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Mother Zion in Deutero-Isaiah

A Metaphor for Zion Theology


Maggie Low

Mother Zion in Deutero-Isaiah: A Metaphor for Zion Theology offers the unique perspective that personified mother Zion in Deutero-Isaiah is not just a metaphor used for a rhetorical purpose but a cognitive metaphor representing Zion theology, a central theme in the Book of Isaiah. The author deftly combines the methods of metaphor theory and intertextuality to explain the vital but often overlooked conundrum that Zion in Deutero-Isaiah is an innocent mother, unlike the adulterous wife in other prophetic books. This interpretation offers a vital corrective to the view of women in the biblical context. As a result of this usage, Deutero-Isaiah paradoxically presents Yahweh the Creator as the one who gives birth to the people, not mother Zion. This understanding explains the concentration of gynomorphic imagery used for God in this prophetic book, providing a counterbalance to patriarchal perspectives of God. Finally, a fresh insight is offered into the ongoing debate between universalism and nationalism in Deutero-Isaiah, based on the premise that as a symbol of Zion theology, mother Zion represents Yahweh’s universal sovereignty rather than a nationalistic ethnicity. Mother Zion in Deutero-Isaiah is an invaluable resource in courses that deal with issues in Isaiah, biblical interpretation, and feminist hermeneutics, especially regarding the feminine personification of Zion and the maternal imagery of God.


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The figure of Zion has attracted much feminist attention, with the literature either defending or criticizing YHWH’s violent treatment of YHWH’s metaphorical wife. Those who want to salvage the prophets’ theological message from its patriarchal medium point out that Zion is an adulteress spouse who deserves to be punished because, after all, she represents the idolatrous and faithless people of Judah. However, it is seldom recognized that Deutero-Isaiah (henceforth, DI) uses the metaphor of Zion differently because not only does he not condemn her, but he asserts her innocence and puts the blame on her people. This is undeniaby clear in Isa 50:1: “For your (the people’s) transgressions, your mother was sent away.” In his message of restoration, DI makes abundant reference to the people’s sin, albeit in a context of forgiveness, but he never points his finger at mother Zion except to defend her. It is the mother’s innocent suffering that evokes the readers’ empathy and that leads to YHWH’s promises of restoration. She is the focal point of YHWH’s reign and the exiles’ return. On what basis, then, does DI diverge from the usual prophetic condemnation of woman Zion? The answer to this question depends not just on a study of the prophetic imagery of personified Zion but also on a closer understanding of the Book of Isaiah itself, specifically regarding the theme of Zion. Recent scholarly interest in Isaianic studies has shifted away from the identity and role of the suffering servant to the feminine figure...

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