Isaiah was born in the southern kingdom (Judah) and lived most of his life in Jerusalem. His family was influential and he gave counsel to leaders and kings. He opposed seeking foreign aid and saw social problems as having spiritual causes. He lived during the last half of the 8th century during the reigns of kings Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, and others. Tradition says that he was martyred by being sawn in two in a hollow log (cf. Heb. 11:37) during the reign of Manasseh. He speaks more about the work of Christ than any other Old Testament book.
Author: Isaiah (739-681 B.C.)
Much dispute has arisen over the authorship of chapters 40-66. Some assign the entire section to a “Deutero-Isaiah,” who lived around 540 B.C. (after the Babylonian captivity). Others see a “Trito-Isaiah,” who wrote chapters 56-66. Still others see insertions and editing as late as the first century B.C., a position difficult to maintain in view of the discovery of the Qumran Isaiah scroll dated in the second century B.C.
These suggestions attempt to eliminate the supernatural element necessary for predictive prophecy. Hence, the Babylonian captivity and the return under a Persian king (specifically named Cyrus) are not viewed as being predicted 150 years in advance, but as happenings recorded after the events.
…it is asserted that differences in language and style can only be accounted for by assuming different authors, a theory, which if applied to Milton, Goethe, and Shakespeare, would force us to conclude that many of their writings were spurious. On the contrary, one can point out 40 or 50 sentences and phrases that appear in both sections of the book and that therefore argue for single authorship (cf. 1:20 with 40:5 and 58:14; 11:6-9 with 65:25; 35:6 with 41:18, etc.)
To claim two or more authors for this book is also to contradict the evidence of the New Testament. Quotations from chapters 40-66 are found in Matthew 3:3; 12:17-21; Luke 3:4-6; Acts 8:28; Romans 10:16,20 and all are attributed to Isaiah. Moreover, in John 12:38-41, quotations from Isaiah 6:9-10 and 53:1 appear together and both are ascribed to the Isaiah who saw the Lord in the Temple vision of chapter 6. We must therefore conclude that the same author was responsible for the entire book, and that no part of it was written at the time of the Babylonian captivity.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, Charles Ryrie, p. 1012
Time written and time covered in history:
The Biblical Timeline Book by Book:
Genesis…history from Creation through entry into Egypt
Exodus…history from Exodus through Sinai
Leviticus…one year after the Exodus
Numbers…history, starting one month after the close of the book of Exodus and continuing through 39 years of wandering in the wilderness…concluding at the border to the Promised Land (Canaan)
Deuteronomy…the addresses given by Moses during the final months of his life while Israel was camped across from the Promised Land
Joshua…The conquest of the land of Canaan around 1400 B.C.
Judges…The events of Judges take place between 1380 & 1050 B.C. The period of history ends with the last Judge, Samson.
Ruth…The events of this book occurred during the time period of the Judges (the latter half of the twelfth century B.C.)
1 Samuel…begins with the life of Samuel (the last of the Judges) and ends with the death of Israel’s first King, Saul…a time frame of about 115 years.
2 Samuel…records the history of King David’s reign.
1 Kings…covers the time from the reign of Solomon (971-931 B.C.) till the death of Elijah, the reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah and Ahaziah in Israel.
2 Kings…picks up where 1 Kings left off…both countries are eventually taken into captivity and their populations deported. 1 & 2 Kings cover a period of about 400 years.
1 Chronicles...Creation to Solomon
2 Chronicles…Solomon through the Divided Kingdom
It was during the period covered by 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles that Isaiah lived and wrote.
750 Uzziah (787-735)
Jotham (750-731, co-regent) Pekah (752-732)
Ahaz (731-715) Hoshea (732-722)
Hezekiah (715-686) *Assyria captures Israel (722)
700 Manasseh (695-642)
Assyrian Background of Isaiah’s Ministry
For 150 years before the days of Isaiah the Assyrian Empire had been expanding. As early as 840 B.C. Israel, under Jehu, had begun to pay tribute to Assyria. While Isaiah was yet a young man (734 B.C.), Assyria carried away all of north Israel. 13 years later (721), Samaria fell, and the rest of Israel was carried away. Then, a few years later, the Assyrians came on into Judah, destroyed 46 walled cities, and carried away 200,000 captives. Finally (701 B.C.), when Isaiah was an old man, the Assyrians were stopped before the walls of Jerusalem by an angel of God. Thus, Isaiah's whole life was spent under the shadow of threatening Assyrian power, and he himself witnessed the ruin of his entire nation at their hands, except only Jerusalem.
The Grand Achievement of Isaiah's Life
Was the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians. It was through his prayer, and by his advice to king Hezekiah, and by the direct miraculous intervention of God, that the dread Assyrian army was discomfited before the walls of Jerusalem. (See chapters 36,37) Sennacherib, king of Assyria, though he lived 20 years after this, never again came against Jerusalem.
Contemporary Kings of Judah
Uzziah, 787-735 B.C. A good king. Long and successful reign.
Jotham, 749-734 B.C. Good. Mostly co-regent with Uzziah.
Ahaz, 741-726 B.C. Very wicked. (See under II Chronicles 28.)
Hezekiah, 726-697 B.C. A good king. (See under II Chronicles 29.)
Manasseh, 697-642 B.C. Very wicked. (See under 11 Chronicles 33.)
Contemporary Kings of Israel
Jeroboam II, 790-749 B.C. A long, prosperous, idolatrous reign.
Zechariah, 748. Assassinated, Shallum (748).
Menahem, 748-738 B.C. Extremely brutal.
Pekahiah, 738-736 B.C. Assassinated by Pekah.
Pekah, 748-730 B.C. Captivity of North Israel (734 B.C.).
Hoshea, 730-721 B.C. Samaria fell (721 B.C.). End Northern Kingdom.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Isaiah, pp. 285-287
Isaiah was born into a rich, upper-class family. He had contact with royalty and often gave them advice concerning matters of state. He warned against foreign alliances and attacked social ills.
Rabbinic tradition tells us that his father was Amoz, a brother of King Amaziah…making him a first cousin to King Uzziah, and grandson of King Joash…thus a man of royal blood.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Isaiah, p. 285
Old Testament-39 Books
12 History (Joshua thru Esther)
5 Poetry (Job-Song of Solomon)
17 Prophecy (5 Minor, 12 Major)
Isaiah was a prophet. “They were the evangelists of the day, the religious patriots of the hour…The period of the prophets in Israel covered 500 years from the tenth to the fifth century B.C. Then the voices of the prophets were silenced until John the Baptist…
There are seventeen prophetical books in the Old Testament (including Lamentations). They are subdivided into major and minor prophets. This difference is made not because of their importance but because of their length.
The captivities of Israel (the northern kingdom) and of Judah (the southern kingdom) are largely the theme of the Old Testament prophets. The record of these is found in 2 Kings 17:1-23; 24:11-25:21. These are called the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Some of the prophets served before the exile, some during and some afterwards. They are called pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic prophets.
The prophets before the exile (pre-exilic) in order of their writings were: Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah.
The prophets to Israel during this period were Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. The prophets to Judah were Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah.
The prophets during the exile (or captivity in Babylon) were Ezekiel and Daniel. They prophesied to all the Israelites. Jeremiah extended for a while into this period. Those who prophesied after the exile were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi…
The prophet’s chief duty was to deal with the moral and religious life of his own people during his day. The prophet was never sent while the nation was walking in obedience to God. All of the writings are rebukes because of the bad condition that existed at that very time. There was nothing general about the prophet’s denunciations…
Isaiah was a man who certainly spoke boldly to his own time, but as a prophet he spoke of the future as well; hence he is the prophet for all times…
Although the prophets spoke to their own age, as we have already noted, they were ever looking forward to future events. Besides this, we find abiding principles stated for all times.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, pp. 207-208, 209, 211
- What "Prophet" Means (Read 1 Samuel 9:9)
The word "pro" in "prophet" does not mean "beforehand" as it does In the word "provide" but it does mean "in place of." The remainder of the word "prophet" is from the Greek "phemi," which means "to speak." So then a prophet is "one who speaks in place of another."
We see an example of this with Moses and Aaron in Exodus 7:1 when God said to Moses: "I have made thee a god unto Pharoah; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." Aaron was to speak in place of Moses and for him.
Prophecy is not merely prediction. The common idea today is that prophecy is a matter of foretelling. Prophecy, in the nonpredictive sense, is declaring a truth by the inspiration of God. Prophecy, in the predictive sense, is a declaring of the future which can only be by the direct inspiration of God. (See Isaiah 2:1, "The Word that Isaiah saw.")
Through the Bible in One Year, Allen B. Stringfellow, p. 75
It is interesting to note that this is also the time of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome. The traditional date of the building of Rome is 753 B.C., just a few years after the birth of the prophet Isaiah. About this same time Sparta and Athens in Greece were founded.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 211
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: The Isaiah Scroll
All original copies of Bible books, as far as is known, have been lost. Our Bible is made from copies of copies. Until the invention of Printing A.D. 1454, these copies were made by hand.
Old Testament books were written in Hebrew. New Testament books were written in Greek. The oldest known extant complete Bible manuscripts date from the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. They are in Greek, containing, for the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which was a Greek Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament made in 2nd century B.C. (See pages 402-412, 750-756.)
The oldest known existing Hebrew manuscripts of Old Testament books were made about A.D. 900. On these are based what is called the Massoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament, from which our English Translations of Old Testament books have been made. The Massoretic Text comes from a comparison of all available manuscripts, copied from previous copies by many different lines of scribes. In these manuscripts there is so little variation that Hebrew scholars are in general agreement that our present Bible text is essentially the same as that in the original books themselves.
And now, in 1947, at Ain Fashkha, about 7 miles south of Jericho, 1 mile west of the Dead Sea, some wandering Arab Bedouins, carrying goods from the Jordan Valley to Bethlehem, searching for a lost goat, in a wady that empties into the Dead Sea, came upon a partially collapsed cave, in which they found a number of crushed jars with protruding ends of scrolls. The Bedouins pulled out the scrolls, took them along, and passed them on to St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Convent in Jerusalem who turned them over to American Schools of Oriental Research.
One of these scrolls was identified as the BOOK OF ISAIAH, Written 2000 Years Ago, a 1000 Years Older than any known manuscript of any Hebrew Old Testament book. An AMAZING DISCOVERY!
It is a roll, written on parchment, about 24 feet long, made up of sheets about 10 by 15 inches, sewed together, in script of ancient Hebrew, with evidence that it was made in 2nd century B.C.
This, and the other scrolls, had, originally, been carefully sealed in earthenware jars. Evidently they were part of a Jewish library, which had been hidden in this isolated cave, in time of danger, perhaps in the Roman Conquest of Judea.
Essentially it is the same as the Book of Isaiah in our Bible, a voice from 2000 years ago, preserved in the wondrous Providence of God, confirming the integrity of our Bible. W. F. Albright calls it, "The greatest manuscript discovery of modern times." (See 1948 and 1949 issues of Bulletins of the American Schools of Oriental Research and The Biblical Archaeologist.)
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Sargon. In Isaiah 20: 1 it is said:
"Sargon king of Assyria sent Tartan and fought against Ashdod and took it."
This is the only known mention of Sargon's name in extant ancient literature. Thus mentioning the name of a king, never known to have existed, the critics said, was one of the Bible's blunders.
But, amazing to be told, in 1842, Botta discovered the ruins of the Sargon's palace, in Khorsabad, on the north edge of Nineveh, with treasures and inscriptions showing him to have been one of Assyria's greatest kings. Yet his name had disappeared from history, save this one mention in Isaiah, till Botta's discovery.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Isaiah, Henry H. Halley, pp. 285-287
The keynote of Isaiah is salvation. His name means “Jehovah saves.”
Isaiah lived most of his life in Jerusalem (Judah) during the reigns of five different kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh…and during the time when Israel was destroyed (722 B.C.). Tradition tells us that he was martyred during the reign of Manasseh (696-642)…for resisting Manasseh’s involvement in idolatry…by being sawn in two while inside a hollow log or while bound between two planks of wood (cf. Hebrews 11:37).
He has often been called the “evangelical prophet” or “Messianic prophet” because he writes often about the redemptive ministry of the Messiah (John 12:41). There is more about the person and work of Christ found in Isaiah than in any other book of the Old Testament (1:18; 2:4; 6:3,8; 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:9; 26:3; 35:1; 40:3; 48:16; 53; 55:1; 57:15; 59:1; 61:1-3). Isaiah is quoted more in the New Testament than any other prophet. He wrote other books that are mentioned but not included in the Bible: a Life of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22); a book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chronicles 32:32).
This book of Isaiah is written with two distinct emphases. Because of this some Bible scholars believe that there was more than one author. This need not be the case. It is the work of one man with two messages. In the first of the book Isaiah pictured Israel. In the last of the book, the prophet beheld Jesus bearing our load of sin, and he told the story; then he beheld Christ exalted and glorified and shouted of his vision from the housetop. It is the same prophet all the time but suiting his language to the theme at hand.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 212
The life of Christ is portrayed in Isaiah:
Simplicity of life—7:15
Glorious reign—11:3-16; 32.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 214
How to Remember the 66 Chapters
- Isaiah has 66 Chapters—The Bible has 66 Books
- ISAIAH HAS TWO MAIN DIVISIONS—the first of 39 Chapters…the second of 27 Chapters(3) The prevailing note in the first division of Isaiah is judgment. The prevailing note in the second division of Isaiah is comfort.Through the Bible in One Year, Allen B. Stringfellow, p. 76
- The prevailing note in the New Testament is grace.
- The prevailing note in the Old Testament is Law.
- So, the Bible has two main parts—the Old Testament of 39 Books and the New Testament of 27 Books.
Secrets of Isaiah’s Life
This experience of Isaiah’s should be every disciple’s experience. The secret of Isaiah’s power lay in this vision in the Temple, I saw the Lord!
Conviction—Woe is me…I am undone was the cry brought on by the sense of sinfulness before God’s holiness (6:5).
Confession—A man of unclean lips. A broken heart and a contrite heart is precious to the Lord (6:5).
Cleansing—Thy sin purged. After confession, a flying seraph cleansed his lips with a hot coal off the altar (6:7).
Consecration—Here am I; send me (6:8).
Commission—Go, God’s command (6:9)
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, pp. 216-217
The Chronological order of the chapters of Isaiah:
Chapters 1‑39 have two historical centers: the Syro-Ephraimite war in chapter 7 where Ahaz is urged to trust the Lord (the implication is that Ahaz should not go to Assyria for help), and the Assyrian attack in 36‑37. Isaiah meets Ahaz at the “conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field,” the precise place the Rab Shakeh hurled insults and threats at Hezekiah who trusted Yahweh and was delivered. This section of Isaiah should be considered the “Assyrian” section. It should probably be understood as a response to the Assyrian threat in which Judah is urged to repent of her sins and trust Yahweh for deliverance.
Chapters 36‑37 are a statement of the devastating results of apostate Ahaz’ refusal to trust Yahweh (the help, Assyria, becomes his son’s enemy). They also show Yahweh’s grace to a repentant Hezekiah as the Assyrians are supernaturally routed.
Chapters 38‑39, on the other hand, look toward Babylon and the Babylonian captivity, the major subject of the second half of the book. (These chapters should precede chronologically the events of chapters 36‑37 since Merodach Baladan had fled Babylon in 702/1. Thus his ambassadors to Judah must have been sent in 703 B.C.).6
Chapters 40‑66 are a response to the Babylonian captivity (in prophecy), urging Judah to recognize the uniqueness of Yahweh and to rejoice in His work of bringing His people and His world back to Himself through the Servant.
Notes on the Book of Isaiah, Dr. Heater,
Here is Your God (40:9)
In order to understand Isaiah…it is important that we understand it’s overall purpose and order.
In the first 39 chapters, Isaiah is going to justify The Condemnation of Man’s Kingdom by contrasting Man’s Kingdom with God’s Kingdom. Man’s Kingdom is represented by Judah. This is the rule of man at his best. And yet, as he will show…it has fallen into corruption and condemnation because of its rampant and fatal involvement in sin. On the other hand, God’s Kingdom is represented by the Millennial Kingdom. The rule of God on earth will be glorious and holy.
Then, in chapters 40-66, Isaiah will detail The Exaltation of God’s Kingdom. He will explain God’s plan for the future and the glory that will come as a result of His sovereign rule.
The Condemnation of Man’s Kingdoms Isaiah 1-39
Isaiah 1 The Condemnation of Judah’s Kingdom
Isaiah 1:1-4-Isaiah identifies four of the kings that reigned during his life (see the Introduction material above for the time periods of the reigns of these kings and others).
Isaiah 1:2-3-Isaiah says that like a son who revolts against his father, so Israel has revolted against God (:2).
Isaiah 1:4-9-God describes the condition of Judah
He then describes the spiritual condition and the subsequent national condition of the nation.
- “sinful” (:4)
- “weighed down with iniquity” (:4)
- “evildoers” (:4)
- “act corruptly” (:4)
- “abandoned the LORD” (:4)
- “despised the Holy One of Israel” (:4)
- “turned away from Him” (:4)
- “stricken” (:5)
- “rebellion” (:5)
- “whole head is sick” (:5)
- “whole heart is faint” (:5)
- “nothing sound in it” (:6)
- “land is desolate” (:7)
- “cities are burned” (:7)
- “fields—strangers are devouring them” (:7)
- “desolation, as overthrown by strangers” (:7)
- “like a shelter in a vineyard” (:8)..like a small tent, hardly anything is left
- “like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field” (:8)…just a few sticks tied together
- “like a besieged city” (:8)
- “a few survivors” (:9)
Isaiah has given a stark, harsh, but realistic picture of the condition of Judah. It is almost totally gone, destroyed. In fact, if God had not intervened...the nation would have completely disappeared.
Isaiah 1:10-15-God denounces the sinfulness of Judah.
He tells them to listen closely. He calls them “rulers of Sodom…people of Gomorrah”…meaning that from the King to the common man they are all as corrupt as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (:10). Evidently, in order to try and make the devastation go away they were bringing more and more sacrifices…”multiplied” (:11). They mistakenly thought that their act of sacrifice was all that was needed. But they didn’t think that any change in their behavior was required. By acting this way they are doing nothing more than dirtying up the carpet (:12).
God says that He will not accept their burnt offerings, blood offerings, incense, sacrifices, assemblies, festivals, and feasts...because they do all of this, and yet continue to disobey Him (:12-14). He isn’t just unhappy…but He says:
- “I have had enough” (:11)
- “I take no pleasure” (:11)
- “I cannot endure” (:13)
- “I hate” (:14)
- “I am weary” (:14)
- “I will hide” (:15)
- “I will not listen” (:15).
In conclusion, He says, “Your hands are covered with blood” (:15). Here, blood symbolized the guilt of sin. The result: God refuses to even hear their prayers.
Isaiah 1:16-17-God lists the kinds of actions they must begin to practice if they are to experience His forgiveness and restoration…
- “Wash yourselves” (:16)
- “make yourselves clean” (:16)
- “Remove the evil” (:16)
- “Cease to do evil” (:16)
- “Learn to do good” (:17)
- “Seek justice” (:17)
- “Reprove the ruthless” (:17)
- “Defend the orphan” (:17)
- “Plead for the widow” (:17).
Isaiah 1:18-20-God’s promise of forgiveness
God tells the people, “let us reason together”…meaning that He will explain something and they are to listen closely, to evaluate what He says. God shows the difference it will make on them spiritually by contrasting life without forgiveness with life with forgiveness…
- sins “as scarlet” vs. “white as snow”
- sins “red like crimson” vs. “like wool”
God shows the difference it will make on them nationally by contrasting the results of obedience and disobedience…
- obedience “eat the best of the land” vs. disobedience “devoured by the sword”.
Because God has said this…that is the end of the conversation. There are no other options (:20).
Isaiah 1:21-23-God now speaks of “Jerusalem”. It stands for those who are in positions of national leadership and thus states that they will be held accountable for what has happened. They have no excuse. They became so consumed with accumulating for themselves…that they forsook their responsibility to provide for the people.
Isaiah 1:24-31-God’s plan of restoration
God says that He is going to return Israel to the condition that it was once before (:26, this is a reference to the millennial kingdom). But to do this He is going to take it through a time of trial in order to rid it of sinful elements (:24-25). The righteous will be rewarded and the sinful will be judged (:27-28). The terms “oaks” and “gardens” refer to sacred places of pagan worship that the people had turned to. Even as those have dried up because they have no water…so those who worshipped there will dry up because they have no god (:29-30). And the “strong man” (the man who had forcibly risen to the top by taking advantage of the weak during those trying times) along with all that he has accomplished will be destroyed and no one will be able to save them (:31).
Isaiah 2-4 The Glory of the God’s Kingdom
Isaiah 2:1-This is a prophecy that God gave to Isaiah concerning the future of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. While the conditions that are described here deal specifically with the days of Isaiah…it is also a description of the continuing deterioration of conditions that will take place until the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth during the Millennium.
Isaiah 2:2-4-Notice that this Kingdom will exist in the “last days”. It is the Millennial Kingdom…the 1,000 years after the return of Christ to the earth at the end of the 7 years of the Tribulation. During this time, Christ Himself will reign on earth among mankind. Here is the chronological sequence of future events leading up to that time…
- Old Testament Age
- Age of the Gentiles (from the resurrection of Christ to the Rapture of the church…the time that we currently live in)
- Rapture of the Church (this will happen at some time in the future at the return of Christ in the clouds)
- 7 literal years of Tribulation (rule of Antichrist on earth)
- Return of Christ to the earth (Battle of Armageddon…at the end of the Tribulation)
- Millennium (after the Return of Christ to the earth)
Isaiah describes the Millennial Kingdom…
- “the mountain of the house of the LORD” (:2), “the mountain of the LORD” (:3), “the house of the God of Jacob” (:3), “Mt. Zion” (:3) are all figurative expressions of God’s rule over all other nations from Jerusalem.
- many people will come to worship and be instructed in the matters concerning God there (:3)
- God will rule the world from there (:4a)
- there will be such peace that implements of war will be turned into implements of commerce (:4b).
Isaiah 2:4-Isaiah calls on the people to return to following God.
Isaiah 2:5-9-Isaiah describes the sinful influences that foreign nations and peoples have had on Judah.
Isaiah 2:10-22-Isaiah describes the coming judgment of God on Judah.
Isaiah 3:1-7-Isaiah describes how people will be at odds with one another during the time of God’s judgment.
Isaiah 3:8-12-Isaiah continues with his description of the sinful conditions found in Judah.
Isaiah 3:13-15-Isaiah says that God will judge the leaders for their complicity in sinful behavior.
Isaiah 3:16-26-Isaiah says that God will judge women for their complicity in sinful behavior. Their judgment will have such a devastating affect on them that even their appearance will be affected (:17-26).
Prayer: Lord, so many times I have read the words of Isaiah 1:18 and thought how beautiful they are and what a promise they make. But when I consider them in their context…the terrible sin that was rampant…my heart is broken. Thank You so much for what You have said…for the complete forgiveness of sin…for the wonderful reinstatement of fellowship with You. But God, please don’t let even the smallest part of sin be in me. I see its ugliness and crudeness. I see its outcome and destruction. Please Lord…even though I know the beauty of your forgiveness…keep me from the horrors of sinning.