Structure in Isaiah 60:19-20

Isaiah 60:19-20 is a Celtic knot of a text. The obvious structure is a parallelism:\

A. No longer sun for light

B. Nor moon for brightness

C. Yahweh will be everlasting light

D. Your God for your beauty

A’. Your sun will not set any more

B’. Nor will the moon wane

C’. For Yahweh will be everlasting light

D’. And your mourning will be completed (shelem)

Over top of this parallelism are several chiastic whirls:

The first two lines of verse 19 form one chiasm:

A.You will not have

B. the sun again

C. for light

D. by day

C’. nor brightness

B’. of the moon

A’. will be light to to you.

Verse 20’s description of sun and moon are also chiastically arranged:

A. Not go again

B. your sun

B’. and your moon

A’. will not wane

Both of these chiasms are followed by virtually identical statements that Yahweh will be Israel’s light forever (the word order is ever so slightly different in the two verses). Verses 19-20 begin with matching chiasms, which are followed by the same declaration about Yahweh as the light source.

The matching chiasms are not simply stating the same thing again.In sense, the two verses move in opposite directions: Verse 19 says the sun and moon won’t provide light; verse 20 says that the sun and moon will never go dark. The reason is the same in both cases: Yahweh will provide light, and He neither sets nor wanes. In verse 20, further, “sun” and “moon” have a second person pronoun attached; they are personalized as “your sun” and “your moon.” Verse 19 says thus and such about sun and moon; verse 20 says, “and what’s more, thus and such about your sun and your moon.”

One of the effects is to bring out the connection of the final line of each verse. Verse 19 says that Yahweh will be “for your beauty,” while verse 20 ends with a promise that the mourning of Israel will be finished (shelem). Given the intricate parallelisms between the other parts of these verses, these should be read together, which implies that the beauty and light that Yahweh shines continuously on Israel is the beauty and light of relief from distress. Mourning is darkness; joy is light. In mourning, Israel is separated from the light of God, His brightness hidden in the gloom. But when He brings their trouble to an end, endless light breaks through the clouds.

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