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Is Isaiah 40-55 Really Monotheistic?

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AbstractIsaiah 40-55 is often understood as a work bearing witness clearly and unambiguously to a “novel,” “consistent” and “extreme” monotheism, the monotheistic biblical work par excellence. Yet the author of this article challenges such claims in light of texts such as Isa 40:1-8 and 40:25-26, which recognize the existence of the heavenly host and the volition (40:25-26) or agency (40:1-8) of its members, and in view of Isa 51:9-11, which alludes clearly to the mythic conflict between Yhwh and the sea dragon as a reality. A statement such as “besides me there is no god” (45:5) must, therefore, be interpreted in light of these texts, which are all too frequently ignored by those who speak of Second Isaiah’s “radical” monotheism. “Besides me there is no god” is more likely a claim about Yhwh’s incomparability and unique power and agency than about his sole existence. If there is anything radical and unprecedented about Isaiah 40-55, it is the poet’s rhetoric, which seems to suggest a new meaning and more restricted use for the word “god” ().Though the host remain a heavenly reality for Second Isaiah, serving Yhwh as they have always done, they are no longer called gods.

Affiliations: 1: Program in Judaic Studies, Brown University Bx. 1826 Providence, RI 02912, Email:, URL:


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