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The Covenant with Mut: A New Interpretation of Isaiah 28:1-22

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image of Vetus Testamentum

Many difficulties and perplexities in Isa 28:1-22 can be resolved by reading the text as a condemnation of the Judeans’ seeking protection from Assyria by means of a covenant with one of Egypt’s major deities, the mother goddess Mut. Her close association with the Egyptian throne would have given her the “right” to make a covenant; her protective aspect explains why those in distress would seek her; her motherhood explains why the Judeans who seek her are characterized as children; the prominence of drunkenness and flowers in her cult explains the appearance of those elements in Isaiah 28. She also was associated with the underworld as a protectress of the dead, and it is likely that her name sounded very much like the Hebrew word , “death”, making Isaiah’s double entendre a natural play on words. Other features of the text such as the overwhelming flood refer to the Neo-Assyrians; Isaiah warns that Egypt and Mut cannot protect Judah from their assault.

Affiliations: 1: Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, CA United States


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