likewise served God’s purposes (only Assyria and Babylon expressed God’s wrath, whereas Cyrus was an instrument of God’s mercy and goodness towards Israel).  But Cyrus was not a Messiah in the sense that Isaiah as a whole depicts the Messiah: a Davidid who would promote righteousness and preside over an era of paradise.  In the Book of Isaiah as a whole, Randall argues, Cyrus is overshadowed by the Davidic Messiah.  Randall maintains that the predictions of eschatological paradise in Isaiah 65:17-25 pertain to the Davidic Messiah, even though this passage does not explicitly mention the Davidic monarch.  Randall notes that Isaiah 65:17-24 cites Isaiah 11, which actually does concern the righteous Davidic king who would preside over a time of peace and paradise.

As I said in my post, Kenites in the White Hats, Except…; Literary Simultaneity, Paul Hanson has a different approach: he believes that Third Isaiah was opposed to the reinstitution of the Davidic monarchy, and (if I’m not mistaken) the Zadokite priesthood as well.  During my thesis defense, he asked me why a canonical approach to Isaiah could not assume that Second-Third Isaiah’s opposition to the reinstitution of the Davidic monarchy superceded First Isaiah’s support of the institution.  Maybe God changed his mind and decided to accomplish his eschatological restoration apart from the seed of David!  (Dr. Hanson didn’t explicitly say this, but both he and John Townsend, who was my second reader, made the point that God can change his mind.)  When Third Isaiah refers to Isaiah 11, therefore, is he affirming everything in that chapter, including its prediction of a righteous Davidic king?  Or is Third Isaiah saying that many of the eschatological hopes of Isaiah 11 are still valid, but that God won’t use a Davidic king to bring them to pass?  Rather, God will use Cyrus, the servant, and the nation of Israel.

2.  In my reading today of Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah, Jacob Neusner states (on page 102), “Gentiles are not susceptible to this form of uncleanness (M. Neg. 3:1; 11:1; 12:1).”  Gentiles do not contract impurity from leprosy, neither do their clothes or their houses.  That only applies to Israelites.  This interests me because you’d think that impurity is impurity and defiles the land, regardless of who the person is.  But the Mishnah says otherwise.

I was thinking some about the Torah and the Gentiles during my weekly quiet time in Ecclesiastes 1.  In Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:28, we read that some Gentiles have abstained from swine’s flesh, but only the Israelites will be rewarded by God for doing so, for the Israelites avoid pork in obedience to God’s command.  A note said that, according to the passage, some Gentiles abstained from pork and benefitted thereby because they were protected from ills.  This surprised me somewhat, for the popular Christian, Jewish, and scholarly view is that the Israelite food laws had nothing to do with health, but rather with ritual purity.  But here, a note is saying that abstention from pork is good for one’s health, according to the rabbinic document of Ecclesiastes Rabbah.  At the same time, it affirms that God gave the food laws to Israel, not to the Gentiles.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to First Isaiah Affirmed or Superceded?; Pure Gentiles

  1. Huh! Interesting to see a Jewish perspective on the relationship of Gentiles to the Israelite dietary laws. Are there Rabbinic texts which promote different views about Gentile observance of the food laws?


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Hi Josiah. My understanding is that rabbinic texts say Jews can’t eat unclean meats, but that law doesn’t apply to Gentiles. Even the text I discuss here has that view. But the prohibition on eating blood applied to Jews and Gentiles, for it’s part of the Noachide commands.


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