& CREATION OF JUDAISM
5. Persian Propaganda
Prophets: The Persian Propagandists
Biblicists always have trouble in seeing through the internal
chronology of the bible. They know full well that the Jews were
particularly fond of writing pseudepigraphs, works that pretend to be by
an authoritative writer. There is a whole faculty of biblicism devoted to
studying pseudepigraphs, but too many biblical experts refuse to accept
that the bible itself is full of them. They will accept the odd book, such
as Daniel as being a pseudepigraph because it is so obvious it
cannot be denied, but they will persist that other books of the prophets
are all historical works, contemporary with the events they describe! The
prophets are known entirely from the bible. They are not historical
figures. Christian commentators will give convincing sounding lives and
times of the prophets but they are paraphrases of the bible tied in with
contemporary history also from the bible or from the supposed time of the
In a world that was happily polytheistic, biblicists believe it is
credible that strange men should stand up and decry all the deities that
people knew and loved, and mainly escape with their lives. Not only that,
but their obviously unpalatable message that there was only one god—the
prophets carried on with their ranting for several hundred years (c 800-c 600 BC)
with no apparent effect—nevertheless, and inconsistently, was recorded
in a time and place where writing was expensive and unusual so that it is
now still readable in God’s Holy word. A miracle!
The core of the prophetic messages was in three parts—a rebuke, a
call for repentance, and a threat. It was the threats that were supposedly
prophetic, being the threat of conquest or exile—threats that were,
remarkably enough, realised! They were realised, obviously enough, because
the prophetic books were written after the events threatened had already
occurred. They were written after the colonisation of Judah by the Persian
The Hebrew word for prophets is “nebiim”, singular, “nabi”, as
plain as the nose on your face, a word derived from the name “Nabu”
(Nebo, in the bible) of a Babylonian god—the one considered, like
Mercury, to have been the messenger of the gods. A “nabi” in the
Jewish scriptures is a man who brings a message from God. The message from
God in the scriptures was the rebuke against idolatry—supposedly at a
time when all religion consisted of worshipping idols or symbols—or
apostasy, and the promised threat of retribution if the backsliding did
not cease. To anyone rational, the nature of the rebuke and the
realisation of prophesied threat ought to be proof enough that the books
were not accounts of contemporary history, but were written when the
rebuke meant something and the prophecy had already happened—after the
“return” from Babylon.
The Persian religion was itself a singular religion in that it was the
first to forbid representation of its transcendental God, Ahuramazda. The
message of the prophets was the message of the Persian religion that could
have meant nothing to the people of the Palestinian hills until Persians
arrived to settle there after about 500 BC. The messages of the
prophets also had a political function—the people of these tiny
countries were warned not to support their powerful neighbours, Egypt and
Babylonia, at a time when they were bound to be in the sphere of influence
of one or the other. This additional message suited the Persian conquerors
of these countries.
The significance of the prophets is immense in explaining the origins
of Judaism. They were professional propagandists used by the Persians to
predispose people towards their way of thinking, and it is known that
Cyrus used such propagandists in preparing to attack a country. Propaganda
was doubtless always their function. They were messengers all right but
were messengers usually for the king or various parties acting in the
country. They were the radio stations or news stands, or the equivalent of
the medieval town cryer, but sponsored by different factions.
Prophets were the soap box orators of their time. They stood on market
places or at cross roads haranguing the passing crowds with their
assessment of the state of the nation. At certain times, some will have
been favouring foreign intervention. Prophets claimed to be speaking on
behalf of God and they proclaimed it, defended it and fought for it like
latter day politicians. In fact, they did not do this out of the love of
God or from his instructions but, just as politicians do at election
times—to influence the people.
Christians, even clever ones, think that prophets could read the
future. Many Christian scholars and commentators accept that they foresaw
the fall of Jerusalem or Babylon or Tyre. Thus, they can tell us without a
blush that Isaiah lived in the seventh century and Daniel in the sixth
century, even though they prophesied later events. It ought to be evident
that Isaiah and Daniel either lived after their supposed prophecies
occurred, or their prophecies and probably they too were projected into
the past by later writers who knew what had happened.
The prophetic books are misplaced in our bibles, appearing at the back
of the Old Testament, but they had been written when most other
books including the Pentateuch were being written as is plain from
prophetic references and allusions. Even within the books of prophets,
they are not in their correct order. Except for the short works, the books
of the prophets were obviously not written by a single author, despite
absurd recent attempts by purblind Christian “scholars” to maintain
the opposite, contrary to the obvious clues within the books themselves.
They are collections of visions and utterances compiled and placed into an
historical situation as a pseudepigraph.
Some prophets do not have their own books but appear in the
“historical” section of the bible. Elijah and Elisha are the best
known. Really Elijah and Elisha two are the two sides of the same coin.
They appear in the Deuteronomic History as the prophets who oppose and
defeat the worshippers of the Baals. Elijah, which means “My God is
Yehouah”, stands for the struggle against the Canaanite gods, in which
the prophet, as his name implies, is the determined assertion of the new
god, Yehouah defying the native religions. Elisha, which means “My God
is Salvation”, is the prophet symbolising Yehouah’s victory over the
Baals—Yehouah is asserted and the people saved by their allegiance to
him. The Canaanite gods are in disarray, the objects only of apostasy.
Again, the pair symbolize the El to Yehouah transition that occurred in
the fifth century.
Nothing in the book of Isaiah after chapter 39 is the work of the eighth
century prophet, and perhaps even very little before.
B S J Isserlin, The Israelites
Isaiah is supposed to be an eighth century prophet living in Jerusalem,
and the first 39 chapters maintain that pretence. Chapter 40-55 are more
honest, being supposedly written in the “exile”, while the last
chapters 56-66 seem to be written some time after the “return.”
If the prophets were Persian propagandists, they were fifth and fourth
century figures partly written back into the imaginary history of the Jews
to give a mixed group of colonists a basis for self identity, unity and
patriotism. Even then, within the major sections, there are obvious
inserts of different authorship and date. Commentators make out that each
prophet founded a prophetic school and the biblical “prophet” is a
compilation of the work of members over the years. A simpler hypothesis is
that the words of official propagandists had been collected thematically
for the use of the temple priesthood in warning the people to be obedient.
The theme is reflected in the name of the prophet, so the book of a
prophet of a certain name began as a collection of oracles or warnings by
Persian infiltrators or sympathisers with a particular message.
William Neil, in his popular one volume commentary on the bible, can
It was in Babylon that the Jews most noticeably acquired their sense of
being different, of being a peculiar and indeed superior race.
The truth is that this sense was not acquired, it was deliberately
given to them by the Persians so that they would set up the temple state
of Yehud. The prophets were the people who conditioned them into their
beliefs. They were taught by prophets before they had any law, and
possibly in some cases like Ezekiel before they were transported to Yehud.
Commentators will tell us that in “exile”, the Jews, devoid of a
temple for expression of their piety, expressed it in ways that made them
unusual and exclusive in the foreign society. They emphasized the sabbath,
their food taboos and their cleanliness and purity laws. These practices
“marked them out as being different.” It is nonsense. The sabbath was
observed by the Babylonians who considered it an unlucky day and did not
work on it. The Persians observed meticulous food and purity laws because
in their Zoroastrian religion, some things were of the evil creation and
polluted Ahuramazda’s good creation. Thus, they had to be avoided. What
reason had the Jews for avoiding them? When the Babylonians and their
conquerors observed with better reason, the supposed practices of the
alien Jews, how were they making themselves different? They were doing the
opposite. They were assimilating to the local customs and practices not
expressing their own exclusiveness derived from a supposed unique
The “returners” were not an exiled ethnic group of people but
people of mixed race, probably mainly Aramaeans and Assyrians from the
small kingdoms in the north of the Levant and Syria, possibly with some
Greeks. They will have had some initial coaching in a simplified form of
Zoroastrianism, giving rise to the idea that some of the prophets worked
in exile, but then were sent on their imposed mission to set up a
“kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6)—the temple
state and tresury of Abarnahara.
Christian commentators ask us to consider the time and the place of the
prophecies to put them in context, but every point of detail we have about
their time and place is supplied by the same book of myths. Some
historical events, known by the Persian compilers from Assyrian records,
served as an historical framework. First Isaiah pretends to be in
Jerusalem before its fall to the Babylonians, in the period of Assyrian
domination. It uses the conquests of these two aggressive nations to warn
the colonists and the native people they are to rule that the same fate
can be expected if they do not obey God.
First Isaiah has been considerable edited and expanded at a
later date, probably finally in the time of the Maccabees by the Hasids or
Essenes whose apocalyptic interests it reflects, but the original
collection would have inspired the additions. It is plainly indebted to
the editors of the Deuteronomic History because the last chapters
of First Isaiah are copied from Kings, and much of its style
and interests are like those of the Deuteronomic Historian—the perpetual
theme of apostasy and punishment, obedience to the True God and reward.
The colonists were led to believe that their dedication would be an act
in the victory over evil. It looks forward to a period of peace under a
just ruler, a barely veiled allusion to the Persian King, though presented
as an eschatological saviour. He would bring about a renewal of the world,
a new creation free of evil and corruption. The burden of preparing for
this task was placed upon Israel who therefore were given an onerous duty
but with the promise of the honour and reward that its success would
bring. Christians might be right that the Emmanuel “prophecy” was of
an eschatological saviour whom God would send to bring about the renewal,
but this was the Persian viceroy for God on earth.
Second Isaiah is the heart of the redactional process (Rendtorff,
Williamson)—the original Isaiah, to which the other two have been
added. The eighth century prophet does not appear in the book after Isaiah
39, a problem that Christians resolve by the eighth century prophet’s
ability as a clairvoyant. King David is a mythological character invented
by the authors of the Deuteronomic History. He appears ten times in Isaiah,
nine of them in First Isaiah, indicating that it is written by some
author with the same interests and precedents. Second Isaiah makes
one mention of David in its final chapter, but it was probably inserted,
because it and the one sentence following it appear out of the blue. An
editor added it thinking it was appropriate in a list of the benefits of
the New Covenant. Both Second Isaiah and Third Isaiah were
written before David was invented when Cyrus was considered the saviour
king of Judah.
The whole of Isaiah, in traditional commentaries, is prejudiced
by the acceptance of the propaganda that the colonists from Persia were
returning Jews. Plainly they were presented in that way but the later
interpreters have gone much further than even the originals. Second
Isaiah seems to be propaganda contemporaneous with the
“returners”—the colonists being sent to form the temple state. It
instructs the colonists on how to present propaganda to the native
From Deutero-Isaiah, G Garbini sees Isaiah as having a
religious vision of Yehouah as Ahuramazda, and wanting to spread the idea,
but “once again, it remained unheard”. He sees the Iranian
consequences as marginal, and more of a “literary legacy than a real
ideological adherence”. A professor only of philology might conclude
this, but it is a serious blind spot for someone like Garbini. If he had
seriously compared Judaism with Zoroastrianism, and wondered why it should
be that the latter explains practices in the former that it does not
explain, then the relationship of the two would be undeniable.
The two diverged when Judaism became Hellenized then Rabbinized, and
Alexander tried to destroy the Persian religion by torching its holy
texts. Zoroastrianism survived by eastern regimes subsequently picking up
the pieces but much had been lost forever. Even so, too much is alike in
the pieces of each that remain of Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and the fact
that the latter has the answers shows it to be primary.
Great civilisations can culturally conquer their conquerors—Babylon
was doing it to the Persians when its empire ended—but not insignificant
and unpopulated backwaters. Garbini thinks the Jews, a subject people,
could act independently of the Persian ministries, saying, “With Xerxes,
the Jews detached themselves from the Persian monarchy”, because he was
a tyrant who upset them. It seems the Jews joined the Egyptians in
rebellions when Xerxes died in 465 BC. The Egyptian princes Inaros
and Amyrtaeus were eventually defeated and Inaros was executed in 454 BC,
ending the rebellion. Greeks had fought for the Egyptians and the Satrap
of Abarnahara, Megabyxos, had promised them safety if they surrendered,
which they did, but was then obliged on higher authority to despatch the
Greek captives. On a point of honour he refused and fought two victories
against his friend Artaxerxes before they agreed a truce.
The Jews would have been involved in either or both of these
rebellions, and the despatch of Nehemiah looks to have been the outcome.
The intransigence of the Jews in mid-century had forced the hand of
Artaxerxes. The king had tried and failed to punish Megabyxos, and seemed
to decide a better policy was that an anti-Egyptian buffer had to be set
up as soon as feasible in Yehud. Such colonization as had already happened
had been ineffective, as the rebellion showed, and Nehemiah was sent to
sort the Jewish buffer state out. The city and temple, if they had been
restored at all hitherto, were again razed in these wars, but the policy
was now to rebuild as quickly as possible. In Isaiah 44:28,
Jerusalem and the temple are spoken of as newly founded and built by
Cyrus. Plainly, Jerusalem had been devastated so thoroughly, that it had
to be founded and built anew by the Persian settlers. Pussy-footing ceased
and a mass of deportees were obliged to impose the restored worship of
Yehouah. Ezra launched the new system about 417 BC in the reign of
Darius II. This was when the colonists were sent to take control of
the unruly state, and the proper worship of Yehouah was finally instituted
The titles of Yehouah denote him as Ahuramazda. Even Garbini wonders
how a subject people can make claims contrary to the ruling people about
their god. Both gods could not have been the “god of heaven” without
conflict, in this view. The answer is obvious. They could, if they were
the same god but simply with a different name. Garbini freely accepts:
If there is one God, He is God of all men. They may call Him by
different names but He always remains the same.
The Persians understood that a universal God did not have to have the
same name in every language. They also understood better than worshippers
of the Hebrew god for the next 2,500 years that religion was a poltical
policy from the outset.
The Persians “restored” the old religions particularly of people
who did not resist them or rebel against them. Those who rebelled had
their temples destroyed! The restored religions however were not restored
as they had been but how they ought to be, in the Persian view. The
Persians did not aim to replace Marduk with Ahuramazda, but they
transformed Marduk into Ahuramazda. It seems obvious that this was not an
instantaneous policy. It was one which continued throughout the reigns of
the kings, although it was always referred to its initiator, Cyrus. Ezra
did not impose a Persian law on to the Jews until 100 years after Cyrus,
and the imposition was probably because the Jews had assisted either the
Egyptians or Megabyzos in rebellion, but Cyrus was nevertheless cited as
the initiator of the restoration.
Ezra 1:1 mentions the edict of the first year of Cyrus, but it
is absurd to imagine that the instant that Cyrus issued an edict of
restoration that thousands of Jews returned. It seems that the
colonisation of such a poor land was not taken up by many expatriot Jews
or anyone else, and eventually, the rebellious Jews were punished by
having colonists deported into the land to rule them. Garbini wonders how
Isaiah could attack Marduk and Nabu in his book when the Cyrus cylinder
praises them. He ackowledges that these are propaganda works but seems not
to understand propaganda. Propaganda has a specific audience. Cyrus knew
this but not Garbini. If each god being favoured was to be shown as the
universal God who favoured the Shah, then all other gods were to be
disparaged by the propaganda for that God. So Bel and Nebo would bow
before Yehouah in his propaganda, but Yehouah would bow down before Bel in
Isaiah speaks (Isa 43:3; 45:14) of the conquest of Egypt, Cush
and Saba. This must have been written after the reign of Cambyses when
Cyrus was already dead, though Isaiah sounds as if he were alive. Garbini
thinks that Isaiah 40-48 “reflects precisely the political
ideology of Darius”. He therefore dates it to 500 BC, but, as C Herrenschmidt,
in Studia Iranica (1977), has shown, it was Darius the Great and
subsequent monarchs of Persia who devised the notion of the
Shahanshah as the earthly mirror of the God who created the world. The
parallels of Isaiah 42:5-7 with Yasna 44 of the Avesta,
and the juxtaposition of Cyrus and God in parallel passages (40:12-32,
God; 41:1-5, Cyrus; 41:25-42:7, God; 44:27-45:8, Cyrus) could certainly
not have been written until the reign of Darius the Great, but probably
not until later in the fifth century. By this time, Cyrus was invariably
specified as the originator of the policy whichever Persian king was
actually implementing it.
The rebellion of Babylon, put down by Darius, along with other
rebellions, appears (Isa 47), but Darius did not convert from being
a devotee of Marduk back to worshipping Ahuramazda, as the case would have
to have been if Cyrus in his cylinders had really taken up Marduk worship.
The policy was to restore the gods of nations that co-operated but
rebellions were not considered as co-operation. Rebellious people had
their temples and gods destroyed. This was no change of policy. Nor was
this the Darius under whom the Jewish religion was restored in Yehud,
though the biblical authors obviously did not realise there were two kings
Darius, and so thought the restoration had happened in the reign of the
Second-Isaiah is really itself two Isaiahs, or is in two acts,
one from 40-48 and the other from 49-55. The first is concerned with the
time of the return itself and the second with the immediate period of the
return. The first mentions Cyrus and Babylon, the second does not. The
first appeals to prophecy through history, not the later verses. In the
earlier verses, the redeemed community is Jacob-Israel and Israel is
explicitly the “servant.” In the later verses, the references are to
Isaiah 40-48 announces Cyrus the Persian as the messiah. Cyrus
is Yehouah’s choice of earthly regent just as he was Marduk’s choice
in Babylon. Cyrus’s tactic was to set up propagandists in neighbouring
countries to persuade them of his future success. He aimed to undermine
any spirit of resistance and make people feel they were backing a winner.
With the morale of opponents weakened and the will of supporters
strengthened, he could chose the appropriate time to act—when the
response would be most favourable. The Babylonians offered no resistance
to Cyrus when his soldiers got to its gates. Most of the people welcomed
the Persian conquerors. His “prophets” had laid the ground and the
result was a bloodless victory.
In Isaiah, the appeal to the Jews is shown as being
contemporary, but it is more likely to be a later king making use of
Cyrus’s historic pronouncements with the usual intention of giving a
historical authority to current decisions. The return is depicted as the
gracious act of a merciful God, the same propaganda as that used by the
Persians in Babylon. By tying it to the edicts of Cyrus, God is shown as
acting in history through the Persian kings as saviours.
In Second Isaiah 49-55, the colonists are actually sent to
Jerusalem, the year being around 420 BC, and the “return” is
shown as a victory for the whole world (Isa 45:22-23)—which was
in practice Abarnahara. Jerusalem is the centre of true revelation, the
centre of worship and the witness to God’s salvation.
A key concept introduce in Second Isaiah is that of the
suffering servant. This will have been a persobification of the colonists
themselves returning as a servant suffering for God (Isa
42:1-4;49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) that the final victory be won.
However, the odd distribution of these references looks as if they have
been inserted later, and they could be specific references to the Essene
Righteous Teacher inserted as late as the second century BC.
Comfort Ye My People
Second Isaiah is mainly in verse, and the structure of Attic
plays suggests Isaiah 40-55 is drama with stage instructions. The
Greek war against Persia lasted from 492 to 479 BC. Aeschylus’s
drama, The Persians, was already performed in 472—only eight
years after the Persians had been defeated at the battle of Salamis.
Aeschylus grapples with Persian rule, but there, even from a Greek
viewpoint, Cyrus is an ideal ruler as in Isaiah.
It has a prologue and epilogue, and is divided into separate acts and
scenes. The songs of a chorus separate the major units of the epeisodioi
from one another, an epeisodion being that part of the tragedy in
its full extent which is played out between the choral interludes, as
Aristotle has it. The choral interludes had the practical purpose, because
there was no curtain in the ancient theatres, of allowing time for changes
of roles and costumes, and allow for time to pass between the different
parts of the action. They also explained the action so that the audience
did not miss its nuances. There were no stage directions. The place and
time of the action, what was happening, and who was speaking, had to be
deduced from the text, which therefore contained suitable clues.
Deutero-Isaiah seems older even than Attic drama. Compared with
Egyptian texts, Deutero-Isaiah departs more radically from ritual
and its explanation—say, of the cultic vessels or sacrificial
ceremonies. A speaker is continually announcing the action. Procession,
dance and music fill up the time. The number of the chief performers is
small, especially the number of those with speaking parts. Two to three
actors suffice. Jacob/Israel (from Isaiah 41 onward) and
Zion/Jerusalem (from Isaiah 48 onward) do not appear
simultaneously. The sole exception is 51:12-16. But there neither
Zion/Jerusalem nor Jacob/Israel is called by name. They are a nameless
pair who do not themselves speak. So they could have been played by
non-speaking stand-ins or trinees. Cyrus and Babylon do not meet either.
It begins with the narrator saying God commanded some unspecified
group, the imperative being plural, of devotees to comfort “His
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
The people being thus commanded, according to Christian commentators
are the “exiles” in Babylon, but who then are “my people?” Piety
demands that the exiles should comfort themselves, but the problem is
solved if the people being instructed are the Yehouist colonists being
sent to Jerusalem to set up the temple state. “My people” are the
people who would thus be comforted, the people of the Persian satrapy of
Abarnahara. The colonists are being transported to Jerusalem and are told:
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is
accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of
Yehouah’s hand double for all her sins.
The exile has been twice what is was meant to be. The first
instruction to the colonists is to tell the locals that they have been
forgiven for their previous sins! This was at first and remained the prime
propaganda to the people of the temple state—they had been sinners and
had been punished by Yehouah for it. The implied threat is that they would
be punished again, if they reverted to their bad practices, but would be
treated comfortably if they were obedient to God.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of
Yehouah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley
shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the
crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the
glory of Yehouah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of Yehouah hath spoken it.
The beginning is the passage quoted wrongly, in the Christian New
Testament, applied to John the Baptist, a typical Essenic variant
reading applied by Christians. The grandiose promises here mean that the
setting up of the temple state is an eschatological act that will help to
reveal God and bring about the restoration of the world. The levelling of
hills and filling of dales all pertain to the eschaton, proved by the
promise of a theophany, which is instantaneous because it is seen
simultaneously by all living creatures. These colonists were being given a
role in salvation.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass
withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of Yehouah bloweth upon
it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
This seems also to be part of the eschatological explanation, but its
presentation suggests a call and response liturgy. Here the colonists are
speaking in answer to the prophet/priest earlier. The acknowledgement is
that human beings are like grass and so any one might not see the
revelation at the end. The “word” mentioned here seems to bracket with
the earlier “wilderness” which has the same root. In the wilderness
the vegetation withers and fades but the metaphorical word of Yehouah does
not. Wilderness therefore seems to stand for the material corrupt world
which will end in God’s Judgement.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with
strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah,
Behold your God!
The message they are meant to convey is that they should see and accept
the “good tidings” of their God as Yehouah, a new god to the natives
of the Canaanite hills of Palestine.
Behold, the Lord God (really, “Behold your God, Behold my Lord Yehouah”)
will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his
reward is with him, and his work before him.
The proper doublet distinguishes the imposed god from the Lord of the
imposers. Naturally, it was the same god, but the relationship would be
different. The colonists were an elite class while the natives were to be
converts to the new religion. The work was before Him and His agents
temporally, and the “reward” is the reward the ruling colonists would
recieve when they had completed God’s work. Riches were therefore
regarded as a reward of God in Judaism.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with
his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that
are with young.
The poem concludes with a homely metaphor assuring the colonists that
they would be carefully looked after like a shepherd watching over his
flock. This too was to be a lasting metaphor in Judaism and Christianity.
Arguably, some of the verses have been misplaced, but the overall sense
remains. The colonists had a job to do and would be cared for and rewarded
for doing it.
Can other biblical writings be understood as “dramas” or a basis
for a dramatization? It has to be seriously considered, for worship in
Greek culture was dramatized often. The same might be true also of
Mesopotamia, where dramatized programmes might have accompanied liturgies
and processions. It has been long suggested that the Passion of Christ is
a religious drama misunderstood by gentile observers who ran off and,
taking it seriously, started Christianity.
In Third Isaiah, Jerusalem is in ruins (60:10) but the temple is
built (56:7), and the Jews are interested in proselytizing (56:3-5). It
must be meant to be after the time when Ezra returned, and the temple
state was set up for all the nations of Abarnahara.
The one theme that unites the Isaiah books above all is that of
the covenant. Second and Third Isaiah are dealing with a covenant
that the people had to accept to be saved, and it appears thus four times
in Second Isaiah and five times in Third Isaiah. First
Isaiah is based on the premise that the covenant has been broken, and
in two of the four places it mentions the word “covenant”, it is a
“covenant of death” that the people have entered, while, in the other
two passages, it is a “broken covenant.” It is plain then that First
Isaiah is really Last Isaiah, being a later and more refined
composition by the Deuteronomic Historian and later editors, highlighting
the fact that the people had quickly neglected their duty to obey the
covenant, while the utterances of the historic Isaiahs of the time of the
Persian colonization were left relatively untouched.
The covenant is, of course, the vassalage treaty that Persia imposed on
the state of Yehud by Ezra. These prophets will have preceded Ezra but
knew that any vassal state would have to obey such a treaty and that it
would be presented as God’s not the king’s—but the king acted for
God! In the Jewish scriptures, God is synonymous with the Persian
Shahanshah. The people were meant to understand Persian law as God’s
Isaiah is fond of using the word, “harab”, using it twelve times of
the 37 times it occurs in the scriptures. The verb “harab” originally
meant “to be dry.” From this, it also came to mean “to be waste.”
Especially in the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, the word
“harab” denotes desolation and ruin. Horba is the noun meaning waste
or desolate places (in Isaiah 48:21, “horba” means
“deserts”) or ruins: Yehouah who will raise up the ruins of Jerusalem
(44:26); their desolate places will one day be too limited for the
increased population (49:19); Yehouah will comfort Zion’s waste places
and transform them into an Eden (51:3); Jerusalem’s ruins will break
forth into singing (52:9), as they will be rebuilt (58:12; 61:4).
Nehemiah (c 445 BC) learns that Jerusalem is still in ruins (Neh
2:3, 17), and Ezra thanks God for permitting the Jews to repair the
temple’s ruins (Ezra 9:9). When the Jews’ dedication to
rebuilding the temple flagged, the Haggai rebuked them with a play on
words, proclaiming that because Yehouah’s house had remained
“desolate” (“hareb”, Hag 1:4,9) Yehouah would bring a
“drought” (“horeb”, Hag 1:11) upon the land. Jeremiah
33:10 promises that in the desolate place “without man or inhabitant or
beast” voices of gladness would be heard once more.
Now curiously, Horeb, meaning dryness, drought, heat, desolation,
because it was desolate, is an alternative name for Mount Sinai, the
mountain of God, appearing 17 times in the bible, no less than nine of
them are in Deuteronomy. In the hypothesis on these pages, Horeb
was the original word used of the dry hilltop used as a High Place for
worshipping Yehouah before the colonization. Horeb is Zion, which means
the same. Zion means a dry and solitary but prominent place. These were
the conditions described of the place where the temple was built. More
happens at Horeb than we now know about (Deut 4:10; 9:8; 18:16).
Moses struck the rock in Horeb (Ex 17:6), but not on Mount Sinai
which the Israelites did not reach until later (Ex 19:1). The
Israelites made a calf at Horeb (Ps 106:19). When Solomon installed
the ark, it contained only the two tables of stone which Moses placed in
it at Horeb (1 Kg 8:9; 2 Chr 5:10).
Horeb is Zion, and the priests changed Zion to Sinai when they invented
the myth of the desert wanderings. Zion is never used by any biblical
author in a book that uses Sinai. Sinai appears in Deuteronomy, but
only once in the song of Moses which is plainly an addition by the
priestly school that invented the myth of the Exodus. Horeb appears three
times in Exodus (Ex 3:1; 17:6; 33:6), but otherwise Sinai is used
(13 times), and Sinai is used exclusively in the priestly book, Leviticus.
In the myth of David, the king bought a threshing floor from the
Jebusite Araunah (Ornan), at the highest elevation of the plateau.
Threshing floors were often places of worship in the ancient near east,
and were preferably dry places. Araunah’s threshing floor was plainly a
High Place, an open air sanctuary. This is the place where David chose to
put the Ark of the Covenant and his son, Solomon, built the temple, in the
legend. The place was called Mount Zion, the home of Yehouah and therefore
the mountain of God. L M Luker in Lutterworth’s Dictionary of
the Bible, comments:
In a sense then, Yehouah moved his mountain abode from Sinai to Zion.
Sinai was never, in fact, anything other than a mythicized Mount Zion.
It was a Canaanite High Place, then, early in the Persian period, a
Persian style open air sanctuary, and finally Darius II built a
treasury there in the form of a traditional enclosed temple in a fortified
city. The priests writing the myth of Moses, under the sponorship of the
Egyptian Ptolemies, transposed Zion a millennium back in history to become
Sinai where God appeared to Moses and gave him the law.
Jeremiah is a confused book but has a consistent theme, that of
decrying the people for being apostates and warning them to change their
ways from worshipping Canaanite Gods. The book is set towards the end of
the kingdom of Judah. Good king Hezekiah (714-686 BC) had been
succeeded by bad king Manasseh (686-641 BC) who is supposed to have
brought back the Canaanite deities outlawed getting on for a millennium
before by Moses. Despite Manasseh’s apostasy, good king Josiah (639-609 BC)
had followed on, but apparently God was not appeased by the good deeds of
the good kings and destroyed Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians
anyway (586 BC).
The name Josiah is a variant of Joshua and he is supposed to have found
a hidden book of the law, assumed to have been Deuteronomy, and put
it into effect. Josiah is offered as a king who is a saviour, whence
Josiah, but he was not a saviour because Jerusalem was ruined. He has the
name because he was presented as the one who discovered the law and first
put it into effect. The Persians under Ezra really introduced the law (Deuteronomy)
based on Zoroastrian law and imperial needs, but to give it credibility,
the Persians used their ruse of telling the people that the law was their
own law and had been implemented by Josiah 200 years before. Who could
dispute it? Under this law, all native and foreign cults were suppressed
in favour of that of Yehouah, and every shrine other than the temple
closed. No such law could have been Canaanitish. It was a Persian law and
so could not have been a law of Josiah 200 years before. That is
propaganda to persuade the people to accept as their own an unpopular law.
Jeremiah was writing after the tribes of the Medes had been united as a
nation, and knows that the king of the Medes plotted against Babylon:
Make bright the arrows. Gather the shields. Yehouah hath raised up the
spirit of the kings of the Medes, for his device is against Babylon, to
destroy it, because it is the vengeance of Yehouah, the vengeance of his
The message of Jeremiah is that the people have not properly taken the
religious and social changes to heart. They have adopted them
superficially and insincerely. Yehud had therefore already been colonized
but the changes were not being fully accepted. Jeremiah is shown as being
unpopular himself for delivering this message and as deciding to write
rather than preach, but king Jehoiakim derides his written work too. It is
easy to see that Jeremiah was unpopular—he criticized everyone in
society, kings, nobles, priests and the apostate people.
Effectively, Jeremiah is justification for the colonists,
supposed to be Jewish “exiles”, taking over the country. The
“returners” would set up a regenerated country over which a Davidic
king would reign—an interpolation alluding to the eschatological role of
the temple state. The ungrateful people reject him and he dies in Egypt.
His real significance is in formulating the idea of a “New
Covenant” (31:31-34). According to the later biblical myth, the original
covenant was that of Moses in about 1300 BC, but Moses was really
Ezra in about 400 BC, the law he presented being misunderstood as the
law of Moses, from the failure of the Canaanite people to understand
properly the word, Ahuramazda, taking it to be “Torah Moshe.” Jeremiah
is a little later, in fact, because the people have not accepted the
reforms and he urges them to put the covenant in their hearts. He urges a
personal commitment rather than formal sacerdotalism, putting him close to
the later Hasidim or Essenes than to the temple priesthood. Whether this
is the result of editing, it impossible to say.
Ezekiel is presented as a priest sent into exile before the destruction
of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s book seems to be a single work of a single
author, but a closer look betrays some seams. Certainly Ezekiel has
been meticulously edited to give it a complete and polished look,
uncharacteristic of some of the other scriptural works.
Ezekiel is offered as the Jewish equivalent of Zoroaster, both having a
startling vision of God to set them on the road to prophecy. The first
half of the book contains warnings to Jerusalem then follows warnings to
other nations and finally from chapters 33 to 48 are set out how the
temple city of Jerusalem was intended to be, including detailed
specifications for the architecture of the proposed temple.
Ezekiel 14:14 mentions Job and king David, so it must be
later than these late constructs. Such a highly polished book is likely to
be late and C C Torrey, judging from language and historical
allusions, thought it was written about 230 BC. This is the time of
the Egyptian Greek rulers, the Ptolemies, who began by being favourable to
the Jerusalem cult. It is likely that in this period the priests developed
the detail of the sacerdotal practice of the temple, and introduced more
and more resons for offering sacrifices to keep themselves in their
comforatble work. Most of the Pentateuch will have been written at
this time for the Ptolemies to keep in their new library at Alexandria.
The concerns of Ezekiel could have placed it at the time of the
Persian colonists, but much of the detail shows the interests of later
priests, those that devised the Priestly Codes. It might be that there is
a prophet of the fifth century at the centre of Ezekiel, but he
seems to be overlaid thickly with later material and plenty of polish!
Thus the design of the temple in Ezekiel might have been
overelaborated by the third century priests who saw it as an ideal or
heavenly temple, but they might have had an original specification sent
with the returners. The hold ups and delays, that Ezra, Nehemiah,
Haggai and Zechariah speak of, perhaps necessitated a more
utilitarian design and the specification came to be seen as an ideal, then
got even more idealized in the copying.
Ezekiel is written mainly in prose unlike the other major
prophets. Perhaps for that reason, he does not use the word “Zion” for
Jerusalem. Most of the poetic prophets and the Psalms use it
considerably, though it hardly appears otherwise in the scriptures.
Ezekiel, however, is also unusual compared with his supposed contemporary,
Jeremiah, for example in not being interested in Jerusalem and Judah
compared with Israel. Since the Persians were intent on setting up the
temple state of Yehud, Ezekiel must have shown that in his work, but he
uses “Israel” almost exclusively.
Psalms as Propaganda