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Isaiah

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Introduction to Isaiah

The Man, The Times, And The Book

Isaiah is often referred to as "The Messianic Prophet", because of his many prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus. The New Testament quotes and applies more scriptures from the book of Isaiah than any other Old Testament prophet.

Yet Isaiah's work was not solely foretelling the future. A prophet of God was not primarily a future teller, but one who spoke God's word to the people of his own day. The word "prophet" literally means "to boil up like a fountain." Therefore a prophet was a spokesman for God; not so much a "foreteller" as a "forth teller"!

Isaiah was God's spokesman to Judah and Jerusalem at time when the nation was immersed in sin. He spoke God's indictment against their sins, urging them to repent. He then foretold destruction upon them if they did not return to God.

In the midst of these dire warnings, Isaiah also foretold of a bright future with the coming Messiah. God would not forget His covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He would spare a remnant of the nation of Israel out of which would come the Messiah and His new kingdom.

ISAIAH, THE MAN

His name (Isaiah) means "salvation of the Lord" or "the Lord is salvation", and is certainly symbolic of his message. He is described as "the son of Amoz" (Isa 1:1; 2:1; 13:1), of whom the Bible reveals nothing. He was married and had two sons, Shear-Jashub ("the remnant shall return", Isa 7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz ("in-speed-spoil-booty- hastens", Isa 8:3), whose names also symbolized his message.

Tradition says that Amoz was a brother of Amaziah, the son of Joash, king of Judah (2 Kin 14:1). This would make Isaiah a close relative to those who were kings during his lifetime, and would explain his close association with kings and priests and involvement with world affairs.

Isaiah received his visions in the days of "Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (Isa 1:1). It is generally thought the vision of the throne scene which occurred "in the year Uzziah died" (Isa 6:1) was the beginning point of his ministry as a prophet (ca. 739 B.C.). According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was executed by Manasseh only a few years after he ascended the throne. One source describes Isaiah as having been sawn asunder with a wooden saw (cf. He 11:37). This would mean Isaiah prophesied during a period of approximately fifty years (ca. 739-690 B.C.).

ISAIAH, THE TIMES

It was a time of great political turmoil for the nation of Judah. Assyria was expanding its empire, attacking Israel and Syria to the north. When Judah refused to joined a coalition with Israel and Syria to resist Assyria, Judah was attacked by Israel and Syria in retaliation. As Judah seriously considered inviting Assyria to help, Isaiah sought to encourage the king and the people to trust only in Jehovah. King Ahaz of Judah rejected Isaiah's advice and asked Assyria to come to his aid. Assyria accepted, and the capital of Israel (Samaria) fell in 722 B.C. (Hendriksen)

It soon became apparent that Judah was next on Assyria's hit list. Judah began looking to Egypt in the south for help. Once again, Isaiah counseled the nation to make no alliances but trust only in the Lord. King Hezekiah heeded Isaiah and God rewarded his faith by destroying the Assyrian host (Isa 36-37). But in a moment of weakness Hezekiah showed the ambassadors from Babylon (Assyria's enemy) the house of his treasures (Isa 39:1-2). This prompted Isaiah to foretell that the king's treasures and his descendants would be taken away to Babylon (Isa 39:5-7). With this prophecy as an introduction, in chapters 40-66 Isaiah speaks from the viewpoint of Babylonian exile and foretells of coming pardon, deliverance, and restoration. (ibid.)

During this time God sent several prophets to Israel and Judah. Hosea (750-725 B.C.) prophesied mainly to Israel, the northern ten tribes. Micah (735-700 B.C.) together with Isaiah spoke primarily to Judah in the south.

ISAIAH, THE BOOK

Two major themes run throughout the book. There is the exhortation to "Trust in the Holy One of Israel". Faith in the Lord would assure forgiveness for their transgressions and deliverance from their enemies. Eight times the people are urged to "wait upon the Lord" (cf. Isa 40:28-31). "The Messiah to come and the glory of His age" is another dominate message. Isaiah spoke frequently of the events to come, foretelling the fall of heathen nations and the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah who would rule in justice and righteousness (cf. Isa 2:1-5).

Isaiah's favorite designation for Jehovah (Yahweh) is "The Lord of Hosts", used 62 times in the book.

"The name designates the Lord as omnipotent, and...is used by all the writing prophets except Ezekiel, Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. The term 'hosts' designated the armies of Israel. It could also refer to the angels, the heavenly messengers of the Lord, and to the stars as God's hosts. When, as here, it appears without further qualification, it designates the Lord as the God of all hosts, and is thus an equivalent expression for the 'all-powerful God'." - Edward J. Young

Another designation for the Lord used by Isaiah is "The Holy One Of Israel". In his book it is used 25 times, while found only six times in all the rest of the Bible.

The book of Isaiah can be divided into two major parts:

The Assyrian Period (chapters 1-39) - The prophet proclaims the Lord's indictment against Judah and Jerusalem, and the coming judgment against them. He portrays the sovereign rule of the Lord of Hosts who judges not only Israel, but heathen nations as well. He prophesies that the Lord will use Assyria, Babylon, and the Medes to execute His purposes, and afterward judge each of these along other nations, bringing them to desolation because of their sins. (Harkrider)

The Babylonian Period (chapters 40-66) - Isaiah exhorts an afflicted people to have faith and patience. He describes the salvation and future blessings to come upon the true Israel of God. Though Isaiah did not live during the period of Babylonian captivity, through inspiration he was able to speak words of comfort to those who would experience that difficult time of Israel's history. (ibid.)

General Outline
  1. THE ASSYRIAN PERIOD - CONFLICT AND VICTORY (Isa 1-39)
    1. PROPHECIES CONCERNING JUDAH AND JERUSALEM (Isa 1-12)
    2. PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE NATIONS (Isa 13-27)
    3. DELIVERANCE FOUND NOT IN EGYPT, BUT IN THE LORD (Isa 28-35)
    4. HISTORICAL INTERLUDE (Isa 36-39)
  2. THE BABYLONIAN PERIOD - HOPE FOR TROUBLED TIMES (Isa 40-66)
    1. THE ONE TRUE GOD VERSUS IDOLS (Isa 40-48)
    2. THE LORD'S SERVANT WILL BRING SALVATION THROUGH VICARIOUS SUFFERING (Isa 49-57)
    3. THE FUTURE GLORY FOR GOD'S PEOPLE, THE NEW ZION (Isa 58-66)

REASONS TO STUDY THE BOOK

There are many reasons why Christians should read and study the book of Isaiah. Among them:

It increases faith in Jesus as the Messiah, as one reads the messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in Him.

It strengthens hope in God as the One who is ultimately in control of all things, and will bring His purposes to pass.

It inspires love for God and His Messiah, as one reads of the blessings to be found in obedience to God's Word.

It enlarges understanding as to how God ruled in the nations of men in the past, and how Christ may exercise His rule in the nations today.

Give yourself the opportunity to be blessed by this wonderful book of the Bible!

Review Questions for the Introduction
  1. What is Isaiah frequently called? What does his name mean?
    • The Messianic prophet; "Salvation is of the Lord" or "The Lord is salvation"
  2. Who did he primarily preach to? During what kings of Judah did he prophesy?
    • Judah and Jerusalem; Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah
  3. Approximately when did he serve as a prophet of God? How many years?
    • During the years of 739-690 B.C.; 50 years
  4. What other prophets were contemporary with Isaiah? To Whom did they prophesy?
    • Hosea (750-725 B.C.) - Israel
    • Micah (735-700 B.C.) - Judah
  5. What nation was threatening Israel and Judah from the north? What coalition attacked Judah for not aligning with them against the northern invader?
    • Assyria; Israel and Syria
  6. To whom did Judah turn for help in the days of King Ahaz?
    • Assyria
  7. When did Samaria fall and Israel taken into captivity?
    • 722 B.C.
  8. When Assyria threatened Judah, what country was Judah tempted to look to for help?
    • Egypt in the south
  9. Who did Isaiah convince to place his trust in the Lord instead of political alliances?
    • King Hezekiah
  10. How did God reward this king for his faith?
    • Destroyed the Assyrian host in one night
  11. What mistake did the king make that prompted the prophesy of Judah's captivity?
    • He showed the treasuries of his house to the ambassadors from Babylon
  12. What are the two major sections of the book?
    • The Assyrian Period, Conflict And Victory (Isa 1-39)
    • The Babylonian Period, Hope For Troubled Times (Isa 40-66)
  13. What are two major themes running through the book?
    • "Trust in the Holy One of Israel"
    • "The Messiah to come and the glory of His age"
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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