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Torah and Anti-Torah: Isaiah 2:2-4 and 1:10-26

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The utopian vision of Isaiah 2:1-4 is a new beginning of the book, intimately related to and absolutely distinct from the first beginning in ch. 1. The two beginnings represent the two voices of the book, whose irreconcilability is its major structural problem. At the centre of the Edenic vision of Zion is a female subject and language, Torah, in whose maternal embrace all nations renounce their phallic rivalries. Torah, however, is paired with a male subject, the word of YHWH, and with the divine authority that judges the peoples. The Torah of 2:3 may be compared to the female figures of ch. 1, and to the condemnatory Torah addressed to the people in 1:10. The Torah of 2:3 is presumably equivalent to the Torah in 1:10, and adumbrates the message of that chapter. It is that to which the sons fail to listen in 1:2, and which is addressed to heaven and earth at the beginning of the book. At the same time it is an anti-Torah, since that which is rejected is conventional Torah, the sacrificial and festive system. The maternal space of Zion, which is also that of divine alimentation, has become a scene of disgust, which may be associated with Kristeva's conception of abjection. The climax of these images for Zion is the prostitute in 1:21, which exemplifies marginality. For the heterological critic, however, the prostitute is the paradigmatic marginal figure against whose exploitation the prophet protests. The figure of the prostitute is transformed into that of the widow and hence the pristine daughter of Zion and the bride of God.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta


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