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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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149 CHAPTER SIX ZION’S NATIONALISM Zion theology asserts the inviolability of the city because YHWH is her defender, and all nations are expected to come to Zion in recognition of YHWH’s sovereignty. I propose that this is the basis for Zion’s exalted position in DI and that such an understanding will throw light on the debate of whether DI preaches a message of universalism or one of nationalism. “Universalists” point to the servant as a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:6), to peoples waiting for salvation through God’s teaching and justice (Isa 42:4, 23; 49:6; 51:4-6), and to nations running voluntarily to Israel (Isa 55:4, 5), while “nationalists” argue that the nations are but a ransom for Israel (Isa 43:3-4), that they come to Zion in chains (45:14), licking the dust of her feet and even eating their own flesh (49:23, 26).1 In view of these differences, a third group of scholars try to reconcile the contradiction in various ways. Rather than attempting to harmonize the universalistic and nationalistic texts, I submit that there is a crucial distinction between these two groups of texts: The nationalistic texts revolve around Zion, while the universalistic texts are related to the servant. The nations come in submission to Zion the city, not to Israel the people, i.e., they come in obeisance because of the sovereignty of YHWH, not because of the superiority of Israel. Thus, while the universal role of the servant...

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