Isaiah and his Father Amos
Relevant to our efforts to merge Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah [KCI] with the Book of Judith [BOJ] is the need now to test whether Isaiah himself can find his appropriate match in the Simeonite Uzziah, chief magistrate of Judith’s town of Bethulia, who – in the context of our reconstruction – must have been a great man in the kingdom of king Hezekiah of Judah (Judith 6):
14 Later, when the Israelites came down from Bethulia, they untied Achior, brought him into the town, and took him before the town officials, 15 who at that time were Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon, Chabris son of Gothoniel, and Charmis son of Melchiel.
For this Uzziah was entitled both ‘the prince of Judah’ and ‘the prince of the people of Israel’ (Douay version of Book of Judith).
Now such an identification, of Isaiah with Uzziah, would necessitate that Uzziah’s father, Micah, be the same as Isaiah’s father, Amos (or Amoz).
This is interesting.
Whilst the names Amos and Micah do not immediately appear to share any similarity whatsoever, scholars, though, find an incredible similarity between whom they consider to be these ‘two’ prophets. Thus King (“Judith”, The Jerome Biblical Commentary):
“Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos’ home, Tekoa, but he was like Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he has been called “Amos redivivus”. Both [sic] rustic prophets attacked in a direct and forceful way the socio-economic abuses of their day”.
Micah’s origins we do know. He hailed from the town of ‘Moresheth’ (Micah 1:1) – thought to be Moresheth-Gath, a border town of southern Judah. It is in this location, Moresheth-Gath, I suggest, that we discover the true place of origin of Isaiah and his father.
Amos began his prophetic ministry in the latter days of the Jehu-ide king, Jeroboam II of Israel (c. 785-743 BC, conventional dates). He was called to leave Judah and testify in the north against the injustices of Samaria. (Cf. Micah 1:2-7). Most interestingly, Amos was to be found preaching in the northern Bethel, which we have elsewhere identified with Bethulia of BOJ.
Not unexpectedly, Amos’ presence there at the time of Jeroboam II was not appreciated by the Bethelite priesthood, whose chief priest Amaziah regarded him as a conspirator from the southern kingdom (Amos 7:10). Being the man that he was, though, Amos would unlikely have been frightened away by the priest, Amaziah, when the latter had urged Amos (vv.12-13): ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom’.
Presumably Amos chose Bethel/Bethulia in which to settle because there, more than likely, he had Simeonite ancestors. Judith’s husband Manasseh would later be buried near Bethulia “with his ancestors” (Judith 8:3). This town would thus have been one of those locations in which the migrant Simeonites of king Asa of Judah’s reign (more than a century earlier) had chosen to settle; perhaps re-naming the place Bethul [Bethel] after a Simeonite town of that name in south western Judah (Joshua 19:4).
Thus Amos of Bethulia would become Merari, father of Judith; the name Amos (Amoz), or Amaziah, perhaps being linguistically transformable into Amariah, hence Merari, in the same way that king Uzziah of Judah was also called Azariah (1 Chronicles 3:12). Jewish legend names Judith’s father as Beeri. Now the names Beeri and Merari are very similar if Conder’s principle, “supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature” be allowable here. This vital piece of information, that Judith’s father was Beeri, now enables for the prophet Hosea, an exact contemporary of Isaiah in the north, whose father was also Beeri (Hosea 1:1), to be identified with Isaiah.
If these connections are valid, then Isaiah must therefore have accompanied his father to the north and he, too, must have been prophesying, as Hosea, in the days of Jeroboam II (Hosea 1:1). His prophesying apparently began in the north: “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea …” (1:2). He would continue prophesying right down to the time of king Hezekiah of Judah (cf. Hosea 1:1; Isaiah 1:1).
The names Isaiah and Hosea are indeed of very similar meaning, being basically derived from the same Hebrew root for ‘salvation’, yaysa. :
“Isaiah” (Hebrew Yeshâ‘yâhû) signifies: “Yahweh (the Lord) is salvation”.
“Hosea” (Hebrew Hosaya) means practically the same: “Yahweh (the Lord) is saviour”.
We can now easily connect Isaiah with Uzziah (var. Osias) through Hosea (var. Osee).
Though no doubt young, the prophet was given the strange command by God to marry an ‘unfaithful’ woman: “‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord’. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim …” (Hosea 1:2-3).
Biblical scholars have agonised over the type of woman this Gomer might have been: adulteress? harlot? temple-prostitute?
But essentially the clue is to be found in the statement above that she was a citizen of the ‘land of great harlotry’: namely, the northern kingdom of Israel.
A further likeness between Isaiah and Hosea was the fact that ‘their names’ and those of ‘their’ children were meant to be, in their meanings, prophetic signs. Thus:
– The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and portents …” (Isaiah 8:18).
– Similarly, the names of the children of the prophet Hosea were meant to be prophetic (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).
Boutflower, who has written perceptively on Isaiah’s children, has rightly noted the prophetic significance of their names and those of Hosea’s children, without however connecting Isaiah and Hosea as one: “Isaiah like Hosea had three known children, all of whose names were prophetic”.
It is most unlikely, one would have to think, to have two great prophets contemporaneously operating over such a substantial period of time, and each having three children whose names were prophetic. The fact is we believe that it was just the one prophet, who may possibly have had six children in all.
And Irvine has, in the course of his detailed study of the so-called Isaianic Denkschrift [‘personal memoir’] (Isaiah 6:1-9:6) of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis, written extensively on the chronological significance of Isaiah’s children and their names in connection with this crisis for Judah. We also appreciate Irvine’s concern for scholars to study the prophets (thus Isaiah) according to the “historical events and politics” of their time.
Whilst this Simeonite family was not descended from the prophetic line, as Amos himself would testify to the priest of Bethel (7:14), it was certainly a ‘family’ from the point of view of its striking the same prophetic chord. Commentators have recognised a similar strain in the writings of Amos, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah, whilst having no idea of what was – at least, as far as we see it – their proper (father-to-son) relationship. Thus King has written, in regard to the prophet Micah: “… the influence [upon Micah] of Isaiah, also Hosea and Amos, is evident”.
But it was rather Micah, as Amos, we suggest, who was doing the ‘influencing’; he upon his son Isaiah/Hosea.
Fall of Samaria
Possibly it was the anticipation of this calamity in the north (c. 722 BC) that would have prompted Isaiah to return to the southern kingdom of Judah, where king Ahaz then occupied the throne of Jerusalem. By now the prophet had taken a new wife – referred to in the Hebrew as ha alemah (‘the maiden’, ‘young marriageable woman’) (Isaiah 7:14) – who was already pregnant according to the tense of the Hebrew verb, harah (‘conceive’): a QAL active participle having no implication of something that is only to happen in the future. We find the prophet confronting Ahaz at the Upper Pool (Isaiah 7:3); the former probably with his pregnant wife beside him. This last suggestion would seem to be compatible with Irvine’s interpretation of verse 14: “Look, the young woman is pregnant … and is about to bear a son …”.
This is the celebrated child who is to be named ‘IMMANUEL’ (meaning ‘God-with-us’).
We should expect that Isaiah would have been back in the south again, more than a decade later, when the Assyrian Turtan came to ‘Ashdod’ (i.e. Lachish). For it was precisely then that he had begun to perform that strange pantomime or “street drama” of his of going ‘barefoot and naked’ (Isaiah 20:1-2) as a vivid demonstration to Judah that its dependence upon Egypt/Ethiopia would end in disaster and captivity. This prophetic action would presumably have been more effective if undertaken in Judah, rather than in the north.
Fortunately for Isaiah, he may not have been alone in this; for Micah his father, who like Isaiah had foretold firstly the destruction of Samaria, with wrath flowing over into Judah, was similarly warning (Micah 1:8-9): “This is why I am going to mourn and lament, go barefoot and naked, howl like the jackals, wail like the ostriches. For there is no healing for the blow Yahweh strikes; it reaches into Judah, it knocks at the very door of my people, reaches even unto Jerusalem”.
This, we suggest, was a father-and-son prophetic combination!
Not only did their prophetic careers overlap chronologically, but they also said and did similar things. (For a classical example of their speaking similar utterances, see our comparison further on of their respective oracles).
And that Micah, too, had prophesied in the time of king Hezekiah – who was in fact receptive to the prophet’s message – is apparent from the Book of Jeremiah, in which Hezekiah’s response is contrasted with that of the Davidides of Jeremiah’s own day, more than a century after Micah (Jeremiah 26:16, 18-19). Thus we should not generally accept what Irvine has given as being a traditional view concerning the relationship between the prophets Micah and Isaiah and the Davidic kings (and we should also of course reject that Micah was ‘younger’ than Isaiah); though we should have no disagreement with Irvine’s concluding remarks re Ahaz:
“Scholars traditionally have viewed Isaiah and his younger contemporary, Micah, as antagonists of the Davidic monarchs, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The conclusion of G. von Rad is typical: “All the evidence suggests, however, that these prophets increasingly wrote off the reigning members of the house of David of their own day, and even that they regarded the whole history of the monarchy from the time of David as a false development”. As for Isaiah’s attitude toward Ahaz specifically, the prophet’s change from support to opposition is thought to have occurred during the course of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis. A detailed explanation of this shift and a delineation of the issues were given classical formulation in K. Budde’s Jesaja’s Erleben (1928)”.
Far from its being anti-Davidic, the Tendenz of the Isaian Denkschrift seems to us – and this view is based on discussions such as the following by Irvine, with reference to Würtheim – to have been a seeking to confirm Ahaz and Hezekiah in the covenant anciently established with king David:
“Verse 9b [of Isaiah chapter 7] is a warning to the entire Davidic court (the verbs are plural): “If you don’t stand firm (’im lō’ ta’ămînû), you won’t stand at all” (kî lō’ tē’āmēnû). …. The prophet engages here in a clever word-play: ta’ămînû and tē’āmēnû not only sound alike, but derive in fact from the same Hebrew root, ’mn [ ]. The second verb, a nifal form, clearly refers to the political survival of the house of David. The meaning of the first verb, a hifil form of ’mn used absolutely, is less certain. … Scholars generally translate the term as “believe”, but disagree over the prophet’s application of the word …. E. Würtheim contends that the implied object of “believe” is the Nathan prophecy (2 Samuel 7) and the covenant thereby established between Yahweh and the Davidic house. Isaiah is warning Ahaz not to break the covenant by appealing to Assyria [to Tiglath-pileser III] for help …”.
Micah and Isaiah were, as we said, a father-and-son prophetic combination. Most striking of all of their ‘interconnections’ perhaps is the following case, in which one of Micah’s ‘Oracles’, regarding the future reign of Yahweh in Zion, is virtually word for word exact with one of Isaiah’s ‘Oracles’ on the same subject. We am referring to (NRSV translation):
Micah 4:1-3 Isaiah 2:2-4
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more …”.
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.
Abiding in the North
Some possible clues indicating that Isaiah may have been back in the north during the Assyrian army’s actual march upon Jerusalem (Sennacherib’s Third Campaign) are that:
(i) Isaiah is not mentioned amongst king Hezekiah’s officials at the Upper Pool rendezvous with Assyria’s Rabshakeh, even though this might have been expected; and
(ii) 2 Kings 19:2: “[Hezekiah] sent [yisselach] Eliakim …Shebna … and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of [Amos]”.
Isaiah’s distance from Jerusalem might also explain the prophet’s apparently being sometimes later than king Hezekiah and his officials to catch up with what had transpired in the south. Thus, at one point, Isaiah seems aware only of what Sennacherib’s servants had been saying, and not of Sennacherib’s own letters (2 Chronicles 32:17; cf. 2 Kings 19:5-6).
Of course, according to our reconstruction, Isaiah would have been ensconced back in the north to coincide with his being Uzziah of BOJ at the time of Holofernes’ invasion and defeat. By then, his father Amos/Micah had passed away as a legend of Israel, and had presumably been buried in that ancestral cave near Bethulia, with his grandson, Manasseh.