May 15, 2003, Vol.3, No.10.
Two new articles every two weeks.
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THIS ISSUE: "Introduction
to Isaiah" (see below)
and "Which Day is the
Introduction to Isaiah
The book of Isaiah is named for the prophet who composed the
book. His name means "The Lord is salvation." The work
of the great prophet was to turn the Jews to the Lord as the
only hope of their salvation.
Isaiah was married to a prophetess (8:3), and they had at
least two sons with prophetic names. The elder was Shear-Jashub
(7:3), whose name means "a remnant shall return"; and
the younger was Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3), which means "the
spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth."
Homer Hailey aptly describes the prophet thus:
Isaiah, a man of strong character, deep faith in God, courage,
and conviction, was the man of the hour whom the Lord selected
to carry the torch of truth in the midst of spiritual darkness.
Able to deal with any class, Isaiah was effective in court circles,
among false religious leaders, and among the common people. He
had the mission of turning the people back to Jehovah, thereby
averting captivity by the Assyrians. He proved true to this call.
Jan Valeton the Younger says of him: 'Never has there been another
prophet like Isaiah, who stood with his head in the clouds and
his feet on solid earth, with his heart in the things of eternity
and his mouth and his hands in the things of time, with his spirit
in the eternal counsel of God and his body in the very definite
moment of history.'Truly, Isaiah may be called the dean of all
the prophets (25).
Isaiah's ministry occurred at a critical time in Judah's history.
The Assyrian power was rising, and in the light of this fact
two groups appeared within the nation. One sought alliance with
Egypt and the other with Syria. Isaiah, however, forbade human
alliances and urged the nation to trust in God (Young, Introduction.
Isaiah's work as a prophet began in the year King Uzziah of
Judah died, 739 BC (6:1). His call was accompanied by an apocalyptic
vision of God on His throne which foreshadowed John's parallel
vision in Revelation four (ch. 6). He prophesied during the reigns
of "Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah"
(1:1). Isaiah outlived King Hezekiah, who died in 686 B.C., for
he recorded the death of King Sennacherib of Assyria (37:37-38),
who was assassinated by two of his own sons in 681 B.C. As he
lived on into the reign of Hezekiah's wicked son Manasseh, he
apparently spoke of his public ministry in 1:1. Thus, his public
prophetic ministry apparently lasted 53 years (739 B.C. - 686
B.C.), and he lived several years longer. Jewish tradition claims
he was sawed in two at the command of King Manasseh (cf. Hebrews
Isaiah ministered at a time when both Israel, under Jeroboam
II, and Judah, under Hezekiah, had reached their zenith of prosperity
and political power. Yet the seeds of destruction had germinated
and almost reached maturity in both nations in the form of idolatry
and its attendant vices, personal immorality and political corruption.
Assyria was the great power to the northeast, the Nazi Germany
of ancient history, which would with incredible cruelty conquer
the Middle East, destroying totally and finally the northern
Kingdom, Samaria or Israel; and, but for the dependence on the
Lord of Isaiah and Hezekiah, would have annihilated Judah as
well. Under Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles
5:26), who ruled from 745-727 BC, Assyria reached the height
of its power and threatened to overwhelm God's people, the Jews.
This king began the destruction of Israel by deporting the Israelite
tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isaiah 9:1-2). Ahaz, King of
Judah, submitted to Tiglath-Pileser and became his vassal (2
Tiglath-Pileser's successor Shalmanezer V conquered the northern
kingdom (variously called Israel, Samaria or Ephraim) and killed
or deported its upper class citizens in 722 - 721 BC (2 Kings
17:6; 18:9-12). Citizens of pagan countries were brought to Israel
(2 Kings 17:24), and an idolatrous mixture of paganism and worship
of the Lord was introduced (2 Kings 17:26-33). These people intermarried
with the Israelites left in the land, and the resultant people
became the Samaritans of Jesus, day. This was the end of the
The Assyrian King Sennacherib (705 - 661 BC) besieged Jerusalem,
the capital of Judah and godly King Hezekiah This was a crucial
time in the history of Israel, and Isaiah was the man of the
Amos (755 B.C.) and Hosea (750 - 725 B.C.) had been sent to
warn Samaria, but Israel had not heeded. Isaiah and his younger,
less known contemporary, Micah, successfully admonished Judah.
Isaiah, in the capital, Jerusalem, prophesied to all classes
of people, from kings to commoners. Micah preached to the common
people in the villages and countryside.
With Judah's deliverance from King Sennacherib (ch's. 36-37),
Isaiah turned his attention to the future menace of Babylon (ch.
39) and a future day of glory for God's people under the reign
of Messiah (Christ).
A prophet was one who spoke for God. Each prophet received
a divine call or commission (e.g., Exodus 3:2-10). These men
and women did not speak their own opinions, but "spoke from
God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter
1:20-21) Prophecy was not principally foretelling the future
but was inspired preaching. The prophets were more "forth-tellers"
than "fore-tellers." God revealed His Word and Will
to the prophets in several ways, but principally by dreams and
visions (Numbers 12:6).
God called and commissioned Isaiah to be a prophet (Isaiah
chapter 6). The Lord chiefly made known His Will to Isaiah by
means of visions (Isaiah 1:1). In a vision the prophet fell into
a trance while awake and saw visible scenes with the mind's eye
(cf. Numbers 12:4,16). Isaiah, more than most prophets, was blessed
with divinely inspired visions of future events.
If we remember that Isaiah described scenes he saw in his
mind in visions, we will more easily understand His language.
The prophet painted a word picture of the scene in his mind.
He described what he saw. Thus, he used the present tense, though
what he saw might have been far in the future. Events of His
time appeared close to or even touching occurrences separated
by centuries, even as in a painting distant mountains seem to
touch nearby hills. Intervening events were not seen, just as
the valleys between the close up hills and far away mountains
are hidden in a painting. Those distant mountains, seen only
in dim, hazy outline are Messiah (Christ) and His Kingdom, for
Isaiah's mind in his visions always came to rest in the hope
of the Messiah.
As Isaiah's name means "salvation is of the Lord,"
he, far more than any other old Testament prophet wrote of salvation.
The word "salvation" is found twenty-six times in Isaiah
and only seven times in all the other prophets combined.
Isaiah is preeminently the Messianic prophet. This means he
prophesied about the Messiah (Christ). More than any other Old
Testament prophet, Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ (2:1-4;
4:2-6; 7:14-15; 11:1 - 12:6; 24:21-23; 25:6-8; 26:1-2; 27:12-13;
30:18-26; 32:1-7,16-20; 33:17-24; 35:1-10; 42:1-9; 49:1 - 55:13;
60:1 - 62:12; 66:18-24).
Thus, Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament more than any
other prophet. There are about fifty-four New Testament quotations
of Isaiah (see Barnes, 31-33).
The great theme of Isaiah is Salvation through Messiah
the Servant of the Lord. This theme is preeminently traced
in perhaps the greatest prophecy of Christ in the Bible, Isaiah
52:13 - 53:13.
Two sub-themes are also of vital importance in Isaiah. The
prophet, more than any other old Testament writer, portrays the
Holiness of the Lord. The phrase "the Holy One of Israel"
is found twenty-six times in Isaiah and occurs only six times
in the entire remainder of the Bible. Isaiah especially glorified
God over idols, showing the fact that the Lord is the only true
God and that it is foolish to worship idols (ch's. 40 - 48).
The other sub-theme of Isaiah is Humility Before God.
Isaiah calls those who do God's will the Lord's "servants."
He uses this term to describe the nation of Israel (41:8-9),
the Lord's prophets (44:24-26), Messiah (42:1), and the redeemed
The book of Isaiah has been called "The Little Bible."
As the Bible has sixty-six books, Isaiah has been divided into
sixty-six chapters. As the theme of the Bible is salvation in
Christ, Isaiah, above all else and more than any other prophet,
tells of salvation through the Christ to come. As the Bible has
two major divisions, the Old Testament (39 books) and the New
Testament (27 books), so Isaiah has two major divisions: the
Assyrian Period (ch's. 1 - 39) and the Babylonian Period (ch's.
40 - 66). As the Old Testament brought condemnation, and the
New Testament brings salvation; the first part of Isaiah primarily
contains prophecies of judgment, whereas the second division
predominantly consists of prophecies of peace. The historical
chapters of Isaiah (ch's. 36 - 39) serve as a transition from
the Assyrian Period to the Babylonian Period, even as the Old
Testament prophets serve as a transition from the Old Testament
to the New.
Here, then, is a simplified outline of Isaiah.
I. Prophecies of Judgment (Assyrian Period) - chapters
1 - 39
a. Judgment of Judah - chapters 1 - 12
b. Judgment of Nations - chapters 13 - 23
c. Judgment of World - chapters 24 - 27
d. Book of Woes - chapters 28-35
e. Historical: Isaiah & Hezekiah - chapters 36 - 39
II. Prophecies of Peace (Babylonian Period) - chapters
40 - 66
a. The Lord vs. Idols - chapters 40 - 48
b. The Servant of the Lord - chapters 49 - 57
c. Future Glory - chapters 58 - 66
List of Works Consulted
Barnes, Albert, Notes on the Old Testament (Isaiah.
~ ~ ~
Hailey, Homer, A Commentary on Isaiah.
Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Revised
and Updated Edition).
Young, Edward J., The Book of Isaiah. 1., Introduction
to the Old Testament.