Violence, Otherness and Identity in Isaiah 63:1-6 The Trampling one Coming from Edom

by Father Dominic Irudayara SJ. Andrew Mein, et al

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.

The author puts before us the purpose of the book: “If the biblical sad stories are disturbing, equally disconcerting are some of the depictions of the divine and the “other” in the Bible. Isiah 63:1-6 is an illustrative instance.” This prophetic text presents the Arriving One in arrestingly gory detail. The Coming One declares that he trampled down “people in anger” and then “poured out their lifeblood on the earth” These descriptions sound quite cold within the so-called Trans-Isaiah, where appealing images of God such as “mother,” “father” and “redeemer” occur.

The particular scope of the present project concerns the second panel (63: 1-6). Further, the proposed enquiry focuses on two depictions within the chosen text: 1.The violent portrayal of the Trampling One and 2. that he is coming from Edom. This study argues that reading, Isiah 63:1-6 in its contested and marginal postexilic contest, the image of the blood-spattered trader and the unrelenting animosity towards Edom together function as a cipher for the prophetic revival of theological and social identities of the Yehud community. The proposed inquiry proceeds along two trajectories. First, drawing from Social Identity Approach, a social identity reading probes the stories of Edom-Israel in the larger biblical context. There stories tell the tale of Israel sharing permeable boundaries with Edom- geographically, ethnically and perhaps even religiously. The two proposed trajectories of analysis aid in underscoring two different but interrelated themes—the Trampling One and coming of Age from Edom. And by means of two suggested enquiry routes, the present study aims to bring under focus the Isaian vision that at once constructs and revives the identity of a community, its deity and it proximate “other”.

In Chapter one the author begins by outlining the chosen approach to Trito-Isaiah. Within a complex corpus and yet a readable whole, called “the book of Isaiah”. Isa. 56-66 form an integral literary unit. A preliminary consideration delineates some pertinent historical pointers, literary structure, and theological themes of Third Isaiah. The major part of the chapter then focuses on Isa63:1-6. It presents a translation of this periscope and some relevant literary details, including unity, structure, genre, poetic elements, and intertextual echoes of the chosen text.

Irudayaraj endeavors in Chapter 5 to synthesize the two readings of the chosen text. With a proposal that the theme “otherness” is the common thread which runs through the two enquiry trajectories, the discussion brings together the interrelated we of entities (the community its God, Its “other” and the prophet). Such an integrated view helps reiterate the theological identity revival and the social identity construction in the chosen text.

At the end of the text the author pauses to ruminate retrospectively on the journeys to and in this study. The discussion then closes by pointing to three prospective avenues that lie ahead of the current project: 1. the appropriation of the Treader of the Wine Press in the New Testament; 2. the relevance and urgency of owning up the Divine Warrior text in this author’s cultural milieu; and 3. the scope and significance of proximate “other”.

This is an academically astute analysis of the two journeys and what the sense of the ‘other’ means in Isaiah. It is a book that should be read by all who deeply want to understand the sense of violence that has occurred throughout the history of humanity and especially made clear in Isaiah 63: 1-6.

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