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THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET

ISAIAH

INTRODUCTION

THE PROPHECIES OF ISAIAH

INTRODUCTION

$. I. THE PERIOD OF ISAIAH'S ACTIVITY. THE eighth century B.C. was the period of the greatest external and internal change that Israel had witnessed since the people had settled within the borders of Canaan. It is true that the latter half of the preceding century (the ninth) had brought great humiliations upon Israel at the hands of his energetic northern rival Syria (called Aram by the Semites). This northern kingdom had been previously held in check by the powerful dynasty of Omri, as well as by the reawakened military power of Assyria under Shalmaneser II in 854 B.C. But it cannot be asserted that Syria was in any true sense a factor of permanent military importance. Like Israel, it was only able to make a considerable impression on surrounding kingdoms so long as Assyria remained dormant. Thus when Rammân-nirâri III 1, towards the close of the ninth century, revived the military power of Assyria, he inflicted an overwhelming defeat on Aram (Syria) from which it never fully recovered (circ. 803 B.C.). He is, in fact, the ' deliverer' of King Jehoahaz from Hazael to which 2 Kings xiii. 5 refers. Assyria, however, after this brief period of revived energy, subsided into another period of military quiescence.

The name is read by Winckler (KAT.3, p. 46) Adad-nirari. The cuneiform sign with the syllabic value im may be read, as an ideogram, either as Rammân, Bir, or Hadad (Adad). See Delitzsch, Assyrische Lesestücke", Schrifttafel, No. 225.

During this interval of temporary decline of Assyrian power, covering the earlier half of the eighth century, both Israel under Jeroboam II and Judah under Uzziah (Azariah) grew in strength and importance. The confines of the former were considerably extended (2 Kings xiv. 25, 28) towards the north, while in the south Jeroboam's contemporary, Uzziah, greatly strengthened Judah's military position. This we learn from the accounts preserved in 'Chronicles,' which may be regarded as in the main trustworthy so far as the political administration is concerned 1. But this extension of influence was after all a mushroom growth, and any revival of Assyrian power on the Tigris threatened it with speedy destruction. This revival came in the latter part of the eighth century under Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727), called by the Babylonians Pûlu (whence the Pul of Scripture, an alternative name of this king, 2 Kings xv. 19, cf. verse 29 and chap. xvi. 7). The advent of this new Assyrian monarch to the throne brought with it an epoch-making change in the history of Israel both internal and external. Tiglath-Pileser (in Assyr. Tuklat-abal-išarra) was succeeded after the short reign of Shalmaneser IV (Assyr. Šulmanu-ašaridu) by Sargon II (Šarru-kinu), who reigned from 722 to 705 B.c. 2; and Sennacherib, who succeeded in 705 B.C., continued the policy of military conquest inaugurated by Tiglath-Pileser. In fact, from the accession of Tiglath-Pileser till the close of the reign of Ašurbanipal, in the middle of the following century, Assyria continued its victorious course as an aggressive military state. At the close of the eighth century the Assyrian empire extended to the Persian Gulf and the shores of the Araxes on the east; and to Edom, Gaza,

i For further details see the author's article Uzziah' in Hastings DB.

2 These dates are absolutely assured on the ground of the official lists of Assyrian eponyms. See Appendix I at the end of this Introduction,

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