Gitay’s Isaiah & His Audience Essay Sample
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- Category: rhetoric
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Gitay’s Isaiah & His Audience Essay Sample
This passage calls itself דודי שירת “song of my beloved.” דוד may also imply a male “friend.” It is likely that this song was sung by the male friend, the prophet Isaiah, of the aggrieved lover – the bridegroom. His beloved friend owned a vineyard (v 1) and did his all: clearing it of stone, planting it with vines of best quality, building a watch-tower within it, even carving a wine-vat inside it. Despite the beloved’s efforts, expecting that the vines would produce fine grapes, it disappointingly produced wild grapes or “stinking” or “rotten things” instead (v 2).
He then appealed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah to make a judgement between him and his vineyard (v 3-4). Afterwards he declared that he would remove its wall of protection over it, destroy it himself, and abandon it like a wasteland (vv 5-6). It is identified that the vineyard is the house of Israel and that it belongs to the Lord of hosts who expected justice and righteousness but only saw bloodshed and distress (v 7).
The prophet now denounces the social injustices that are perpetrated in the land. The Lord will punish those who illegally extend their land, robbing the poor of their rightful inheritance (vv 8-10). The Lord will send carousers and those who disregard him to exile and to suffer hunger and thirst (vv 11-13). Their nobles will go to their graves (v 14) and the people will be humbled (v 15), but the Lord of hosts will be exalted by justice and righteousness (v 16). Those who make derisive rejoinders impatiently calling on the Lord to carry out his plans are people whose judgements have been blurred (v 18-20), seeing themselves as wise (v 21); and those who, due to their drunkenness, have perverted justice with a price (vv 22-23). These people will be destroyed for their rejecting and despising the instruction of the Lord of hosts (v 24).
The Lord, in his anger, will punish his own people (v 25) by sending his agent from afar (v 26). This army will come swiftly (v 26) and fully prepared for war (vv 27-28). This army, whose “roaring is like a lion” (v 19, nrsv), will bring total darkness, devastating the land (v 30). THE RHETORICAL UNIT
The major issue in determining the rhetorical unit of the passage is whether the song (vv 1-7) is connected to its following verses. Due to the הוי “woes,” 5:8-24 and 10:1-4 are considered linked together by their concern for social injustices and thus belonging to a unit while 5:25-30 is considered to be separate for its dealing with another theme – war. This may be explained, though, through a process of redaction: the editor(s) combined both sections dealing with social criticism and military action, linking the themes of misbehaviour and punishment through war. And thus dividing the passage should not be divided artificially due to הוי, for the prophet’s speech also contains other literary forms.
This song with its criticism ends the first cycle of social criticisms which is followed by the prophet’s political criticism in 6:1ff. He uses stylistic devices to catch the attention of his audience and employs pathos to emotionally persuade them particularly in his use of הוי which alludes to death. The prophet’s goal is to point to the consequence of their sinful actions – punishment and death.
Isa 5:1-30, then, is one long and well-organized rhetorical unit. And the author pays close attention to both organization and argumentative speech to prove his point convincingly. The prophet’s address may be divided into five parts:
1. Introduction (vv 1-7)
2. Statement of facts (v 8)
3. Confirmation (vv 9-20)
4. Refutation (vv 21-24)
5. Epilogue (vv 25-30)
The introduction (vv 1-7) may also be described as the introductory narrative, providing the hearer or reader a basic outline or reference. The statement of facts (v 8) succinctly states the situation, i.e. the land is spoilt. Although not described and explained in detail, the confirmation (vv 9-20) states the result of their sin – punishment (לכן, vv 13, 14) and God’s judgement using religious language (v 16). The refutation (vv 21-24) repeats the הוי formulation in sequence and then followed by a longer verse using לכן and כי for the counter-argument (v 24). The epilogue (vv 25-30) concludes the message by presenting a vivid picture of an invading army for the purpose of shocking the listener. The prophet works the audience up using war as the subject. ANALYSIS ON 5:1-7
Dealing with the literary structure first, the song is unique and different in that, at surface level, it seems uncomplicated, but upon close reading it is quite the opposite particularly in its aesthetic use of the language: it has both an exciting and uninspiring tone. The genre Isaiah uses in his discourse is introduced in 5:1 – a שירה “song” – which is familiar to the hearers of Isaiah. Other שירת in Isaiah, particularly 23:15-16 and 26:1, have styles that differ from their contexts: they have short two-word sentences and dyadic puns, respectively. Vv 1-7, however, is more than a שירה. That is why scholars are divided on how to classify the שירה, though it is not crucial; they classify the שירה either one of the three, viz. parable, allegory, or fable. This שירה may be more appropriately classified as a parable. What is more important than defining the genre is the function of this literary type, i.e. the relationship between the story and the audience or the impact of the story to the audience.
Thus the literary type of this שירת may be identified as the māŝāl which is a rhetorical strategy whose concern is the audience’s condition, perception, and own awareness experience; it is used effectively in religious discourse for the purpose of changing attitudes, beliefs and life-styles, by describing the what but seeking to answer the more-profound why-questions. In seeking the answer to the question of why Isaiah had to use the māŝāl to persuade his audience instead confronting them directly, the rhetorical situation should first be reconstructed to be able to answer Isaiah’s use of the strategy. Thus in addition to Isaiah’s use of songs as strategy, he also employs the technique of beginning with a genre that is familiar to his audience which he uses in this song. He commonly uses the example (or the exemplum) as a rhetorical strategy to persuade his audience of his position. The truth he holds, though, he does not present as a known fact but as a revelation or a new way of understanding issues (cf. 1:2-3 and 5:1-7).
He provides his audience with examples of ideal behaviour patterns and they should not be shocked with his use of figures and speech tropes. The objective of the song is Isaiah’s criticism on the social situation of that specific place and time. His arguments are complex and its literary development corresponds to its environment. Isaiah’s difficult rhetorical task then, knowing the significance of the cult but disregarding it, stresses on their moral-ethical behaviour with its political-military consequences, which is God’s criterion for judgement. The moral-ethical issue is the essence of Isaiah’s “political” message. He repeats the issues of behaviour and justice and clarifies them with stories, examples (mirroring nature), comparisons (to natural phenomena). Isaiah, thus, begins with his experience – ethos – instead of speaking his point theoretically, “let me sing for my beloved” (v 1). He applies the story to a specific biographical situation or personal experience, entailing allegorical features of the song and requiring the audience an appropriate interpretation whose meaning is determined by its literary context. Isaiah’s starting with the cohortative אשירה “Let me sing” is effective in emphasising his determination and personal interest. He is trying to draw his audience’s attention both by form and stylistic devices.
Structurally v 2 is short but is full of agricultural details. The purpose on details is not only to construct an authentic agricultural scene but also to stress on the feelings of ingratitude and anger. It may also be observed that on surface reading, there is a lack of harmony in v 2. But upon close reading, vv 2 to 6 is a symmetry. Linguistically his use of hapax legomena and usual combinations suggest a rhetorical intention, i.e. for variety and avoid cliché, routine, and the familiar. Another rhetorical technique is his use of sound effect through puns and alliteration: ידידי (my friend) and דודי (my beloved) in v 1; and, assonance and alliteration in the series ויטעהו–ויסקלה–ועזקהו in v 2. Content-wise, the series of verbs give a sense of continuity and urgency. Both verbs ועזקהו “deep-digging/hoeing” and ויסקלה “clearing stones” imply hard labour before ויטעהו “planting.”
The intent is to prepare for the huge disappointment and feeling of betrayal after all the toil and preparation. The building of the watch-tower, which is made of stone, stands higher, and better compared to the booth in 1:8, connotes power and requires money and hard labour. Its permanence also signifies the owner’s hope of a great yield (v 2). The unusual watch-tower-vineyard combination is also another technique for breaking routine. The verb חצב “hewed” also connotes assurance and self-confidence of the owner. The three-line structure, instead of the two-line structure, lacking a parallel, gives a sense of sudden feeling of unfulfilment. All these leads to a feeling of frustration, disappointment, and failure. The turning-point in v 3 ועתה “and now” connotes an argument between lovers calling for judgement. Further turning-point, i.e. the transfer to the first person, is an intentional rhetoric device called aversio-apostrophe which intends to give new life to the character by turning the speech to a new person. This device allows Isaiah to confront his audience gradually by first hiding himself behind his beloved and then to appear as an opponent at the right moment. This technique eschews a direct confrontation with his audience which would have immediately dismissed him. Thus by first focusing the attention on a third person, he was able to gradually shift the focus to himself and be involved directly.
In v 5, the series of verbs in infinitive absolute, viz. הסר “remove,” בער “devoured/grazed,” פרץ “break,” מרמס “trampled,” is a rhetorical devise used for emphasis. Its consequence in v 6 is characteristic of the language of Isaiah. Other devices for effect and contrast of terms are used as well, viz. assonance שית/שמיר “briers” and “thistles”; and puns or wordplay משפח/משפט “equity/righteousness” and “iniquity/cry,” and צעקה/צדקה “justice” and “injustice/bloodshed.”
To conclude the section, Isaiah’s focus on the injustice motif (in the first five chapters) is due to the huge chasm between God’s ethical requirements and people’s practice. Because of this Isaiah’s difficulty in persuading and getting his audience’s attention is seen in his utilization of rhetorical strategy and devices. The māŝāl is a rhetorical strategy used to evoke the audience’s own awareness experience. And since the song is a product of the social criticism of its place and time, it should be studied in its context. ANALYSIS ON 5:8-24
Isaiah’s main address begins in v 8 which is made up of a series six הוי conveying deep disappoint of the vineyard-owner. The main address ends at v 24. The owner’s disappoint is first mentioned in the latter part of v 7, “he expected justice (משפט), but saw bloodshed (or “injustice,” משפח); righteousness (or “equity,” צדקה), but heard a cry (or “iniquity,” צעקה).
V 8 is the direct answer to v 7, the statement of fact, the stealing of property. Land ownership is a right (Lev 25:23-34; cf. 1 Kgs 21:1-29), and the social elite should honour and guarantee this biblical right. Though Isaiah does not go into details as to how the land-grabbing was done, he employs a dynamic language for effect: מגיעי “joining/extending,” and יקריבו “adding/joining” creates a feeling of continuation. Thus the effect is an atmosphere of emergency and action in the present. The feeling of action is further increased by the chiastic structure of v 8 where the centre of the line is constructed by a two-noun repetition of בית “house” and שדה “field/land.” He avoids stereotyping and uses repetition to create drama in his announcement on both nouns and verbs. His stylistic description keeps his audience focused on the issue of the spoilage of the land. The hophal verb והושבתם (v 8b) connotes a new situation, pointing to feelings of “pride” and “happiness” in the owners who think that they are only ones dwelling in the land. The statement of fact, though is the direct answer, is not delivered using objective language because the mourning-formula הוי points to the future of the new owners.
The confirmation begins in v 9 using a rhetorical device – an ellipsis: literally v 9 reads, צבאות יהוה באזני “in my ears the Lord of hosts.” The elliptical sentence misses a verb to create the notion of spontaneity and so authenticity. If Isaiah inserted a verb, it would have come off as conventional. In addition, the focus on God’s speaking directly to the prophet’s ear strengthens Isaiah’s ethos as his appointed prophet, adding rhetorical force. Isaiah then argues utilizing authority, i.e. an authority – God, recognized by his audience and thus undisputable.
Isaiah, now in v 9, declares the punishment and judgement in a distinct manner – the language of oath. The language of oath precludes his message from being refuted in advance, i.e. his message that one cannot eschew the punishment of God. The oath confirms the promise using the לא-אם combination, “surely.” The punishment is that both the houses taken illegally by the higher social class and the new residents will be desolated and driven away. The word שמה “desolate” describes the fate of the houses and connotes horror and confusion. The use of the adjective-pair וטובים גדלים “large and beautiful/splendid” is to increase the effect. Likewise, the conclusion of v 9 using יושב מאין is for effect, utilizing the negative – antimachus – as an advantage to allow “the subject to run indefinitely.”
The production yield in v 10, an example from nature or agriculture, reveals an absurdity which now calls for a comparison with the song. In the song, the vineyard was a disappointment, and in v 10 the punishment is confirmed with a harvest that is virtually nil. It is interesting to note that the illustration using natural or agricultural phenomena is axiomatic and hence irrefutable.
Isaiah (vv 11-12) proceeds to assault the social group, criticizing their way of life as empty. Structurally vv 11 to 12 is full of sound effects. The alliteration of the verbs משתיהם – בנשף – שכר – משכימי links them together by the ש sound. As well, the verbs in the conclusion features assonance: ראוו – יביטו. Interestingly the difference in sound effect reflects the make-up of vv 11-12: their love of wine vis-à-vis their regard for God.
The six הוי “woes” is a series listing down the crimes of the higher class, though the series itself is not merely a list; it presents a development from their social crime (in the statement of fact in v 8) to their religious sin – their empty sinful practices, viz. their oppressing the lower class and rejecting the instructions of God. This development functions rhetorically pointing to God’s political judgement – their exile (v 13a). The exile is a message to them that God is sovereign over them both politically and militarily. The דעת מבלי “for lack of knowledge” (v 13a) points out that they fail to understand their real condition and thus implies that they do not even know the true reason for their military failure and exile.
Isaiah uses the perfect tense for גלה “to uncover” or “go to exile” (v 13a) to rhetorically convey the notion of fulfilment. For effective delivery, he reaffirms his relationship with them by his utilising עמי “my people” (v 13a) to tell his audience that he is a part of the nation, and sympathizes with them, thus gaining their confidence. V 13b describes the hunger and thirst using a hapax legomenon צחה and an ambiguous word מתי. There is an alliteration, too, צמא – צחה to emphasize the feeling of thirst. Both there rhetorical devices causes the audience to focus on both sound and meaning.
Still linked to v 13 on the exile, the verb in הרחיבה “Sheol has enlarged its appetite,” a Hiphil perfect, may be considered as perfectum confidentiae which states “facts which are undoubtedly imminent and therefore, in the imagination of the speaker already accomplished.” Another possibility is that the earthquake that has already happened and his audience is fully aware of the event.
The function of the dual motif of the exile and earthquake concerns the use of theme of destruction, not contradicting the other, but reflecting the situation as a collapse in toto. Rhetorically this device is called an expolitio or exergasia which intends to “dwell on the same topic and yet seems to say something new…” Since Isaiah’s main theme is God’s punishment, he is taking the opportunity to hold the attention of the audience concerning the two events of the exile and the earthquake not as issues themselves but as illustrations of the consequence of their actions. The notion of God’s punishment is not self-evident to his audience and thus he had to use every means to get his message across: the לכן “therefore” is repeated twice to persuade the audience. As well, in view of the perfectum confidentiae, the usage of the enthymeme argument is seen in the occurrence of the two events.
The repetition of המון “multitude” in vv 13-14 connects the natural disaster in v 13 and the political situation in v 14. The feminine suffix refers to Jerusalem. The perfect verbs are adjusted to rhyme with ירד which also harmoniously rhymes with the adjectives הדרה “splendour/glory,” המונה “multitude/throng,” and שאונה “din,” except for עלז “revelry/jubilant.” עלז is unique in form and sound and corresponds to שאון, ןמון, and הדר, and thus grabs the attention of the audience.
In v 15, unlike in v 14, Isaiah wants to stress the impact of punishment and thus uses a series of verbs, not in harmonious rhymes, to emphasize on the actions itself. The verbs are in waw consecutive: וישח “bow down,” and וישפל “brought low.” There is alliteration, too, that holds the verbs together: וישפל, וישח, and תשפלנה. Isaiah also limited his vocabulary by using שפל two times. Again, the repetition is intended to hold the audience’s attention. Interestingly, to avoid over-repetition the tenses are varied: waw consecutive perfect, imperfect, and the singular is changed to plural, תשפלנה – וישפל. In addition the repetition of שפל (v 16) increases the verb which contrasts God to human beings ויגבה “exalted.” Both the series of verbs and the repetition intends to convey the lowliness of humans and their worthlessness in contrast to God, especially in the graphic use of גפל vis-à-vis שפל, which is the rhetorical goal of v 15.
The title of God in v 16 צבאות יהוה “Lord of hosts” calls to mind the military-might of God. Things did not turn out as expected when military action did not materialize but instead משפט “justice” and צדקה “righteousness” were referred to. It is interesting that the might of God is expressed in terms of moral-ethical concepts, and not military strength. This rhetorical device, the gap between the audience’s expectation and the speaker’s fulfilment of them, provokes curiosity and psychological awareness, which results in the special attention of the audience, enabling the speaker to effectively convey his message.
The themes in both v 7 and v 16 are the same: משפט “justice” and צדקה “righteousness” which are actually the core of Isaiah’s message in both statement of fact and the confirmation. The crime of the people are injustice and unrighteousness. The importance of the relationship between cultic holiness, קדוש “holy” and משפט “justice” and צדקה “righteousness” should be stressed here. The “holy” is achieved through justice and righteousness, and not through fear: God demands moral-ethical behaviour.
Isaiah maximizes the rhetorical impact by conveying the severity of God’s punishment – destruction (v 17). His holiness is embodied in terms of justice and righteousness which entails their conforming to his moral-ethical code. As a prophet, he attempts to persuade them using the graphical image of a military ruin. He uses the rhetorical strategy of the tension between the expected and the unexpected in his pastoral description in v 17a and then suddenly turn to a disastrous scene in v 17b.
Though Isaiah does not have new material to add, he again uses repetition through the הוי series where it picks up again in v 18 connoting mourning and death. The previous הוי series have a pattern of vividly describing Isaiah’s criticisms against their crimes (v 8) and misbehaviour (v 11) using non-metaphoric language. The “new” הוי series beginning from v 18, however, is metaphorical, since Isaiah has already communicated his message and now he intends to embellish it with symbolism. The direct accusation (v 19) immediately follows the cords-and-cart-rope metaphor (v 18). The ones criticized האמרים “who say” by Isaiah mockingly challenge God. Isaiah’s response to them is God will punish the particular social class. The words Isaiah used (1) מעשה “work/deed” which is a parallel to פעל “work/deed” in v 12b is taken as the core or the essence of life, and (2) עצה “counsel” or “plan” refers to the counsel of God, i.e. His fulfilling His purpose in history and politics. Isaiah’s audience was challenging the issue of life’s purpose, that life has no meaning, God does not act, and therefore they indulge (vv 11-12). The prophet’s message, however, is that there is consequences for their actions, either reward and punishment.
The series of verbs in v 19, ימהר “hasten/make haste,” יחישה “speed/hurry,” ותקרב “approach/draw near,” and ותבואה “come,” is an indication of the challenge of Isaiah’s opponents. Here he could not pinpoint a specific crime and hence alters his argument from an cause-and-effect approach to an enthymeme: he first describes their life’s meaninglessness and then lists down their argument, portraying in advance those who challenge God as meaningless and thus their argument, too, as meaningless. Consequently he can just quote them without necessarily having to refute their arguments. Isaiah employs a developed pattern in vv 20-25 where he repeats the refrain (vv 24-25) but with a variation vis-à-vis vv 13-14. The הוי in v 21 is short and is followed by another הוי which is expanded with לכן “therefore” (v 24) and כן-על “therefore” (v 25). In vv 13 and 14, the same לכן was used.
Isaiah’s employment of the כן-על variation prevents it from sounding hackneyed. V 20 is particularly interesting for its three-line construction instead of two which, on surface reading, is similar to the structure of vv 18-19 having a הוי with three lines. The difference is vv 18-19 is described with their nothingness or falsehood while in v 20, there is no indication of their fate and then followed by a new series of הוי that helps build up the climax. Isaiah uses three pairs: good versus evil, light versus darkness, and sweet versus bitter. The first rhetorical technique in v 20 is the use of convention and contrast by the speaker, creating absurdity. The second strategy is using only a limited number of vocabulary, viz. האמרים “say” and the repetition of שמים “put.” The third is the chiastic order which enables Isaiah to repeat his words in reversed order, increasing the effect of the absurdity. In vv 21-22, Isaiah dramatizes the impact of the punishment, disaster and death through the rhetorical device of anaphora or repetitio, by the repetition of הוי in succession.
In comparison to the לכן v 14 (which is the second לכן, the first לכן is in v 13) which contains a metaphor, the verse before it, v 13, presents the punishment of exile first; whereas the לכן in the conclusion in v 24, it is the opposite: it gives the metaphor first and then the statement of punishment. The reason for this is that at the end of the הוי series, it is no longer necessary to argue and illustrate further after employing a metaphor. Using a metaphor can avoid further argumentation. The purpose of the vivid metaphors in v 24 is to stir the audience’s emotions. Alliteration is used, dominated by the ש sound: קש “stubble,” אש “fire,” חשש “chaff,” לשון אש “tongue of fire.” Here the ש sound is “in parallel” with the burning action of the stubble. Their root is described using מק “smell of decay” or “musty smell” which is somewhat working with קש. Their blossom is compared to disappearing dust. The point of all this is, like a fire that burns the stubble, so is the nothingness of Isaiah’s opponents. The accusation (reason) then is explicitly stated in v 24c, “[F]or they have rejected the instruction (תורה) of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (nrsv) ANALYSIS ON 5:25-30
Vv 25-30 vividly concludes Isaiah’s address. With the purpose of persuading and reaching the audience, vv 25-30 functions as the epilogue of the address; it is part of the Isaiah’s address and there is no reason to treat it as a later addition. Hence, the flow of the address begins with God’s intervention in the song, it moves to the הוי series, and then dramatically ends with the epilogue.
Isaiah designed his address to create an impact, i.e. to demonstrate that the political situation is the direct response of God – the effect – to the sin and misbehaviour of the social elite. The conclusion is that of a literal military invasion, as proof of God’s punishment.
The verbs in perfect tense in v 25 indicates that the enemy has already invaded Judah: חרה “kindled,” ויט “stretch,” ויכהו “strike” or “smite,” and וירגזו “quake.” The כן-על gives the reason for the invasion. Interestingly Isaiah combines the acts of man and nature in the war and earthquake (v 25b) vis-à-vis vv 13-14.
In terms of style there is a chiasm between v 25a and v 25c:
עַל־כֵּ֡ן חָרָה֩ אַף־יְהוָ֙ה בְּעַמּ֜וֹ וַיֵּ֣ט יָד֧וֹ עָלָ֣יו וַיַּכֵּ֗הוּ וַֽיִּרְגְּזוּ֙ הֶֽהָרִ֔ים וַתְּהִ֧י נִבְלָתָ֛ם כַּסּוּחָ֖ה בְּקֶ֣רֶב חוּצ֑וֹת בְּכָל־זֹאת֙ לֹא־שָׁ֣ב אַפּ֔וֹ וְע֖וֹד יָד֥וֹ נְטוּיָֽה׃
אף “anger” (v 25a)
ויט “he stretched out” (v 25a)
ידו “his hand” (v 25a)
אפו “his anger” (v 25c)
ידו “his hand” (v 25c)
נטויה “he stretched out” (v 25c)
Since the description of the enemy is stereotyped, Isaiah provides details to give a feeling of reality so as not to dismiss his threat if he simply have provided a general description. V 27 contains a chain of negatives אין and לא to enable Isaiah to describe the enemy freely without limits, i.e. to energy and determination of the enemy to make war. The first chain uses the particle אין: בו כושל-ואין עיף-אין gives a sense of hurriedness. The other is a verbal chain using the negative לא: יישן ולא ינום לא.
The verbs are in the imperfect tense and so gives a sense of continuity, though the pace slows down and not sporadic, still the enemy’s assault goes on continuously. The synonymia יישן and ינום makes the act more emphatic. The assonance between יבוא and בו in vv 26b and 27a zeroes in on the enemy, enabling Isaiah to describe them in detail. Isaiah also developed his descriptions using a chain of constructs: נעליו שרוך “sandal-strap” and חלציו אזור “waist-cloth/band.” Further, the change in tense to the perfect in v 27b from the imperfect in v 27a gives a sense of accomplishment and vividness. Note that Isaiah gradually moved into fuller descriptive sentences to let the audience focus on the movement, form, and context.
Combination of constructs נעליו and חלציו in v 27b is quite common (cf. Deut 25:9, 10; Isa 20:2) linked to a totally unrelated item. Isaiah uses vocabulary both conventionally and unconventionally, using familiar vocabulary and making distinct word-combinations to make his audience focus on his message.
A series of three נהם “growl” makes up vv 29b-30a, portraying an attacking lion. No-one will be there to rescue the victims from the lion’s fatal attack (v 29b). The darkness-metaphor is quite different from the lion-metaphor in v 29. Although it has been suggested that v 30 is a later addition referring to Judah’s fall in 587 bc, Isaiah combined both the natural phenomenon and the military invasion to demonstrate God’s involvement. When God intervenes, there is “chaos, a reversal of order… light dominated by darkness, the end of civilization.” Isaiah’s goal is to “shake the audience; the disaster, punishment, is close at hand.” CONCLUSION
Isaiah 5:1-30 is a well-designed, complex discourse made up of three parts, viz. (1) the introduction (vv 1-7), (2) the main address (vv 8-24), and (3) the epilogue (vv 25-30). Isaiah’s goal is to effectively persuade his audience through his message that their political troubles did not occur for no reason at all, but is the consequence of their sin – their ethical crimes – against the lower social class: there is cause and effect for their moral-ethical misbehaviour.
Isaiah had to deal with powerful, sceptical opponents and convey a message that is hard to swallow. Isaiah starts his appeal by delivering a parable-song to attract his audience. He then makes his accusations using the הוי formula, condemning the higher class for both their moral-ethical misbehaviour and their religious scepticism. He criticized them for their near-sightedness and apathy for the present, and their ignoring God’s future judgement through political distress and military invasion.
Isaiah ends his address with an graphic portrayal of God’s imminent punishment employing an invading army, nature, and a natural phenomenon, conveying the possibility of recurrence of past events.
Isaiah not only utilized style and form, viz. the māŝāl and הוי formulation, respectively, to make his appeal. As well, he used – ethos – the ethical appeal or “artistic proof” to persuade his audience that he is the Lord’s appointed prophet and is authorized by God to deliver his message.