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The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Notes for Isaiah

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WRITER: Isaiah 1:1
Most of the prophets moved in an orbit of obscurity and anonymity. They did not project their personalities into the prophecies they proclaimed. Jeremiah and Hosea are the exceptions to this, of course. Isaiah gives us very little of an historical character concerning himself. There are a few scant references to his life and ministry. In Isaiah 1:1 he gives “the days” in which his lot was cast. It was during the reigns of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” These were not the darkest days in Judah internally. Uzziah and Hezekiah were enlightened rulers who sought to serve God. But the days were extremely dark because of the menace of the formidable kingdom of Assyria in the north. The northern kingdom of Israel was carried away into captivity during this period.
Isaiah 6 records the personal call and commission of Isaiah. This chapter should come first in the prophecy — logically if not chronologically. Isaiah 3639 is the historical section, which records the ministry of Isaiah during the crisis when the Assyrian host encompassed Jerusalem. Beyond these few personal sections, Isaiah stands in the shadow as he points to another Person who is coming.
It is stated by some that Isaiah belonged to the royal family of David. This cannot be positively affirmed. Likewise, it has been stated that he is referred to in Hebrews 11:37 as the one “sawn asunder.” This may or may not be true. The liberal critic has sawn him asunder in forging the fake fabric of the Deutero-Isaiah hypothesis. Some have gone so far as to fabricate a Trito-Isaiah. There is not a scrap of documentary evidence beyond the skepticism of the destructive critic. They have cut Isaiah up like a railroad restaurant pie. History presents only one Isaiah, not two or three. This method of the destructive critic could be applied one thousand years hence to prove just as easily that there were three Dwight Eisenhowers:

1st — General Eisenhower, the military leader of the victorious forces of World War II — European theatre.

2nd — President Eisenhower of the United States, elected in 1952 and 1956.

3rd — Dwight D. Eisenhower, the invalid man and victim of a heart attack and a serious operation for ileitis.

We know that only one man by the name of Eisenhower fulfilled all those requirements. Likewise, only one man by the name of Isaiah can easily fulfill all the requirements as the sole author of the Book of Isaiah.

THEME: As the New Testament presents the Lord Jesus Christ as its theme, so Isaiah presents the Lord Jesus Christ as his theme. Isaiah has been called the 5th evangelist; the Book of Isaiah has been called the 5th Gospel. Christ’s virgin birth, His character, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His second coming are all presented in Isaiah with definiteness and clarity. (See 1 Peter 1:10, 11; cp. Luke 4:16-22 with Isaiah 61:1-4.)

STYLE AND CONTENT: The prophecy of Isaiah is strikingly similar to the entire Bible, which can be seen in the following comparison:

Bible Book of Isaiah
66 Books 66 Chapters
39 Books in Old
39 Chapters on LAW, the
Government of God
27 Books in New
27 Chapters on GRACE,
Salvation of God

Also, there are some 66 direct quotations from Isaiah in the New Testament. Some people have found 85 quotations and allusions to Isaiah in the New Testament.

20 of the 27 books of the New Testament refer to Isaiah; 12 books of the New Testament have direct quotations.

ISAIAH is woven into the New Testament as a brightly colored thread woven into a beautiful pattern.

ISAIAH is discernible and conspicuous in the New Testament.

ISAIAH is chiseled into the rock of the New Testament with the power tool of the Holy Spirit.

ISAIAH is often used to enforce and enlarge upon those passages that speak of Christ.

The historic interlude (chapters 3639) leaves the high plateau of prophecy and drops down to the record of history. Even the form of language is different. It is couched in the form of prose rather than poetry. Why are these four chapters of an historical character wedged Bible in between the two major divisions of the book? This is a reasonable question that requires investigation and rewards the honest inquirer. There are several significant factors worthy of mention:

1. Sacred and secular history are not the same. Dr. Jennings states, “Divine history is never merely history, never simply a true account of past events.” There are great spiritual truths couched in sacred history that are seen only by the eye of faith. The Holy Spirit must teach us the divine purpose in recording scriptural history. Let us note several suggestive reasons:

a. These incidents might seem trite to the average historian who records great world movements; but events concerning God’s people were important according to the standards of heaven.

b. Actually these chapters note the transfer of power from Assyria to Babylon. Babylon was the real menace to God’s people and was to begin the period designated by our Lord as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).

c. This section is a record of a son of David who was beset by enemies and who went down to the verge of death but was delivered and continued to reign. In this he foreshadows the great Son of David who was beset by enemies, delivered to death, raised from the dead, and who is coming again to reign. Hezekiah was only a man who walked in the ways of David, another weak man. Hezekiah lived to play the fool. Our Lord was greater than David and, as the crucified and risen Son of God, is made unto us “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). There are other great spiritual truths which we will note in the chapter outlines.

2. The second significant factor in this historic section is that these particular events are recorded three times in the Scriptures — 2 Kings 18, 19; 2 Chronicles 29, 30; and here in Isaiah. The fact that the Holy Spirit saw fit to record them three times is in itself a matter of great importance. These records are not identical but similar. Some scholars think Isaiah is the author of all three or at least the one in Kings. Surely the Spirit of God has some special truth for us here that should cause us not to hurry over these events as if they were of no great moment.

3. Three significant and stupendous miracles are recorded in this brief section:

a. The death angel slays 185,000 Assyrians (Isa 37:36-38).

b. God heals Hezekiah and extends his life fifteen years (Isa 38:1-5).

c. The sun retreats ten degrees on the sun dial of Ahaz (Isa 38:7, 8).

4. This section opens with Assyria and closes with Babylon. There are two important letters that Hezekiah received:

a. The first was from Assyria, which Hezekiah took directly to God in prayer (Isa 37:14); and God delivered His people.

b. The second letter was from the king of Babylon which flattered Hezekiah and which he did not take to the Lord in prayer. As a result, it led to the undoing of Judah (Isa 39:1-8).

The third and last major division (chapters 4066) returns to the poetic form but is in contrast to the first major section. There we had judgment and the righteous government of God; here we have the grace of God, the suffering, and glory to follow. Here all is grace and glory. The opening “comfort ye” sets the mood and tempo.
It is this section that has caused the liberal critics to postulate the Deutero-Isaiah hypothesis. A change of subject matter does not necessitate a change of authorship. It is interesting that for 1900 years there was not a word about a second Isaiah. John refers to this section as authored by Isaiah (John 1:23). Our Lord likewise referred to this section as written by Isaiah (Luke 4:17-21). There are numerous other references that similarly confirm the authorship of Isaiah.
Philip used a chapter from this section to win an Ethiopian to Christ (Acts 8).
The prophecy of Isaiah presents another important aspect of prophecy. This has to do with the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)

One of the most solid proofs of the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture is fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah contains many prophecies that have been fulfilled since he wrote them.
There were many false prophets in Israel, as the Scriptures reveal. Read the entire record in 2 Chronicles 18. Note especially Isa 18:22 — “Now, therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these, thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.”
The prophet had to speak into a local situation and in respect to contemporary events of his day. If his prophecy failed to materialize, then he was declared a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). If the matter came to pass, he was declared a true prophet. Isaiah prophesied into many local events. When Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army, Isaiah made a very daring prophecy

Therefore, thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. (Isaiah 37:33)

Also see his prophecy concerning the sickness of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38.
There are other prophecies that were not fulfilled in his lifetime, but today they stand fulfilled. See, for instance, his prophecies concerning the city of Babylon:

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and ostriches shall dwell there, and hegoats shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the coastlands shall cry in their desolate houses, and jackals in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged. (Isaiah 13:19-22)

Further fulfillments relative to Babylon are recorded in Isaiah 47. Excavations at Babylon have revealed the accuracy of these prophecies. More than fifty miles of the walls of Babylon have been excavated. The culture of this great civilization is still impressive but lies in dust and debris today according to the written word of Isaiah. This is one of many examples that could be given. Others will come before us in this study as we proceed through the book.

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