Unequal Terms: A Postcolonial Approach to Isaiah 61
Isaiah 61 raises complex questions about the post-exilic envisioning of land rights and the prophetic discourse of justice. Here we find a proclamation of ‘liberty’ for ‘the poor’, which appropriates the Jubilee tradition of Leviticus 25 and thereby suggests to the audience that they will be comforted by a just restoration of traditional lands. But who is the audience, or to put the question another way, who are ‘the poor’ whose inheritance is at issue? 61:7 seems to imply that a double portion of land will be assigned to the exiles in compensation for suffering, corresponding perhaps to the suggestion in Isa. 40:2 that they have paid double for their sins. Yet some commentators have recently suggested that, despite the rhetoric of justice, there is a narcissistic dimension to the exilic visions such as this. They derive from an upper class, it is suggested, and the poetic language functions ideologically to obscure the land rights of peoples who do not share the myth of restoration. These vexed issues in recent biblical scholarship are examined in light of postcolonial theory.
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