Second Isaiah's Identity
excerpted from The Exilic Code by Preston Kavanagh
The Genesis-Second Isaiah Connection
This chapter will identify the most excellent writer in all of Scripture. Called Second Isaiah, he or she is an unknown prophet who many think lived in the sixth century BCE, during the Babylonian Exile of the Jews. Second Isaiah makes the short list of history’s greatest religious thinkers. The prophet’s portrayals of God make the spirit sing; they still astound. New Testament writers quoted him frequently, and his Shakespearian language remains in current use in liturgies and hymnbooks.
The book of Isaiah contains Second Isaiah’s work, along with that of others, including the prophet named Isaiah who lived in the eighth century. Second Isaiah mentions Cyrus the Persian who liberated the Judeans from Babylon rule. Until modern times, everyone thought eighth-century Isaiah had foretold sixth-century Cyrus. Today most agree that a later hand wrote Isa 40–55. Once commentators had concluded that there was a Second Isaiah, the next step was to identify him or her. But no one has yet succeeded in doing so, and in recent years scarcely anyone has ventured a new guess. A generation ago, a noted scholar concluded that Second Isaiah was “a man whose name we shall never know.”
The prophet wrote Isa 49:1–6, which analysts agree is autobiographical. Did those verses disclose Second Isaiah’s identity? Shown below is a side-by-side comparison of Isa 49:1–3, 5 and Gen 25:21–26, which relates the story of Jacob’s birth. The passages share fifteen common words, including six of seven words in this key phrase from Isa 49:1: “The Lord [ יהוה] called [קרא ] me before I was born [ בטן ], while I was in my mother’s [ אם] womb [מעה ] he named [ שם ] me.”
Second Isaiah chose his vocabulary with a view to the birth story of Jacob. Why? Genesis 25 says Rebekah had twins in her womb, and Esau came out first. “Afterward his brother came out,” the text reads, “with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.” The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes, “Jacob is interpreted by a play on the Hebrew word for ‘heel,’ i.e. ‘he takes by the heel’”. Genesis says that while still within his mother’s womb, Jacob grabbed his twin by the heel and so acquired his name. And Isa 49:1 says, “While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”
In Gen 25, the patriarch Jacob earns his name before his birth. In Isa 49, Second Isaiah says God named him before birth. The passages are a match in meaning, and are strongly connected by common words. Second Isaiah’s name appears to be Jacob. In the Isaiah autobiographical passage the anonymous prophet of the Exile seems to announce his name. Each birth produced a child named Jacob. And remember that six of the seven words clustered in the Isaiah 49 birth announcement also appear in the Gen 25 passage. These words appear together only in the Gen and Isaiah passages. It is an extraordinary Word Link, with a word combination that is unique to Gen 25 and Isa 49.
By comparison, the prophet Jeremiah’s birth account supports the Jacob finding in an interesting way. While Jeremiah was still in the womb, God “formed,” “knew,” “consecrated,” and “appointed” him (Jer 1:5). Second Isaiah, writing afterward of his own birth, surely had the great Jeremiah in mind. According to Second Isaiah, “The Lord called me” and then “he named me.” Using “called,” the prophet presents his credentials to be a prophet. With “named me” he goes Jeremiah one better. Jeremiah might have been formed and known within the womb, but Second Isaiah, while still inside his mother, receives at God’s hand that most intimate of things, his very name. In Hebrew Scripture, the name is “the essence of personality, the expression of innermost being.”
Furthermore, Isa 49:3 reads, “And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’” After speaking to the prophet (“he said to me”), God called him “Israel.” Prior verses clearly addressed an individual. How could the prophet suddenly have become the nation Israel? This paradox has ever stumped commentators. However, once one assumes the author’s name is Jacob, the problem disappears. The patriarch had been both Jacob and Israel, and likewise so was the prophet. Isaiah 49:3 could have read, “You are my servant, Jacob-Israel.”
Moreover, it is a scholarly commonplace that Second Isaiah frequently used “Jacob.” This, too, argues that Jacob was the prophet’s own name. In the first ten chapters of his corpus, Second Isaiah uses Jacob no less than twenty-two times. Phrases like “God of Jacob,” “Jacob my servant,” and “seed of Jacob” abound. Also, the prophet loved to use Jacob and Israel in parallel, as in “Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen” (Isa 41:8). In 44:1 he playfully reversed the order: “O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!” The prophet, a master of ambiguity, rings the changes on Jacob and Israel by pairing them with God, servant, name, seed, glory, and house. The patriarch carried the names of both Jacob and Israel, so the prophet’s interchangeable use of the two names also tells us that Second Isaiah’s name is Jacob.
RABBIS BEND SCRIPTURE TO GLORIFY JACOB
Scholars estimate that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived between 2000 and 1500 BCE—at least a millennium before Second Isaiah.
The patriarch Jacob ranks with David as the most clearly drawn character in Hebrew Scripture, and the patriarch’s character is consistent throughout. He is greedy, duplicitous, and fearful. While still in the womb, Jacob fights with his brother. As an adult, he takes advantage of a heedless Esau to trade lentils and bread for the older twin’s birthright. Later, with the connivance of his mother, Jacob disguises himself as Esau and steals the firstborn’s blessing from their blind father. To escape retribution, Jacob goes to Haran, where he meets his cousin Rachel, whom he eventually marries. Jacob becomes the chief herdsman of Laban, his father-in-law, and uses the position to enlarge his own flocks at Laban’s expense. At length, Jacob flees to Haran with wives, children, servants, and flocks. Laban pursues, and overtakes the fearful patriarch in Canaan. There, to Jacob’s surprise and relief, the two men talk, swear an oath, and part amicably.
Jacob’s confrontation with his brother Esau, however, is still to be faced. The patriarch divides his entourage into several parts. He sends herds, servants, and even wives and children ahead to soften his brother’s anger. That night, as Scripture says, “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Gen 32:24). Though the wrestling put Jacob’s thigh out of joint, he refused to release the “man” until he had his blessing. His adversary responded, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel [one who strives with God], for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed” (Gen 32:28).
Thus renamed, a frightened and limping Jacob-Israel meets Esau the following day—and his twin forgives him! Jacob then reneges on a promise to follow Esau to Edom, and instead takes the road to Canaan. After a bloody run-in with the Canaanites, Jacob flees once more, this time to Bethel. There God promises that he would father a nation. Eventually, Jacob brings his family to Egypt, where Pharaoh welcomes and honors the old man. Jacob dies in Egypt after blessing each of his sons, the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Scripture’s unsparing portrait of Jacob pictures a man on the run. But Jacob is also a man blessed of God, the third link in the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob chain that is to secure the Promised Land for the tribes of Israel.
What has Jacob the patriarch to do with Jacob the prophet? The prophet was a genius with words, an inspired and inspiring leader of his people. His voice has reverberated down the centuries, and those reverberations about the prophet would still be felt in rabbinic literature. The rabbis wrote that neither Abraham nor Isaac equaled Jacob, “who was regarded as a model of virtue and righteous-ness.” Jacob was “the greatest of the patriarchs,” and Abraham himself once escaped death just so that Jacob might descend from him. After Jacob’s demise, it was his merit, not that of the other patriarchs, that sustained Israel. God’s throne had Jacob’s image carved upon it, and God gave the patriarch a position little lower than the angels. “The glorification of Jacob is of very high antiquity,” said an expert on rabbinic literature. That glorification is extraordinary in view of what the Bible says about Jacob’s character.
To put Jacob’s glaring moral lapses in better light, the rabbis used imagination. Jacob agreed to be born after his brother because otherwise Esau would kill Rebekah, their mother. The reason Jacob wanted Esau’s birthright was so that he could offer sacrifices, the prerogative of the firstborn.
Moreover, Esau was unsuitable for so spiritual a task. Jacob did not steal his brother’s blessing, but took only his due. Though Jacob kissed his cousin Rachel at the well in Haran, the rabbis pardoned him because she was a blood relation. Jacob himself was not subject to evil impulse, and so forth. While some rabbis occasionally criticized Jacob, most were apologetic.
They sought to excuse the patriarch by explaining away Scripture. Jacob’s preeminence among the sages is especially strange considering the towering figure of Abraham. Of the three patriarchs, Jacob was a rogue, Isaac a nonentity, and Abraham a giant. Both testaments give Abraham his due. Chapter 11 of the New Testament’s book of Hebrews contains a classic chapter on faith, a roll call of the heroes of Scripture. Hebrews 11 allots to Isaac and Jacob a grudging verse apiece while giving Abraham line after inspirational line.
Rabbinic literature should have glorified Abraham rather than Jacob, but surprisingly it does not. Instead, the rabbis chose to exalt the patriarch, almost certainly because of the enduring reputation of the prophet Jacob.
Other rabbinic material sustains this view. A Talmud tractate said Jacob the patriarch missed the servitude of the Diaspora, though it was the prophet rather than the patriarch who lived during the Exile. Rabbinic literature contains many references to Jacob’s great learning and to his study of the law. Isaiah 49:3 reads, “‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’”
Just before quoting that passage, the Talmud discussed teachers of the Torah. The Talmud writers knew that the author of the quoted verse had taught Torah, and at the same time implied Israel was the servant’s name. Scripture offers no basis for associating the patriarch Jacob with Torah studies. But there was every basis for assuming the prophet Jacob excelled in the Torah, and that he taught it. Another example is that when a pregnant Rebekah passed a synagogue or an academy, Jacob would attempt to break out of the womb. The Jacob of rabbinic literature was the exilic prophet, not the patriarch. The rabbis invented stories about the patriarch to glorify the prophet.
At thirteen Jacob entered the House of Study of Shem and Eber. Genesis Rabbah, the earliest Midrash, states, “Our father Jacob spent another fourteen years secluded in the Land and studying under Eber.” This brings us to academies. The opening book of the Talmud says Scripture sometimes used “tent” as a metaphor for academy, and the great medieval scholar Rashi agreed. Thus “tents of Shem” in Gen 9:27 referred to an academy. Another candidate for the metaphor was Gen 25:27, which concludes Jacob’s birth story. The verse says, “Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.” Elsewhere in the narrative, Jacob pitched his tent before at Shechem (Gen 33:19) and beyond Migdaleder (Gen 35:21). Quite possibly the prophet himself was announcing his academy’s current whereabouts.
Here are the reasons that Second Isaiah’s name is Jacob:
- A strong Word Link ties Second Isaiah’s birth account in Isaiah account in Isaiah to the Jacob birth story in Genesis.
- Second Isaiah’s description in Isa 49 of his own naming while within the womb exactly fits the Genesis account of Jacob’s birth.
- The frequent use of Jacob in the Second Isaiah chapters support that the prophet uses this name as a signature.
- To assume that the prophet bears the same names as the patriarch—Jacob and Israel—resolves textual problems.
- When rabbinic authors turned scriptural warts into dimples, they were exalting the exilic prophet, not the ancient patriarch.
- The learned Jacob whom the rabbis describe fits the prophet, not the patriarch.
- Finally, there is one chance in three thousand that the number of Jacob coding rows in Isa 40–55 is coincidental (see below).
For a century, scholars have titled the prophet Second Isaiah. Perhaps the time has come to call him Second Jacob.
ANOTHER TEST OF CODING
The opening chapter found that the Priestly Benediction contains a code that spells Jehoiachin numerous times. Then chapter 2 traced Jehoiachin anagrams to the writings of Second Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and extended coding to include Cyrus the Persian. Strong evidence that Jacob is Second Isaiah’s name makes Isa 40–55 a good place to test coding again, this time with Jacob. For convenience, we shall consider only rows, that is, coded spellings taking letters from consecutive text words.
The Bible contains 4,114 יעקב rows, with eighty-six of them located within Isa 40–55. Here is just one instance. The initial Jacob row is in the seventh through the tenth words of Isa 40: על לב ירושלמ וקראו . The Jacob letters are in italicized underline, and the sequence is עביק. The ratio of Jacob rows per text word in Isa 40–55 is almost fifty percent higher than in the rest of Scripture, and the probability of this occurring by chance is about one in three thousand. What can explain this high number of Jacob rows? Part of the answer could be the frequency of the word “Jacob” in Second Isaiah chapters. Subtracting the effects of Jacob text words from both Isa 40–55 and from the rest of Scripture moves the probability of coincidence from one in three thousand to one in eighty-one. However, one in eighty-one is still statistically significant (at .012 percent), so the difference remains even after excluding Jacob text words.
The conclusion is that the same code used in the Priestly Benediction to form Jehoiachin spellings was used by Second Isaiah in Isa 40–55 to form Jacob spellings.
And did the prophet also use anagrams to spell יעקב within single text words? The answer, at least in Isa 40–55, must be no since only ויבקע in Isa 48:21 qualifies. Instead of using anagrams, the prophet frequently worked his own names—Jacob and Israel—into his text.
Since we now know that Second Isaiah used Jacob and Israel interchange-ably, perhaps a look at Isa 40–55 will reveal how the prophet signed his work. Such opportunities are rare.
The prophet Jacob often used Jacob and Israel in parallel to introduce himself, and not infrequently he included servant. To illustrate, “But now hear, O Jacob My servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord, who made you, who formed you in the womb” (Isa 44:1–2). Womb, very likely, alludes to the Jacob birth story. Here is a second example: The Lord “formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring back Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him” (Isa 49:5). This next verse has the same elements. Jacob and Israel could be the nation, or the prophet, or both, though this verse’s birth elements point to Jacob the prophet. “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb . . .” (Isa 46:3). This is similar: “For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb . . .” (Isa 44:23–24). “Formed” and “womb” reminded readers of the birth story in Gen 25.
In Jacob-Israel parallels, Second Isaiah skillfully mixed the corporate and the individual. For example, in Isa 49:6 God said, “‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel.’” Another Jacob-Israel parallel does the same thing: “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isa 41:14).
In the following, Jacob and Israel are both individuals. “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me” (Isa 44:21). And yet another example: “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me” (Isa 45:4).
This mixing of personal and corporate with Jacob and Israel has perplexed scholars. But difficulties dissolve once one understands that the prophet bore the names of both Israel and Jacob. Second Jacob probably relished the apparent confusion. He understood that those he addressed knew the secret. Whatever else Jacob meant in these passages, he certainly intended them as signatures. The term “Jacob IDs” will stand for these and other plays upon Jacob and Israel. IDs have a more neutral meaning than signatures, which is important because Jacob IDs were used not only by the prophet but also by those assailing him. In either case they identified Second Jacob.
In addition to the Jacob-Israel pairings, the prophet also used Jacob itself, usually with a modifier. For example, “Bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob”; “Do not fear, O Jacob my servant”; “the offspring of Jacob”; “‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!’”; and “Your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isa 41:21; 44:2; 45:19; 48:20; 49:26).
Since the prophet used Jacob with modifiers, it is not surprising that he employ- ed Israel in the same manner. Begin with “That you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by name” and “invoke the God of Israel” (Isa 45:3; 48:1). In another variation Second Jacob may be addressing his disciples: “In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory” (Isa 45:25). The prophet also used “Israel my glory” and “my servant, Israel” (Isa 46:13, 49:3). But his favorite seems to have been “Holy One of Israel,” which is a hallmark of his writings. He works it three times into Isaiah chapter 41: “your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,” “the Holy One of Israel has created it,” and “in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory” (41:14, 20, 16). Interestingly, Jacob IDs disappear from work attributed to the prophet after Isaiah chapter 49, except for Holy One of Israel inclusions in chapters 54 and 55 (and a single God of Israel reference in Isa 52). In all, the exilic prophet employed Holy One of Israel eleven times in Isa 40–55.
Here is an inventory of Second Jacob’s use of Jacob and Israel in Isa 40–55 and the extent to which they occur in the balance of Scripture.
In identifying Jacob IDs in the rest of Scripture, all the Jacob and Israel vari-ations found in Isa 40–55 count, except for one. That exception is Israel used alone. It appears just once in the Second Isaiah chapters (Isa 45:17), but over one thousand times elsewhere. Inclusion of solitary Israel occurrences would swamp the analysis, and to little purpose. While further work could identify some of these (for example, Ezek 13:4 and Amos 4:12), the table excludes them. Separately, though “people of Israel,” “sons of Israel,” “Israelites,” and the like do not appear in Isa 40–55, the term occurs often in the balance of Scripture alongside other IDs. Because of this, it seems appropriate to list it with Jacob IDs, but not to include it in Total Unduplicated IDs. After excluding overlaps, there are forty-five Jacob IDs in the Isaiah chapters and close to eight hundred in the remainder of Scripture.
Now to what exilic Jacob wrote or may have written. The best starting place is the prophet’s home ground, Isaiah chapters 40–55. Chapters 42 through 49 are filled with IDs, important ones. Jacob-Israel parallels are numerous, and so are instances of Holy One of Israel. Two chapters contain five of these, one has four, and two other chapters have three apiece. Isaiah 41, 43, 44, and 48 win mention for their high ID frequencies (IDs divided by text words), and chapter 45 almost makes it. Chapters 40, 42, 46, and 47 each contain only one Jacob-Israel parallel or Holy One of Israel, but one is enough to assign authorship to Second Isaiah, especially considering the strength of neighboring writings. After chapter 49, major IDs take a holiday until chapters 54 and 55. Isaiah 54:5 says, “The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”
And the next chapter contains, “. . . because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you” (Isa 55:5). Almost a score of Jacob IDs within Isa 40–55 remain to be quoted, but the lesson should be clear. Jacob the prophet, also called Israel, wrote and signed most of those chapters.
Isaiah 52 contains one ID, “God of Israel” (Isa 52:12), so it might also be from the pen of Second Jacob. But based solely upon Jacob IDs, chapters 50 and 51 are not by him. Neither is Isa 53, which is regrettable. It concerns the Suffering Servant and may be the most important chapter in Hebrew Scripture. In summary, Jacob IDs strongly support that a half dozen of the so-called Second Isaiah chapters were written by Jacob the prophet, an equal number probably were by him, and—based solely on Jacob-Israel IDs—three were not.
JACOB IDS IN SCRIPTURE
The book of Isaiah traditionally has been divided into three sections. The third section, chapters 56–66, has been attributed to someone known only as Third Isaiah. Chapter 60 begins “Arise, shine; for your light has come,” and goes on to describe the future glory of Zion. If any part of Third Isaiah is by Jacob, it is chapter 60, for it contains Mighty One of Jacob and refers twice to the Holy One of Israel (Isa 60:16, 9, 14). Four other Third-Isaiah chapters have IDs, but nothing as distinctive as this. Next, the jewel in the Third Isaiah collection is Isa 61, which sounds like Second Jacob even though it contains no IDs. If Jacob wrote Isa 61, he did not apply his signature in the usual way.
Chapters 1–39 constitute the first section of the book of Isaiah. Almost half contain Jacob IDs, indicating that the exilic prophet wrote, edited, or was the subject of at least some of these chapters. The best candidate is chapter 17, which has three IDs. It begins with an oracle against Damascus that includes an anti-Jacob parallel: “The remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the children of Israel, says the Lord of hosts. On that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean” (Isa 17:3–4). Though Israel and Jacob are in parallel, it appears that the second line has been added to discredit Second Jacob. In any event, Jacob’s signature is being used against him. A few verses later two solid Jacob IDs appear: God of Israel and Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah chapter 10 also features Jacob IDs. It reads, “On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob [parallel ID] will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel [ID], in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel [parallel ID] were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return” (Isa 10:20–22). Such a concentration may be an insert—and a hostile one at that. Isaiah 29:19, 22–23 has a similar cluster of IDs. (They include Holy One of Israel, house of Jacob, Jacob, and the parallel Holy One of Jacob and God of Israel.)
Here is another example of the doors that Jacob IDs can open. Isaiah chapter 2 is attributed to the eighth-century prophet Isaiah. It contains the famous lines, “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” (Isa 2:4). Standing like quotation marks in the two flanking verses are “God of Jacob” and “house of Jacob.”
These give us solid reason to think that Jacob, the previously unknown prophet of the Exile, wrote those swords-into-plowshares phrases, which signifies that some First Isaiah chapters have an exilic context.
Since the prophet used variations of Jacob as a signature, one should go where the Jacobs are to find his writings. Nowhere is use of that name more plentiful than in the Jacob Cycle in Genesis. This could mean that Second Jacob wrote those Genesis chapters, or that he edited older material.
It could also be that that some of the saga of the patriarch Jacob is autobio-graphical. One thinks of his stops at Bethel, Shechem, and Eder, and his visits to Egypt. However, while chapters 25, 27–32, 34, 35, 46, and 47 are awash with Jacobs, the lack of Jacob-Israel parallels raises doubts about whether the prophet wrote them. The single exception is chapter 49, which contains three parallel IDs (vv. 2, 7, and 24). If the exilic prophet wrote any part of the Jacob Cycle, it was Genesis 49.
Turning elsewhere, Jacob evidently wrote and signed the Balaam story in the book of Numbers. Balaam was a seer whom the king of Moab summoned to curse the people of Israel. But instead of cursing them, Balaam could only bless. (The context is very likely substitute kingship.) Here are parallel IDs from chapter 23: “‘Come, curse Jacob for me; Come, denounce Israel!’”; “‘Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the dust-cloud of Israel?’”; “‘He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob; nor has he seen trouble in Israel.’”; “‘Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, “See what God has done!”’” (Num 23:7, 10, 21, 23). Moreover, the next chapter contains three other Jacob-Israel parallel IDs (Num 24:5, 17, 18–19). Jacob the prophet surely wrote the Balaam chapters, Num 23 and 24.
Similarly, Second Jacob used signature parallels to good effect in Deut 33, the lyrical blessing by Moses of the tribes of Israel: “. . . as a possession for the assembly of Jacob . . . the united tribes of Israel”; “They teach Jacob your ordinances, and Israel your law”; and “So Israel lives in safety, untroubled is Jacob’s abode” (Deut 33:4–5, 10, 28).
Another text is 1 Sam 5:7–6:3. If it is not by Jacob, he is at least one of its subjects. Within nine verses someone used the phrase “Ark of the God of Israel” a half-dozen times. “God of Israel” is a recognized ID for Jacob, and nowhere else is the ark linked with that phrase. The more common terms are “Ark,” “Ark of the Lord,” and “Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.” The Second Samuel narrative told about damage that the captured ark caused among the Philistines, who may have served as stand-ins for the Babylonians.
If IDs were always signatures, then Second Jacob wrote the long prayer Solomon gave when he dedicated the Jerusalem temple (1 Kgs 8:14–53). No fewer than seven IDs dot the opening third of the prayer, all of them “God of Israel” (1 Kgs 8:15, 16, 17, 20, 23, 25, 26). The remainder of the prayer repeats the phrase, “my [or his or your] people Israel” seventeen times. Thus that single chapter contains twenty-four Jacob IDs. But would a master like Jacob have used such repetitive language? Martin Noth attributed this chapter to Dtr, which is his shorthand for Deuteronomistic Historian. Frank Cross states that an exilic editor retouched Dtr’s work, including part of Solomon’s prayer. Cross calls this editor Dtr2. Assuming that either Dtr or Dtr2 wrote 1 Kgs 8, this still-unknown author seems to have chosen Jacob as a subject of the chapter.
JACOB THE PSALMIST
Scholars have known for some time that many psalms have characteristics similar to Isaiah chapters 40–55. Let us see if Jacob IDs confirm this connection, beginning with IDs in opening verses. Psalm 81:1 starts “Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.” Psalm 85:1 has “you restored the fortunes of Jacob.” Another begins, “When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language” (Ps 114:1). And also, “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!” (Ps 20:1). However, Second Jacob IDs are more frequently found at the end of psalms: “Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad” (twice); “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel” (twice); “The God of Jacob is our refuge”; and “The God of Israel . . . he gives power and strength to his people” (Pss 14:7 and 53:6; 41:13 and 106:48; 46:11; 68:35).
Jacob the prophet never had a bad writing day, but in Ps 78 he outdid himself. It is a pleasure to read, a masterpiece. The psalm is a long recounting of God’s glorious deeds and Israel’s unfaithfulness. For IDs, it contains no less than three Jacob-Israel parallels and a Holy One of Israel (Ps 78:5, 21, 41, 71). Psalm 105 is another example of Second Isaiah’s authorship.
Here is its first Jacob-Israel ID: “O offspring of his servant Israel, children of Jacob, his chosen ones” (105:6). A second ID is also a parallel: “Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham” (105:23). A third instance is “confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant” (105:10).
Of the 150 psalms, no less than one quarter of them contain Jacob IDs. The note lists them. This is not to claim with certainty that Jacob the prophet wrote fully a quarter of the psaltery. Probably other factors also had influence, including the efforts of collaborators and disciples, the effects of imitation, and perhaps even coincidence. But the one-quarter finding is surprising considering that not a person on the planet is prepared to certify the author or historical context of even one psalm. Later chapters will use coding to test for dating and authorship of individual psalms. In the meantime, readers should know that heavy Jacob coding in the book of Psalms cannot be coincidental. Odds of billions to one assure that Jacob was an important author and/or subject of the book of Psalms.
OTHER JACOB IDS
Perhaps the most sacred passage in Scripture tells of Moses hearing God’s call from a burning bush. The Lord said, “‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (Exod 3:6).
“God of Jacob,” of course, is an ID. When in 3:13 Moses asks God’s name, the reply is, “‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites [possible ID], “I am has sent me to you.”’” God then instructs Moses, “‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites [possible ID], “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob [ID] has sent me to you”’” (Exod 3:14–15). For good measure in the next verse the author adds, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (3:16). Three Jacob IDs indicate that the prophet of the Exile wrote this passage, a text central to the faith of Jew and Christian alike.
There is even more evidence than these three God-of-Jacob IDs. Earlier, this writer showed for information only some five hundred occurrences of Israelites in a list of possible Jacob IDs. (The problem was that the term Israelites, בני ישראל , did not appear in Isa 40–55.) But in the burning bush chapter, Second Jacob works six of these into his text (Exod 3:9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15). Two of these are shown above as possible IDs. Here are the other four: “‘The cry of the Israelites [possible ID] has now come to me . . . I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites [possible ID], out of Egypt.’ . . . But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites [possible ID] out of Egypt?’”
Then Moses said further, “‘If I come to the Israelites [possible ID] and say to them . . .’” (Exod 3:9–13). Probably these “Israelites” phrases should be added to the three Jacob IDs and the figure for Jacob-Israel IDs in the burning-bush chapter should be nine rather than three. Three is a lot; nine would be a torrent.
Chapters 30 and 31 comprise an insert into the book of Jeremiah. Because the chapters feature themes of restoration and comfort, they are commonly called the Book of Consolation or the Little Book of Comfort.
These appear to be a collection of originally separate passages, most of which are poetic. According to at least one expert they bear similarities to the work of Second Isaiah. The Book of Consolation is filled with Jacob IDs, making it almost certain that at least part of it came from Jacob’s hand. Consider these parallel IDs: “Have no fear, my servant Jacob, says the Lord, and do not be dismayed, O Israel”; “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob . . . and say, ‘Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel’”; and “He who scattered Israel will gather him . . . For the Lord has ransomed Jacob” (Jer 30:10; 31:7, 10–11). The prophet may have preferred parallels, but he also used Jacob by itself in the Book of Consolation. For instance, “It is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be rescued from it”; “Have no fear, my servant Jacob . . . Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease”; and “I am going to restore the fortunes of the tents [academies] of Jacob” (Jer 30:7, 10, 18).
If Jeremiah preached God’s judgment, then the prophet Jacob spoke of God’s grace. It may be that Jacob’s use of “Israel” reached furthest to express that grace. In the preface to Jeremiah chapter 30 God instructed, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel [ID]: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel [ID] (Jer 30:2–3).
Jeremiah 31 says, “I will sow the house of Israel [ID] and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals” (31:27). Continuing in the Book of Consolation, we find someone—Jacob or a follower—speaking in the prophetic future. He announces, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel [ID] and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31). However, this was not to be like the previous Mosaic covenant their fathers broke. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel [ID] after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:33).
Experts have called this new covenant “remarkable” and “astonishing” in its “abrogation of the entire paraphernalia of religious indoctrination.” This passage might even represent the apogee of Hebrew Scripture, and Jacob could well be its author.
Jacob’s influence in the Book of Consolation may extend beyond Jeremiah 30 and 31, because the next two chapters contain nine other Jacob IDs. Jeremiah 32:26–35 is about destruction, apostasy, and defilement.
Then there is a dramatic change in tone. What follows is a prophecy from “the God of Israel,” a Jacob ID. The rebuttal looks beyond Jeremiah’s promised destruction to a time when the scattered would be gathered. “I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them . . . I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. They shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer 32:37–38)—vintage Second Jacob. Jack R. Lundbom describes a complex editing and layering process that may have formed the Book of Consolation. Jacob IDs should shed further light on how that Scripture evolved.
Scripture contains several hundred other Jacob and Israel IDs that if discussed would exceed both readers’ patience and author’s space. The note lists those of highest quality that this chapter does not cover.
Now let us glance over our shoulder. Second Isaiah’s name is Jacob. Vocabulary from a strong Word Link connects the Isa 49 description of Jacob’s naming with his birth story in Genesis, and the two accounts fit remarkably together. Rabbinic tradition and significant Jacob coding in Second Isaiah chapters also support the Jacob finding. Finally, the prophet’s frequent use in Isa 40–55 of Jacob and Israel marks these as signatures (termed IDs). All of which leads us to this summary of what we know about Jacob IDs:
- Isaiah 40–55 is full of Jacob and Israel forms, with Holy One of Israel and Jacob-Israel parallels being the most significant.
- IDs mark Second Jacob as the author of most Second Isaiah chapters and portions of the First and Third Isaiah writings.
- IDs and coding establish a significant Jacob presence in Psalms.
- IDs indicate the prophet probably wrote, among other things, the Balaam and burning bush stories, the plowshares passages, and the Book of Consolation.
Still to come is how others used IDs to criticize the exilic prophet.
OTHER PROPHETS ATTACK JACOB
If biblical prophets were known for their enemies, Jacob was well known. Consider prophecies by Jeremiah. In chapter 2 Jeremiah uses a parallel Jacob ID against Jacob’s supporters. “Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel [ID]!” (Jer 2:4). Then comes a poetic outburst against Israel’s apostasy featuring several more anti-Jacob IDs: “As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel [ID] shall be shamed” (Jer 2:26, see 2:14). The next chapter continues in the same vein: “As a faithless wife leaves her husband, so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel [ID]” (Jer 3:20). However, two scant Jacob-Israel parallel IDs and Holy One of Israel IDs that have not been or will not be discussed are: Gen 32:28; 35:10; 46:2; 48:2; 49:2, 7, 24; Exod 19:3; 2 Kgs 17:34; 19:22; verses before came an editor’s insert that belied Jeremiah’s message: “In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel [ID], and together they shall come . . . to the land that I gave your ancestors” (Jer 3:18).
Here are more attacks by Jeremiah: “all the house of Israel [ID] is uncircumcised in heart”; “the house of Israel [ID] and the house of Judah have broken the covenant that I made”; “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel [ID], just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel [ID]”; and “‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel [ID]: Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you’” (Jer 9:26, 11:10, 18:6, 25:27). And so forth. There are over fifty negative IDs within the book of Jeremiah, almost all of them “God of Israel.” Perhaps 80 percent of those IDs seemed aimed at Second Jacob or others in his camp.
As to the pro-Jacob passages in the Book of Jeremiah, surely these were not inserted during the older prophet’s lifetime. One explanation is that Jacob himself placed the material. Another possibility is Baruch, who some think was Jeremiah’s biographer. However, this book’s appendix 4 shows there is no significant Baruch coding in the book of Jeremiah, so the editor could have been Jacob himself or a talented follower other than Baruch.
Like the book of Jeremiah, the Ezekiel text also has inserts that sound like Jacob. Take Ezek 28:25. God says, “When I gather the house of Israel [ID] from the peoples among whom they are scattered . . . then they shall settle on their own soil that I gave to my servant Jacob [ID].”
Another is similar. Speaking of the Israelites (an ID), the Ezekiel text says, “My servant David shall be king over them . . . They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob [ID]” (Ezek 37:24–25). A third passage certainly has the ring of Second Jacob. It begins with a parallel ID: “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel [parallel ID] . . . and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel [ID]” (Ezek 39:25, 29).
Earlier in the same chapter is: “My holy name I will make known among my people Israel [ID] . . . and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel [ID] (39:7, italics added). Ezekiel sandwiches this next parallel ID between talk of idols and rebellions: “On the day when I chose Israel,” says the prophecy, “I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob” (Ezek 20:5). Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel frequently uses Jacob IDs, but while Jeremiah relies upon “God of Israel,” Ezekiel employs “house of Israel.” Ezekiel appears to apply the term to numerous groups in Palestine, though this next passage could target Jacob himself: “Say to the house of Israel [ID] . . . When you . . . make your children pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be consulted by you, O house of Israel [ID]?” (Ezek 20:30–31).
Jacob IDs make clear that Second Jacob was at odds with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, two giants of prophecy. Moreover, IDs also indicate that Jacob (or perhaps his descendants) had opponents among those who wrote the Minor Prophets. Hosea contains eight anti-Jacob IDs, Amos fourteen, Micah seven, and Malachi three. Here are some of the Hosea barbs: “In the House of Israel [ID] I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there, Israel is defiled”; “I will make Ephraim break the ground; Judah must plow; Jacob [ID] must harrow for himself ”; and “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel [ID] with deceit” (Hos 6:10; 10:11; 11:12). Add this disdainful parallel ID: “Jacob fled to the land of Aram, there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep” (Hos 12:12).
A final Hosea ID deserves several lines: “The Lord has an indictment against Judah, and will punish Jacob [parallel ID] according to his ways . . . In the womb he tried to supplant [עקב, a play upon Jacob] his brother, and in his manhood he strove with God” (Hos 12:2–3). Second Jacob probably was in Palestine, for his opponents repeatedly linked him with Judah and Ephraim. The Hosea author was a formidable enemy, if only because he wrote so well. And we must hold open the possibility that these could even be post-exilic compositions written by those still debating deeply held grievances.
The Amos material is of equal caliber, which suggests that the same hand could have written parts of both prophecies. The book of Amos is somewhat perplexing. On the one hand its IDs against Jacob are apt and powerfully stated. On the other, most come from chapters 3 through 6, and “the vast majority of scholars consider this section of the book to contain the actual words of Amos.” But it seems that sixth-century (or later) critics bent the eighth-century book of Amos to throw it at Jacob. Amos has so many Jacob IDs that two of its chapters rank among Scripture’s highest in ID frequency. Here is a parallel ID from Amos: “Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob [ID] . . . on the day I will punish Israel for its transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel” (Amos 3:13–14). Other IDs are: “Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables . . . to whom the house of Israel [ID] resorts!”; “I abhor the pride of Jacob [ID]”; and “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob [ID]” (Amos 6:1, 8; 8:7). In these final IDs a note of pity (or editing) emerges: “The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth—except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob [ID], says the Lord. For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel [ID] . . .” (Amos 9:8–9).
Micah’s text is a battleground. As in the book of Jeremiah, IDs both for and against Second Jacob are plentiful. Micah’s opening verses predict a cataclysmic judgment of melting mountains and cleft valleys: “All this is for the trans-gression of Jacob, and for the sins of the House of Israel [parallel ID]. What is the transgression of Jacob [ID]? Is it not Samaria?” (Mic 1:5). And again, “Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel [parallel ID] . . . you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones” (Mic 3:1–2). To which a defender may have replied: “I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will gather the survivors of Israel [parallel ID]; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture; it will resound with people” (Mic 2:12). Beyond that, the whole of Mic 4 sounds like a Second Jacob insert. It repeats the transcendent swords-to-plowshares passage from Isa 2, and also contains this summons: “‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob [ID]’” (Mic 4:2).
Another denunciation of Second Jacob in Micah contains two sets of parallel IDs: “I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel [parallel ID] his sin. Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel [parallel ID], who abhor justice and pervert all equity” (Mic 3:8–9). And the more tranquil voice of a pro-Jacob writer responds, “The remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples, shall be like dew from the Lord” (Mic 5:7). Second Jacob’s supporters or descendents had the final say, for the book closed with this ID: “You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham” (Mic 7:20). The book of Malachi is also a mixture. It starts with: “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau” (Mal 1:2–3). However, in something aimed at Jacob’s followers or descendants, the short book says, “May the Lord cut off from the tents [academies] of Jacob” any who profane the sanctuary (Mal 2:12).
Another anti-Jacob ID follows toward the end of Malachi’s book: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished” (Mal 3:6). This may sound mild, but the prophet sharpens his indictment by including anagrams of Jacob’s name in four nearby words, using the roots “extort” and “rob.” The anagrams of יעקב are ובעשקי in 3:5; היקבע and בעים in 3:8; and קבעים in 3:9. Such spellings are unusual, and four within a passage is unparalleled.
The prophet Obadiah voices only pro-Jacob IDs. The prophet warns Edom that, “For the slaughter and violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you” (Obad 10). A few verses later he says sympathetically, “the house of Jacob shall take possession of those who dispossessed them” (Obad 17). And in the next line Jacob becomes an avenger: “The House of Jacob shall be a fire . . . and the House of Esau stubble” (Obad 18). Jacob IDs in the books of other minor prophets—Nahum, Zephaniah, and Zechariah—are also positive.
IDs within the prophetic books suggest bitter disagreements during and perhaps after the Exile. Apparently these centered upon Second Jacob, his followers, and the causes he or they represented. Listed by books, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Malachi are fiercely hostile; though Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Malachi also contain positive Jacob IDs. On the plus side are ID passages in Isaiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Obadiah, and Zechariah. When we understand the nature of these disputes, we shall better understand the Exile and the years that followed it.
This book opened by revealing the code that underlies the Priestly Benediction, and detailing how Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Second Isaiah used coded anagrams against the exiled King Jehoiachin. This current chapter first identifies Second Isaiah as Jacob, discusses Jacob IDs, and then shows how opponents used IDs against him. Chapter 5 will lead us to another discovery, one that pairs Second Jacob with a man who has been called the father of Judaism.