A False Messiah? A Holistic Literary and Theological Reading of Isaiah’s use of the Hezekiah Narratives

  • Keith McIlroy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis seeks to investigate whether or not Hezekiah is portrayed as a failing or false Messiah figure in the book of Isaiah in order to set a contrast between him and the ‘true’ Messiah. Recognising the extensive literature that has already appeared there are still certain key aspects of the Hezekiah narratives, particularly in relation to the concept of the Messiah, that have not been fully explored and therefore warrant further development and refinement. This is particularly the case in relation to the early passages in Isaiah that have often been traditionally designated ‘messianic’ (Isaiah 7, 9, 11) and therefore they will be examined in relation to their messianic character and how they relate to the person of Hezekiah. One of the arguments of this study is that there is a connection between the oracles that speak of a messianic figure and the person of Hezekiah as presented in the book of Isaiah. To demonstrate this the thesis examines the ‘messianic prophecies’ in Isaiah 1-35 and draws out how these connect with or diverge from the image of Hezekiah in chapters 36-39.

The textual warrant for this can be found in the rhetorical parallel interpretative strategy of the hardening hermeneutic of Isaiah 6 that suggests a way forward in understanding Hezekiah’s relationship to the messianic oracles. This relationship is explored intertextually, noting as many of the continuities and discontinuities as possible. These connections present the reader with the portrayal of
Hezekiah, both as a good candidate for the expected and prophesied messianic figure (Isaiah 36-38) and as a flawed individual who falls short of all that is entailed in the nature of the Messiah (Isaiah 39). The reason for such a dual portrayal of the character of Hezekiah appears to arise from a desire to leave open the possibility that the figure described in the earlier chapters has not yet appeared on Judah’s horizon and that he is still to be expected. Hezekiah is set up as a false or failing messianic figure with the rhetorical purpose of introducing the need for an even greater king who will be unswervingly faithful to the will of Yahweh (Isaiah 9:7; 11:2-5). Other chapters will focus on the continuity of theological motifs in Isaiah 12-35 and the Hezekiah narratives and whether or not another messianic figure is present in Isaiah 40-66.
Date of AwardSep 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJames McKeown (Supervisor)

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