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GRGIĆ Miljenka

Transformations of the Assyrian Figure in 2Kgs 19,21-28 || Isa 37,22-29. Diachronic Study

Mod.: R.P. Peter Dubovsky, S.J.

The dissertation examines the history of the oracle in 2 Kgs 19,21-28 ‖ Isa 37,22-29. The study adopts the historical-critical method and is divided in three parts.

The first part of the study — a text-critical examination of the differences between 2 Kgs 19,21-28 and Isa 37,22-29 (1.) and the differences between the Masoretic Text and other ancient witnesses (2.) — aims at establishing the original text of the oracle. Analysis shows that the Masoretes preserved the original text of the oracle well; they modified only the disputed wayyiqtol vocalization in order to evade theological problems. Moreover, the study reveals that the version in 2 Kgs 19,21-28 preserves the original text of the oracle better, is an older version, and was borrowed in Isa 37,22-29.

The second part of the study — a synchronic, structural analysis (1.) and a diachronic, literary-critical examination (2.) of 2 Kgs 19,21-28 ‖ Isa 37,22-29 — aims at the Urtext, the original form of the oracle. The study reveals that the bulk of the final text represents the Urtext with only two minor additions (2 Kgs 19,23ab.27b-28a ‖ Isa 37,24ab.28b-29a). Furthermore, the study demonstrates that the oracle originally addressed ’Aššûr, a collective Assyrian identity, and denounced the mischievous mechanisms and illegitimate goals of Assyrian historical propaganda (2 Kgs 19,23c-24 ‖ Isa 37,24c-25).

The third part of the study — an examination of the Urtext in its historical setting (1.) and a consideration of the final text in its literary setting (2.) — traces the history of the passage. The results indicate that the oracle was not a marginal prophecy, as commonly thought, but performed a central role in the transformation of the Isaianic Assyrian tradition, and constituted a crucial prophecy in the pre-Exilic edition of Kings.

The analysis demonstrates that the oracle was composed in Manasseh’s time, was the first oracle against ’Aššûr in the Isaianic tradition, and functioned as a dispute within Isaianic circles. The prophet’s argumentation discloses a problematic bond between Isaianic circles and the Assyrian empire: the empire propagated Isaiah’s prophecy against Judah as a pro-Assyrian prophecy, and Isaiah’s disciples, caught in the trap of the imperial propaganda, elaborated this distorted version of Isaiah’s prophecy. The prophet manifests to his colleagues the imperial manipulation of Yahweh and Isaiah’s prophecy, and he limits the applicability of the Isaianic pro-Assyrian tradition with Isaiah’s concept of the divine plan for Judah. This elaborate argument enabled Isaianic circles to assume an anti-Assyrian stance and inaugurated the anti-Assyrian era of Isaianic prophecy.

The final form of the oracle in the Jerusalem narrative is shown to be a Deuteronomistic work. The analysis of the narrative identifies three stages in its growth: a) the original, anti-Judean prophetic story considered the outcome of the conflict between Isaiah and the Judean royal court in 705-701 BC, and vindicated Isaiah’s political stance; b) the Josianic redaction transformed the anti-Judean prophetic story into an anti-Assyrian historical narrative about the divine deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians in 701 BC; c) the post-Exilic redaction altered the historical narrative into an edifying anti-idol legend and presented the salvation of Jerusalem in 701 BC as a proof that Yahweh was the only God. The analysis demonstrates that the oracle was combined with the narrative by the Josianic redaction. This redaction occurred in the context of the pre-Exilic edition of Kings, and it employed the oracle to justify a Deuteronomistic interpretation of history according to which the Assyrian dominion in Judah ended in 701 BC.

In the final analysis, the study offers a new delineation of the history of the oracle and the Jerusalem narrative, and lays the basis for a new delineation of the history of the Isaianic Assyrian tradition.