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AndrewJon Paul | Sat, 05/06/2017 - 12:35 | Permalink

In reply to by Jon Paul

Looking at the passage again, I would suggest that the funeral pyre burning in Topheth is a metaphor in more general terms for the overthrow of Assyria. Watts says that the passage “anticipates the breakup of the empire” (J.D.W. Watts, Isaiah 1–33 (1985), 475).

Assyria was the rod of God’s anger against Israel, but “When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes” (Is. 10:5, 12).

Compare Isaiah 14:24-25:

The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.”

This is rather different to what we find in Jeremiah, where the valley is associated more directly with the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem.

The reference to the nations is not necessarily at odds with this interpretation. Watts notes that in Isaiah 17:12 and 29:7 “the plural was used to describe military actions involving Assyria. Its army was composed of different ethnic units.”

In verse 29 Isaiah says that will “have a song” and “gladness of heart”—that is, will celebrate—when the Assyrian empire is defeated. This celebration is compared to (“as… as…”) 1) the keeping of a holy feast, and 2) a procession to mount Zion—that is, to the temple—to celebrate a festival. There is no reference to a messiah. The “rock of Israel” is the “mountain of the Lord”, on which the temple stood.

So I can see no reason to find in this passage a reference to “hell”. It is a prophetic celebration of the eventual destruction—and funeral in a desecrated place—of the Assyrian empire.

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