Isaiah 33 reflects a similar case. This chapter consists of very different liturgical forms which have been shaped into a unified presentation of Isaiah's vision of the future after the threat from the great enemy has been overcome. Childs is no longer as confident as he was in his Exodus commentary about our ability to reconstruct the Sitz im Leben of these forms. In his opinion, Gunkel's cultic theories are at best a brilliant piece of speculation.6 He is more confident, however, about our ability to perceive the work of the editors who have reshaped these forms into a literary composition. In short, the classic Isaianic pattern outlined above has been represented by an intertextual reuse of prior prophetic and psalmnic tradition. These traditions have been joined into a holistic interpretation with events taken from Israel's continuing experience with God. In the context of the narrative sequence of chapters 28-32, earlier Isaianic oracles are reused to reinterpret the events leading up to the attack on Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah.7 Childs concludes from this that the context for interpretation should be the text's synchronic setting within the book,8 though this conclusion is a derivative of the intentionality of the editors and the new genre of the text (Spiegeltext)9 rather than an appeal to postmodern epistemology.
1H.G.M. Williamson, “Relocating Isaiah 1:2-9,” in Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah (ed. C.C. Broyles and C. Evans; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997), 263-277.
2Childs, Isaiah, 16.
3In contrast to the majority of interpreters, Childs believes that promise oracles were part of the original message. Cf. Childs, Isaiah, 215: “There is no compelling evidence to suggest that only the message of judgement was primary and that the element of promise was always secondary from a later redaction.”
4Childs, Isaiah, 215.
5Childs, Isaiah, 216.
6H. Gunkel, “Jesaia 33, eine prophetische Liturgie,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 42 (1924), 177-208.
7Childs, Isaiah, 245.
8Childs, Isaiah, 246.
9The phrase is Beuken's, in “Jesaja 33 als Spiegeltext im Jesajabuch,” Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses 67 (1991), 5-35. Childs claims that Beuken's theory rivals Gunkel's in its significance.