Sei sulla pagina 1di 5

A Note on the Creation Formula in

Zechariah 12:18; Isaiah 42:56; and Old

Persian Inscriptions
christine mitchell
St. Andrews College, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0W3, Canada
Tis note explores whether the infuence of the Old Persian creation formula as
well as its underlying theology can be seen in biblical texts. Te particular focus
is on Zech 12:18 and Isa 42:56. While both of these texts use creation language
found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible corpus, the particular content and structure
of these texts have strong resonances with the Old Persian texts.
One of the most frequently attested formulas in the corpus of Achaemenid
royal inscriptions is the creation formula. In its Old Persian stereotypical form it
reads as follows:
baga vazrka Auramazd A great god is Ahuramazda
haya imm bmim ad Who established this earth
haya avam asmnam ad Who established that sky
haya martiyam ad Who established humanity
haya iytim ad martiyahy Who established peace for humanity
haya Drayavaum xyaiyam akunau Who made Darius king
aivam parvnm xyaiyam One king of many
aivam parvnm framtram One commander of many
(DNa 18; my translation)
Te text is found, with minor variations, from the reigns of Darius I, Xerxes I,
Artaxerxes I, Artaxerxes II, and Artaxerxes III, from a variety of sites: Persepolis,
Susa, Suez, Elvend, Van, Hamadan, and Naqsh-i Rustam.
Te sequence deity,
DNa, DSe, DSf, DSt (without the fnal two phrases), DZc (with sky before earth and
without the fnal two phrases), DE, XPa, XPb, XPc, XPd, XPf, XPh, XE, XV, A
Pa, A
Hc, A
For the texts, see Roland G. Kent, Old Persian Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (2nd rev. ed.; AOS 33; New
Haven: American Oriental Society, 1953); Rdiger Schmitt, Die altpersischen Inschrifen der
Achaemeni den: Editio minor mit deutscher bersetzung (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2009).
JBL 133, no. 2 (2014): 305308
306 Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 2 (2014)
creation of earth and sky, creation of humanity, and creation of iyti for humanity,
is intimately linked with the appointment of the Achaemenid king as custodian of
the creation and humanity. Te king is not a deity, but enjoys particular favor as
the deitys instrument.
Beyond the creation of earth, heavens, and humanity, Ahuramazda created
iyti for humanity. Tis word, ofen translated as peace or happiness,
broad cosmic overtones: it is the state of order and wholeness, opposed to the state
of chaos elsewhere in the Old Persian inscriptions described as the Lie (drauga).

It shares much of the semantic feld of the Hebrew .
Te beginning of the second (oracle/burden) of Zechariah, Zech 12:16,
contains an oracle foreseeing Judahs position as Yhwhs favored nation and the
defeat of the peoples round about. Te Davidic lines prominent role is emphasized
in the oracles continuation in 12:78. Te oracle begins as follows (12:1; my
Te word of Yhwh concerning Israel
Utterance of Yhwh
Who spreads out heavens
And establishes earth
And shapes the breath-of-humanity in its core
In the Old Persian creation formula, the creation of humanity by Ahuramazda
is followed immediately by the creation of iyti for humanity. A reader versed in
the Old Persian texts would expect Yhwh, afer creating humanity, to create
for humanity and to make Darius (or some other Achaemenid) king. It is at this
point that Zech 12:18 diverges from the sequence found in the Old Persian texts.
Instead of order, Yhwh creates () disorder by making Jerusalem a tottering
threshold ( ) and a heavy stone ( ) for the nations who gather to
besiege it in v. 2. Afer the creation of disorder and the defeat of the nations in
vv. 26, then Yhwh proclaims that Jerusalem will dwell again in . Finally, in
vv. 78, the house of David is mentioned for the frst time in the book of Zechariah;
the house of David will be like God ().
In its divergence from the Old Persian creation formula, the text of Zech
12:26 contests the cosmology/theology behind that formula. In Achaemenid the-
ology, by creating disorder instead of order, Yhwh and his followers are the Lie and
Te seminal analysis was done by Clarisse Herrenschmidt, Les crations dAhuramazda,
Studia Iranica 6 (1977): 1758. See further Bruce Lincoln, Happiness for Mankind: Achaemenian
Religion and the Imperial Project (Acta Iranica 53; Leuven: Peeters, 2012), 44661.
So Kent, Old Persian, 210.
Clarisse Herrenschmidt, Vieux-Perse iyti, in La religion iranienne lpoque achm-
nide: Actes du colloque de Lige, 11 dcembre 1987 (ed. Jean Kellens; Iranica Antiqua Supplement
5; Ghent: Iranica Antiqua, 1991), 1321; P. O. Skrv, Te Achaemenids and the Avesta, in Birth
of the Persian Empire (ed. Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis and Sarah Stewart; Idea of Iran 1; London: I. B.
Tauris, 2005), 5284; Lincoln, Happiness, 25868.
Mitchell: Zechariah 12:18; Isaiah 42:56; and Old Persian Inscriptions 307
should be destroyed by the Achaemenid king. Te Achaemenids, rulers of many
peoples, would bring their multiethnic army to bear on Jerusalemparticularly
their cavalry, which was the basis of Persian might (cf. DNa, DNb)and so it hap-
pens in Zech 12:4. However, in Zechariah, it is out of this battle that Jerusalems
salvation would come, not her destruction as the Achaemenids would have it; a
play on the root in Jerusalem may also be read here. Te role of the house of
David on that day would be comparable to the role of the Achaemenid king in the
Old Persian creation texts.
Te text of Zech 12:1 uses creation vocabulary similar to a number of other
biblical texts (Isa 42:56; 44:24; 45:1112; 51:13, 16; Jer 10:1216 = 51:1519; Psalm
104; Job 38:45). Te strongest linguistic parallel between Zech 12:1 and another
biblical textnamely, the use of all three verbs , , and is with Psalm
104 (vv. 2, 5, 8, 26). Of all of the creation texts with similar vocabulary, only Isa
42:56 has the same sequence of heavenearthhumanity as Zech 12:1:
Tus says the god Yhwh
Who creates the heavens and stretches them out
Spreads out the earth and its ofspring
Gives inhalation to the people upon it
And breath to those who walk on it
I, Yhwh, have named you in righteousness
And I have grasped you by the hand
And I have shaped you and given you
As the peoples covenant, the nations light
(Isa 42:56; my translation)
Unlike Zech 12:28, which continues afer the creation formula to emphasize the
disorder before Yhwhs ultimate victory, Isa 42:69 continues the sequence of
heavenearthhumanity by creating a human fgure, the you of I have named
you grasped you by the hand shaped you and given you (v. 6). Tis human
fgure, usually understood to be the servant of 42:14, is the one charged with
control over the entire earth. Isaiah 42:56 maintains the sequence of the Old
Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers see Isa 51:1316 as the key text, along with Isa 42:5;
44:24; 45:12; Jer 10:12; 51:15; Amos 4:13; 5:8; 9:6; Pss 18:10; 104:2; and Job 9:8; they see Zech 12:1
as alluding to Genesis 2 in its order of creation (Zechariah 914: A New Translation with
Introduction and Commentary [AB 25C; New York: Doubleday, 1993], 31113). See also Marvin A.
Sweeney, Te Twelve Prophets (2 vols.; Berit Olam; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000],
2:68384; and Risto Nurmela, Te Growth of the Book of Isaiah Illustrated by Allusions in
Zechariah, in Bringing Out the Treasure: Inner Biblical Allusion in Zechariah 914 (ed. Mark J.
Boda and Michael H. Floyd; JSOTSup 370; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic Press, 2003), 24559.
Michael H. Floyd sees allusions to Genesis 2 but also to Genesis 1 (Minor Prophets, Part 2 [FOTL
22; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 49596). Julia M. OBrien sees Jeremiah 10 and 51 as the
linking texts, highlighting the theme of punishment of the nations (Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (AOTC; Nashville: Abingdon, 2004], 258).
308 Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 2 (2014)
Persian creation formula and even has as its hero the Persian king Cyrus (so 45:1).

Te use or adaptation of the Old Persian creation formula would be entirely con-
sistent with the pro-Persian slant of Isaiah 4048, and even if the author of chs.
4048 did not know the Old Persian formula, the same order of heavenearth
humanityruler is evident.
Te omission of the ruler from the list of Yhwhs cre-
ative acts in Zech 12:1 is even more striking.
Te ideology/theology of the Achaemenids is contested in Zech 12:18. Yhwh
is posited as the creator (over against Ahuramazda) and the one who will ultimately
prevail over Ahuramazdas Order (arta) as enforced by the Achaemenid king. Unlike
the static paradisal universe promulgated by the Achaemenids, where chaos has
already been defeated and the present is an unending order, Zech 12:18 as the
beginning of chs. 1214 envisions the Achaemenid order ending on that day, fol-
lowed by the new order of Yhwh. Many recent studies of Persian-period Yehud
have made use of our increasing knowledge of Persian administration and history
to posit Yehuds relation to the Achaemenid heartland. Further work on the relation
between the Old Persian texts and HaggaiZechariah should be done to test these
Of the recent commentators, only Rex Mason and David L. Petersen have seen Isa 42:5 as
the key text for Zech 12:1, making the link largely on the basis of vocabulary, but noting the
common structure; they use the language of doxology to describe both texts. Petersen notes that
these two texts serve as an introduction to the following verses in each case, and that the appeal
to primordial creative acts provides the reason that those who are addressed should believe the
prophet (Mason, Te Use of Earlier Biblical Material in Zechariah 914: A Study in Inner
Biblical Exegesis [Ph.D. diss., University of London, 1973], 192; Petersen, Zechariah 914 and
Malachi: A Commentary [OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995], 11011). However, the
focus in Zechariah 1214 is on the chaos and destruction brought about by Yhwh on that day,
while Isaiah 4048 has as its emphasis Yhwhs new creation. Joseph Blenkinsopp suggests that
the language of Isa 42:19 fts what we know of the early Persian period (Isaiah 4055: A New
Translation with Introduction and Commentary [AB 19A; New York: Doubleday, 2002], 210).
It is important to note that the standard Old Persian order is earth and then heaven (the
only exception is DZc); Ahuramazda is not Yhwh, who creates heaven and then earth. See
Herrenschmidt, Les crations, 18.