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The Book of Isaiah

adapted from "Introduction to Isaiah" by Keith Sharp

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."

Background

Isaiah's ministry occured 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.

Isaiah's work as a prophet began in the year King Uzziah of Judah died, 739 B.C. (6:1). His call was accompanied by an apocalyptic vision of God on His throne which foreshadowed John's parellel vision in Revelation 4-6. He prophesied during the reigns of  "Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judan" (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, which would with incredible cruelty counquer 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 Tighath-Pileser and became his vassal (2 Kings 16:7).

Tiglath-Pileser's successor Shalmanezer V conquereed the northern kingdom (variously called Israel, Samaria or Ephraim) and killed of deported its upper class citizens in 722-711 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 BC) and Hosea (750-725 BC) 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. 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).

Prophecy

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.

Theme

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.

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 the Christ in the Bible, Isaiah 52:13-53:13.

Outline

Isaiah fortells the salvation through the Christ which is about to come. The first part of Isaiah primarily contains prophecies of judgment, whereas the second division predominatly consists of prophecies of peace. The historical chapters of Isaiah (ch. 36-39) serve as a transition from the Assyrian Period to the Babylonian Period.

  1. Prophecies of Judgment (Assyrian Period)—chapters 1-39
    1. Judgment of Judah—chapters 1-12
    2. Judgment of Nations—chapters 13-23
    3. Judgment of World—chapters 24-27
    4. Book of Woes—chapters 28-35
    5. Historical: Isaiah and Hezekiah-chapters 36-39
  2. Prophecies of Peace (Babylonian Period)—chapters 40-66
    1. The Lord vs. Idols—chapters 40-48
    2. The Servant of the Lord—chapters 49-57
    3. Future Glory—chapters 58-66
Isaiah Quoted in the New Testament (King James Version)
Scripture King James Version New Living Translation
Romans 9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. It is just as Isaiah said previously: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."
Matthew 13:14,15 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."
Romans 9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Hebrews 2:13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me."
Matthew 4:15,16 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
Romans 9:27-28 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."

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