Undisclosed Speech: Patterns of Communication in the Book of Isaiah


  • Hanna Liss




This article deals with the lacking communicational equivalence between the prophet and his contemporaries created by the ‘command not to comprehend’ (Isaiah 6). The structure of non-comprehension is regarded as a necessary result of the prophetic word and describes the impossibility of comprehending what Isaiah himself could only understand after the event of his purification (Isa 6:6-7). Prophetic message and its rejection are thus complementary elements. This structure of a lacking communicative equivalence is to be illustrated in Isaiah’s prophetic activity. Isaianic prophecy consists of several different modes of language that bear relevance regarding the topic of non-comprehension: 1. The use and function of metaphoric language: Isaiah uses the metaphors as an instrument of defamiliarization. At the same time, metaphorical language encloses a destructive element, since it destroys fundamental ideas and beliefs Isaiah’s contemporaries still adhere to. 2. The quotations: The quotations fulfill a very important task within prophetic language. Not only is the prophet’s theo-political view of history handed down by means of these quotations, but also the confrontation with the prophetic word and thereby the people’s status of non-comprehension. The process of the literary tradition of the prophetic heritage includes the confrontation and preserves it for later generations. 3. Fictitious realms: By means of fictitious elements, the prophet creates a “theo-political” sphere over against the “geo-political appearance”, thereby giving his God the possibility of escaping the previous patterns of expectation. In view of the political and military circumstances at the end of the 8th century, the prophetic fiction represents a kind of Judean “counterpropaganda” for later generations.




How to Cite

Liss, H. (2003). Undisclosed Speech: Patterns of Communication in the Book of Isaiah. The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 4. https://doi.org/10.5508/jhs.2002.v4.a4