Marjo c a korpel   (Utrecht University, The Netherlands & University of Pretoria) icon

Marjo c a korpel   (Utrecht University, The Netherlands & University of Pretoria)

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       Marjo Korpel: The Greek Islands and Pontus OTE 19/1 (2006), 102–118

The Greek Islands and Pontus in the Hebrew Bible1

Marjo C A Korpel   (Utrecht University, The Netherlands & University of Pretoria)


The Hebrew word ’iyyîm is usually translated `coastlands' or `islands'. It occurs frequently in Second Isaiah where they appear to be the earliest designation of the Hellenic world in the OT. Just like Persia and all other nations, the Greek `islands' are expected to bow to the God of Israel and return the exiled Jews to their homeland. In close connection with the `islands' a region called `Put' is mentioned. This has long been understood as a region in Africa, especially because it is often mentioned in connection with Ethiopia and Egypt. Put, however, does not refer to Africa, but to Pontos, a coastal region in Asia Minor.


We Dutch always experience it as a small miracle that we are still welcome in South Africa even though we are ultimately responsible for the historical roots of some of the enormous problems confronting the modern state of South Africa. It is a privilege therefore to be invited here and as an Old Testament scholar I do hope to learn a lot from your coping with the huge problems in connection with ethnicity, multiracial culture, tensions between people of different religious backgrounds – problems with which ancient Israel had much more to do than is commonly realized. Israel too had to accommodate strangers like Cretans, Edomites, Moabites, Phoenicians, Arameans and Ethiopians in its midst, and had to cope with conquerors from faraway countries like Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia and Persia.

However, with the exception of Egypt and Ethiopia, Africa seems to lie outside the historical horizon of ancient Israel. Some of you may be disappointed that I seem to forget Put, long thought to be an ancient name of Libya. In this paper I want to show that this is no accidental omission, because I hope to demonstrate that Put is the region of Pontus in the northern half of present-day Turkey and that the islands or coastlands mentioned in close connection with Put are the Greek islands. This means that among the foreign nations Israel had to deal with in the fourth century B.C. were the upcoming power of Greece and its affluent colonies. If this is true, it can have a profound impact on our perception of the possibility of Hellenic influence on the Old Testament. Let us start with the identity of the islands, mentioned so often in Second Isaiah.


The Hebrew word ’iyyîm is found nine times in Isaiah 40-55. It is mostly translated as ‘coastlands’ (Isa. 41:1, 5; 42:4, 10, 12; 49:1; 51:5) in RSV, but once we find ‘isles’ (Isa. 40:15) and once ‘islands’ (Isa. 42:15).2 A person not acquainted with Hebrew would not suspect that the same word is used. In commentaries we find the same kind of confusion. John Oswalt, for example, renders ‘islands’ in 41:1, 5; 42:15; 49:1; 51:5, but ‘coastlands’ in 40:15; 42:4, 10, 12.3 Some scholars prefer ‘islands’ throughout,4 others opt for ‘coastlands’ in all instances.5

From early times on it is a common opinion among scholars that ’iyyîm designates not only islands, but also coastlands in a rather wide sense of the word. Kampegius Vitringa, for example, included Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, France and Spain, even the whole of Europe as well as Africa.6 It would seem fairly obvious that such an interpretation was aimed at a legitimation of missionary activity on a mondial scale. Prophecies like Isa. 42:4, alluded to in Matt. 12:21, and Isa. 49:6, quoted in Acts 13:47 and hinted at in Acts 1:8,7 seemed to equate the ‘islands’ and ‘ends of the earth’ with the heathen world in need of conversion. Is this exegesis still acceptable?

In modern studies about the relation between Israel as the elected people of God and the nations it is usually emphasized that the Old Testament does not contain any adhortation to undertake missionary activity among the foreign nations, not even in Second Isaiah.8 According to Robert Martin-Achard Israel has to invite the nations to join in the worship of the LORD simply by its exemplary behaviour. However, even this will not happen in historical times, but belongs to the final chapter of the history of salvation. The nations will serve the LORD only at the end of times, it is an eschatological expectation. At the same time the conversion of the Gentiles is a theocentric event. Neither the nations themselves, nor Israel will effectuate their recognition of God’s unicity and universal power, although Israel does have a role as an intermediary. According to Martin-Achard, it is in the NT that the eschatological fulfilment of the OT takes place and this would justify the missionary activity of the church.9

The problem with this kind of approach is that it sacrifices the undeniable particularism of the Old Testament to its more universalistic visions and postpones the realization of the latter to a remote future. This is an objectionable method in general,10 and as far as Second Isaiah is concerned it is definitely wrong. His message was intended for his contemporaries, he spoke of an actual foreign ruler called Cyrus, of actual exiles still living in Babylonia, about definite geographic localities called Zion and Babylon, etc. For this prophet, the ‘later things’ were included in the ‘former things’, so that it would seem unwarranted to make a sharp distinction between past, present and future.11 I agree with Kenton Sparks that the Book of Second Isaiah contains definite indications that the prophet hoped for a spiritual revival among the nations of his own days as a result of the new acts of salvation he expected from his God and which the nations would be obliged to witness.12 But obviously this is not the same as an unconditional promise of universal peace as a result of missionary activity of Israel or the Servant of the LORD.13


It is sometimes thought that universalism was a late development in the religion of Israel, a direct consequence of Second Isaiah’s strict monotheism. But claims of universal hegemony of deities occur much earlier in the ancient Near East. The Sumerian god Ninurta, for example, demands that captives of subdued nations be brought before him to worship him.14 Further on the god decrees that his kingship shall comprise the ends of the cosmos (line 168). In a bilingual hymn to Anu we read, ‘May the kings of the lands bring you heavy tribute, may humanity daily stand before you with sacrifices and supplication, showing humility ... Let people from all over the inhabited world send up prayers to you.’15 In the famous report of Wenamun the Egyptian emissary warns the king of Byblos, ‘Now as for Amun-Re, the King of the Gods, it is he who is the lord of life and health! And it is he who was the lord of your fathers. They spent their time of life offering to Amun. You too, you are a servant of Amun!’16

It would be easy to multiply such examples. To be sure, in polytheism it is not very complicated to add foreign deities to one’s pantheon. Almost all lists of deities of the ancient world comprise foreign gods and goddesses, sometimes at exalted positions in the hierarchy. This made it possible to preserve some of one’s own religion and culture in a foreign polytheistic context.17 We now know that among the Hittites, for example, strangers were granted asylum and were admitted to rituals.18 The same was true in Ugarit. There the ger partook in cultic ceremonies in which at the same time other foreign people were castigated because of their supposedly sinful behaviour (KTU 1.40 par.). In Ugarit too even a murderer whose whereabouts was unknown could find asylum in the temple (KTU 1.19:III.46-48). In times of war refugees from many other countries were offered shelter and food in the kingdom of Ugarit.19 Therefore it is mistaken to attribute a more open attitude towards strangers to Israel than to other peoples of the ancient Near East and certainly it cannot be stated that this openness would be the result of its monotheistic faith.20 On the contrary, texts like Deut. 23:3, Ezra 9-10 and Neh. 13:1 deny foreigners access to the temple, whereas at the same time the Book of Ruth accepts a Moabitess as a convert to the God of Israel and even makes her the ancestress of David.21

If this is the case, we should be prepared to accept that perhaps all civilizations of the ancient world, including Israel, shared the ambiguous attitude to strangers that is so characteristic of our own times.22 The foreigners were welcome as long as they served the interests of the ruling class, but were harassed if they dared to oppose it.23 In the case of ancient Israel the monotheistic faith undoubtedly complicated matters because, at least in Second Isaiah’s time, the jealous God of Israel did not tolerate any other deity next to Him. But the message of this prophet too is that if foreigners comply with God’s demand to worship Him alone, the foreign nations can be saved, as it is stated clearly in Isa. 45:22, ‘Turn unto me and be saved, all you ends of the earth’. On the basis of Isa. 41:5 and 42:10 it may be concluded that the ‘ends of the earth’ are more or less synonymous with the ‘islands’ which apparently were located at the prophet’s remotest geographical horizon.


The earliest Semitic occurrence of the word for ‘island’ is found in Ugaritic where it seems to designate the islands forming the delta of the Nile in Egypt.24 The word also occurs in Punic and possibly in Phoenician.25 Ultimately it may prove to be a so-called ‘Kulturwort’, a word used in many different languages to describe a frequently used item in a polyglot context. It occurs also in non-Semitic languages like Egyptian (’iw [jw]).26 If it is a ‘Kulturwort’ indeed, it may even be related to Dutch ‘ei-land’, English ‘is-land’, Frisian ei-lân, etc.27 – land surrounded by or bordered by water.

The Hebrew term ’iy occurs 40 times in the Old Testament, 19 times of which in the Book of Isaiah. In general the word denotes ‘a land whose boundaries are determined by water’.28 In many studies the ‘islands’ are quickly identified with ‘coastlands’,29 but it remains to be seen whether this is warranted. Apparently the identification is based on parallel terms like ‘peoples’ or ‘nations’. But Hebrew parallelism is not always synonymous. It often balances related, but slightly different concepts.30

I do not deny that in some cases the rendering ‘coastland’ is more likely than ‘island’, for example in Isa. 20:6 where ‘this ’iy’ evidently designates the coast of Philistea, and Ezek. 27:6-7 where the coasts of Alashia (Cyprus) are mentioned. Also a peninsula might be regarded as an ’iy (Sidon, Isa. 23:2, 6). However, in other cases the meaning ‘island’ is clearly preferable. According to Jer. 2:10 the Kittim lived on ’iyyîm which could only be reached by ship. The island Crete is meant in Jer. 47:4 (see also 25:22). In Est. 10:1 the ’iyyîm are differentiated from continental land.

The comparison of the ’iyyîm with fine dust in Isa. 40:15 definitely favours an interpretation as ‘islands’ rather than ‘coastlands’. Only a multitude of small islands evokes the image of particles of dust. Also in 41:1-5 the ’iyyîm are compared to dust that will be scattered by Cyrus.

Whereas in 42:4 it is uncertain whether it is the coastlands or the islands that shall wait for the teaching of the servant of the LORD, the latter alternative is more attractive in 42:10 and 42:12, because the parallelism suggests that the ’iyyîm are situated in the sea, like the animals inhabiting the water.

Many scholars have decided to emend the text of 42:12 or render ’iyyîm in an unusual way because the common meaning does not seem to make sense here. However, since ‘rivers’ balances ‘pools’, ’iyyîm balances ‘to dry up’ which suggests dry ground in the middle of a mass of water. The strophe parallelism with ‘hills’ and ‘mountains’31 would seem to indicate that the ’iyyîm rise up from the sea.

The remaining instances of ’iyyîm in Second Isaiah (49:1; 51:5) cannot be decided with certainty in my opinion. Both ‘coastlands’ and ‘islands’ are acceptable renderings here. However, these texts too suggest that the ’iyyîm are situated far from the speaker32 and since in the majority of cases the rendering ‘islands’ is preferable in Second Isaiah, I am inclined to favour ‘islands’ here too.

According to Gen. 10:533 the island peoples were descendants of Javan, the Hebrew word for Ionia and later Greece. Ionia is attested as ym’an since the early 12th century B.C. in two texts from the Canaanite city of Ugarit. It is cited there as a foreign centre of outstanding artistry in the field of decorated bowls (KTU 1.4:I.42).34 Among the descendants of Javan were Tarshish and Kittim (Gen. 10:4), evidently eponyms of Greek ethnic entities. Especially ‘Kittim’ is interesting, because fresh evidence from Ugarit indicates that the Kittim were among the Sea Peoples that invaded the Levant as early as ca. 1190 BC.35 So the contacts between Israel and the Hellenic world were probably much earlier and more intensive than many scholars are willing to recognize. Many recent studies indicate lively contacts between the various nations involved.36 Just as David employed the ‘Cheretites’ (Cretans) and ‘Pelethites’ (Philistines)37 as mercenaries, so many other kings in the ancient Near East employed Sea Peoples. The city of Kition on Cyprus probably owed its name to the Kittites. The names of Sardinia and Sicily preserve the names of other Sea Peoples (Sherdanu, Sikiloi) up to our own days. Just as in many modern affluent societies, the contacts with these foreigners were friendly as long as they served their masters well, but rapidly deteriorated as soon as they stood up for themselves.

The Book of Second Isaiah reflects38 the time of the rise of Persia and Greece, nations that were bound to clash soon afterwards.39 With explicit references to the impending fall of Babylon and Cyrus’ victories, we are apparently still close to the end of the Neo-Babylonian empire. It would be strange, however, if the other upcoming superpower of those days, Greece, would have been neglected in a book envisioning the universal triumph of Israel’s God. If Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba in the south are mentioned (Isa. 43:4; 45:14) and Cyrus is described as coming from the northeast (Isa. 41:25, 25; 46:11), where are the nations from the west? Actually the prophet emphasizes that the children of Israel will be brought back not only from the north, south and east, but also from the west (Isa. 43:5-6; 49:12).40 The frequent association of the’iyyîm with Tarshish (Isa. 23:6; 60:9; 66:19; Ps. 72:10) indicates that it was a term describing remote overseas localities west of Israel. This is confirmed by Isa. 24:15 where the ’iyyîm ‘of the sea’ (or: of the west) stand in antithetical parallelism with ‘the east’.41 Greek coins issued during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. show that Tarshish (Tarsus)42 was hellenized early and belonged to the sphere of influence of Greece in the period under discussion.43 However, since Tarshish is differentiated from the ‘islands’ (Isa. 60:9; 66:19; Ps. 72:10) and according to Isa. 66:19 Javan belongs to the faraway ’iyyîm, the latter must have been situated further to the west.

The ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004 (CD-ROM) describes Greece as follows:

Greece has more than 2,000 islands, of which 170 are inhabited; some of the easternmost Aegean islands lie just a few miles off the Turkish coast. Given this situation, it is no accident that Greece has always had a strong nautical tradition.

It is my contention that the ‘islands’ in Second Isaiah are a description of the Hellenic world which, just like Persia and all other nations, is expected to bow to the God of Israel and return the exiled Jews to their homeland. It was the fifth century B.C. that saw the emergence of intellectual giants like Euripides, Herodotus, Socrates, Sophocles, Thucydides and Xenophon in Greece. Jews did not need to sail as far as the Greek mainland to become acquainted with this explosion of learning and culture. The author of the book of Jonah which dates from the Persian period44 could easily imagine an Israelite prophet fleeing to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). The bold statement that the ‘islands’ are craving for the teaching of the LORD, mediated by his servant (Isa. 42:4; 51:4-5), might well be understood as a first polemical slight against the ‘wisdom’ of the Greeks which would mark so many subsequent encounters between Jews and Greeks.45

It seems likely that after the collapse of the Neo-Babylonian empire some Jews were taken along as slaves by the Persians.46 Isa. 60:19-20 speaks of Jewish47 exiles who will return from many places, among them the ‘islands’. According to Isa. 60:9 ships from Tarshish will bring them back home. So there did exist Jews in exile in the Hellenic part of the ancient world. True, the number of possibly Jewish personal names in Greek documents dating from the sixth and fifth century B.C. is very low.48 But it is to be expected that if Jews were there as resident foreigners, the Greeks employed them in rather low positions, as slaves, mercenaries or handworkers.49 In the ancient world such people were rarely mentioned by name in official documents, or if they were, it was often under the new names they had received from their masters.50 These Jews on the faraway Greek islands lost a dear part of their identity, but as the book of Second Isaiah demonstrates, they were certainly not forgotten by their compatriots.


As we have seen, the ‘islands’ are sometimes associated with Tarshish, which I identify with Tarsus on the south coast of present-day Turkey, and with Lud, a country generally held to be Lydia,51 on the West coast of Asia Minor. But what is Put, mentioned next to Lud in Jer. 46:9; Ezek. 27:10; 30:5? If it is admissable to read Put instead of Pul in Isa. 66:19 too,52 it must have been a region associated with all the Greek colonies mentioned before: Tarshish, Lud, Ionia and ‘the faraway islands’. This, however, is extremely difficult to reconcile with the usual identification of Put with Libya.53 This identification was unlikely anyway, because Nah. 3:9 clearly distinguishes the Libyans from Put.

In my opinion too much weight has been laid on the fact that Gen. 10:6 mentions Put as a son of Ham next to Cush (Ethiopia), Egypt and Canaan.54 This kind of reasoning would allow us to see Put with equal probability as a neighbour of Persia (Ezek. 27:10; 38:5). Moreover, the circumstance that the descendants of Cush (Gen. 10:7-12), Egypt (Gen. 10:13-14) and Canaan (Gen. 10:15-19) are duly enumerated afterwards, but not the descendants of Put, strongly suggests that Put is a learned insertion in Gen. 10:6 that was derived from these prophetic texts which, however, simply enumerate mercenaries from various parts of the ancient world. From ancient times on such mercenaries, often desperate displaced persons, were recruited as warriors by more affluent societies and they were notorious for their ruthlessness. In an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II it is told that his Egyptian opponent called up troops from the city(state) of Putu-Yaman and other places described as ‘distant regions amidst the sea’.55 This description hardly tallies with Libya, but agrees splendidly with Isa. 66:19 which reckons Ionia under the faraway islands. Since Yaman, as we have seen, is a designation of Ionia in Babylonian and Ugaritic, it is far more likely that Nebuchadnezzar scorns the Egyptian king for needing help of foreign mercenaries to do battle. The Putu he mentions seems to have been associated with the sphere of influence of Greece: ‘Put of Ionia ... distant regions amidst the sea’.

In my opinion the riddle of Put can be resolved conclusively by a passage in the book of Judith. It is generally assumed that the Greek text of this book was translated from a Hebrew original dating from the fourth or third century B.C.56 In Judith 2:21ff. a triumphant expedition of Holofernes, presented as a general of Nebuchadnezzar, is described in great detail. It has long been established that this account is probably unhistorical, but there is no reason to surmise rashly that the itinerary the author imagined is wholly the product of fantasy. Simons dismissed Judith 2:23-26 as ‘nothing more than a ‘‘learned’’ insertion’,57 but in my opinion it is possible to regard only vv. 24-26 as an insertion from a shortened version of the same expedition:58

^ Long account


1. Nineve (2:16 cod. A, 21)

Crossing the Euphrates and Mesopotamia (2:24)

2. the plain Bectileth59 (2:21)

river Abrona60 to the sea (2:24)

3. mountains of Cilicia (2:21)

territories of Cilicia (2:25)

4. the mountains north of Cilicia (2:21-22)

territories of Japheth (2:25)

5. Fud (= Put) (2:23)61

6. Lud (= Lydia) (2:23)

7. Rassians (2:23)62

8. Ismailites (2:23)63

Arabia (2:25), Madiam (2:26)64

9. Damascus (2:27)

10. Etcetera, up to Jerusalem (2:28ff.)

All taken together the author of Judith wanted to create the impression that Holofernes had led his huge army in one sweeping movement through Asia Minor, starting in the south crossing the mountains to the north where he conquered Fud (= Put), Lud (= Lydia) and later on the Rassians, or, possibly, inhabitants of Tarsus in the south. The condensed version of his campaign simply takes this whole episode together as taking place on the territory of Japheth. Among the descendants of Japheth we encounter names like Javan (Gen. 10:2) = Ionia, Tarshish (Gen. 10:4), Kittim (Gen. 10:4), Rodanim (inhabitants of Rhodos, Gen.10:4, LXX, Sam.; 1 Chr. 1:7), and all ‘the nations of the islands’ (Gen. 10:5), but not Put who became a son of Ham (Gen. 10:6) under the influence of some misunderstood passages in the Prophets (see above). The country bordering the Black Sea was called Pontus in antiquity and I propose to identify this area with biblical Put.65 In any case it seems warranted to conclude that the Hellenic world of Asia Minor and the Greek islands at its western coast were not unknown to the Hebrew biblical writers of the fourth and third centuries B.C., though these regions were situated at the end of the world to a people with so little affinity to seafaring as the Hebrews.


At the beginning of this paper I raised the possibility that some of you might be disappointed by my conclusion that, contrary to what some have advocated, the biblical country of Put was not situated in Africa. However, in our discipline it is often difficult, if not impossible, to attain absolute certainty and so I will gladly listen to different opinions. The other day I came across an admonition from a Lutheran Reformed church in Amsterdam, dating from the year 1792. It was directed, among others, to their brethren in Capetown and admonishes them to resolutely reject the heresies of people who, in the modish name of modern enlightenment and the advancement of learned studies, try to introduce their aberrant views.66 Please feel free to follow this admonition!


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Nickelsburg, G W E 1984. ‘Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times’ in: Stone, M E (ed.), Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, 33-88. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Odendaal, D H 1970. The Eschatological Expectation of Isaiah 40-66, with special Reference to Israel and the Nations. Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co.

Olshausen, E 1975. ‘Tarsos’, in: Ziegler, K et al. (eds.), Der Kleine Pauly: Lexikon der Antike, Bd. 5, 529-530. München: Druckenmüller.

Oren, E D (ed.) 2000. The Sea Peoples and Their World: A Reassessment. Philadelphia: University Museum. (University Museum Monographs 108.)

Osborne, M J & Byrne, S G 1996. The Foreign Residents of Athens: An Annex to the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Lovanii: Peeters. (Studia Hellenistica 33.)

Oswalt, J N 1998. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (NICOT.)

Oswalt, J N 1998. The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40—66. Grand Rapids: W B Eerdmans. (NICOT.)

Parpola, S 1970. Neo-Assyrian Toponyms. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag. (AOAT 6.)

Poo, M 2005. Enemies of Civilization: Attitudes toward Foreigners in Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. New York: State Univ. of New York Press.

Preuss, H D 1992. Theologie des Alten Testaments, Bd. 2. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Ramírez Kidd, J E 1999. Alterity and Identity in Israel: The ger in the Old Testament. Berlin: De Gruyter. (BZAW, 283.)

Reilly, L C 1978. Slaves in Ancient Greece: Slaves from Greek Manumission Inscriptions. Chicago: Ares.

Rost, L 1971. Einleitung in die alttestamentlichen Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen einsliesslich der grossen Qumran-Handschriften. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.

Saggs, H W F 1978. The Encounter with the Divine in Mesopotamia and Israel. London: Athlone.

Schoenberg, S

Simons, J 1959. The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament. Leiden: E J Brill.

Singer, I, Bottéro, J, & Zivie-Coche, C 1994 in: Alon, I et al. (eds.), Concepts of the Other in Near Eastern Religions. Leiden. (IOS, 14.)

Sparks, K L 1998. Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel: Prolegomena to the Study of Ethnic Sentiments and Their Expression in the Hebrew Bible. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.

Spieckermann, H 1994. ‘Die Stimme des Fremden im Alten Testament’. Pastoraltheologie 83: 52

Thureau-Dangin, F 1921. Rituels accadiens. Paris: Univ. de France.

Tropper, J 2000. Ugaritische Grammatik. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag. (AOAT, 273.)

Van Soldt W H (ed.) 2005. Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. ^ (RAI XLVII.) (UNHAH, 102.)

Vitringa, K 1739-1740. Uitlegging over het boek der profeetsyen van Jezaias, deel 2, 1739, deel 4, 1740. Leiden: Van der Deyster.

Volz, D 1932. Jesaja II. Leipzig: Deichert. (KAT, 9/2.)

Watson, W G E 1984. Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to its Techniques. Sheffield: JSOT Press. (JSOT.S 26.)

Watts, J D W 1987. Isaiah 34-66. Waco: Word Books. (WBC.)

Watts, R E 2004. ‘Echoes from the Past: Israel’s Ancient Traditions and the Destiny of the Nations in Isaiah 40-55.’ JSOT 28.4: 481-508.

Webster’s Third New International Unabridged Dictionary, 2003 Version 3.0, Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc.

Weiser, A 1985. Das Buch der zwölf Kleinen Propheten8, I. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. (ATD 24.)

Wesselius, J-W 2002. The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus’ Histories as Blueprint for the First Books of the Bible. London: Sheffield Univ. Press. (JSOT.S 345.)

Wiedemann, T E J 1981. Greek and Roman Slavery. London: Croom Helm.

Wiersinga, H A s.a. Zendingsperspectief in het Oude Testament, Baarn: Bosch & Keuning.

Wilson, A 1986. The Nations in Deutero-Isaiah: A Study on Composition and Structure. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Studies, 1.)

Wolff, H W 1969. Dodekapropheton 2: Joel und Amos. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. (BKAT 14/2.)

Young, E J 1996. The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Marjo C A Korpel, Senior Lecturer, Department of Old Testament, Utrecht University, The Netherlands & Research Associate, Department of Ancient Languages, University of Pretoria, South Africa. E-mail:

1 This is a revised and considerably expanded version of an earlier paper entitled ‘Second Isaiah and the Greek Islands’, published in Parsons (2005:78-89). This paper was read at the conference of the Old Testament Society of South Africa, September 2005, Pietermaritzburg.

2 Apparently this is followed by Brueggemann 1998.

3 Oswalt 1998.

4 For example Baltzer 2001; Blenkinsopp 2002.

5 E.g., Koole 1997-1998. In 42:15 Koole renders ‘mud flats’, without emending the text.

6 Vitringa (1739:211; 1740:894, 966). The same kind of exposition is found in countless popular expositions, e.g. Wiersinga s.a., 92-103, 125-137.

7 Apparently ‘the ends of the earth’ equal the ‘islands’, as is suggested by the inclusion with Isa. 49:1. See also Isa. 41:5; 42:10.

8 Martin-Achard 1959:69-72; Wilson 1986:329: ‘It is inappropriate to speak of a theology of mission in Deutero-Isaiah, and he did not envision proselytes.’ See also Preuss 1992:313: ‘Dies aber ist (noch) nicht als aktiver Auftrag zur Mission zu verstehen’ (‘However, this cannot (as yet) be interpreted as an exhortation to undertake missionary activity’).

9 Martin-Achard, loc. cit. In the same vein: Wilson 1986:129-192, 320, 323-324; Odendaal 1970:171-176.

10 See Levenson 1996, repr. 2002:143-169.

11 Cf. Leene 1987.

12 Sparks 1998:305-314.

13 Contrast a fantasy like the following in Volz 1932:167: DtIsa suddenly realized ‘dass die Aufrichtung der Gottesherrschaft auf Erden nicht eschatologisch geschehe, sondern durch menschliche Arbeit, und dass er, Deuterojesaja, der Berufene sei. ... So lässt er die Arbeit an den Volksgenossen ... und zieht hinaus, fährt zu den Inseln, um nach seines Gottes Willen das Licht der Völker zu sein’ (‘that the founding of God’s sovereignty on earth would not happen eschatologically, but would be human work, and that he, DtIsa, would be called to do this ... Thus, he leaves the work to his compatriots ... departs and sails to the islands, to be a light to the nations in accordance with the will of God’).

14 Cooper 1978, lines 158-161.

15 After Thureau-Dangin 1921:71, lines 1-4, 7-8. See also Saggs 1978.

16 Report of Wenamun, 2.30-32. Cf. Goedicke 1975:87.

17 See the contributions of Singer, Bottéro, Zivie-Coche in Alon et al. 1994.

18 Klinger 1992:197-204.

19 De Moor 1997:242.

20 Contra Spieckermann 1994:52: ‘Gerade in der Erfahrung des Fremden Gott wahrzunehmen, eröffnet Israel die Chance, das Fremde selbst weithin anders zu werten, als es die altorientalische Umwelt vorgelebt hat’ (‘Exactly the experience of God in the encounter with the stranger opens up for Israel the opportunity to value strangeness differently from what they had encountered elsewhere in the ancient oriental world’). Echoed by Ramírez Kidd 1999:131: ‘unlike the surrounding cultures, alterity in Israel did not necessarily imply hostility.’

It is also inaccurate to state that the oldest ancient Near Eastern testimony of the right of asylum is found in the Book of the Covenant (Exod. 21:12-14). So Houtman 1990:11.

21 Cf. Korpel 2001:88-90, 224-233.

22 Therefore one should not try to resolve this ambiguity by offering a solution that applies to Israel alone. In any case it is a rather forced approach to interpret the tension between particularism and universalism in Second Isaiah exclusively on the basis of Pentateuchal traditions, as is attempted by Watts 2004:481-508.

23 See in addition to the literature already cited, Poo 2005; Van Soldt 2005.

24 De Moor & Spronk 1987:126; De Moor 1987:19, n.100. For the irregular plural form ’iht, see Tropper 2000:163, 296.

25 Hoftijzer & Jongeling 1995:43-44.

26 Hannig & Vomberg 1999:279. Cf. HALAT, 37; HAHAT, 44.

27 Cf. Webster's Third New International Unabridged Dictionary, Version 3.0, Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 2003, s.v. ‘island’: ‘alteration (influenced by English isle) of earlier iland, from Middle English, from Old English îgland; akin to Old Frisian eiland island, Old Norse eyland; all from a prehistoric North Germanic-West Germanic compound whose first constituent is represented by Old English îg, êg island’.

28 Block 1997:967.

29 See the scholars referred to above, notes 5 and 6.

30 See e.g. Watson 1984:114-159.

31 A standard pair, cf. Korpel & De Moor 1998:686.

32 Isa. 51:5 by antithetical parallelism with ‘near’, v. 5aA.

33 It is likely that the prophet was acquainted with some version of the primordial history, cf. Harner 1967:298-306; Korpel & De Moor 1998:267, 379.

34 Del Olmo Lete & Sanmartín 2003:966.

35 De Moor 1997, 248, with bibliography. See also Oren 2000.

36 See e.g. Astour 1965; Helck 1979; Boardman 1980; Lambrou-Phillipson 1990; Brown 1995-2003; Idem 2003; Alkier & Witte 2004; Hagedorn 2005:68-93.

Of course one should not exaggerate the importance of these contacts. Exactly the circumstance that Second Isaiah appears to be acquainted with important Pentateuchal traditions but has only a vague notion of the Greek isles argues against a theory like that of Wesselius (2002).

37 For the etymological identity see De Moor 1997:171, n. 345.

38 In the present connection it is irrelevant whether this reflection is prospective or descriptive.

39 It may well be that the prophet foresees this clash in 41:1-5. Relatively soon after the Persian occupation the Greeks took over Palestine (332 B.C.).

40 See also Isa. 11:11 and Zech. 8:7, possibly dating from the same period.

41 Cf. Young 1996:170.

42 The common identifications of Tarshish with Tartessos in SW Spain or even Carthage (cf. Baker 1992, 332-333; Lipinski 1990, 51-52) are highly unlikely because the geographical horizon of the Assyrians who associated the country and city with Yavan/Ionia since the 7th century B.C. hardly extended that far West. Cf. Parpola 1970:186-187, 349. Esarhaddon lists them among ‘kings who dwell in the middle of the sea’ which accords well with the biblical testimony. Cf. Borger 1956:86. 1 Kgs 10:22 does not imply that Tarshish was located so far away that its ships had to travel three years to reach the Levant. In the Achaemenid period the Ionian islands were located opposite the west coast of present day Turkey whereas the Lydians inhabited the coast of the mainland there. Biblical Lud is associated with Tarshish, Put (cf. Jer. 46:9) and Javan in Isa. 66:19. In my opinion Lud should be identified with Lydia. In Ezek. 30:5 we have two embracing antithetical pairs, so that Ethiopia || Arabia, Put || Lud (Lydia). In 1 Chron. 1:7 Tarshish and Kittim appear to be associated with Rodanim, the inhabitants of Rhodos. For the location of Tarsus and all other geographical entities mentioned, see Mittmann & Schmitt 2001, Map B.IV.23.

43 Jones 1970:1039; see also Görg 2005, 5-10. In antiquity seagoing ships could reach Tarsus via the river Kydnos and the harbour was important as a station on the route to the Greek islands. Cf. Olshausen 1975:529-530; Goldman 1950-1963.

44 See Grabbe 1992:46; Idem, 2000:17-18; Ben Zvi 2003: esp. 8, 15-18, 116-126.

45 See about these contacts from the fourth century onwards, Feldman 1996:487-503.

46 Cf. Schoenberg,

47 For the Jewish identity of the ‘survivors’ in Isa. 66:19 see Oswalt 1998:688-689.

48 The names of Azariah, Hatita, Isaiah, Moses, Obadiah and Simeon might be represented, cf. Fraser & Matthews 1987:15, 237, 407; Osborne & Byrne 1994:277, 322, 398-399; Osborne & Byrne 1996:124.

49 According to Ezek. 27:13 Tyre traded human beings with Ionia (Javan) and Joel 4:6 [tr. 3:6] confirms that in the fourth century Judahite slaves were sold to Ionia. Cf. Wolff 1969:93; Weiser 1985:124.

50 For some examples of renaming of Jewish exiles in Egypt, Babylonia and Palestine in the Persian period see Korpel 2005:145-157. At least in later times the same practice is attested in Greece and Rome: ‘The slave was an outsider, who brought no rights with him from the society he came from, ... The extent of this deracination is symbolized by the fact that he had to accept the religion of his new owner’s houshold (...), and had no name apart from that which his owner chose to give him.’ (Wiedemann 1981:33. See also p. 34 on Rome, as well as Reilly 1978:IX).

51 See e.g. HALAT, 496; HAHAT, 599, both with bibliography. This identification is found already with Josephus, Ant., 1.6.4 (144) and is supported by rabbinic sources, cf. Neubauer 1868 (repr. 1965):316.

52 With LXX. This reading was accepted by e.g. Delitzsch 1889:635; Duhm 1968:488; Koole 1995:475. Others are reluctant to accept this emendation because lamed and teth are too dissimilar, cf. Barthélemy 1986:464; Watts 1987:361, 365; Oswalt 1998:681-682.

53 So e.g. Simons 1959:§198; Lambdin 1962:971; LaSor 1986:1059); Baker 1992:560; Görg 2002:5-11, who try to resolve the phonological problems connected with this identification. It is a case of bad etymologizing to connect the name of Put with the Egyptian verb pd, ‘to draw the bow’.

54 This was probably also the source of inspiration for Jerome who rendered both Pul in Isa. 66:19 and Put in Nah. 3:9 as Africa. Curiously enough the Targum sometimes equates Tarshish with Africa: Jer. 10:9 and a variant reading of Ezek. 27:25.

55 ANET, 308.

56 See e.g. Rost 1971:38-41; Nickelsburg 1984:46-52.

57 Simons, op. cit., 493.

58 It was not uncommon for Mesopotamian scribes to issue such shortened versions.

59 Possibly Semitic *bq‘t’ilt ‘the Valley of the goddess’ as a designation of the Beqa‘ Valley, or, if *’ilt was intended as a superlative, ‘the Great Valley’. Cf. Simons 1959:492. A route from bq‘t to KTK is attested by KAI No. 222:B.10. Although scholars are still quarrelling about the geographic position of KTK (cf. Dion 1997:131, n. 87; Liverani (NABU, Sept. 2000, 60), the most likely localization is S.-E. Turkey.

60 Possibly *Aurona, Orontes.

61 ‘Fud’ is the normal transcription of Hebrew ‘Put’ in Greek, cf. Hatch & Redpath 1987:155.

62 An unknown nation. Some Latin and Syriac manuscripts put a T before this name. Hanhart 1979:61. Inhabitants of Tarsis?

63 The text adds that they dwelt ‘opposite the desert south of the Chellians’ (Judith 2:23). Codex Vaticanus and a number of other witnesses read ‘Chaldeans’ instead of ‘Chellians’ which makes more sense and confirms that the Syrian desert is meant. Cf. Hanhart 1979:61-62.

64 = Midian, cf. LXX Madiam for MT Midian in Isa. 60:6. Here it is apparently a loose designation of Arabic nomads whose tents were destroyed by Holofernes, certainly not a designation of the ‘true’ Midianites in the south.

65 The Peshitta has pwTy’ in Judith 2:23, with emphatic T. Obviously the n of ‘PonTos’ assimilated to the next consonant, as usual.

66 Bakhuizen van den Brink et al. 1962:77.

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