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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

History and Hope: The Agrarian Wisdom of Isaiah 28–35
Stulac, Daniel J.

University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 2018 pp. xii + 327. $64.95

Series Information
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, 24


Description: History and Hope examines the rhetorical function of Isaiah 28–35, a relatively overlooked series of six woe oracles, in relation to reading the book of Isaiah as a whole. These eight chapters rely on the language of agrarian wisdom to transport the reader from prior reflections on historical destruction into a vision of ultimate hope. Stulac’s study, therefore, offers new insight into the book of Isaiah, but perhaps more importantly, it does so through two methodological innovations that promise to enhance biblical research at large. First, History and Hope develops an interpretive strategy based on ancient Israel’s agro-ecological past. Through comparisons to the thought and practice of several contemporary agrarian thinkers (such as Wendell Berry), it draws attention to the holistic, traditional worldview of the people who created the Bible and develops an “agrarian hermeneutic” that is then used to examine the book of Isaiah. This interpretive strategy, which introduces a variety of observations consistent with ancient Israel’s subsistence culture, offers a new lens on the Bible that is historically and phenomenologically appropriate to its premodern character. Second, the study applies modern narratology to the book of Isaiah in its final form, a move that allows for a careful delineation of the differences in knowledge that stand between the book’s characters and its implied reader. When combined with an agrarian hermeneutic, narratological precision opens understanding of Isaiah’s written rhetoric to the associative, soil-bound logic by which it is constructed. In the past, many scholars have regarded Isaiah 28–35 as little more than a fragmentary reiteration of ideas already found in prior parts of the book. Now, through exegetical analysis of Isaiah 28–35 from an agrarian perspective, these eight chapters are interpreted as a rhetorical key to the overall book’s coherent vision of destruction and hope.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Prophetic Literature, Isaiah, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Rhetorical Criticism

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Review by Willem A. M. Beuken
Published 5/9/2019
Citation: Willem A. M. Beuken, review of Daniel J. Stulac, History and Hope: The Agrarian Wisdom of Isaiah 28–35, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2019).


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