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Isaiah 7:8 (NET) reads:

For Syria’s leader is Damascus, and the leader of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will no longer exist as a nation.

As the IVP OT Commentary points out:

From 735, the date of these events, sixty-five years would stretch to 670 b.c. This has seemed strange to some interpreters since Ephraim suffered significant territorial reduction in 733, and Samaria was destroyed and the people deported by 721. Esarhaddon was near the end of his reign in 670. He had successfully invaded Egypt in 671 and had a number of other campaigns to the west during this time period. So far, however, there is no indication of deportations into or out of Israel during his reign.

The NET translators state:

This statement is problematic for several reasons. It seems to intrude stylistically, interrupting the symmetry of the immediately preceding and following lines. Furthermore, such a long range prophecy lacks punch in the midst of the immediate crisis. After all, even if Israel were destroyed sometime within the next 65 years, a lot could still happen during that time, including the conquest of Judah and the demise of the Davidic family. Finally the significance of the time frame is uncertain. Israel became an Assyrian province within the next 15 years and ceased to exist as a nation. For these reasons many regard the statement as a later insertion, but why a later editor would include the reference to “65 years” remains a mystery. Some try to relate the prophecy to the events alluded to in Ezra 4:2, 10, which refers to how the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal settled foreigners in former Israelite territory, perhaps around 670 b.c. However, even if the statement is referring to these events, it lacks rhetorical punch in its immediate context and has the earmarks of a later commentary that has been merged with the text in the process of transmission.

A few related questions:

  • What alternate theories exist for explaining this conundrum (I've already explored the ones mentioned in this post, I am looking for additional theories with scholarly support)?
  • What additional textual evidence (aside from it simply not 'seeming to fit' in this context) exists for this verse/prophecy being an interpolation?
  • How have OT scholars dealt with this text historically (pre-Reformation)?
  • What do early Jewish commentaries say?
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1 Answer 1

Rashi argues that the count is not from the time of Isaiah's prophecy but from the time of Ahaz. Here is a rather lengthy quote (reformatting mine):

Ephraim shall be broken, no longer to be a people: Ephraim shall be shattered, no longer to be a people, for Sennacherib will exile them with their king, Hoshea son of Elah. Go out and calculate from Amos’ prophecy until the ten tribes were exiled, and you will find them to be sixty-five years.

Amos’ prophecy was two years before Uzziah was stricken, as it is stated (Amos 1:1): “Two years before the earthquake.”

And Uzziah was stricken for twenty-five years, plus these two years, giving us a total of twenty-seven years.

Add the sixteen years of Jotham and the sixteen years of Ahaz and six years of Hezekiah, as it is stated (II Kings 18:10,11): “And they captured it [at the end of three years]; in the sixth year of Hezekiah, which is the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel… And the king of Assyria exiled Israel to Assyria.” Here are sixty-five years.

How do we know that Uzziah was stricken for 25 years? Rashi brings proof from II Kings 15:1 and reasons from there, thus:

Now how do we know that the duration of Uzziah’s state as a confirmed metzora was twenty-five years? For it is stated (ibid. 15:1): “In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam the king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah the king of Judah, became king.” Is it possible to say this? Did not Uzziah and Jeroboam reign simultaneously, according to the calculation you will find in the Book of Kings (See Rashi II Kings 14:22)? Rather he reigned a plagued kingship. In the twenty-seventh year he was stricken, and he reigned for fifty-two years.

Rashi concludes his analysis of 65 years:

It is impossible, however, to count “and in another sixty-five years” from the day that Isaiah said this prophecy, for he said it in the days of Ahaz, and they were exiled in the sixth year of Hezekiah. In this manner it is explained in Seder Olam (ch. 28), that Scripture counted from the prophecy of Amos.

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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