Isaiah 40-55 offer a fertile ground for the study of the interaction between the two biblical motifs of creation and redemption. Whereas von Rad’s thesis of creation being subordinated to salvation is no longer acceptable, the two are still taken to be one and the same act of YHWH (Rendtorf f/Ilermisson) , with salvation understood as a new creation overcoming YHWH’s judgement (Harner/Haag), and proclaimed as a transforming wonder in a universal context (Stuhlmueller).
Our re-examination of 27 pericopae from four basic genres in Isaiah 40-55 shows that the predominant theme is YHWH’s sovereignty. The disputations depict YHWH as both creator of the cosmos and lord of history in contrast to the idols dependent on human workmanship. A second group of disputations, which includes the so- called trial speeches against Israel, stresses YHWH’s faithfulness despite Israel’s sinfulness. The exile does not signify YHWH ’ s defeat; it is the judgement of the same sovereign God. The trial speeches argue for YHWH’s incomparability on the ground of his control over past and present events as witnessed by Israel. By contrast the idols are impotent and unable to help. The salvation oracles portray YHWH as the creator of both his own people and the enemies. The connotation of power instead of novelty or intimacy in the creation language is substantiated by our survey of the use of &?’"Q (br ’ ) inthe Hebrew Bible, Similarly, the description of YHWH as redeemer not only points to divine forgiveness, but also involves the demonstration of YHWH’s power in Babylon’s downfall and Zion’s restoration. Theophanic imagery of the transformation of nature is used in the salvation promises to illustrate YHWH’s supreme sovereignty, and his 'hidden’ act through Cyrus’ victory is finally acknowledged by the nations. The macro-palistrophic structure of these 16 chapters confirms that the crisis of faith during the exile lies in the challenge of the pagan imperial powers to YHWH’s sovereignty.
Based on the present study, further research on the unity of the book of Isaiah and the interplay of the two motifs of creation and salvation in other poetic books (the Psalter and Job) is called for. Meanwhile, our understanding of the doctrine of creation should not be governed by the legacy of creatio ex nihilo, and our interpretation of soteriology must give equal emphasis to both dimensions of reconciliation and liberation.