John Van Seters, «Dating the Yahwist’s History: Principles and Perspectives.», Vol. 96 (2015) 1-25
In order to date the Yahwist, understood as the history of Israelite origins in Genesis to Numbers, comparison is made between J and the treatment of the patriarchs and the exodus-wilderness traditions in the pre-exilic prophets and Ezekiel, all of which prove to be earlier than J. By contrast, Second Isaiah reveals a close verbal association with J’s treatments of creation, the Abraham story and the exodus from Egypt. This suggests that they were contemporaries in Babylon in the late exilic period, which is confirmed by clear allusions in both authors to Babylonian sources dealing with the time of Nabonidus.
01_VanSeters_copiaaaa_01_25 28/04/15 11:15 Pagina 10
10 JOHN VAN SETERS
He took Abram outside and said, “Look up into the sky, and count
the stars if you can. So many [...] shall your descendants be”.
And as if to balance YHWH’S creation of the heavenly bodies,
Second Isaiah asserts in 40,28: “YHWH is the creator of the whole
world”. The theme of the deity’s creative powers is expanded in
42,5 to include humanity as well:
Thus says the [supreme] God (lah) YHWH, the creator of the heavens
and the one who stretched them out, the one who spread out the
earth and all that grows upon it, the one who gives breath (hmvn)
to the people who live on it and life-giving spirit (xwr) to those who
walk about on it [...].
This imparting of breath to humanity corresponds to the descrip-
tion of the deity imparting the breath of life (~yyx tmvn) in Gen 2,7,
and this same language is repeated by J in the flood story in Gen
7,22 15. By contrast, in P’s addition to the flood story he prefers to
use the phrase (~yyx xwr) in the sense of “breath of life” instead, and
completely avoids using hmvn. It seems unlikely that Second Isaiah’s
use of xwr has anything to do with P. It is more likely that the prophet
was influenced by Ezekiel’s remarkable use of xwr in Ezek 37,5-10
in the vision of the valley of dry bones in which this term was re-
peatedly used in the sense of life-giving breath. It is this term that is
later picked up by P in preference to the term that is used in J.
Another term that is used by Second Isaiah as an alternative and
direct equivalent to the verb arb “to create” is the verb rcy “to
form” and its nominal equivalent rcwy, often rendered as “maker”.
The two verbs expressing the act of creation can be used in parallel
to each other as in Isa 45,18, which describe YHWH as the one “who
created (arb) the heavens” and “who formed (rcy) the earth”. Apart
from the reference in Isa 42,5 quoted above, Second Isaiah makes
little comment on the creation of humanity as a whole, but speaks
instead about the creation and formation of Israel (43,188.8.131.52) to-
gether with the creation of heaven and earth. Second Isaiah can also
speak about Israel being “formed” by God from the womb (49,5),
which seems to reflect a Mesopotamian tradition associated with
royalty in which the king was especially formed by the deity for
The use of xwr in this context is clearly secondary and redundant.