Bible Review 6:1, February 1990

Sacred Sex, Sacrifice and Death

Understanding a prophetic poem

By Susan Ackerman

Sacred sex, child sacrifice, the cult of the dead—these are the subjects of a powerful, 11-verse poem in Isaiah 57:3–13. Our task will be to understand how the poet makes his points, why he juxtaposes these three seemingly different subjects and what they tell us about the times in which the poet wrote.

In the sidebar is my new translation of this poem. It would be well to give it a first reading at this point. Read it again after you have read this article. I hope then you will do so with new eyes.

Difficult as this poem may at first appear in my translation, it is clearer than the translation you will find in most Bibles because, with the help of modern linguistic and archaeological research, I think I have better understood it and have therefore been better able to translate some of the difficult lines. But even so, as you see from an occasional ellipsis (…) and question mark, not all of the cruxes have been solved.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.