ISAIAH. Little is known about the prophet Isaiah except what his own words reveal. His name Isaiah (Salvation of Jehovah) is almost identical in meaning with Joshua (Jehovah is Salvation) which appears in the NT as Jesus, the name of the Messiah whom Isaiah heralded. That his name played a formative role in his life is not improbable, since it expresses the great theme of his prophetic ministry. His father Amoz may have been a person of prominence, since the prophet is so often called (thirteen times) “the son of Amoz”; but nothing is known about him. Isaiah was married and had two children to whom he gave significant names (Isa.7.3; Isa.8.3).
II. Analysis. The structure of Isaiah is, in its broad outlines, a simple one, but in its details it raises many problems. It may be briefly analyzed as follows:
A. Isaiah 1-5, Introduction. Isa.1.1-Isa.1.31 contains the “great arraignment.” Like so many of Isaiah’s utterances, it combines dire threatenings with urgent calls to repentance and gracious offers of forgiveness and blessing. It is followed by the promise of world redemption (Isa.2.1-Isa.2.5). Then comes a series of threatening passages, including a detailed description of the finery of the women of Jerusalem as illustrating the sinful frivolity of the people as a whole. The land is likened to an unfruitful vineyard, which will soon become desolate. It concludes with a series of six woes that end in gloom: “Even the light will be darkened by the clouds” (Isa.5.30).
B. Isaiah 6, The Temple Vision. Whether this represents the initial call of Isaiah has been much debated. If the woe pronounced on himself by the prophet is to be understood as the seventh woe, intended to show that the prophet was as conscious of his own sin as of the sin of his people, we may assume that this chapter stands in its proper place chronologically and that this vision came to him some time after he began to prophesy. But the question must remain unsettled. It is a vision of the Holy God; and “Holy One of Israel” becomes one of Isaiah’s favorite titles for the Deity in whose name he speaks.
F. Isaiah 36-39, Historical (Compare parallel passages in Kings and Chronicles). These chapters describe the blasphemous threats of Sennacherib against Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s appeal to Isaiah, who ridicules the invader, and the flight and death of the blasphemer (Isa.36.1-Isa.36.22-Isa.37.1-Isa.37.38)—one of the most thrilling episodes in the whole Bible. Probably Hezekiah’s illness and the envoy of Merodach-Baladan (Isa.38.1-Isa.38.22-Isa.39.1-Isa.39.8) took place during the reign of Sargon king of Assyria and father of Sennacherib. If so, the arrangement is topical and intended to prepare for the prophecies of consolation that follow.
G. Isaiah 40-66. These chapters have been called the Book of Consolation. The words “Comfort, comfort my people” are clearly intended to give Israel a comfort and hope not to be gathered from Hezekiah’s words, which they immediately follow. These chapters fall into three parts as is suggested by the refrain-like words, “p‘There is no peace,' says the Lord, ‘for the wicked’” (Isa.48.22; cf. Isa.57.21), which have their terrible echo in Isaiah’s final words (Isa.66.24).
1. Isaiah 40-48 deals with the coming of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon as proof of the power of the God of Israel both to foretell and to fulfill, in amazing contrast to the idols of the heathen, which can do neither. The utter folly of idolatry is portrayed most vividly in 44:9-20 and Isa.46.1-Isa.46.11. The last mention of Babylon, “Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians” (Isa.48.20), is clearly to be thought of as describing flight from a doomed city, like the flight of Lot from Sodom. In the two remaining parts of the book there is no mention of either Assyria or Babylon except by way of reminiscence (Isa.52.4).
3. Isaiah 58-66 continues the same general theme and reaches its height in 66:1-3, a passage that foretells that day of which Jesus spoke to the woman of Samaria, when the true worshiper will worship not in temples made with hands, but “in spirit and truth” (John.4.21-John.4.24). Yet here again as constantly elsewhere, warning and denunciation alternate with offers and assurances of blessing. Thus 65:17, which speaks of the “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 66:22), follows a denunciation of those who practice abominations. And the book closes with a reference to the torments of the reprobate.
IV. Importance. The importance of the book is indicated by how frequently it is quoted in the NT. Isaiah is quoted by name twenty-one times, slightly more than all the other writing prophets taken together; and there are many more allusions and quotations where his name is not given. He has been called the evangelist of the OT, and many of the most precious verses in the Bible come to us from his lips. The fact that the Lord began his public ministry at Nazareth by reading from Isa.61.1-Isa.61.11 and applying its prophetic words to himself is significant of the place that this book would come to hold in the Christian church.
V. Unity. An article on Isaiah written today must deal with the unity of the book, since this has been vigorously assailed for nearly two centuries. The attack is not due to any discoveries that have been made, but to the new theory regarding prophecy that is widely prevalent today and minimizes or denies prediction, declaring that the OT prophet spoke only to the people of his own time and not to future generations. This theory is refuted by the fact that the NT frequently quotes the words of the prophets, notably Isaiah, as fulfilled in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. In John.12.38-John.12.40 two quotations from Isaiah are brought together, the one from 53:1, the other from 6:9-10; and as if to make it quite clear that they have one and the same source, the evangelist adds: “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”
The main argument for a second Isaiah is that Cyrus is referred to as one who has already entered on his career of conquest (e.g., Isa.41.1-Isa.41.2, Isa.41.25); and it is claimed that the writer of all or part of Isa.40.1-Isa.40.31-Isa.66.1-Isa.66.24 must have lived at the close of the Babylonian captivity. We must note, therefore, that the prophets, notably Isaiah, often spoke as if they were eyewitnesses of the future events they described. The viewpoint or situation of the one who penned Isa.53.1-Isa.53.12 is Calvary. He describes the sufferings of the Servant as ended and depicts in glowing colors the glory that will follow, yet the prophet cannot have lived at that time. He must have lived many years, even centuries, before the advent of the One whose death he vividly portrays. Consequently, one must hold that the prophet, neither in Isa.7.1-Isa.7.25-Isa.12.1-Isa.12.6 nor in Isa.53.1-Isa.53.12, predicted the coming and work of the Messiah; or one must hold that he could and did speak of future events, of the coming of Cyrus, of One greater than Cyrus, as if he were living in the glorious days of which he spoke. For those who accept the testimony of the Bible and hold the conception of predictive prophecy that it sets forth, the unity of Isaiah is not a discredited tradition but a well-accredited fact.
Bibliography: J. A. Alexander, Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, 1847; O. T. Allis, The Unity of Isaiah: A Study in Prophecy, 1950; H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, 1968; E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols., 1969-72; J. Ridderbos, Isaiah in Bible Student’s Commentary, 1984.——OTA
ISAIAH ī zā’ ĕ
, Yahweh is salvation
). The first of the major prophets in the Eng. Bible, the first of the latter prophets in the Heb. Bible, the largest and prob. the most universally cherished of the OT prophetical books.
The prophet Isaiah is mentioned repeatedly in 2 Kings and three times in 2 Chronicles. His name appears sixteen times in the book that bears his name. The book is dated in the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Late tradition asserts that the prophet was martyred in the reign of Manasseh.
These were troublous times in Israel’s history. During this period the northern kingdom fell and was taken captive. The southern kingdom (Judah) was heavily attacked. Isaiah lived to see the menace of Assyria wane, and his faith in God’s promises to Jerusalem fully vindicated.
The period was the era of Assyria’s expansion to the W. In a previous cent., a coalition of kings including Ahab had halted an Assyrian drive in the battle of Qarqar in 854 b.c., but the Assyrians were on the march again. Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 b.c.) invaded the W, conquered the Phoen. coast, and informed the world that he took the tribute of Rezin of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, and many other kings. These campaigns are mentioned in 2 Kings 15:19-29, where Tiglath-pileser III is also called Pul—his native name witnessed in Babylonian sources. Apparently, about 732 b.c. Tiglathpileser III conquered much of Galilee and deported the two and a half tribes of that area. He had revived the old Assyrian practice of intermixing the peoples of his empire (2 Kings 17:6, 24).
Fall of Samaria.
Shalmaneser V (726-722) followed his father, Tiglath-pileser III, and continued his policies. After Pekah, king of the northern kingdom, was murdered as a result of an internal conspiracy, Hoshea became king (731 b.c.) and served as a virtual puppet of Assyria. Shalmaneser came W and received tribute from Hoshea (2 Kings 17:3), but, eventually Hoshea ventured to rebel. Then began the bitter three-year siege of Samaria that destroyed the northern kingdom forever, in 722/1 b.c. The impending doom is recorded in the books of Amos and Hosea who were specifically commissioned as prophets to the northern kingdom, before it fell. Shalmaneser is prob. referred to in Hosea 10:14.
It has been debated whether Shalmaneser V actually conquered Samaria or whether it fell to his general and successor, Sargon II (721-705). The latter claims the conquest but may have exaggerated (see E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 2nd ed. , pp. 141-147). At all events, the northern kingdom was no more, and Judah lay exposed to the Assyrian menace on both the northern and western flanks. Already Tiglathpileser III had taken Ashkelon. Sargon deported 27,290 people of Samaria and ravaged the Philistine plain. Later he defeated a rebellious coalition of allies including Egyp. troops at the border of Egypt in 711 b.c. Due to Isaiah’s urgent warnings (Isa 20:1-6), Judah had not joined the coalition and was spared Sargon’s wrath.
Sargon ruled from 721-705 b.c. Much of his time was taken up with wars in Asia Minor and the Ararat area and against Babylon.
Sennacherib’s invasions of Judah.
Sennacherib, Sargon’s son (705-681) invaded Judah, who had on several occasions before paid tribute to Assyria. Tiglath-pileser III claimed tribute from “Azariah of Yaudi” (Judah) and “Jehoahaz (Ahaz) of Judah.” 2 Kings 16:8 mentions tribute paid by Ahaz to Tiglath-pileser III, and it is probable that Sargon also received tribute. Hezekiah gave to Sennacherib 300 talents of silver and thirty talents of gold (2 Kings 18:14). The Philistine area had rebelled with Egyp. help, and bound Padi, the Assyrian puppet, at Ekron and sent him to Hezekiah. Sennacherib overcame the Egyptians and the coalition in the battle of Eltekeh about 701 b.c. He conquered forty-six cities of Judah, took 200,150 captives, resettled Padi in Ekron, and received Hezekiah’s submission. He claimed thirty talents of gold, 800 talents of silver which may be a more inclusive reckoning than 2 Kings 18:14 (or, more likely, a mere exaggeration), and much other plunder. Judah was brought low. Significantly, Sennacherib said he beseiged Jerusalem and Hezekiah “like a caged bird shut up in Jerusalem his royal city,” but does not claim that he conquered the city. The Bible makes clear that Jerusalem was spared.
Sennacherib was murdered and succeeded by his son Esarhaddon (Isa 37:38), who reigned from 681-669. Possibly under his reign Manasseh was detained for a time in Babylon (2 Chron 33:11).
Assyria was the main power in the days of Isaiah, but as the above synopsis suggests, the interplay of world politics brought several other nations on the scene of Judah’s history.
The Syro-Ephraimite war.
When Tiglathpileser first struck W, the natural reaction of the border states was to form an alliance and halt his advance, as Ahab had done at Qarqar a hundred years earlier. In such an attempt, Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel evidently tried to enlist the cooperation of Ahaz about 733 b.c. When Ahaz refused, they determined to overthrow him and seat their own puppet, the son of Tabeel, on the throne of Judah (Isa 7:1-7). They were not fully successful (2 Kings 16:5) but did much damage (16:6; 2 Chron 28:5-15) and the W was thus further weakened by its internecine struggles.
Such local wars led Ahaz to seek help from Assyria, to open up a second front to the N of Damascus. Assyria gladly responded to Ahaz’ plea. Ahaz thereby brought in the very foreign power that became the scourge of God to Judah’s own near destruction. This Syro-Ephraimite war and Assyrian intrigue is the background of the so-called book of Immanuel (Isa 7-12), where Isaiah bitterly denounces Ahaz’ statecraft. A further consequence of Ahaz’ vassalage to Assyria was the implied requirement that Ahaz must adopt Assyria’s state religion (J. Bright, A History of Israel , pp. 259, 260). Against all the foreign intrigues, Isaiah consistently demanded a policy of nonalignment and full reliance on Yahweh to protect the nation. Isaiah’s counsel prevailed, and it is of some note that Judah was the only kingdom in the area that did not fall to the Assyrian might—not even excepting Egypt.
The situation in Egypt.
Egypt during this period was weak. The native king of the Delta to the N was Tefnakhte (c. 726-716). He reigned at a city called Saias (spelled Sa-a-a in cuneiform). Apparently Hoshea sent to him for help (2 Kings 17:4). It is now recognized that “So, king of Egypt” is a mistaken tr. for “the king of Egypt at So” (H. Goedicke, “The End of ‘So, King of Egypt’” and W. F. Albright “The Elimination of King So,” BASOR, no. 171 , pp. 64-66).
The Ethiopian kings to the S were on the point of conquering the Delta, and Shabaka of the 25th dynasty succeeded in about 709 b.c., ruling over a unified Egypt until 695. Egypt at this time gave promise of helping to repulse the Assyrian power and there was a powerful pro-Egyp. party at Jerusalem, against which Isaiah inveighed (chs. 18-20, 30, 31). Finally, in 690, Shabaka’s nephew Taharko (Tirhakah, Isa 37:9) came to the throne (he was born about 710) and furnished a diversion for the Assyrians in their attacks on Jerusalem.
Babylon also was a prominent power of the day. The history of Babylon concerned not only the times of Isaiah, but also the predictions he made concerning the Babylonian captivity. Contrary to the usual picture, Babylon was an international force during Hezekiah’s reign. During the reign of Tiglath-pileser III, Chaldean forces had possessed Babylon for a few years, but the Assyrians had retaken it, and Tiglath-pileser reigned there under the name of Pulu. Marduk-apal-iddina (Merodach-baladan), also a Chaldean, usurped the throne of Babylon in 721 when Sargon was occupied in wars against Samaria, King Midas in Asia Minor (the king of the fabled golden touch), and the peoples of Ararat (Urartu). Merodach-baladan held the throne until 721 when Sargon, returning from his victory at Ashdod, reconquered Babylon for Assyria. Merodach-baladan professed subjection, but in 703 shortly after Sennacherib ascended the throne, he usurped Babylon again. This was the occasion of his envoys to Hezekiah (Isa 39:1-8, though some have associated these messengers with events of the rebellion against Sargon in 711). Hezekiah, against the strong rebuke of Isaiah, entered into the alliance of Egypt (30:1-10), Babylon (39:1-4), and the Philistine area. 2 Kings 18:8 records that Hezekiah conquered Philistia, which agrees well with Sennacherib’s statement that Padi, king of Ekron, who was loyal to the Assyrians, lay bound in Jerusalem until Sennacherib put down the rebellion. Sennacherib’s prism inscr. names Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Egypt (the Ethiopian dynasty), Hezekiah, and others, in the conspiracy. He first disposed of Merodach-baladan, then soundly defeated the alliance in the battle of Eltekeh, and thoroughly ravaged the country including Judah. Captives numbering 200,150 were taken, as recorded by Sennacherib. The Egyptian and Babylon help had been in vain.
It has been questioned whether this campaign of 701 b.c. was Sennacherib’s only invasion of Judah. It is the only one according to available Assyrian records, but information is scanty for the latter years of his reign. The Bible at first sight gives the impression that there was one campaign only, but it does mention both subjection with tribute, which clearly took place in 701 (2 Kings 18:14), and a successful resistance when Sennacherib’s army was miraculously decimated (18:17-19:37). In connection with this latter action it mentions Tirhakah (2 Kings 19:9) of the Ethiopian dynasty of Egypt, who was only nine years old in 701 b.c. It seems therefore better to assume that Sennacherib invaded again in about 688 after Tirhakah became king in Egypt (690 b.c.), and at this time Hezekiah trusted in the Lord more than in alliances and was marvelously delivered. (See the excellent discussion in J. Bright, op. cit. pp. 269-271.)
The city of Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib in 689, perhaps in connection with the assumed rebellion of Hezekiah in 688. Esarhaddon (681-699) rebuilt Babylon and placed his son Shamash-shamukin as crown prince over it. Assurbanipal (668-626) left his brother Shamash-shamukin in control over Babylon until 647 when he had to subjugate the rebellious city again and held the reins himself until just before his death. The Chaldeans under Nabopolassar retook the city. Nabopolassar held it, expanded its influence, and finally joined with others in overthrowing Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, in 612 b.c. From 605 to 562, his great son Nebuchadnezzar ruled over all Mesopotamia and the W in a brief but brilliant revival of Babylonian power. He was followed in quick suscession by: Amel Marduk (Evil-Merodach, 2 Kings 25:27; 562-560 b.c.); Neriglisar (560-550); Labashi-Marduk (556) and Nabonidus (556-539). Nabonidus retired to Tema, an oasis in Arabia, and left his son Belshazzar as co-regent in Babylon. Belshazzar therefore bore the brunt of the Pers. feeling and died when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 b.c. Through Cyrus was fulfilled Isaiah’s great prophecies, “Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea....The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob” (Isa 48:20).
In summary of the above history, Isaiah lived in the era of empire-building as Assyria conquered the whole E. He also saw the rising power of Babylon and predicted the Jews’ unhappy captivity in that land and their deliverance under Cyrus of Persia. In these international movements and intrigues, Isaiah held strongly to his principle that Judah’s hope was not in armies or alliances, but in the promised protection of Yahweh. Judah was different from all lands. As a theocracy it was under the special electing love of God. “Say ye not a confederacy...Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your dread” (Isa 8:12, 13 KJV).
Dates of Hezekiah’s reign.
The dates of Isaiah have not been given in the above survey. He prophesied in the reigns of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (1:1); but what dates do these cover? The problem is complicated by the fact that the reigns of these kings overlapped in ways that are hard to identify with precision. The date of Uzziah’s death is given by Thiele (E. R. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed., , p. 205) as 740/39. Jotham reigned sixteen years, Ahaz sixteen years, and Hezekiah ruled six years before Samaria fell in 721 b.c. Obviously there were co-regencies. This period has been treated successfully by Stigers (H. G. Stigers, “II Kings” in WBC and with slight modifications in ETSB, vol IX , pp. 81-90). The details are not essential to the present subject. However, the reckoning of the date of Hezekiah is of significance to the interpretation of the Book of Isaiah.
1 Kings 18:10 says that Hezekiah began to reign six years before Samaria fell, therefore in 728/7 b.c. On the other hand, the writer says (18:13) that Hezekiah began to reign fourteen years before Sennacherib’s invasion, therefore in 715 b.c. This is by no means a contradiction. It merely indicates a co-regency with his father Ahaz. The consequences, however, are important for the background of Isaiah. If Hezekiah reigned twenty-nine years after 715, he died in 686 instead of 699, which would be the case if the twenty-nine years are counted from 728. The later date for Hezekiah’s death allows a later date for Isaiah’s ministry. He may well have lived into Esarhaddon’s reign and witnessed the beginning of the revival of Babylonian greatness. The last chs. of Isaiah may have a background either in the Babylonian struggles for power of the late 8th cent. or the Babylonian renascence under Esarhaddon. This would give Isaiah a ministry of some sixty years, which is long but by no means impossible. Actually it is practically necessitated by the reference to Hezekiah’s sickness (Isa 38:1-5). His sickness was “in those days,” apparently in the days of Sennacherib’s early campaigns. He received ambassadors from Merodach-baladan who, among other things, congratulated him on his recovery. This would be about 701 b.c., and it was predicted that he would live fifteen more years—to 686 as suggested above.
The unity of Isaiah
Nonetheless, the rationalistic criticism of Germany beginning with Döderlein has proclaimed with great assurance that Isaiah did not write chs. 40-66. This section has popularly been called Deutero-Isaiah for many years. The impression is abroad that everyone agrees that Isaiah wrote only the first thirty-nine chs., and an unnamed author (but a man of genius) wrote the last twenty-seven chs. during the Babylonian exile.
The basis of this pervasive literary criticism is alleged to be various. The two halves of the book are said to manifest quite distinct styles. This argument is hard for the ordinary reader to evaluate, not knowing Heb. It is still harder to establish, in view of the fact that those who fragment Isaiah excessively must deny that there are just two distinct styles visible in the book. There is some talk that the writer (or school of writers) of trito-Isaiah was immersed in the work of Deutero-Isaiah and copied him, but such a viewpoint is not so convincing when it is remembered that also Isaiah 1-39 is allegedly composite. A later school of oral traditionists would have it that all of Isaiah was preserved by word of mouth and all of it written down after the restoration—approximately 450 b.c. Was it all written by one school? If so, is it believable that there were two or three styles? Was it written by three circles of Isaianic disciples? Why were the pieces so cleverly interwoven into one composition without a trace in the MS or tradition? Actually the Heb. of the various parts of Isaiah is eloquent, beautiful, and forceful, and no more diverse than that of any other great author, e.g., Shakespeare. Parts of the book may have been written at a later stage of the author’s life. Part may have been sermonic and orally delivered at first. Part (chs. 36-39) is obviously historical and quite parallel to 2 Kings 18-20. Part may have been produced originally by Isaiah as a written composition. As many have pointed out, there are several significant signs of unity in style in the book (cf. G. L. Robinson, “Isaiah” ISBE  III, pp. 1495-1508).
Prophecies of the Exile.
The most significant objection to the unity of Isaiah is found in the charge that the background of the author of chs. 41-66 is different from that of Isaiah himself. The claim is made that these chs. reflect the times of the Babylonian captivity and therefore could not have been written in about 700 b.c. by Isaiah.
Conservatives have answered this charge by pointing out that Isaiah 40-66 includes passages that are prophetic. Cyrus, the Pers. monarch who conquered Babylon in 539 b.c., is mentioned by name (Isa 44:28; 45:1). His name is mentioned as the climax of a great prediction of future things. Naturalists, who do not believe in predictive prophecy, must of course postdate such a section, but this is to beg the question. The claim of Isaiah and Christian expositors through the ages has been that such prophecies are true predictions, and they prove the naturalistic approach to be in error.
O. T. Allis follows out this approach in some detail. He shows that the critical view of the unity of Isaiah rests largely on the preconceived rationalistic assumption. In his ch. “Prophecy According to the Critics” (op. cit., 1-21), he quotes numerous sources to show that the basic reason for the critics’ dating of OT prophetical material after the event concerned is that the critical school cannot believe that the OT prophet spoke directly the words of a God who knows whatsoever comes to pass.
Critical students sometimes object to this analysis. They argue that Isaiah 40-55 does not even claim to predict the Babylonian captivity. True, it predicts the conquest of Babylon under Cyrus and a return from the Exile. But, it is said, these chs. are written as if the Exile had already begun; therefore, the Exile is assumed, not predicted. The prophet is writing in the middle of the Exile and predicts, perhaps by keen insight and devout hope, the return from Babylonian captivity. Therefore these chs., at least, must be due to an anonymous prophet writing during the Exile.
The view of J. Barton Payne should be mentioned (“The Unity of Isaiah: Evidence from Chapters 36-39,” ETSB, VI , pp. 50-57), which holds that Isaiah 40-55 have their background in the 8th cent. and the conqueror from the E (41:2) is Sennacherib. This view may not be acceptable in some details, but it underscores the remark by Smart that the background of these chs. is not clearly marked. Either in geography or chronology, it cannot be said that Isaiah 40-55 was written by a prophet of the Exile, unless the critical assumption be made that truly predictive prophecy referring accurately to distant events is impossible. This idea conservatives refuse to allow.
It should be noted that the author of Isaiah 40-48 at least does not present his ideas as contemporary material, which anyone of keen political insight could deduce. His is not a late anonymous writing picked up and attached to the earlier book by accident. Nor is his work a pious fraud merely claiming the authority of the great old prophet Isaiah. He claims to predict the future because he gives the word of a God who differs from the idols of the heathen (Isa 41:22; 42:9; 44:7, 8; 45:4; 46:10; 48:3-6 and other less clear passages). Cyrus himself is pictured as coming in answer to a prediction, and the poem predicting his work is a climax and crescendo of prophecy (cf. G. L. Robinson, Isaiah, ISBE, III, 1507a; O. T. Allis, op. cit., 62-78). The alternatives left by such studies are that these chs. in Isaiah are truly predictive of a future captivity and return, or they were written after the event by a deliberate trickster and impersonator. That the wonderful words of this section in Isaiah are the words of a cheat and liar, is too much to allow.
Unity of 1-39.
Bearing upon these matters is the question of the unity of Isaiah 1-39, or at least 1-35. Chapters 13, 14 are usually denied to first Isaiah. Why? They are ascribed to him. They refer to Babylon’s fall by the hand of the Medes, not exactly like the Pers. conquest pictured in Isaiah 44, 45. They are part of a larger whole of prophecies against surrounding nations and some of these other passages concern the time of Isaiah (14:25). The truth is best served by making these chs. fit an early date, and the mention of Babylon be a true prediction.
Authorship, date and place of origin
As has been argued above, the author of this book is Isaiah the son of Amoz, writing from about 739 b.c. to 681 b.c. or slightly longer. Of this man nothing more is known. The prophetic office was not hereditary and no genealogy is given of any of the prophets except those who also served in other connections (e.g., David). His father, Amoz, is to be distinguished from the prophet Amos. The names are distinct also in the Heb. Isaiah was a highly educated man as shown by the breadth of his vocabulary and the quality of his lit. He was also a prophet of the greatest faith and power. Delitzsch calls him “the universal prophet of Israel.” Robinson calls his style “the climax of Hebrew literary art.” It is hard to overemphasize the influence of his book or the strength of attraction it has had over the centuries. Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Psalms were the three most-used books in the Qumran community. The NT alludes to this book over 250 times and quotes it expressly at least 50 times.
Isaiah was a confidante of Hezekiah and moved easily in the royal circles of Jerusalem. Many of the religious reforms of Hezekiah can prob. be traced to the influence of this godly court preacher. More uncertain is the question of his priestly office. His inaugural vision is set in the Temple of the Lord into which only priests could go. It was a vision, and the Temple that he saw could have been the heavenly prototype. Nowhere is Isaiah specifically called a priest. The idea that he continued into the reign of Manasseh is substantiated unless, as is unlikely, Isaiah 37:37, 38 is considered as a later addition. Further tradition has it that he was persecuted by Manasseh, took refuge in a hollow tree; the tree closed around him, but Manasseh had the tree, prophet and all, sawed in two. This legend is from the Assumption of Isaiah, a post-Christian work now lost. It is possible, but no means certain, that Hebrews 11:37 refers to this incident. Other Heb. tradition found in the Talmud relates that he suffered under Manasseh, which is probable.
Isaiah’s influence was restricted to the southern kingdom (Judah). Samaria is mentioned only as an enemy power in the section, chs. 7-12. Bethel and Gilgal, prominent sanctuaries of the N against which Hosea and Amos spoke, are not mentioned in Isaiah. It cannot be proved that the chs. are all chronological, but at least Sargon, the Assyrian king who immediately followed the fall of Samaria, is introduced in ch. 20. The fall of Samaria is hardly referred to (10:9-11). The location and outlook of the prophet is exclusively that of the kingdom of Judah. Zion is the center of his interest all through the book, and the policies of the court are his constant concern. They were turbulent days in Judah. Isaiah was God’s man for the time of crisis.
Isaiah’s place in the canon of the OT is sure. As the longest and in many ways the richest of the prophets, it was early accorded high esteem. The evidence of contemporary religious documents is lacking, but later documents honor Isaiah in terms still used today. Ecclesiasticus 48:22-25, ASV (c. 180 b.c.) speaks of “Isaiah the prophet,” “who was great and faithful in his vision. In his days the sun went backward, and he lengthened the life of the king. By the spirit of might he saw the last things, and comforted those who mourned in Zion. He revealed what was to occur to the end of time, and the hidden things before they came to pass.” These vv. allude to all parts of the book and show the highest regard for it as the work of a prophet by the Spirit of God. There is no earlier witness except 2 Chronicles 32:32 already mentioned.
The DSS include the complete scroll of Isaiah dating from around 150 b.c. plus several other copies more or less fragmentary. Beyond this there are several quotations from the Book of Isaiah in the Dead Sea lit. The Manual of Discipline, coming from perhaps the late 2nd cent. b.c., quotes Isaiah 40:3 as “Scripture” and interprets this v. as referring to “the study of the Law which God commanded through Moses...and with what the prophets also have revealed through God’s Holy Spirit” (T. D. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, rev. ed. , 64, 65).
The Zadokite Document is also found in Qumran in fragmentary form, but there are copies of it available from the Cairo Geniza at a later date. It also quotes Isaiah with the words “as God has said through the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz” (Gaster, op. cit., p. 75). Again there is a reference to “what is described by the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz” (ibid., p. 80). The Book of Isaiah also is clearly utilized by the author of the Thanksgiving Hymns (ibid., 149, lines 11, 12 and 180 line 5 from bottom). It is clear that Isaiah was regarded as Scripture, as the Word of God and fully authoritative. The words of the prophets are regularly quoted in Qumran on a par with the law of Moses. And one who should “transgress a single word of the Law of Moses” was to be excommunicated (ibid., p. 65). As noted above the Qumran scribes called their sacred books the “law and the prophets.” This is quite parallel to the NT usage. Qumran (and NT) usage shows that this sacred canon included the Pentateuch, historical books like Joshua, prophetical books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nahum, Habakkuk, Daniel, etc. and books of poetry and instruction, e.g., Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. All of these books and others are mentioned in such a way as to show that they were held sacred. In short, the canon of the OT held by the Qumran scribes was prob. just like the present canon, although the evidence for every book is not conclusive. Isaiah certainly was esp. beloved, although before the date of 180 b.c., there is little evidence on Isaiah, pro or con.
The text of Isaiah
The remarkable discovery among the DSS of Isaiah in 1947 gave Bible students for the first time a pre-Christian copy of an OT book. It was-most gratifying to find that the text of the scroll supported the MT of the current Heb. Bibles except in vocalization, spelling, or other minor matters, e.g., the use of the article, prepositions, the conjunction, etc. The extent of the textual variations can be seen in the footnotes at the bottom of the page in Kittel’s Heb. Bible, 8th ed. and following. Comparison shows that this pre-Christian text is in good agreement with that of the later Jewish copies, the so-called MT. The agreement is not as exact as the mutual agreement of MSS of the MT, but the agreement is more like that between NT MSS. It appears that the scribes were careful, but did not work with the painstaking exactitude of the medieval scribes. For instance, in the famous passage (Isaiah 9:5-7) the only differences are that “peace” has the Heb. article attached and the words “to establish it, and to uphold it” take “it” in the masculine instead of the feminine. The differences are minimal. In Isaiah 53, there are several minor differences of spelling and endings that do not change the sense. The conjunction waw, “and,” is added or subtracted about ten times, which is prob. a matter of style. Equivalent synonymous words are used in two places. The only meaningful difference is in v. 11 where the reading is “he shall see light.” This manifestly incorrect reading is also found in the LXX.
The conclusion is that the MT can now be traced back in this scroll to about 150 b.c. and in other examples to before 200 b.c. It is significant that the new though very ancient scroll is, to a careful reader, obviously a poorer witness to the MT than the later more careful copies that are available. Therefore this early MS actually serves to authenticate the extant text. There is another slightly later copy of Isaiah which is rather fragmentary; it is in close agreement with the later MT text.
The LXX text of Isaiah has been long known to be in agreement with the MT, though there are problems in detail. The famous commission to Isaiah (6:9, 10) is given in the imperative in the MT, but in the past tense in the LXX (quoted in Matt 13:14, 15 and Acts 28:26, 27). Actually the difference is one of vocalization, for the consonants (no vowels), which were written in antiquity, are the same for both readings. In general it may be concluded that the text of the book has been well supported by recent study and discoveries. As previously noted, none of the new finds suggest a division of the book in accordance with the critical hypotheses.
The book of Immanuel and the Virgin Birth.
The section of chs. 7-12 often is called the book of Immanuel because of the great messianic prophecy (Isa 7:14). It is probable, though not certain, that all of these chs. come from that early period in Isaiah’s ministry when he opposed Ahaz’ policies. It will be remembered that Tiglath-pileser was expanding westward about 733. Syria and Israel (northern kingdom) were building defensive alliances and wished Ahaz to join. Ahaz refused, and the coalition threatened to attack Jerusalem to replace Ahaz with a king who would be more cooperative. Isaiah counseled Ahaz not to fear but to rely upon the Lord. Ahaz, no orthodox believer, bypassed Isaiah and appealed to Tiglath-pileser to help him by establishing a second front beyond Damascus. What happened then is not known in detail. It seems that the Assyrians did help Ahaz, but not in time, for Ahaz was beaten by Syria and Israel. The Assyrians also came, though perhaps too late, and carried captive much of Damascus and Galilee.
In such critical days Isaiah with his son Shearjashub accosted Ahaz, prob. while he was inspecting the city’s defenses and water resources. He first urged Ahaz not to fear the northern coalition. He declares that within sixty-five years Ephraim would be destroyed (Isa 7:8). It is clear that this prophecy was fulfilled in due time. In about ten years Samaria became a province of the Assyrian empire. Assurbanipal (668-633) interchanged the populations of Ephraim and Mesopotamia effectively, destroying Ephraim as a people (Ezra 4:10; 2 Kings 17:24). It is a puzzle, however, why Isaiah speaks of this event in this way. Actually he repeats this prophecy (Isa 8:1-4), for he prophesies that before his second son Maher-shalal-hashbaz will be old enough to talk, Ahaz’ two enemies will fall before the Assyrians, which would mean two or three years. The problem is solved summarily for some by cutting out the last half of Isaiah 7:8. There is no evidence for this, however, in ancient texts or VSS. Commentators have few suggestions of merit. If the writer be permitted any theory, it would be that it refers to the age of one of the kings concerned. It could then be understood to mean that before Rezin’s sixty-fifth year these things would happen; but scholars know so little of the details that this must remain as theory.
At all events the prophet bade Ahaz seek a sign that the promise would come to pass (7:12). Ahaz answered with what seems clearly a quotation (Deut 6:16), the same v. quoted by Christ in answer to Satan (Matt 4:7). Ahaz was not sincere. Isaiah prob. knew his hypocrisy and that he had already relied on payment of tribute and an alliance with Assyria for help. Isaiah therefore turns on Ahaz with a sharp rebuke.
The famous Immanuel passage (Isa 7:10-17) is usually thought of as a promised blessing for Ahaz, or at least for the house of David. This view comes from stopping the paragraph at the end of v. 16. Rather, the section should be continued through v. 17 as does the ASV and RSV. The prophet in rebuke tells Ahaz that his real enemy is Assyria (v. 17). The petty kings of Israel and Syria are of little account. The real tragedy will be the invasion of Assyria whom Ahaz has hired.
Seen in this light, the virgin birth prophecy was not necessarily a current event full of blessed meaning for Ahaz. For him it was a threat. Before this occurs, the land will be desolated by Assyria. Isaiah did not set a date, for he did not know the date. Elsewhere he speaks of the coming wonderful king of David’s line without giving the time. The coming of the Rod of Jesse is prophesied (11:1) in close succession to the downfall of the Assyrians (10:24-34). Isaiah was only to know that at an unspecified time the Messiah would come, and he warns Ahaz to mend his ways, because before the Messiah would come, the Assyrians would invade and bring tragedy greater than the division of Ephraim from Judah. Actually there is no information that this invasion came before the days of Sennacherib in 701 b.c., thirty years after the prophecy was given. It could not in any case refer to a child of Ahaz or of Isaiah.
Isaiah refers to the birth of a child. In Isaiah 9:6, 7 he makes it plain that the longedfor king of David’s line will come as a child, indeed a divine child. The names given then are not just names applicable to any human being. Note that the name “The Mighty God” is applied to the Lord God (10:20, 21). Isaiah was expecting a divine child of David’s line. This child had nothing to do with Isaiah’s second son Maher-shalal-hashbaz (8:1-4), who was not of David’s line. He was born in the normal course to Isaiah and his wife. He was given a rather ordinary symbolic name (meaning “hasten to the booty, hasten to the spoil”) as was Isaiah’s first son Shearjashub (“a remnant shall return”).
The reference to butter and honey (Isa 7:15) has been variously interpreted. Some think of it as heavenly food. Others regard it as food of luxury—which it is (7:22). The simplest idea is that in v. 15 it refers to a baby’s first food after weaning. The passage thus declares that before the Messiah Immanuel is born of a virgin and is weaned, the Assyrian will come and depopulate the land.
That this passage predicts a virgin birth is further indicated by the ancient translations. The LXX VS which was made about two centuries before Christ, trs. the word ’almâ by parthenos, the Gr. word for virgin. It is significant that in places where an OT quotation is found in Matthew alone, Matthew does not follow the LXX. Thus in Matthew 1:23 also, the quotation, though it is short and there is a problem in details, does not agree with the LXX in the best texts. It may be concluded that Matthew gives independent evidence for the tr. “virgin” (Isa 7:14). The Syriac Peshitta VS of Isaiah 7:14 uses the specific word betûlâ, “virgin.” The force of the Peshitta, however, is diminished by the fact that there is no definite information on whether it was tr. by Christians or Jews.
The usual critical view is that Isaiah 7:14 refers to a contemporaneous birth of a child by the wife of Ahaz or Hezekiah. This view denies both the miraculous and prophetic element. Some who hold a high view of Scripture speak of both an immediate and distant fulfillment. If the v. speaks of a truly virgin birth, there is no point in the v. not being applied to Jesus. In any case it was not fulfilled until after Sennacherib’s campaign of 701 b.c. thirty years after Isaiah spoke. If it be remembered that Isaiah shared the ancient hope of the coming of a divine child, then this prediction finds its full raison d’être as a timeless threat to the rebellious Ahaz.
The eschatological use of Edom.
The servant poems.
The “servant of the Lord” presents a problem, for several times he is clearly stated to be Israel, or Jacob, i.e., the nation of Judah. At other times he seems to be an individual and is clearly referred to in the NT as Christ. This situation has given rise to various viewpoints. The interpretation of naturalistic criticism is that the writer was speaking of Israel, and the NT references by error or accommodation transfer the words to Christ. A more conservative view is that of Delitzsch, that the prophet speaks of the nation whose spiritual activity culminates in Christ. The nation is pictured as a pyramid, with the Messiah as the top stone representing all the others. Another opinion is that the prophet refers first to the nation, then as the nation fails in its witness for God, he turns to speak of the Messiah who will not fail. There is a cultic view to be added—that the prophet speaks of the king as representing the nation in the cultic drama in which on the feast days the fortunes of the nation are portrayed and God’s favor secured.
The present writer’s theory is that there has been too strenuous an effort to force the various passages into one mold. Other prophets speak of various individuals as God’s servants. David is called the Lord’s servant; Nebuchadnezzar, likewise (Jer 27:6). Jeremiah also calls Jacob (the nation) God’s servant (Jer 46:27, 28). Zerubbabel is called God’s servant (Hag 2:23). Zechariah called the Branch of David “my servant” (Zech 3:8) and Ezekiel in the same v. calls Jacob (the nation) and David God’s Servant (Ezek 37:25). Why, then should there not be some variety of usage in Isaiah?
This variety of usage is rather clearly shown in the second song (Isa 49:3-6). The servant is clearly called Israel, the nation (v. 3). A complaint is made by Israel, “I said, I have labored in vain” (v. 4). The servant continues, however, “The Lord...formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him” (v. 5); and continues that the servant will raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel and be a light to the nations and God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (v. 6). Evidently Israel fails as a servant, and God raises up another servant to accomplish salvation. This should be no more surprising than Ezekiel 37:25, where both Israel and the messianic king are called God’s servants.
According to this view, each passage should be scrutinized by itself to determine which servant is intended. Israel is named as the servant, the object of God’s care (Isa 41:8). The servant is anointed by God’s Spirit for a great work of witness, of judgment and of testimony (42:1-6). The vv. do not fit Israel but apply accurately to Christ, which the NT quotes (Matt 12:18-21).
Israel is the object of God’s care and forgiving grace (44:1, 2, 21, 22). God is the agent; the servant is the recipient. God calls Cyrus for the sake of Israel (45:4), but the situation later becomes more obscure (50:4-10). Christ’s humiliation is noticeable (50:6), but the NT does not quote verses 4-10. The context does not imply that the suffering is vicarious; it says that God will help His servant. These statements could apply to Christ, but it is not clear that they do.
The portion begins with the disfigurement of the servant beyond recognition (Isa 52:14). His rejection is beyond belief; but His suffering is substitutionary. His affliction is more than severe; it is fatal. He is dead, buried, and without issue. His death is said to be a sinoffering (53:10). This remarkable v. unites the work of the suffering servant with the symbolism of the Temple sacrifices. Emphatically it states that He bears the sin of transgressors and justifies many by His death. It is often overlooked that the next chs., in sounding the joyful note of praise for the benefits of this sacrifice, go on to base this salvation on the everlasting covenant, based on God’s sure love for David (55:3, cf. David my servant, Ps 89:20-24). In this great section, the promises of the suffering servant, the Son of David, and the Lamb of God are brought together.
Extensive efforts have been put forth to show that this portion refers to the nation, not to an individual. The words, “My servant shall prosper” (Isa 52:13) include the Heb. word yaskîl. It has been suggested that this is a mistake for the word Israel (yisrā’el), and the text should read “My servant Israel.” There is no evidence for this, but it is advanced seriously as a possibility. It is possible, however, that this very word prosper is referred to in Jeremiah 23:5 (KJV) for it says the righteous Branch, the expected Davidic king will reign and “prosper” (the same word).
The expressions of the servant’s suffering and death are so explicit that all attempts to refer the servant to Israel fail. When did Israel ever suffer, not for her own sins and without any deceit in her mouth? In the previous section (52:1-12) the Lord promises to redeem Jerusalem and bring again Zion. Israel is as usual the object of Yahweh’s salvation, not the instrument of redemption. The saving work of the suffering Servant is a work for Israel, not a work by Israel. The Servant will die (53:9), but no weapon formed against Israel shall prosper (54:17). The two must not be confounded.
Effort also has been made to speak of Israel as the Servant and to liken the resurrection of the Servant (53:10) to the return of Israel from Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel 37 likens the return from exile to a resurrection from the dead, but the Exile is nowhere recorded in the OT as a sacrificial death. Rather, the Exile was the judgment of God for obvious sin. Furthermore Isaiah (53:10) does not too patently speak of a resurrection. James Smart has been quoted above in a different connection: “Those who see an individual in the Servant have on their hands in this verse (10) the resurrection of an individual from the dead, a somewhat embarrassing phenomenon if the chapter is to be retained as written by the prophet in the sixth century b.c.” (op. cit., 212). Notice how Smart’s argument is based on purely theoretical reconstruction of Israel’s early theology. Why should the mention of the resurrection of an individual in the 6th cent. be embarrassing? Only by postdating the resurrection Psalms, Job, Isaiah 24-27, Daniel 12:2 and other passages can the early date of the resurrection doctrine be denied. Smart’s argument is subjective.
Another denial of the messianic interpretation comes from the cultic ideas of the sacral kingship theory. Mowinckel, Engnell, A. R. Johnson, and others argue that ancient Israel like Babylon and Egypt deified its kings. The king was the head of the religion. On the great festival days, parallel to the Babylonian New Year festival, the king was first humiliated to bear the bad luck of the preceding year, then was re-enthroned amid general rejoicing and acclaimed as deity. This school finds the humiliation of Israel’s king expressed in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and similar passages. His re-enthronement is celebrated in Psalms 2, 110, 45 etc. H. Ringren finds the metaphors of Isaiah 53 derived principally from “two circles of motifs; the Tammuz literature and the kingship ideology” (The Messiah in the OT , p. 50). These views have been challenged not only because they assume that Israel’s religion was parallel to that of Babylon, but also because it is a fallacious assumption that the Babylonian king was deified (H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods , pp. 224, 342). The whole idea is a curious application of the comparative religion approach. First of all, critical scholars place this ch. usually at a late date. Where was any king in Judah then, let alone a king to lead the cult? Or did they think in exile that the Babylonian king was bruised for Israel’s iniquities?
The plain traditional messianic interpretation of the ch. still fits the OT best, and surely is taught in the NT. The coming root of Jesse’s line was also to suffer for sin. In Him would be united the symbols of Israel’s faith, the sacrificial death, the Davidic kingship, and the divine child. In Him is found the mighty victory of God’s grace. “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy one of Israel is your Redeemer” (Isa 54:5). This ch. is not in intimate association with the Babylonian captivity nor the return therefrom; it is far deeper than that. The consequent triumph is far higher than a return from exile. This ch. opens the door on those heavenly passages in the latter part of Isaiah, which tell of a time when Zion’s walls shall be Salvation and her gates, Praise. When “the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (60:19).
Other messianic passages.
It is for this reason that the work of the Suffering Servant (Isa 53) opens the door not only to pardon from sin, but to those glorious vistas of peace and blessing found in the succeeding chapters. All this is involved in the One who fulfills the Davidic covenant (55:3).
The concluding chs. of Isaiah contain a few references to the coming of Christ, but their identification is not clear because they refer to God’s activity for Israel. The application of these passages to Christ in the NT is a strong argument for His deity.
Isaiah 59:15-21 gives the reaction of the Lord to Israel’s sin. All had turned aside; therefore God Himself would save and the Redeemer would come at last to Zion. Isaiah 59:20 is quoted in Romans 11:26 as referring to the salvation of Israel after the period of Gentile salvation. There is some question about the synthesis of the OT and NT passages. Romans 11:26 says that the Redeemer shall come out of Zion (ek). Isaiah says that the Redeemer shall come to Zion (le). The reconciliation may be a mere matter of tr. The LXX of Isaiah uses the word eneken, “for the sake of,” which adequately represents the Heb. The NT ek may really mean “for the sake of” (so Alford, in loc.) just as the LXX says. In this view, both vv. promise a Redeemer to save Israel.
A superficial reading might suggest that Isaiah was referring to himself as the anointed to preach good tidings (Isa 61:1-3). The promises given to Israel in the succeeding vv. outstrip any legitimate expectation from Isaiah’s ministry or from an ordinary king’s reign. The acceptable year of the Lord was as truly future to Isaiah as was “the day of vengeance of our God.” It often has been pointed out that when Christ quoted these vv. in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), He claimed they were fulfilled in Himself, but He did not continue with reference to the “day of vengeance of our God.” Evidently this remains to be fulfilled. Later vv. give further details on this subject. Isaiah 63:1-6 threatens total judgment at that “day of vengeance” and likens it to the treading of a winepress in anger. The NT references to coming judgment at the Second Coming of Christ are unmistakable (Rev 14:19, 20; 19:15). The conclusion is that through the latter part of Isaiah, the predicted work of the expected One is portrayed on such a large canvas that it is not limited to the first coming of Christ, much less could it have been fulfilled by any ordinary king of David’s line. God showed Isaiah final things, and the only Person suitable for their accomplishment is the coming child of David’s line who is also the divine Lord and Savior.
Another passage (Isa 25:6-26:21) emphasizes not so much the glories of Christ’s return, as the fact of the eventual resurrection of the dead. The swallowing up of death really refers to resurrection, as is shown both by the expression, “the Lord God will wipe away tears” (Isa 25:8) and the quotation in 1 Corinthians 15:54. The reference to Moab in 25:10 need not argue against the eschatological character of the passage. Probably Moab is taken as a type of evil just as Edom is in Isaiah 34:5. The word “dead body” (KJV) should be read with a change of a vowel to make it pl. to fit the context (26:19 RSV): it should read “Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise...awake and sing for joy!” The v. is in contrast to vv. 14 and 15 where the wicked are said to perish, but God’s own shall live. Most critical scholars hold that resurrection is a later doctrine, and they either date these vv. late or deny that they could refer to resurrection. This is reasoning in a circle. There is no reason why Isaiah by God’s revelation should not have spoken at an early time of the resurrection day.
The picture of Zion’s glory given in chapter 60 really has 59:20, 21 for its backdrop. Israel will not be blessed without a Redeemer. The Heb. (also LXX and NT quotation in Rom 11:26, see above) can better be taken, “The Redeemer shall come for the sake of Zion.” Paul quotes this v. in Romans 11:26 with the comment that God’s promises are inviolable. The Romans passage has been taken in two ways. One interpretation has it that Isaiah 59:20 is fulfilled in the “Church age.” It is said that the Church inherits the promises of Israel and “so” or “in this manner” all Israel shall be saved. The other and more natural view is defended in the Commentary on Romans, International Commentary Series (1965) by John Murray (in loc.). This view holds that the apostle distinguishes national Israel from the Church and promises eventual salvation for Israel as a nation in the final time. This view prepares the way for the great sixtieth ch. with its exaltation of Zion and her sons, in a day when violence is heard no more and Jerusalem shall be inhabited by the Lord in His glory. The passage is similar to Isaiah 54 and is the basis for the great description of the city foursquare in Revelation 21.
The prophecy of Isaiah ends with a solemn note (ch. 66). The picture of the glory of Zion is counterbalanced by the punishment to be meted out to the enemies of God. The “slain by the Lord shall be many” (66:16) and the punishments of the transgressors are described in terms used by Christ of eternal hell (Isa 66:24; cf. Mark 9:44, 46, 48).
Contents of the book
The major divisions of the Book of Isaiah are clearly marked. Disregarding critical approaches the book may be outlined as follows:
The above outline shows a wealth of material in the Book of Isaiah. There is condemnation of the people for their sin, warnings in a critical international situation, promises of a Redeemer, and visions of the kingdom of Glory.
In general, the book may be divided into five major parts, although the same themes often recur in the various divisions.
The so-called Deutero-Isaiah comprises chs. 40-66. It evidences a different background from the parts considered above, as is rightly noticed by critics. No longer is Assyria considered the great enemy, but Babylon. The background for this last section is given by the historical division (chs. 35-39) that tells of Hezekiah’s alliance with the Babylonian usurper Merodach-baladan prob. around 703-701 b.c. This ill-fated alliance brings forth Isaiah’s revelations of Babylon’s future enslavement of Israel and her eventual fall.
These chs. were doubtless written later in Isaiah’s life. In those years Babylon was a power with which to reckon. When Isaiah denounced it, his contemporaries got the point and shuddered. Although Sennacherib eventually burned Babylon, the Chaldean power in Elam remained strong, and later made a comeback, destroying Assyria and conquering Israel as Isaiah had promised.
Through these chs. run two threads of prophecy. The Babylonian exile and the deliverance by Cyrus have been mentioned. This motif ends in ch. 48. Another thread, which begins in 42:1 and goes through 53, is the mention of God’s servant. God’s servant is sometimes called Israel, but sometimes he cannot be identified as the nation. As shown above, the word “servant” is common and has many uses. In the crowning passage, ch. 53, the servant refers to Christ’s suffering, and has been so recognized in many NT passages and in the lit. of the Church.
Significantly, after ch. 53 the word “servant” in the sing. does not occur again. But this is the section where the vistas of the future open up before the prophet’s inspired vision. The consequences of the servant’s suffering are nothing less than the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. These chs., perhaps written in Isaiah’s retirement, are full of comfort and promise for the people of God.
The Book of Isaiah, as it stands, is acknowledged to be one of the richest in the OT. Only by dissecting it do critical students reach conclusions concerning a development of Israel’s religion in the postexilic times. The great doctrines of God, His creation and providence, of man and his sin and need, and of redemption and the coming Redeemer are all given prominence. The book is not a collection of abstract dogmas. The lessons of God’s greatness and love in respect to human need are stated in the concrete historical realities of one of Judah’s most critical periods. Isaiah spoke to his own day. What he spoke to his contemporaries was the eternal Word of life.
A phrase characteristic of the whole Book of Isaiah is the expression “The Holy One of Israel,” used thirteen times in the first thirty-nine chs. and another thirteen times in the last part. This phrase, so expressive of the moral character of God, possibly derives from the triple ascription of holiness to God in the vision of Isaiah (ch. 6). No book speaks more earnestly of God’s sovereign power and righteous character. In chs. 2 and 5 esp., the moral sins and the idolatry of Judah are rebuked, and the conclusion is, “Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people” (Isa 5:25). The thought is matched later in the book by the v. “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isa 59:2).
Perhaps the most famous passage in the OT on God’s work of creation is Isaiah 40:12-31. In fine irony, the prophet distinguishes the dumb idol from the transcendent Lord. The same condemnation of idolatry is given elsewhere in scattered vv. (2:7, 8, 18-21; 30:21, 22; 57:5-8, etc.).
Likewise the providence of God is given large mention. The vv. in Isaiah 10 have been already mentioned, in which Assyria is said to be only God’s tool. Similar expressions of God’s control of the Assyrians are given (37:29). Isaiah’s picture of the transcendence of the Lord (37:23ff.) matches the lofty tenor of the better known ch. 40. Whereas 40:15 likens the nations to the dust of a balance, the vv. of chs. 10 and 37, also, show God in absolute control of the international scene.
Mention has been made of Isaiah’s vivid description of human sin: as scarlet (1:18), they “have removed their heart far from me” (29:13 KJV), “their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood” (59:7). It may be added that Isaiah narrows the responsibility of sin down to the individual: the man that does righteousness as well as the son of the stranger and the eunuch who keep sabbath, will all receive the promised blessing of God (56:2-5). God hears the cause of the fatherless and the widow (1:23). The faithful individual Eliakim will be preserved, though the proud Shebna would be carried captive (22:15-25).
The topic of redemption is so prominent that Isaiah is called the evangelical prophet. Not only is the Son of David frequently prophesied, but as already has been seen, the very sacrificial work of Christ is delineated in the great fifty-third chapter. It may be helpful, however, to note Isaiah’s attitude toward the OT sacrificial system. It is perfectly clear that he did not regard the sacrifices as automatic in effect. In a famous passage (1:11-17) he denounces the altar, incense, and the feast days. Yet in 56:2, the Sabbath is enjoined as a thing of blessing. This is no contradiction. In the second passage, the context shows that an insincere fast day is an abomination. This is the key to Isaiah’s attitude. He protested against hypocritical and idolatrous sacrifices, but upon his original call to service his own lips were cleansed by a coal from off the altar (6:7). The prophet protests that the beasts of the great mountain Lebanon are insufficient for a burnt offering (40:16), yet the sin offering is central in the interpretation of the suffering servant’s work (53:10).
Of Isaiah’s eschatology one need not speak further. He sees into the future with eagle eye because God has drawn aside the curtain just a little. Isaiah does not see in balanced perspective the relationship between the current international problems, the coming of the Servant in humility, the coming of the day of vengeance, and the future redemption of the earth from its curse. All of these facets of the future are portrayed upon Isaiah’s canvas in wonderfully brilliant hues, so that the final book of the NT could borrow the wording of Isaiah 60 to depict the time when Zion will have no need of the sun or moon “for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23).
J. A. Alexander, Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah (1846, reprint 1953); F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah (1866, reprint 1949); C. A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy (1886); J. D. Davis, “The Child whose Name is Wonderful,” Biblical and Theological Studies by the Faculty of Princeton Seminary (1912), 91-108; R. D. Wilson, “The Meaning of Alma in Isaiah 7:14,” PTR, XXIV (1926); G. L. Robinson, “Isaiah,” ISBE, III (1929), 1495-1508; E. J. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols. (1941-1943); J. P. Hyatt, Prophetic Religion (1947); H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (1948), 342ff.; I. Engnell, “The Ebed-Yahweh Songs and the Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah,” BJRL, XXXI (1948), The Call of Isaiah (1949); O. T. Allis, The Unity of Isaiah (1950); J. Lindblom, The Servant Songs (1951); S. Mowinckel, He That Cometh (1954); E. J. Young, My Servants the Prophets (1954), Studies in Isaiah (1954), Who Wrote Isaiah? (1958); A. R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel (1955); J. D. Smart, History and Theology in Second Isaiah (1955); R. B. Y. Scott, et al., IB (1956); H. Ringen, Messiah in the OT (1956), 39-67; J. D. Pentecost, Things to Come (1958); J. Eaton “Origin of the Book of Isaiah,” VT, IX (1959); E. F. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. (1965), 90-161.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
2. Personal History
4. Literary Genius and Style
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom
7. Analysis and Contents
8. Isaiah’s Prophecies Chronologically Arranged
9. The Critical Problem
(1) The History of Criticism
(2) The Disintegration of "Deutero-Isaiah"
(3) Recent Views
(4) The Present State of the Question
(5) Reasons for Dissecting the Book
(6) Arguments for One Isaiah
(a) The Circle of Ideas
(b) The Literary Style
(c) Historical References
(d) The Predictire Element
(e) Cyrus a Subject of Prediction
Of all Israel’s celebrated prophets, Isaiah is the king. The writings which bear his name are among the profoundest in all literature. One great theme--salvation by faith--stamps them all. Isaiah is the Paul of the Old Testament.
In Hebrew yesha`yahu, and yesha`yah; Greek Esaias; Latin Esaias and Isaias. His name was symbolic of his message. Like "Joshua," it means "Yahweh saves," or "Yahweh is salvation," or "salvation of Yahweh."
2. Personal History:
Isaiah was the son of Amoz (not Amos). He seems to have belonged to a family of some rank, as may be inferred from his easy access to the king (Isa 7:3), and his close intimacy with the priest (Isa 8:2). Tradition says he was the cousin of King Uzziah. He lived in Jerusalem and became court preacher. He was married and had two sons: Shear-jashub, his name signifying "a remnant shall return" (Isa 7:3), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "hasting to the spoil, hurrying to the prey," symbolic of Assyria’s mad lust of conquest (Isa 8:3). Jewish tradition, based upon a false interpretation of Isa 7:14, declares he was twice married.
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah, apparently while worshipping in the temple, received a call to the prophetic office (Isa 6). He responded with noteworthy alacrity, and accepted his commission, though he knew from the outset that his task was to be one of fruitless warning and exhortation (6:9-13). Having been reared in Jerusalem, he was well fitted to become the political and religious counselor of the nation, but the experience which prepared him most for his important work was the vision of the majestic and thrice-holy God which he saw in the temple in the death-year of King Uzziah. There is no good reason for doubting that this was his inaugural vision, though some regard it as a vision which came to him after years of experience in preaching and as intended to deepen his spirituality. While this is the only explicit "vision" Isaiah saw, yet his entire book, from first to last, is, as the title (11) suggests, a "vision." His horizon, both political and spiritual, was practically unbounded. In a very true sense, as Delitzsch says, he was "the universal prophet of Israel."
4. Literary Genius and Style:
For versatility of expression and brilliancy of imagery Isaiah had no superior, not even a rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary article Both his periods and Genius and descriptions are most finished and sublime. He is a perfect artist in words. Beauty and strength are characteristic of his entire book. Epigrams and metaphors, particularly of flood, storm and sound (1:13; 5:18,22; 8:8; 10:22; 28:17,20; 30:28,30), interrogation and dialogue (6:8; 10:8,9), antithesis and alliteration (1:18; 3:24; 17:10,12), hyperbole and parable (2:7; 5:1-7; 28:23-29), even paranomasia, or play upon words (5:7; 7:9), characterize Isaiah’s book as the great masterpiece of Hebrew literature. He is also famous for his richness of vocabulary and synonyms. For example, Ezekiel uses 1,535 words; Jeremiah, 1,653; the Psalmists 2,170; while Isaiah uses 2,186. Isaiah was also an orator: Jerome likened him to Demosthenes; and a poet: he frequently elaborates his messages in rhythmic or poetic style (12:1-6; 25:1-5; 26:1-12; 38:10-20; 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; 60-62; 66:5-24); and in several instances slips into elegiac rhythm, e.g. in 37:22-29 there is a fine taunting poem on Sennacherib, and in 14:4-23 another on the king of Babylon. As Driver observes, "Isaiah’s poetical genius is superb."
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom:
Nothing definite or historical is known concerning the prophet’s end. Toward the close of the 2nd century AD, however, there was a tradition to the effect that he suffered martyrdom in the heathen reaction which occurred under King Manasseh, because of certain speeches concerning God and the Holy City which his contemporaries alleged were contrary to the law. Indeed the Jewish Mishna explicitly states that Manasseh slew him. Justin Martyr also (150 AD), in his controversial dialogue with the Jew Trypho, reproaches the Jews with this accusation, "whom ye sawed asunder with a wooden saw"; this tradition is further confirmed by a Jewish Apocalypse of the 2nd century AD, entitled, The Ascension of Isaiah, and by Epiphanius in his so-called Lives of the Prophets. It is barely possible that there is an allusion to his martyrdom in Heb 11:37, which reads, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder," but this is by no means certain. In any case Isaiah probably survived the great catastrophe of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC, and possibly also the death of Hezekiah in 699 BC; for in 2Ch 32:32 it is stated that Isaiah wrote a biography of King Hezekiah. If so, his prophetic activity extended over a period of more than 40 years. Dr. G. A. Smith extends it to "more than 50" (Jerusalem, II, 180; compare Whitehouse, "Isaiah," New Century Bible, I, 72).
7. Analysis and Contents:
There are six general divisions of the book:
(1) Isa 1-12, prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem, closing with promises of restoration and a psalm of thanksgiving;
(2) Isa 13-23, oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem;
(3) Isa 24-27, Yahweh’s world-judgment in the redemption of Israel;
(4) Isa 28-35, a cycle of prophetic warnings against alliance with Egypt, closing with a prophecy concerning Edom and a promise of Israel’s ransom;
(5) Isa 36-39, history, prophecy and song intermingled; serving both as an appendix to Isa 1-35, and as an introduction to Isa 40-66;
(6) Isa 40-66, prophecies of comfort and salvation, and also of the future glory awaiting Israel.
By examining in detail these several divisions we can trace better the prophet’s thought. Thus, Isa 1-12 unfold Judah’s social sins (Isa 1-6), and her political entanglements (Isa 7-12); Isa 1 is an introduction, in which the prophet strikes the chief notes of his entire book: namely, thoughtlessness (1:2-9), formalism in worship (1:10-17), pardon (1:18-23) and judgment (1:24-31). Isa 2-4 contain three distinct pictures of Zion:
(a) her exaltation (2:2-4),
(b) her present idolatry (2:5-4:1), and (c) her eventual purification (4:2-6).
Isa 5 contains an arraignment of Judah and Jerusalem, composed of three parts:
(a) a parable of Yahweh’s vineyard (5:1-7);
(b) a series of six woes pronounced against insatiable greed (5:8-10), dissipation (5:11-17), daring defiance against Yahweh (5:18,19), confusion of moral distinctions (5:20), political self-conceit (5:21), and misdirected heroism (5:22,23); and
(c) an announcement of imminent judgment. The Assyrian is on the way and there will be no escape (5:24-30). Isa 6 recounts the prophet’s inaugural vision and commission. It is really an apologetic, standing as it does after the prophet’s denunciations of his contemporaries. When they tacitly object to his message of threatening and disaster, he is able to reply that, having pronounced "woe" upon himself in the year that King Uzziah died, he had the authority to pronounce woe upon them (6:5). Plainly Isaiah tells them that Judah’s sins are well-nigh hopeless. They are becoming spiritually insensible. They have eyes but they cannot see. Only judgment can, avail: "the righteous judgment of a forgotten God" awaits them. A "holy seed," however, still existed in Israel’s stock (6:13).
Coming to Isa 7-12, Isaiah appears in the role of a practical statesman. He warns Ahaz against political entanglements with Assyria. The section 7:1-9:7 is a prophecy of Immanuel, history and prediction being intermingled.
They describe the Syro-Ephraimitic uprising in 736 BC, when Pekah of North Israel and Rezin of Damascus, in attempting to defend themselves against the Assyrians, demanded that Ahaz of Jerusalem should become their ally. But Ahaz preferred the friendship of Assyria, and refused to enter into alliance with them. And in order to defend himself, he applied to Assyria for assistance, sending ambassadors with many precious treasures, both royal and sacred, to bribe Tiglath-pileser. It was at this juncture that Isaiah, at Yahweh’s bidding, expostulates with Ahaz concerning the fatal step he is about to take, and as a practical statesman warns Ahaz, "the king of No-Faith," that the only path of safety lies in loyalty to Yahweh and keeping clear of foreign alliances; that "God is with us" for salvation; and that no "conspiracy" can possibly be successful unless God too is against us. When, however, the prophet’s message of promise and salvation finds no welcome, he commits it to his disciples, bound up and sealed for future use; assuring his hearers that unto them a child is born and unto them a son is given, in whose day the empire of David will be established upon a basis of justice and righteousness. The Messianic scion is the ground of the prophet’s hope; which hope, though unprecedented, he thus early in his ministry commits, written and sealed, to his inner circle of "disciples."
See, further, IMMANUEL.
The section Isa 9:8-10:4 contains an announcement to North Israel of accumulated wrath and impending ruin, with a refrain (9:12,17,21; 10:4). Here, in an artistic poem composed of four strophes, the prophet describes the great calamities which Yahweh has sent down upon North Israel but which have gone unheeded: foreign invasion (9:8-12), defeat in battle (9:13-17), anarchy (9:18-21), and impending captivity (10:1-4). Yet Yahweh’s judgments have gone unheeded: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." Divine discipline has failed; only judgment remains.
In Isa 10:5-34, Assyria is declared to be an instrument of Yahweh, the rod of Yahweh’s anger. Isa 11-12 predict Israel’s return from exile, including a vision of the Messiah’s reign of ideal peace. For Isaiah’s vision of the nation’s future reached far beyond mere exile. To him the downfall of Assyria was the signal for the commencement of a new era in Israel’s history. Assyria has no future, her downfall is fatal; Judah has a future, her calamities are only disciplinary. An Ideal Prince will be raised up in whose advent all Nature will rejoice, even dumb animals (11:1-10). A second great exodus will take place, for the Lord will set His hand again "the second time" to recover the remnant of His people "from the four corners of the earth" (11:11,12). In that day, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (11:13). On the contrary, the reunited nation, redeemed and occupying their rightful territory (11:14-16), shall sing a hymn of thanksgiving, proclaiming the salvation of Yahweh to all the earth (Isa 12).
Isaiah 13-23 contain oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem. They are grouped together by the editor, as similar foreign oracles are in Jer 46-51 and Eze 25-32. Isaiah’s horizon was world-wide. First among the foreign prophecies stands the oracle concerning Babylon (Isa 13:1-14:23), in which he predicts the utter destruction of the city (Isa 13:2-22), and sings a dirge or taunt-song over her fallen king (Isa 14:4-23). The king alluded to is almost beyond doubt an Assyrian (not a Babylonian) monarch of the 8th century; the brief prophecy immediately following in Isa 14:24-27 concerning Assyria tacitly confirms this interpretation. Another brief oracle concerning Babylon (21:1-10) describes the city’s fall as imminent. Both oracles stand or fall together as genuine prophecies of Isaiah. Both seem to have been written in Jerusalem (13:2; 21:9,10). It cannot be said that either is absolutely unrelated in thought and language to Isaiah’s age (14:13; 21:2); each foretells the doom to fall on Babylon (13:19; 21:9) at the hands of the Medes (13:17; 21:2); and each describes the Israelites as already in exile--but not necessarily all Israel.
The section Isa 14:24-27 tells of the certain destruction of the Assyrian.
The passage Isa 14:28-32 is an oracle concerning Philistia.
Isaiah 15-16 are ancient oracles against Moab, whose dirgelike meter resembles that of Isa 13-14. It is composed of two separate prophecies belonging to two different periods in Isaiah’s ministry (16:13,14). The three points of particular interest in the oracle are:
(1) the prophet’s tender sympathy for Moab in her affliction (15:5; 16:11). Isaiah mingles his own tears with those of the Moabites. As Delitzsch says, "There is no prophecy in the Book of Isaiah in which the heart of the prophet is so painfully moved by what his spirit beholds and his mouth must prophecy."
(2) Moab’s pathetic appeal for shelter from her foes; particularly the ground on which she urges it, namely, the Messianic hope that the Davidic dynasty shall always stand and be able to repulse its foes (16:5). The prophecy is an echo of 9:5-7.
(3) The promise that a remnant of Moab, though small, shall be saved (16:14). Wearied of prayer to Chemosh in his high places, the prophet predicts that Moab will seek the living God (16:12).
The passage Isa 17:1-11 is an oracle concerning Damascus and North Israel, in which Isaiah predicts the fate of the two allies--Syria and Ephraim--in the Syro-Ephraimitic war of 734 BC, with a promise that only a scanty remnant will survive (17:6). In 17:12-14, the prophet boldly announces the complete annihilation of Judah’s unnamed foes--the Assyrians.
Isaiah 18 describes Ethiopia as in great excitement, sending ambassadors hither and thither--possibly all the way to Jerusalem--ostensibly seeking aid in making preparations for war. Assyria had already taken Damascus (732 BC) and Samaria (722 BC), and consequently Egypt and Ethiopia were in fear of invasion. Isaiah bids the ambassadors to return home and quietly watch Yahweh thwart Assyria’s self-confident attempt to subjugate Judah; and he adds that when the Ethiopians have seen God’s hand in the coming deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem (701 BC), they will bring a present to Yahweh to His abode in Mount Zion.
Isaiah 19, which is an oracle concerning Egypt, contains both a threat (19:1-17) and a promise (19:18-25), and is one of Isaiah’s most remarkable foreign messages. Egypt is smitten and thereby led to abandon her idols for the worship of Yahweh (19:19-22). Still more remarkable, it is prophesied that in that day Egypt and Assyria will join with Judah in a triple alliance of common worship to Yahweh and of blessing to others (19:23-25). Isaiah’s missionary outlook here is wonderful!
Isaiah 20 describes Sargon’s march against Egypt and Ethiopia, containing a brief symbolic prediction of Assyria’s victory over Egypt and Ethiopia. By donning a captive’s garb for three years, Isaiah attempts to teach the citizens of Jerusalem that the siege of Ashdod was but a means to an end in Sargon’s plan of campaign, and that it was sheer folly for the Egyptian party in Jerusalem, who were ever urging reliance upon Egypt, to look in that direction for help. Isaiah 21:11,12 is a brief oracle concerning Seir or Edom, "the only gentle utterance in the Old Testament upon Israel’s hereditary foe." Edom is in great anxiety. The prophet’s answer is disappointing, though its tone is sympathetic. Isaiah 21:13 ff is a brief oracle concerning Arabia. It contains a sympathetic appeal to the Temanites to give bread and water to the caravans of Dedan, who have been driven by war from their usual route of travel.
Isaiah 22 is concerning the foreign temper within theocracy. It is composed of two parts:
(1) an oracle "of the valley of vision," i.e. Jerusalem (22:1-14); and
(2) a philippic against Shebna, the comptroller of the palace. Isaiah pauses, as it were, in his series of warnings to foreign nations to rebuke the foreign temper of the frivolous inhabitants of Jerusalem, and in particular Shebna, a high official in the government.
The reckless and God-ignoring citizens of the capital are pictured as indulging themselves in hilarious eating and drinking, when the enemy is at that very moment standing before the gates of the city. Shebna, on the other hand, seems to have been an ostentatious foreigner, perhaps a Syrian by birth, quite possibly one of the Egyptian party, whose policy was antagonistic to that of Isaiah and the king. Isaiah’s prediction of Shebna’s fall was evidently fulfilled (36:3; 37:2).
Isaiah 23 is concerning Tyre. In this oracle Isaiah predicts that Tyre shall be laid waste (23:1), her commercial glory humbled (23:9), her colonies become independent of her (23:10), and she herself forgotten for "seventy years" (23:15); but "after the end of seventy years," her trade will revive, her business prosperity will return, and she will dedicate her gains in merchandise as holy to Yahweh (23:18).
The third great section of the Book of Isaiah embraces Isa 24-27, which tell of Yahweh’s world-judgment, issuing in the redemption of Israel. These prophecies stand closely related to Isa 13-23. They express the same tender emotion as that already observed in 15:5; 16:11, and sum up as in one grand finale the prophet’s oracles to Israel’s neighbors. For religious importance they stand second to none in the Book of Isaiah, teaching the necessity of Divine discipline and the glorious redemption awaiting the faithful in Israel. They are a spiritual commentary on the great Assyrian crisis of the 8th century; they are messages of salvation intended, not for declamation, but for meditation, and were probably addressed more particularly to the prophet’s inner circle of "disciples" (8:16). These chapters partake of the nature of apocalypse. Strictly speaking, however, they are prophecy, not apocalypse. No one ascends into heaven or talks with an angel, as in Da 7 and Re 4. They are apocalypse only in the sense that certain things are predicted as sure to come to pass. Isaiah was fond of this kind of prophecy. He frequently lifts his reader out of the sphere of mere history to paint pictures of the far-off, distant future (2:2-4; 4:2-6; 11:6-16; 30:27-33).
In Isa 24 the prophet announces a general judgment of the earth (i.e. the land of Judah), and of "the city" (collective, for Judah’s towns), after which will dawn a better day (24:1-15). The prophet fancies he hears songs of deliverance, but alas! they are premature; more judgment must follow. In Isa 25 the prophet transports himself to the period after the Assyrian catastrophe and, identifying himself with the redeemed, puts into their mouths songs of praise and thanksgiving for their deliverance. Isa 25:6-8 describe Yahweh’s bountiful banquet on Mount Zion to all nations, who, in keeping with 2:2-4, come up to Jerusalem, to celebrate "a feast of fat things," rich and marrowy. While the people are present at the banquet, Yahweh graciously removes their spiritual blindness so that they behold Him as the true dispenser of life and grace. He also abolishes violent death, that is to say, war (compare 2:4) and its sad accompaniment, "tears," so that "the earth" (i.e. the land of Judah) is no longer the battlefield of the nations, but the blessed abode of the redeemed, living in peace and happiness. The prophet’s aim is not political but religious.
In Isa 26:1-19 Judah sings a song over Jerusalem, the impregnable city of God. The prophet, taking again his stand with the redeemed remnant of the nation, vividly portrays their thankful trust in Yahweh, who has been unto them a veritable "Rock of Ages" (26:4 margin). With hope he joyfully exclaims, Let Yahweh’s dead ones live! Let Israel’s dead bodies arise! Yahweh will bring life from the dead! (26:19). This is the first clear statement of the resurrection in the Old Testament. But it is national and restricted to Israel (compare 26:14), and is merely Isaiah’s method of expressing a hope of the return of Israel’s faithful ones from captivity (compare Ho 6:2; Eze 37:1-14; Da 12:2).
In Isa 26:20-27:13 the prophet shows that Israel’s chastisements are salutary. He begins by exhorting his own people, his disciples, to continue a little longer in the solitude of prayer, till God’s wrath has shattered the world-powers (26:20-27:1). He next predicts that the true vineyard of Yahweh will henceforth be safely guarded against the briars and thorns of foreign invasion (27:2-6). And then, after showing that Yahweh’s chastisements of Israel were light compared with His judgments upon other nations (27:7-11), he promises that if Israel will only repent, Yahweh will spare no pains to gather "one by one" the remnant of His people from Assyria and Egypt (compare 11:11); and together they shall once more worship Yahweh in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (27:12,13).
The prophet’s fundamental standpoint in Isa 24-27 is the same as that of 2:2-4 and Isa 13-23. Yet the prophet not infrequently throws himself forward into the remote future, oscillating backward and forward between his own times and those of Israel’s restoration. It is especially noteworthy how he sustains himself in a long and continued transportation of himself to the period of Israel’s redemption. He even studies to identify himself with the new Israel which will emerge out of the present chaos of political events. His visions of Israel’s redemption carry him in ecstasy far away into the remote future, to a time when the nation’s sufferings are all over; so that when he writes down what he saw in vision he describes it as a discipline that is past. For example, in 25:1-8 the prophet, transported to the end of time, celebrates in song what he saw, and describes how the fall of the world-empire is followed by the conversion of the heathen. In 26:8,9 he looks back into the past from the standpoint of the redeemed in the last days, and tells how Israel longingly waited for the manifestation of God’s righteousness which has now taken place, while in 27:7-9 he places himself in the midst of the nation’s sufferings, in full view of their glorious future, and portrays how Yahweh’s dealings with Israel have not been the punishment of wrath, but the discipline of love. This kind of apocalypse, or prophecy, indeed, was to be expected from the very beginning of the group of prophecies, which are introduced with the word "Behold!" Such a manner of introduction is peculiar to Isaiah, and of itself leads us to expect a message which is unique.
Isaiah 28-35 contain a cycle of prophetic warnings against alliance with Egypt, closing with a prophecy concerning Edom and a promise of Israel’s ransom. As in 5:8-23, the prophet indulges in a series of six woes:
(1) Woe to drunken, scoffing politicians (Isa 28). This is one of the great chapters of Isaiah’s book. In the opening section (28:1-6) the prophet points in warning to the proud drunkards of Ephraim whose crown (Samaria) is rapidly fading. He next turns to the scoffing politicians of Jerusalem, rebuking especially the bibulous priests who stumble in judgment, and the staggering prophets who err in vision (28:7-22); closing with a most instructive parable from agriculture, teaching that God’s judgments are not arbitrary; that as the husbandman does not plow and harrow his fields the whole year round, so God will not punish His people forever; and as the husbandman does not thresh all kinds of grain with equal severity, no more will God discipline His people beyond their deserts (28:23-29).
(2) Woe to formalists in religion (Isa 29:1-14). Isaiah’s second woe is pronounced upon Ariel, the altar-hearth of God, i.e. Jerusalem, the sacrificial center of Israel’s worship. David had first inaugurated the true worship of Yahweh in Zion. But now Zion’s worship has become wholly conventional, formal, and therefore insincere; it is learned by rote (29:13; compare 1:10-15; Mic 6:6-8). Therefore, says Isaiah, Yahweh is forced to do an extraordinary work among them, in order to bring them back to a true knowledge of Himself (Isa 29:14).
(3) Woe to those who hide their plans from God (Isa 29:15-24). What their plans are, which they are devising in secret, the prophet does not yet disclose; but he doubtless alludes to their intrigues with the Egyptians and their purpose to break faith with the Assyrians, to whom they were bound by treaty to pay annual tribute. Isaiah bravely remonstrates with them for supposing that any policy will succeed which excludes the counsel and wisdom of the Holy One. They are but clay; He is the potter. At this point, though somewhat abruptly, Isaiah turns his face toward the Messianic future. In a very little while, he says, Lebanon, which is now overrun by Assyria’s army, shall become a fruitful field, and the blind and deaf and spiritually weak shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
(4) Woe to the pro-Egyptian party (Isa 30). Isaiah’s fourth woe is directed against the rebellious politicians who stubbornly, and now openly, advocate making a league with Egypt. They have at length succeeded apparently in winning over the king to their side, and an embassy is already on its way to Egypt, bearing across the desert of the exodus rich treasures with which to purchase the friendship of their former oppressors. Isaiah now condemns what he can no longer prevent. Egypt is a Rahab "sitstill," i.e. a mythological sea-monster, menacing in mien but laggard in action. When the crisis comes, she will sit still, causing Israel only shame and confusion.
(5) Woe to those who trust in horses and chariots (Isa 31-32). Isaiah’s fifth woe is a still more vehement denunciation of those who trust in Egypt’s horses and chariots, and disregard the Holy One of Israel. Those who do so forget that the Egyptians are but men and their horses flesh, and that mere flesh cannot avail in a conflict with spirit. Eventually Yahweh means to deliver Jerusalem, if the children of Israel will but turn from their idolatries to Him; and in that day, Assyria will be vanquished. A new era will dawn upon Judah. Society will be regenerated. The renovation will begin at the top. Conscience also will be sharpened, and moral distinctions will no longer be confused (32:1-8). As Delitzsch puts it, "The aristocracy of birth and wealth will be replaced by an aristocracy of character." The careless and indifferent women, too, in that day will no longer menace the social welfare of the state (32:9-14); with the outpouring of Yahweh’s spirit an ideal commonwealth will emerge, in which social righteousness, peace, plenty and security will abound (32:15-20).
(6) Woe to the Assyrian destroyer (Isa 33). Isaiah’s last woe is directed against the treacherous spoiler himself, who has already laid waste the cities of Judah, and is now beginning to lay siege to Jerusalem (701 BC). The prophet prays, and while he prays, behold! the mighty hosts of the Assyrians are routed and the long-besieged but now triumphant inhabitants of Jerusalem rush out like locusts upon the spoil which the vanishing adversary has been forced to leave behind. The destroyer’s plan to reduce Jerusalem has come to naught. The whole earth beholds the spectacle of Assyria’s defeat and is filled with awe and amazement at the mighty work of Yahweh. Only the righteous may henceforth dwell in Jerusalem. their eyes shall behold the Messiah-king in his beauty, reigning no longer like Hezekiah over a limited and restricted territory, but over a land unbounded, whose inhabitants enjoy Yahweh’s peace and protection, and are free from all sin, and therefore from all sickness (33:17-24). With this beautiful picture of the Messianic future, the prophet’s woes find an appropriate conclusion. Isaiah never pronounced a woe without adding a corresponding promise.
In Isa 34-35, the prophet utters a fierce cry for justice against "all the nations," but against Edom in particular. His tone is that of judgment. Edom is guilty of high crimes against Zion (34:8 f), therefore she is doomed to destruction. On the other hand, the scattered ones of Israel shall return from exile and "obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa 35).
Isaiah 36-39 contain history, prophecy and song intermingled. These chapters serve both as an appendix to Isa 1-35 and as an introduction to Isa 40-66. In them three important historical events are narrated, in which Isaiah was a prominent factor:
(1) the double attempt of Sennacherib to obtain possession of Jerusalem (Isa 36-37);
(2) Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery (Isa 38);
(3) the embassy of Merodach-baladan (Isa 39).
With certain important omissions and insertions these chapters are duplicated almost verbatim in 2Ki 18:13-20:19. They are introduced with the chronological note, "Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah." Various attempts have been made to solve the mystery of this date; for, if the author is alluding to the siege of 701 BC, difficulty arises, because that event occurred not in Hezekiah’s "14th" but 26th year, according to the Biblical chronology of his life; or, if with some we date Hezekiah’s accession to the throne of Judah as 720 BC, then the siege of 701 BC occurred, as is evident, in Hezekiah’s 19th year. It is barely possible of course that "the 14th year of king Hezekiah" was the 14th of the "15 years" which were added to his life, but more probably it alludes to the 14th of his reign. On the whole it is better to take the phrase as a general chronological caption for the entire section, with special reference to Isa 38, which tells of Hezekiah’s sickness, which actually fell in his 14th year (714 BC), and which, coupled with Sargon’s expected presence at Ashdod, was the great personal crisis of the king’s life.
Sennacherib made two attempts in 701 BC to reduce Jerusalem: one from Lachish with an army headed by the Rabshakeh (Isa 36:2-37:8), and another from Libnah with a threat conveyed by messengers (Isa 37:9 ). The brief section contained in 2Ki 18:14-16 is omitted from between verses 1 and 2 of Isa 36, because it was not the prophet’s aim at this time to recount the nation’s humiliation. Isaiah’s last "word" concerning Assyria (Isa 37:21-35) is one of the prophet’s grandest predictions. It is composed of three parts:
(1) a taunt-song, in elegiac rhythm, on the inevitable humiliation of Sennacherib (Isa 37:22-29);
(2) a short poem in different rhythm, directed to Hezekiah, in order to encourage his faith (Isa 37:30-32);
(3) a definite prediction, in less elevated style, of the sure deliverance of Jerusalem (Isa 37:33-35). Isaiah’s prediction was literally fulfilled.
The section Isa 38:9-20 contains Hezekiah’s So of Thanksgiving, in which he celebrates his recovery from some mortal sickness. It is a beautiful plaintive "writing"; omitted altogether by the author of the Book of Kings (compare 2Ki 20). Hezekiah was sick in 714 BC. Two years later Merodach-baladan, the veteran arch-enemy of Assyria, having heard of his wonderful recovery, sent letters and a present to congratulate him. Doubtless, also, political motives prompted the recalcitrant Babylonian. But be that as it may, Hezekiah was greatly flattered by the visit of Merodach-baladan’s envoys, and, in a moment of weakness, showed them all his royal treasures. This was an inexcusable blunder, as the sight of his many precious possessions would naturally excite Babylonian cupidity to possess Jerusalem. Isaiah not only solemnly condemned the king’s conduct, but he announced with more than ordinary insight that the days were coming when all the accumulated resources of Jerusalem would be carried away to Babylon (39:3-6; compare Mic 4:10). This final prediction of judgment is the most marvelous of all Isaiah’s minatory utterances, because he distinctly asserts that, not the Assyrians, who were then at the height of their power, but the Babylonians, shall be the instruments of the Divine vengeance in consummating the destruction of Jerusalem. There is absolutely no reason for doubting the genuineness of this prediction. In it, indeed, we have a prophetic basis for Isa 40-66, which follow.
Coming now to Isa 40-66, we have prophecies of comfort, salvation, and of the future glory awaiting Israel. These chapters naturally fall into three sections:
(1) Isa 40-48, announcing deliverance from captivity through Cyrus;
(2) Isa 49-57, describing the sufferings of the "Servant" of Yahweh, this section ending like the former with the refrain, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (57:21; compare 48:22);
(3) Isa 58-66, announcing the final abolition of all national distinctions and the future glory of the people of God. Isaiah 60 is the characteristic chapter of this section, as Isa 53 is of the second, and Isa 40 of the first.
Entering into greater detail, the first section (Isa 40-48) demonstrates the deity of Yahweh through His unique power to predict. The basis of the comfort which the prophet announces is Israel’s incomparable God (Isa 40). Israel’s all-powerful Yahweh in comparison with other gods is incomparable. In the prologue (Isa 40:1-11) he hears the four voices:
(1) of grace (Isa 40:1,2);
(2) of prophecy (Isa 40:3-5);
(3) of faith (Isa 40:6-8), and
(4) of evangelism (Isa 40:9-11).
Then, after exalting the unique character of Israel’s all-but-forgotten God (Isa 40:12-26), he exhorts them not to suppose that Yahweh is ignorant of, or indifferent to, Israel’s misery. Israel must wait for salvation. They are clamoring for deliverance prematurely. Only wait, he repeats; for with such a God, Israel has no reason to despond (Isa 40:27-31).
In Isa 41 he declares that the supreme proof of Yahweh’s sole deity is His power to predict. He inquires, "Who hath raised up one from the east?" Though the hero is left unnamed, Cyrus is doubtless in the prophet’s mind (compare 44:28; 45:1). He is not, however, already appearing upon the horizon of history as some fancy, but rather predicted as sure to come. The verb tenses which express completed action are perfects of certainty, and are used in precisely the same manner as those in 3:8; 5:13; 21:9. The answer to the inquiry is, "I, Yahweh, the first, and with the last, I am he" (41:4). Israel is Yahweh’s servant. The dialogue continues; but it is no longer between Yahweh and the nations, as in Isa 41:1-7, but between Yahweh and the idols (41:21-29). Addressing the dumb idols, Yahweh is represented as saying, Predict something, if you are real deities. As for myself, I am going to raise up a hero from the north who will subdue all who oppose him. And I announce my purpose now in advance "from the beginning," "beforetime," before there is the slightest ground for thinking that such a hero exists or ever will exist (41:26), in order that the future may verify my prediction, and prove my sole deity. I, Yahweh, alone know the future. In 41:25-29, the prophet even projects himself into the future and speaks from the standpoint of the fulfillment of his prediction. This, as we saw above, was a characteristic of Isaiah in Isa 24-27.
In Isa 42:1-43:13 the prophet announces also a spiritual agent of redemption, namely, Yahweh’s "Servant." Not only a temporal agent (Cyrus) shall be raised up to mediate Israel’s redemption, which is the first step in the process of the universal salvation contemplated, but a spiritual factor. Yahweh’s "Servant" shall be employed in bringing the good tidings of salvation to the exiles and to the Gentiles also. In 42:1-9 the prophet describes this ideal figure and the work he will execute. The glorious future evokes a brief hymn of thanksgiving for the redemption which the prophet beholds in prospect (42:10-17). Israel has long been blind and deaf to Yahweh’s instructions (41:18,19), but now Yahweh is determined to redeem them even at the cost of the most opulent nations of the world, that they may publish His law to all peoples (42:18-43:13).
In Isa 13:14-44:23 forgiveness is made the pledge of deliverance. Yahweh’s determination to redeem Israel is all of grace. Salvation is a gift. Yahweh has blotted out their transgressions for His own sake (43:25). "This passage," Dillmann observes, "marks the highest point of grace in the Old Testament." Gods of wood and stone are nonentities. Those who manufacture idols are blind and dull of heart, and are "feeding on ashes." The section 44:9-20 is a most remorseless exposure of the folly of idolatry.
In Isa 44:24-45:25 the prophet at length names the hero of Israel’s salvation and describes his mission. He is Cyrus. He shall build Jerusalem and lay the foundations of the temple (44:28); he shall also subdue nations and let the exiles go free (45:1,13). He speaks of Cyrus in the most extraordinary, almost extravagant terms. He is Yahweh’s "shepherd" (44:28), he is also Yahweh’s "anointed," i.e. Messiah (45:1), "the man of my counsel" (46:11), whom Yahweh has called by name, and surnamed without his ever knowing Him (45:3,1); the one "whom Yahweh loveth" (48:14), whose right hand Yahweh upholdeth (45:1), and who will perform all Yahweh’s pleasure (44:28); though but "a ravenous bird from the east (46: 11). The vividness with which the prophet speaks of Cyrus leads some to suppose that the latter is already upon the horizon. This, however, is a mistake. Scarcely would a contemporary have spoken in such terms of the real Cyrus of 538 BC. The prophet regards him (i.e. the Cyrus of his own prediction, not the Cyrus of history) as the fulfillment of predictions spoken long before. That is to say, in one and the same context, Cyrus is both predicted and treated as a proof that prediction is being fulfilled (44:24-28; 45:21). Such a phenomenon in prophecy can best be explained by supposing that the prophet projected himself into the future from an earlier age. Most extraordinary of all, in 45:14-17, the prophet soars in imagination until he sees, as a result of Cyrus’ victories, the conquered nations renouncing their idols, and attracted to Yahweh as the Saviour of all mankind (45:22). On any theory of origin, the predictive element in these prophecies is written large.
Isaiah 46-47 describe further the distinctive work of Cyrus, though Cyrus himself is but once referred to. Particular emphasis is laid on the complete collapse of the Babylonian religion; the prophet being apparently more concerned with the humiliation of Babylon’s idols than with the fall of the city itself. Of course the destruction of the city would imply the defeat of her gods, as also the emancipation of Israel. But here again all is in the future; in fact Yahweh’s incomparable superiority and unique deity are proven by His power to predict "the end from the beginning" and bring His prediction to pass (46:10,11).
Isaiah 47 is a dirge over the downfall of the imperial city, strongly resembling the taunt-song over the king of Babylon in 14:4-21.
Isaiah 48 is a hortatory summary and recapitulation of the argument contained in Isa 40-47, the prophet again emphasizing the following points:
(1) Yahweh’s unique power to predict;
(2) that salvation is of grace;
(3) that Cyrus’ advent will be the crowning proof of Yahweh’s abiding presence among His people;
(4) that God’s chastisements were only disciplinary; and
(5) that even now there is hope, if they will but accept of Yahweh’s proffered salvation. Alas! that there is no peace or salvation for the godless (48:20-22). Thus ends the first division of Isaiah’s remarkable "vision" of Israel’s deliverance from captivity through Cyrus.
The second section (Isa 49-57) deals with the spiritual agent of salvation, Yahweh’s suffering "Servant." With Isa 49 the prophet leaves off attempting further to prove the sole deity of Yahweh by means of prediction, and drops entirely his description of Cyrus’ victories and the overthrow of Babylon, in order to set forth in greater detail the character and mission of the suffering "Servant" of Yahweh. Already, in Isa 40-48, he had alluded several times to this unique and somewhat enigmatical personage, speaking of him both collectively and as an individual (41:8-10; 42:1-9,18-22; 43:10; 44:1-5,21-28; 45:4; 48:20-22); but now he defines with greater precision both his prophetic and priestly functions, his equipment for his task, his sufferings and humiliation, and also his final exaltation. Altogether in these prophecies he mentions the "Servant" some 20 t. But there are four distinctively so-called "Servant-Songs" in which the prophet seems to rise above the collective masses of all Israel to at least a personification of the pious within Israel, or better, to a unique Person embodying within himself all that is best in the Israel within Israel. They are the following:
(1) 42:1-9, a poem descriptive of the Servant’s gentle manner and world-wide mission;
(2) 49:1-13, describing the Servant’s mission and spiritual success;
(3) 50:4-11, the Servant’s soliloquy concerning His perfection through suffering; and
(4) 52:13-53:12, the Servant’s vicarious suffering and ultimate exaltation.
In this last of the four "Servant-Songs" we reach the climax of the prophet’s inspired symphony, the acme of Hebrew Messianic hope. The profoundest thoughts in the Old Testament revelation are to be found in this section. It is a vindication of the "Servant," so clear and so true, and wrought out with such pathos and potency, that it holds first place among Messianic predictions. Polycarp called it "the golden passional of the Old Testament." It has been realized in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 58-66 describe the future glory of the people of God. Having described in Isa 40-48 the temporal agent of Israel’s salvation, Cyrus, and in Isa 49-57 the spiritual agent of their salvation, the "Servant" of Yahweh, the prophet proceeds in this last section to define the conditions on which salvation may be enjoyed. He begins, as before, with a double imperative, "Cry aloud, spare not" (compare 40:1; 49:1).
In Isa 58 he discusses true fasting and faithful Sabbath observance.
In Isa 59 he beseeches Israel to forsake their sins. It is their sins, he urges, which have hidden Yahweh’s face and retarded the nation’s salvation. In 59:9 ff the prophet identifies himself with the people and leads them in their devotions. Yahweh is grieved over Israel’s forlorn condition, and, seeing their helplessness, He arms himself like a warrior to interfere judicially (59:15-19). Israel shall be redeemed. With them as the nucleus of a new nation, Yahweh will enter anew into covenant relation, and put His Spirit upon them, which will abide with them henceforth and forever (59:20-21).
Isaiah 60-61 describe the future blessedness of Zion. The long-looked-for "light" (compare 59:9) begins to dawn: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Yahweh is risen upon thee" (60:1). The prophet pauses at this point to paint a picture of the redeemed community. As in 2:3,4, the Gentiles are seen flocking to Zion, which becomes the mistress of the nations. Foreigners build her walls, and her gates are kept open continually without fear of siege. The Gentiles acknowledge that Zion is the spiritual center of the world. Even Israel’s oppressors regard her as "the city of Yahweh," as "an eternal excellency," in which Yahweh sits as its everlasting light (60:10-22).
In Isa 61, which Drummond has called "the program of Christianity," the "Servant" of Yahweh is again introduced, though anonymously, as the herald of salvation (61:1-3). The gospel monologue of the "Servant" is followed by a promise of the restoration and blessedness of Jerusalem (61:4-11). Thus the prophecy moves steadily forward toward its goal in Jesus Christ (compare Lu 4:18-21).
In Isa 62:1-63:6 Zion’s salvation is described as drawing near. The nations will be spectators of the great event. A new name which will better symbolize her true character shall be given to Zion, namely, Hephzibah, "My delight is in her"; for Jerusalem shall no more be called desolate. On the other hand, Zion’s enemies will all be vanquished. In a brief poem of peculiar dramatic beauty (63:1-6), the prophet portrays Yahweh’s vengeance, as a victorious warrior, upon all those who retard Israel’s deliverance. Edom in particular was Israel’s insatiate foe. Hence, the prophet represents Yahweh’s judgment of the nations as taking place on Edom’s unhallowed soil. Yahweh, whose mighty arm has wrought salvation, returns as victor, having slain all of Israel’s foes.
In Isa 63:7-64:12, Yahweh’s "servants" resort to prayer. They appeal to Yahweh as the Begetter and Father of the nations (63:16; 64:8). With this thought of the fatherhood of God imbedded in his language, Isaiah had opened his very first oracle to Judah and Jerusalem (compare 1:2). As the prayer proceeds, the language becomes increasingly tumultuous. The people are thrown into despair because Yahweh seems to have abandoned them altogether (63:19). They recognize that the condition of Jerusalem is desperate. "Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned with fire; and all our pleasant places are laid waste" (64:11). Such language, however, is the language of fervent prayer and must not be taken with rigid literalness, as 63:18 and 3:8 plainly show.
Finally, in Isa 65-66, Yahweh answers His people’s supplications, distinguishing sharply between His own "servants" and Israel’s apostates. Only His chosen "seed" shall be delivered (65:9). Those who have obdurately provoked Yahweh by sacrificing in gardens (65:3; 66:17), offering libations to Fortune and Destiny (65:11), sitting among the graves to obtain oracles from the dead, and, like the Egyptians, eating swine’s flesh and broth of abominable things which were supposed to possess magical properties, lodging in vaults or crypts in which heathen mysteries were celebrated (65:4), and at the same time fancying that by celebrating such heathen mysteries they are holier than others and thereby disqualified to discharge the ordinary duties of life (65:5)--such Yahweh designs to punish, measuring their work into their bosom and destroying them utterly with the sword (65:7,12). On the other hand, the "servants" of Yahweh Shall inherit His holy mountains. They shall rejoice and sing for joy of heart, and bless themselves in the God of Amen, i.e. in the God of Truth (65:9,14,16). Yahweh will create new heavens and a new earth, men will live and grow old like the patriarchs; they will possess houses and vineyards and enjoy them; for an era of idyllic peace will be ushered in with the coming of the Messianic age, in which even the natures of wild animals will be changed and the most rapacious of wild animals will live together in harmony (65:17-25). Religion will become spiritual and decentralized, mystic cults will disappear, incredulous scoffers will be silenced. Zion’s population will be marvelously multiplied, and the people will be comforted and rejoice (66:1-14). Furthermore, all nations will flock to Zion to behold Yahweh’s glory, and from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh will come up to worship in Jerusalem (66:15-23).
It is evident that the Book of Isaiah closes, practically as it begins, with a polemic against false worship, and the alternate reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked. The only essential difference between the prophet’s earlier and later oracles is this: Isaiah, in his riper years, on the basis of nearly half a century’s experience as a preacher, paints a much brighter eschatological picture than was possible in his early ministry. His picture of the Messianic age not only transcends those of his contemporaries in the 8th century BC, but he penetrates regions beyond the spiritual horizon of any and all Old Testament seers. Such language as that contained in Isa 66:1,2, in particular, anticipates the great principle enunciated by Jesus in Joh 4:24, namely, that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." To attempt to date such oracles as these on the basis of internal evidence is an absolute impossibility. Humanly speaking, one age could have produced such revelations quite as easily as another. But no age could have produced them apart from the Divine spirit.
8. Isaiah’s Prophecies Chronologically Arranged:
The editorial arrangement of Isaiah’s prophecies is very suggestive. In the main they stand in chronological order. That is to say, all the dates mentioned are in strict historical sequence; e.g. Isa 6:1, "In the year that king Uzziah died" (740 BC); 7:1, "In the days of Ahaz" (736 ff BC); 14:28, "In the year that king Ahaz died" (727 BC); 20:1, "In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him" (711 BC); 36:1, "In the 14th year of king Hezekiah" (701 BC). These points are all in strict chronological order. Taken in groups, also, Isaiah’s great individual messages are likewise arranged in true historical sequence; thus, Isa 1-6 for the most part belong to the last years of Jotham’s reign (740-736 BC); Isa 7-12 to the period of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734 BC); Isa 20, to the year of Sargon’s siege of Ashdod (711 BC); Isa 28-32, to the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib (701 BC); while the distinctively promissory portions (Isa 40-66), as is natural, conclude the collection. In several minor instances, however, there are notable departures from a rigid chronological order. For example, Isa 6, which describes the prophet’s initial call to preach, follows the rebukes and denunciations of Isa 1-5; but this is probably due to its being used by the prophet as an apologetic. Again, the oracles against foreign nations in Isa 13-23 belong to various dates, being grouped together, in part, at least, because of their subject-matter. Likewise, Isa 38-39, which give an account of Hezekiah’s sickness and Merodach-baladan’s embassy to him upon his recovery (714-712 BC), chronologically precede Isa 36-37, which describe Sennacherib’s investment of Jerusalem (701 BC). This chiastic order, however, in the last instance, is due probably to the desire to make Isa 36-37 (about Sennacherib, king of Assyria) an appropriate conclusion to Isa 1-35 (which say much about Assyria), and, on the other hand, to make Isa 38-39 (about Merodach-baladan of Babylon) a suitable introduction to Isa 40-66 (which speak of Babylon).
The attempt to date Isaiah’s individual messages on the basis of internal criteria alone, is a well-nigh impossible task; and yet no other kind of evidence is available. Often passages stand side by side which point in opposite directions; in fact, certain sections seem to be composed of various fragments dating from different periods, as though prophecies widely separated from each other in time had been fused together. In such cases much weight should be given to those features which point to an early origin, because of the predominatingly predictive character of Isaiah’s writings.
Isaiah always had an eye upon the future. His semi-historical and biographical prophecies are naturally the easiest to date; on the other hand, the form of his Messianic and eschatological discourses is largely due to his own personal temper and psychology, rather than to the historical circumstances of the time. The following is a table of Isaiah’s prophecies chronologically arranged:
The prophet’s standpoint in Isa 40-66 is that of Isaiah himself. For if Isaiah, before 734 BC, in passages confessedly his own, could describe Judah’s cities as already "burned with fire," Zion as deserted as "a booth in a vineyard" (1:7,8), Jerusalem as "ruined," Judah as "fallen" (3:8), and Yahweh’s people as already "gone into captivity" (5:13), surely after all the destruction and devastation wrought on Judah by Assyria in the years 722, 720, 711, and 701 BC, the same prophet with the same poetic license could declare that the temple had been "trodden down" (63:18) and "burned with fire," and all Judah’s pleasant places "laid waste" (64:11); and, in perfect keeping with his former promises, could add that "they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations" (61:4; compare 44:26; 58:12).
Or again, if Isaiah the son of Amoz could comfort Jerusalem with promises of protection when the Assyrian (734 BC) should come like an overflowing river (8:9,10; 10:24,25); and conceive a beautiful parable of comfort like that contained in 28:23-29; and insert among his warnings and exhortations of the gloomy year 702 BC so many precious promises of a brighter future which was sure to follow Sennacherib’s invasion (29:17-24; 30:29-33; 31:8,9); and, in the very midst of the siege of 701 BC, conceive of such marvelous Messianic visions as those in 33:17-24 with which to dispel the dismay of his compatriots, surely the same prophet might be conceived of as seizing the opportunity to comfort those in Zion who survived the great catastrophe of 701 BC. The prophet who had done the one was prepared to do the other.
9. The Critical Problem:
"For about twenty-five centuries" as A. B. Davidson observes (Old Testament Prophecy, 1903, 244), "no one dreamed of doubting that Isaiah the son of Amoz was the author of every part of the book that goes under his name; and those who still maintain the unity of authorship are accustomed to point, with satisfaction, to the unanimity of the Christian church on the matter, till a few German scholars arose, about a century ago, and called in question the unity of this book." Tradition is unanimous in favor of the unity of the book.
(1) The History of Criticism.
The critical disintegration of the book began with Koppe, who in 1780 first doubted the genuineness of Isa 50. Nine years later Doederlein suspected the whole of Isa 40-66. He was followed by Rosenmueller, who was the first to deny to Isaiah the prophecy against Babylon in 13:1-14:23. Eichhorn, at the beginning of the last century, further eliminated the oracle against Tyre in Isa 23, and he, with Gesenius and Ewald, also denied the Isaianic origin of Isa 24-27. Gesenius also ascribed to some unknown prophet Isa 15 and 16. Rosenmueller then went farther, and pronounced against Isa 34 and 35, and not long afterward (1840) Ewald questioned Isa 12 and 33. Thus by the middle of the 19th century some 37 or 38 chapters were rejected as no part of Isaiah’s actual writings. In 1879-80, the celebrated Leipzig professor, Franz Delitzsch, who for years previous had defended the genuineness of the entire book, finally yielded to the modern critical position, and in the new edition of his commentary published in 1889, interpreted Isa 40-66, though with considerable hesitation, as coming from the close of the period of Babylonian exile. About the same time (1888-90), Drs. Driver and G.A. Smith gave popular impetus to similar views in Great Britain. Since 1890, the criticism of Isaiah has been even more trenchant and microscopic than before. Duhm, Stade, Guthe, Hackmann, Cornill and Marti on the Continent, and Cheyne, Whitehouse, Box, Glazebrook, Kennett, Gray, Peake, and others in Great Britain and America have questioned portions which hitherto were supposed to be genuine.
(2) The Disintegration of "Deutero-Isaiah."
Even the unity of Isa 40-66, which were supposed to be the work of the "Second" or "Deutero-Isaiah," is now given up. What prior to 1890 was supposed to be the unique product of some celebrated but anonymous seer who lived in Babylonia about 550 BC is today commonly divided and subdivided and in large part distributed among various writers from Cyrus to Simon (538-164 BC). At first it was thought sufficient to separate Isa 63-66 as a later addition to "Deutero-Isaiah’s" prophecies; but more recently it has become the fashion to distinguish between Isa 40-55, which are claimed to have been written by "Deutero-Isaiah" in Babylonia about 549-538 BC, and Isa 56-66, which are now alleged to have been composed by a "Trito-Isaiah" about 460-445 BC.
(3) Recent Views.
Among the latest to investigate the problem is Professor R.H. Kennett of Cambridge, English, who, in his Schweich Lectures (The Composition of the Book of Isaiah in the Light of History and Archaeology, 1910, 84 ff), sums up the results of investigations as follows:
(a) all of Isa 3; 5; 6; 7; 20 and 31, and large portions of Isa 1; 2; 4; 8; 9; 10; 14; 17; 22 and 23, may be assigned to Isaiah, the son of Amoz;
(b) all of Isa 13; 40 and 47, and large portions of Isa 14; 21; 41; 43; 44; 45; 46 and 48, may be assigned to the time of Cyrus;
(c) all of Isa 15; 36; 37 and 39, and portions of Isa 16 and 38, may be assigned to the period between Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, but cannot be dated precisely;
(d) the passage 23:1-14 may be assigned to the time of Alexander the Great;
(e) all of Isa 11; 12; 19; 24-27; 29; 30; 32-35; 42; 49-66; and portions of Isa 1; 2; 4; 8; 9; 10; 16; 17; 18; 23; 41; 44; 45; 48 may be assigned to the 2nd century BC (167-140 BC).
Professor C. F. Kent, also (Sermons, Epistles, and Apocalypses of Israel’s Prophets, 1910, 27 ff), makes the following critical observations on Isa 40-66. He says: "The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah .... afford by far the best approach for the study of the difficult problems presented by Isa 40-66. Isaiah 56-66 are generally recognized as post-exilic. .... In Isa 56 and the following chapters there are repeated references to the temple and its service, indicating that it had already been restored. Moreover, these references are not confined to the latter part of the book. .... The fact, on the one hand, that there are few, if any, allusions to contemporary events in these chapters, and on the other hand, that little or nothing is known of the condition and hopes of the Jews during this period (the closing years of the Babylonian exile) makes the dating of these prophecies possible, although far from certain. .... Also, the assumption that the author of these chapters lived in the Babylonian exile is not supported by a close examination of the prophecies themselves. Possibly their author was one of the few who, like Zerubbabel, had been born in Babylon and later returned to Palestine. He was also dealing with such broad and universal problems that he gives few indications of his date and place of abode; but all the evidence that is found points to Jerusalem as the place where he lived and wrote. .... The prophet’s interest and point of view center throughout in Jerusalem, and he shows himself far more familiar with conditions in Palestine than in distant Babylon. Most of his illustrations are drawn from the agricultural life of Palestine. His vocabulary is also that of a man dwelling in Palestine, and in this respect is in marked contrast with the synonyms employed by Ezekiel, the prophet of the Babylonian exile."
That is to say, two of the most recent investigators of the Book of Isaiah reach conclusions quite at variance with the opinions advocated in 1890, when Delitzsch so reluctantly allowed that Isa 40-66 may have sprung from the period of Babylonian exile. Now, it is found that these last 27 chapters were written after the exile, most probably in Palestine, rather than in Babylonia as originally claimed, and are no longer considered addressed primarily to the suffering exiles in captivity as was formerly urged.
(4) The Present State of the Question.
The present state of the Isaiah question is, to say the least, confusing. Those who deny the integrity of the book may be divided into two groups, which we may call moderates and radicals. Among the moderates may be included Drs. Driver, G.A. Smith, Skinner, Kirkpatrick, Koenig, A.B. Davidson, Barnes and Whitehouse. These all practically agree that the following chapters and verses are not Isaiah’s: 11:10-16; 12; 13:1-14:23; 15:1-16:12; 21:1-10; 24-27; 34-35; 36-39; 40-66. That is to say, some 44 chapters out of the whole number, 66, were not written by Isaiah; or, approximately 800 out of 1,292 verses are not genuine. Among the radicals are Drs. Cheyne, Duhm, Hackmann, Guthe, Marti, Kennett and Gray. These all reject approximately 1,030 verses out of the total 1,292, retaining the following only as the genuine product of Isaiah and his age: 1:2-26;29-31; 2:6-19; 3:1,5,8,9,12-17; 4:1; 5:1-14,17-29; 6; 7:1-8,22; 9:8-10:9; 10:13,14,27-32; 17:1-14; 18; 20; 22:1-22; 28:1-4,7-22; 29:1-6,9,10,13-15; 30:1-17; 31:1-4. That is, only about 262 verses out of the total 1,292 are allowed to be genuine. This is, we believe, a fair statement of the Isaiah-question as it exists in the hands of divisive critics today.
On the other hand there have been those who have defended and who still defend the essential unity of Isaiah’s entire book, e.g. Strachey (1874), Nagelsbach (1877), Bredenkamp (1887), Douglas (1895), W.H. Cobb (1883-1908), W.H. Green (1892), Vos (1898-99), Thirtle (1907), Margoliouth (1910) and O.T. Allis (1912).
(5) Reasons for Dissecting the Book.
The fundamental axiom of criticism is the dictum that a prophet always spoke out of a definite historical situation to the present needs of the people among whom he lived, and that a definite historical situation shall be pointed out for each prophecy. This fundamental postulate, which on the whole is reasonable and perfectly legitimate if not overworked, underlies all modern criticism of Old Testament prophecy. It is not possible, however, always to trace a mere snatch of sermonic discourse to a definite historical situation apart from its context. Moreover, the prophets often spoke consciously, not only to their own generation, but also to the generations to come. Isaiah in particular commanded, "Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples" (8:16); that is, preserve my teachings for the future. Again in 30:8, he says, "Now go, .... inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever." And also in 42:23, "Who is there among you that will give ear to this? that will hearken and hear for the time to come?"
Certain false presuppositions often govern critics in their disintegration of the book. Only a few examples need be given by way of illustration:
(a) According to some, "the conversion of the heathen" lay quite beyond the horizon of any 8th-century prophet; consequently, Isa 2:2-4 and all similar passages which foretell the conversion of those outside the chosen people are to be relegated to an age subsequent to Isaiah.
(b) To others, "the picture of universal peace" in Isa 11:1-9 is a symptom of late date, and therefore this section and all kindred ones must be deleted.
(c) To others, the thought of "universal judgment" upon "the whole earth" in 14:26 and elsewhere quite transcends Isaiah’s range of thought.
(d) To others still, the apocalyptic character of Isa 24-27 represents a phase of Hebrew thought which prevailed in Israel only after Ezekiel.
(e) Even to those who are considered moderates "the poetic character" of a passage like Isa 12, and the references to a "return" from captivity, as in 11:11-16, and the promises and consolations such as are found in Isa 33 are cited as grounds for assigning these and similar passages to a much later age. Radicals deny in toto the existence of all Messianic passages among Isaiah’s own predictions, relegating all Messianic hope to a much later age.
But to deny to the Isaiah of the 8th century all catholicity of grace, all universalism of salvation or judgment, every highly developed Messianic ideal, every rich note of promise and comfort, all sublime faith in the sacrosanct character of Zion, as some do, is unwarrantably to create a new Isaiah of greatly reduced proportions, a mere preacher of righteousness, a statesman of not very optimistic vein, and the exponent of a cold ethical religion without the warmth and glow of the messages which are actually ascribed to the prophet of the 8th century.
As a last resort, certain critics have appealed to 2Ch 36:22,23 as external evidence that Isa 40-66 existed as a separate collection in the Chronicler’s age. But the evidence obtained from this source is so doubtful that it is well-nigh valueless. For it is not the prediction of Isaiah concerning Cyrus to which the Chronicler points as Jeremiah’s, but the "70 years" of Babylonian supremacy spoken of in 2Ch 36:21, which Jeremiah actually did predict (compare Jer 25:11; 29:10). On the other hand, Isa 40-66 were certainly ascribed to Isaiah as early as 180 BC, for Jesus Ben-Sirach, the author of Ecclesiasticus, speaks of Isaiah as the prophet who "saw by an excellent spirit that which should come to pass at the last, and comforted them that mourned in Zion" (Ecclesiasticus 48:20 ff; compare Isa 40:1 ff). Furthermore, there is absolutely no proof that Isa 1-39, or Isa 40-66, or any other section of Isaiah’s prophecies ever existed by themselves as an independent collection; nor is there any substantial ground for supposing that the promissory and Messianic portions have been systematically interpolated by editors long subsequent to Isaiah’s own time. The earlier prophets presumably did more than merely threaten.
(6) Arguments for One Isaiah.
It is as unreasonable to expect to be able to prove the unity of Isaiah as to suppose that it has been disproved. Internal evidence is indecisive in either case. There are arguments, however, which corroborate a belief that there was but one Isaiah. Here are some of those which might be introduced:
(a) The Circle of Ideas:
The circle of ideas, which are strikingly the same throughout the entire book: For example, take the characteristic name for God, which is almost peculiar to Isaiah, "the Holy One of Israel." This title for Yahweh occurs in the Book of Isaiah a total of 25 times, and only 6 times elsewhere in the Old Testament, one of which is a parallel passage in Kings. This unique epithet, "the Holy One of Israel," interlocks all the various portions with one another and stamps them with the personal imprimatur of him who saw the vision of the majestic God seated upon His throne, high and lifted up, and heard the angelic choirs singing: "Holy, holy, holy, is Yahweh of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (6:3). The presence of this Divine title in all the different sections of the book is of more value in identifying Isaiah as the author of all these prophecies than though his name had been inserted at the beginning of every chapter, for the reason that his theology--his conception of God as the Holy One--is woven into the very fiber and texture of the whole book. It occurs 12 times in Isa 1-39, and 13 times in Isa 40-66; and it is simply unscientific to say that the various alleged authors of the disputed portions all employed the same title through imitation (compare 1:4; 5:19,24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11,12,15; 31:1; 37:23; also 41:14,16,20; 43:3,14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9,14; elsewhere, only in 2Ki 19:22; Ps 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jer 50:29; 51:5).
Another unique idea which occurs with considerable repetition in the Book of Isaiah is the thought of a "highway" (compare 11:16; 35:8; 40:3; 43:19; 49:11; 57:14; 62:10). Another characteristic idea is that of a "remnant" (compare 1:9; 10:20,21,22; 11:11,16; 14:22,30; 15:9; 16:14; 17:3; 21:17; 28:5; 37:31; 46:3; compare 65:8,9). Another striking trait of the book is the position occupied by "Zion" in the prophet’s thoughts (compare 2:3; 4:5; 18:7; 24:23; 28:16; 29:8; 30:19; 31:9; 33:5,20; 34:8; 46:13; 49:14; 51:3,16; 52:1; 59:20; 60:14; 62:1,11; 66:8). Still another is the oft-repeated expression, "pangs of a woman in travail" (compare 13:8; 21:3; 26:17,18; 42:14; 54:1; 66:7). These, and many others less distinctive, psychologically stamp the book with an individuality which it is difficult to account for, if it be broken up into countless fragments and distributed, as some do, over the centuries.
(b) The Literary Style:
As negative evidence, literary style is not a very safe argument; for, as Professor McCurdy says, "In the case of a writer of Isaiah’s environments, style is not a sure criterion of authorship" (History, Prophecy and the Monuments, II, 317, note). Yet it is certainly remarkable that the clause "for the mouth of Yahweh hath spoken it" should be found 3 times in the Book of Isaiah, and nowhere else in the Old Testament (compare 1:20; 40:5; 58:14). And it is noteworthy that the phrase, "streams of water," should occur twice in Isaiah and nowhere else (compare 30:25; 44:4 in the Hebrew). And very peculiar is the tendency on the prophet’s part to emphatic reduplication (compare 2:7,8; 6:3; 8:9; 24:16,23; 40:1; 43:11,25; 48:15; 51:12; 57:19; 62:10). In fact, it is not extravagant to say that Isaiah’s style differs widely from that of every other Old Testament prophet, and is as far removed as possible from that of Ezekiel and the post-exilic prophets.
(c) Historical References:
Take, for example, first, the prophet’s constant reference to Judah and Jerusalem, his country and its capital (Isa 1:7-9; 3:8; 24:19; 25:2; 40:2,9; 62:4); likewise, to the temple and its ritual of worship and sacrifice. In Isa 1:11-15, when all was prosperous, the prophet complained that the people were profuse and formal in their ceremonies and sacrifices; in 43:23,14, on the contrary, when the country had been overrun by the Assyrian and Sennacherib had besieged the city, the prophet reminds them that they had not brought to Yahweh the sheep of their burnt offerings, nor honored Him with their sacrifices; while in 66:1-3,6,20, not only is the existence of the Temple and the observance of the ritual presupposed, but those are sentenced who place their trust in the material temple, and the outward ceremonials of temple-worship. As for the "exile," the prophet’s attitude to it throughout is that of both anticipation and realization. Thus, in 57:1, judgment is only threatened, not yet inflicted: "The righteous is taken away from the evil to come." That is to say, the exile is described as still future. On the other hand, in 3:8, "Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen," which seems to describe the exile as in the past; yet, as everybody admits, these are the words of Isaiah of the 8th century. In 11:11,12, the prophet says, "The Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people. .... from the four corners of the earth." To interpret such a statement literally and mechanically without regard to 8th-century conditions, or to Isaiah’s manifest attitude to the exile, leads to confusion. No prophet realized so keenly or described so vividly the destiny of the Hebrews.
(d) The Predictive Element:
This is the strongest proof of the unity of the Book of Isaiah. Prediction is the very essence of prophecy (compare De 18:22); Isaiah was preeminently a prophet of the future. With unparalleled suddenness, he repeatedly leaps from despair to hope, from threat to promise, and from the actual to the ideal. What Professor Kent says of "Deutero-Isaiah" may with equal justice be said of Isaiah himself: "While in touch with his own age, the great unknown prophet lives in the atmosphere of the past and the future" (Sermons, Epistles, and Apocalypses of Israel’s Prophets, 28). Isaiah spoke to his own age, but he also addressed himself to the ages to follow. His verb tenses are characteristically futures and prophetic perfects. Of his book A.B. Davidson’s words are particularly true: "If any prophetic book be examined .... it will appear that the ethical and religious teaching is always secondary, and that the essential thing in the book or discourse is the prophet’s outlook into the future" (HDB, article "Prophecy and Prophets," IV, 119).
Isaiah was exceptionally given to predicting: thus (a) before the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734 BC), he predicted that within 65 years Ephraim should be broken to pieces (7:8); and that before the child Maher-shalal-hash-baz should have knowledge to cry, "My father," or "My mother," the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria should be carried away (8:4; compare 7:16). These are, however, but two of numerous predictions, as shown above, among his earlier prophecies (compare 1:27,28; 2:2-4; 6:13; 10:20-23; 11:6-16; 17:14).
(i) Shortly before the downfall of Samaria in 722 BC, Isaiah predicted that Tyre should be forgotten 70 years, and that after the end of 70 years her merchandise should be holiness to Yahweh (23:15,18).
(ii) In like manner prior to the siege of Ashdod in 711 BC, he proclaimed that within 3 years Moab should be brought into contempt (Isa 16:l4), and that within a year all the glory of Kedar should fail (Isa 21:16).
time, even hidden things. .... Yea, from of old thine ear was not opened. .... Who among them hath declared these things? .... I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him; .... from the beginning I have not spoken in secret" (Isa 48:6-8,14-16). Such predictions are explicit and emphatic.
(e) Cyrus a Subject of Prediction:
From all the above-mentioned explicit and oft-repeated predictions one thing is obvious, namely, that great emphasis is laid by the prophet on prediction throughout the entire Book of Isaiah. And it must be further allowed that "Cyrus" is represented by the author as predicted, from any point of view. The only question is, Does the prophet emphasize the fact that he himself is predicting the coming of Cyrus? or that former predictions concerning Cyrus are now, as the prophet writes, coming to pass before his readers’ eyes? Canon Cheyne’s remark upon this point is instructive. He says: "The editor, who doubtless held the later Jewish theory of prophecy, may have inferred from a number of passages, especially Isa 41:26; 48:3,1.14, that the first appearance of Cyrus had been predicted by an ancient prophet, and observing certain Isaianic elements in the phraseology of these chapters, may have identified the prophet with Isaiah" (Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, 238).
Dr. G.A. Smith likewise allows that Cyrus is the fulfillment of former predictions.
He says: "Nor is it possible to argue, as some have tried to do, that the prophet is predicting these things as if they had already happened. For as part of argument for the unique divinity of the God of Israel, Cyrus, `alive and irresistible,’ and already accredited with success, is pointed out as the unmistakable proof that former prophecies of a deliverance for Israel are already coming to pass. Cyrus, in short, is not presented as a prediction, but as a proof that a prediction is being fulfilled" (HDB, article "Isaiah," 493). And further he says: "The chief claim, therefore, which Isa 40 ff make for the God of Israel is His power to direct the history of the world in conformity to a long-predicted and faithfully followed purpose. This claim starts from the proof that Yahweh has long before predicted events now happening or about to happen, with Cyrus as their center. But this is much more than a proof of isolated predictions, though these imply omniscience. It is a declaration of the unity of history sweeping to the high ends which have been already revealed to Israel--an exposition, in short, of the Omnipotence, Consistence, and Faithfulness of the Providence of the One True God" (ibid., 496).
It is obvious, therefore, in any case, whether these chapters are early or late, that Cyrus is the subject of prediction. It really makes little difference at which end of history one takes his stand, whether in the 8th century BC with Isaiah, or in the 6th century BC with "Deutero-Isaiah." Cyrus, to the author of these chapters, is the subject of prediction. In other words, whether indeed the author is really predicting Cyrus in advance of all apparent fulfillment, or Cyrus is the fulfillment of some ancient prediction by another, does not alter the fact that Cyrus was the subject of prediction on the part of somebody. Accordingly, as was stated at the outset, the whole question is, which does the prophet emphasize, (a) the fact that he himself is predicting? or, (b) that former predictions by someone else are now before his eyes coming to pass? The truth is, the prophet seems to live in the atmosphere of the past and the future as well as in the present, all of which are equally vivid to his prophetic mind. This is a peculiar characteristic of Isaiah. It is seen in the account he gives of his inaugural vision (Isa 6), of which Delitzsch remarks that it is "like a prediction in the process of being fulfilled." The same is true of Isa 24-27. There the prophet repeatedly projects himself into the future, and speaks from the standpoint of the fulfillment of his predictions. It is especially true of Isa 40-48. At one time the prophet emphasizes the fact that he is predicting, and a little later he describes his predictions as coming to pass. When, accordingly, a decision is made as to when the author predicted Cyrus, it is more natural to suppose that he was doing so long before Cyrus’ actual appearance. This, in fact, is in keeping with the test of true prophecy contained in De 18:22: "When a prophet speaketh in the name of Yahweh, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Yahweh hath not spoken; the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him." Besides, there is a similar explicit prediction in the Old Testament, namely, that of King Josiah, who was foretold by name two centuries before he came (1Ki 13:2; compare 2Ki 23:15,16).
Dr. W. H. Cobb in the Journal of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1901, 79, pleads for a "shrinkage of Cyrus," because Cyrus figures only in Isa 40-48, and is then dismissed. Dr. Thirtle, on the other hand, argues that the name "Cyrus" is a mere appellative, being originally not Koresh (Cyrus), but choresh ("workman," "artificer," "imagebreaker"), and that 44:27,28 is a gloss (compare Old Testament Problems, 244-64). But in opposition to these views the present writer prefers to write Cyrus large, and to allow frankly that he is the subject of extraordinary prediction. For the very point of the author’s argument is, that he is predicting events which Yahweh alone is capable of foretelling or bringing to pass; in other words, that prescience is the proof of Yahweh’s deity. Isaiah lived in an age when Yahweh’s secrets were first revealed privately unto His servants the prophets (compare Am 3:7). Political conditions were unsettled and kaleidoscopic, and there was every incentive to predict. That Isaiah actually uttered wonderful predictions. is attested, furthermore, both by Jesus Ben-Sirach in Ecclesiasticus 48:20-25 (written circa 180 BC), and by Josephus in his Ant, XI, i, 1, 2 (dating from circa 100 AD); and these are ancient traditions worthy of credence.
Recently, Mr. Oswald T. Allis, after a thorough and exhaustive critical investigation of "the numerico-climactic structure" of the poem in Isa 44:24-28, concludes that "the most striking and significant features of the poem favor the view that while the utterance was significant in and of itself, it was chiefly significant in view of the exceptional circumstance under which it was spoken, i.e. in view of its early date. The chronological arrangement of the poem assigns the Restoration and Cyrus to the future. The perspective of the poem, together with the abrupt change of person in the 2nd strophe, argues that the future is a remote future. And finally the carefully constructed double climax attaches a significance to the definiteness of the utterance which is most easily accounted for if this future was so remote that a definite disclosure concerning it would be of extraordinary importance." And he further alleges that "it is impossible, if justice is done to the plain declarations of Scripture, to limit the prophetic horizon of the prophet Isaiah to the preexilic period and that .... when the form of the poem is recognized, there is every reason to assign it to a pre-exilic prophet, to Isaiah, since the form of the poem is admirably calculated to emphasize the fact that Cyrus and the Restoration belong to a distant future, and to make it clear that it is just because of this fact that the definitehess of the prophecy, the mention of Cyrus by name, is so remarkable and of such unique significance" (Biblical and Theological Studies, by the members of the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, Centennial Volume, 1912, 628-29).
After all, why should men object to prediction on so large a scale? Unless there is definiteness about any given prediction, and unless it transcends ordinary prognostication, there is no especial value in it. Should it be objected, however, that prediction of so minute a character is "abhorrent to reason," the answer is already at hand; it may be abhorrent to reason, but it is a handmaid to faith. Faith has to do with the future, even as prediction has to do with the future; and the Old Testament is preeminently a book which encourages faith. There is really no valid objection to the prediction of Cyrus. For the one outstanding differentiating characteristic of Israel’s religion is predictive prophecy. The Hebrews certainly predicted the coming of a Messiah. Indeed, the Hebrews were the only people of antiquity whose "Golden Age" lay in the future rather than in the past. Accordingly, to predict the coming of a Cyrus as the human agent of Israel’s salvation is but the reverse side of the same prophet’s picture of the Divine agent, namely, the obedient, Suffering Servant of Yahweh, who would redeem Israel from its sin. Deny to Isaiah the son of Amoz the prediction concerning Cyrus, and it is but logical to go farther and to deny to him the Messianic hope which is usually associated with his name. Deny to Isaiah the son of Amoz the predictions concerning a return from captivity, and the prophecies of his book are robbed of their essential character and unique perspective. Emasculate those portions of the Book of Isaiah which unveil the future, and they are reduced to a mere vaticinium ex eventu, and their religious value as Divine oracles is largely lost.
So much has been written on Isaiah’s prophecies that only a selected list can be given here:
I. Commentaries on Isaiah:
Owen C. Whitehouse, The New Century Bible, 2 volumes, 1905; J. Skinner, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, 2 volumes, 1896-98; W.E. Barnes, The Churchman’s Bible, 2 volumes, 1901-3; G.A. Smith, The Expositor’s Bible, 2 volumes, 1888-90; Franz Delitzsch, Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, 2 volumes, 1892; (C. von Orelli, Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, 1895; T.K. Cheyne, The Prophecies of Isaiah, 2 volumes, 1892; G.W. Wade, Westminster Commentaries, 1911; G.H. Box, The Book of Isaiah, 1909; G.B. Gray, International Critical Commentary, I, chapters i-xxvii, 1912; II, chapters xxviii-lxvi, by G.B. Gray and A.S. Peake; J.E. McFadyen, "Book of the Prophecies of Isaiah" (The Bible for Home and School), 1910; G. Campbell Morgan, The Analyzed Bible, 2 volumes, 1910; Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 volumes, 1906; H.G. Mitchell, Isaiah: A Study of chapters 1-12, 1897; Nagelsbach in Lange’s Bibelwerk, English edition, 1878; J.A. Alexander, 1865; H. Ewald, English edition, 1876-81; John Calvin, English edition, 1850; R. Lowth, 1778; Vitringa, 1732; W. Gesenius, 1820-21; F. Hitzig, 1833; C.J. Bredenkamp, 1887; A. Dillmann, 1890, as revised by Kittel, 1898; B. Duhm, in Nowack’s Handkommentar zum Altes Testament, 1892; K. Marti, 1900; A. Condamin (Roman Catholic), 1905.
II. Introduction and Criticism:
S.R. Driver, Isaiah, His Life and Times, in "The Men of the Bible Series," 1888; T.K. Cheyne, Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, 1895; W.R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel, 2nd edition, 1896; A.F. Kirkpatrick, The Doctrine of the Prophets, 1892; J.W. Thirtle, Old Testament Problems, 1907; W.E. Barnes, An Examination of Isaiah 24-27, 1891; G. Douglas, Isaiah One and His Book One, 1895; J. Kennedy, A Popular Argument for the Unity of Isaiah, 1891; E. Koenig, The Exiles’ Book of Consolation, 1899; G.C. Workman, The Servant of Yahweh, 1907; M.G. Glazebrook, Studies in the Book of Isaiah, 1910; R.H. Kennett, The Composition of the Book of Isaiah in the Light of History and Archaeology, 1910; R.R. Ottley, Isaiah according to the Septuagint, 1904; Hackmann, Die Zukunftserwartung des Jesaia, 1893; J. Meinhold, Die Jesajaerzahlungen, Jesaja 36-39, 1898; O.T. Allis, "The Transcendence of Yahweh, God of Israel, Isa 44:24-28," in Biblical and Theological Studies, Princeton’s Centennial Commemoration Volume, 1912, 579634; J. Hastings, The Great Texts of the Bible, 1910; C.S. Robinson, The Gospel in Isaiah, 1895; E. Sievers, Metrische Studien, 1901; G.L. Robinson, The Book of Isaiah, 1910; H. Guthe, Das Zukunfisbild des Jesaia, 1885; Feldmann, Der Knecht Gottes, 1907; W. Urwick, The Servant of Yahweh, 1877; K. Cramer, The Historical Background of Isa 56-66, 1905; A.B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy, 1903.
III. Articles in Journals and Dictionaries:
W.H Cobb in Journal of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1891, II; 1895, I and II; 1898, I; 1901, I; 1908, I; F. Brown, JBL, 1890, I; W. H. Cobb, in the BS, 1882; G. A. Smith, article "Isaiah" in HDB, 1899; T. K. Cheyne, in the EB, 1901, and in the Encyclopedia Brit, 11th edition, 1910; Jas. Robertson, in the Illustrated Bible Dict., 1908; E. Koenig, in the Standard Bible Dict., 1909; A. Klostermann and J. A. Kelso, in The New Sch-Herz, 1910; A. Klostermann in the See Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 1900; G. Vos, Presbyterian and Reformed Review, 1898; D.S. Margoliouth, in The Temple Dictionary, 1910; C.A. Briggs, article "Analysis of Isa 40-62" in Harper Memorial Volume.
George L. Robinson