Imperial Influence on the Language and Content of Isaiah 40-55

Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper investigates the often made claims that a Babylonian setting of Isa 40-55 is supported by (1) close similarities between the language of Isa 40-55 and Akkadian, (2) by explicit references to Babylon, and (3) by familiarity with its religion and culture. I shall examine these three claims and determine to what degree they really support a Babylonian origin of Isa 40-55. As we shall discover, most, if not all, of these claims do not support a Babylonian setting of Isa 40-55 but rather presuppose it.
The paper begins with a brief discussion of the methods involved in comparative studies of the Bible and the Ancient Near East. The bulk of the paper then looks at Neo-Babylonian imperialism and argues that both the Neo-Assyrian and the Neo-Babylonian Empires exercised considerable influence over Israel and Judah from the eighth century BC and onwards. It follows that superficial knowledge of Babylonian customs in a text is not an argument that proves that its author was a Babylonian resident. Likewise, Akkadian influence on the language and literary style of Isa 40-55 does not necessitate a Babylonian-based author. I shall finally look at a selection of texts that have often been cited as evidence of a Babylonian provenance of Isa 40-55 – for instance the co-called idol fabrication passages (Isa 40:19-20; 41:6-7; 44:9-20, and the reference to Babylon (Isa 4:14; 46:1-2; 47; 48:14, 20) – in order to determine what they tell us about the geographical whereabouts of the authors of Isa 40-55.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIsaiah and Imperial Context
Subtitle of host publicationThe Book of Isaiah in the Times of Empire
EditorsAndrew T. Abernethy, Mark Brett, Tim Bulkeley , Tim Meadowcroft
Place of PublicationEugene, OR
PublisherWipf & Stock
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-1620326237, 162032623X
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventColloquium: Spiritual Complaint - Laidlaw Carey Graduate School, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 10 Feb 201111 Feb 2011


ConferenceColloquium: Spiritual Complaint
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
CityLaidlaw Carey Graduate School, Auckland


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