Speech Formed

In Isaiah 46:11, Yahweh announces that He is bringing a bird of prey from the east to do all his counsel and pleasure. It is a “man,” a reference back to Cyrus, the Shepherd who does all Yahweh’s pleasure (44:28).

This is proof of the kind of God Yahweh is, a point that He makes explicitly in the following lines:

A. Surely I speak

B. Surely I cause it to come

A’. I form ( yatsar )

B’. Surely I make/do it.

The structure of this little four-part declaration implies several things:

First, the parallels of A and A’ are intriguing. A is about God’s speech, His Word. But A’ is not a linguistic verb, but a verb of craftsmanship, the verb used to describe Yahweh’s “pottering” in the garden to make Adam (Genesis 2:7). The structural parallel suggests a particular way to conceive of speech: Language is a “formation.” It is obviously that in the sense that we have to take the clay of language and arrange it into a cohesive, useful, and beautiful form. Language is a kind of pottering.

In context, the speech of God is about His plans for the future. That is a kind of formation: We form ulate plans for the future, an imagined portrait of a different world. But that formulation takes a linguistic form, for God and for us.

Second, the sequence from A’ to B’ is notable. God’s plans are described by a verb of craftsmanship. He sculpts and molds His plans. Before He begins “doing/making” them, they are already made, made (if we read back to A) in speech. Making/doing is the implementation of what is already sculpted in language.

Finally, if we can press an already speculative meditation harder, we might see here a proto-Trinitarian pattern. Yahweh speaks and then makes it happen, and we know that the Word by which He speaks is the living Word, the second person of the Trinity. But the Word is elaborated here with a verb referring to pottery; the living Word is the sculpture of the Father, the eternal image, as Hebrews says. The Son is, as many medievals said, the “art” of the Father, His handiwork, a product of His eternal craftsmanship. And, since the verb yatsar is also used for the formation of Adam, we can also speculate that the formed Adam is specifically modeled on the molded Speech of the Father.

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