Tri-County church of Christ, Watertown, NY, North Country

May 15, 2003, Vol.3, No.10.
Two new articles every two weeks. Bible Question? E-mail us.
THIS ISSUE: "Introduction to Isaiah" (see below)
and "
Which Day is the Sabbath?"

Introduction to Isaiah

Isaiah overview, outline, summaryby Keith Sharp


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. 211).

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 11:37).

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 Kings 16:7).

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 Northern kingdom.

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 hour.

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 (65:8-9).


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. 1).
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.

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