Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yeshaya 1:1 -- Yeshayahu as Nephew to the King

(Note: The beginning of Yeshaya is this week's haftara.)

The first pasuk in Yeshaya reads {Yeshaya 1:1}:
א חֲזוֹן, יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶן-אָמוֹץ, אֲשֶׁר חָזָה, עַל-יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָם--בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּהוּ יוֹתָם אָחָז יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ, מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה. 1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
On this pasuk, the first Rashi states:
the vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz Said Rabbi Levi: We have a tradition from our ancestors that Amoz and Amaziah, king of Judah, were brothers.
If it is a tradition and not merely midrashic deduction, then it makes even more sense for Rashi to cite it, to fill in missing biographical information, particularly at the start of the sefer.

Still, some of this is deducible from this very verse, upon which Rashi places it. Firstly, Yeshayahu was a prophet who prophesied about Yehuda and Yerushalayim, and he he was centered/based around there. It is surely more likely then than otherwise (say were he based in the kingdom of Israel) that he was from the tribe of Yehuda.

Furthermore, there is a list of four kings, each descended from the previous one. And the king not mentioned was Amatziah, king of Yehuda, who was the father of Uzziah, the first king mentioned.

Amotz (Yeshayahu's father) and Amatzyah (Uzziah's father) are very similar names, and we know that Yeshaya and Uzziyah were contemporaries. Could we say that Yeshaya was a brother, and thus in line to be king? Perhaps, but surely such would be mentioned. But the names are quite similar. In fact, it is almost the theophoric name alternation, where short names with patach dagesh shuruk (`ammutz) are equal to the full name bearing the Divine Name within it (thus becoming Amatzyah). Often, upon assuming kingship, this transformation of name took place. And often brothers shared similar names. So, Amotz lived in Yehudah, has the name similar to that of the king, is contemporary to the king, but his name is explicitly not in theophoric form, and so he was not the king. Thus, a brother is a likely candidate. And this tradition steps in and either asserts it or confirms it.

Next up: the next Rashi.

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