Easton's Bible Dictionary
consists of prophecies delivered
Thus, counting from the fourth year before Uzziah's death (B.C. 762) to the last
year of Hezekiah (B.C. 698), Isaiah's ministry extended over a period of sixty-four
years. He may, however, have survived Hezekiah, and may have perished in the way
The book, as a whole, has been divided into three main parts:
|(1) The first thirty-five chapters, almost wholly prophetic,
Israel's enemy Assyria, present the Messiah as a mighty Ruler and King.
(2) Four chapters are historical (Isaiah
39), relating to the times of Hezekiah.
(3) Prophetical ( Isaiah
66), Israel's enemy Babylon, describing the Messiah as a suffering victim,
meek and lowly.
The genuineness of the section Isaiah
66 has been keenly opposed by able critics. They assert that it must be the
production of a deutero-Isaiah, who lived toward the close of the Babylonian captivity.
This theory was originated by Koppe, a German writer at the close of the last
century. There are other portions of the book also (e.g., ch. Isaiah
13 ; 24
and certain verses in ch. Isaiah
14 and 21)
which they attribute to some other prophet than Isaiah. Thus they say that some
five or seven, or even more, unknown prophets had a hand in the production of
this book. The considerations which have led to such a result are various:
They cannot, as some say, conceive it possible that Isaiah, living in B.C. 700,
could foretell the appearance and the exploits of a prince called Cyrus, who would
set the Jews free from captivity one hundred and seventy years after.
It is alleged that the prophet takes the time of the Captivity as his standpoint,
and speaks of it as then present; and (Isaiah
3) that there is such a difference between the style and language of the closing
66) and those of the preceding chapters as to necessitate a different authorship,
and lead to the conclusion that there were at least two Isaiahs. But even granting
the fact of a great diversity of style and language, this will not necessitate
the conclusion attempted to be drawn from it. The diversity of subjects treated
of and the peculiarities of the prophet's position at the time the prophecies
were uttered will sufficiently account for this.
The arguments in favour of the unity of the book are quite conclusive. When the
LXX. version was made (about B.C. 250) the entire contents of the book were ascribed
to Isaiah, the son of Amoz. It is not called in question, moreover, that in the
time of our Lord the book existed in the form in which we now have it. Many prophecies
in the disputed portions are quoted in the New Testament as the words of Isaiah
3:3 ; Luke
3:4 - 6
41 ; John
12:38 ; Acts
8:28 ; Romans
10:16 - 21
). Universal and persistent tradition has ascribed the whole book to one author.
Besides this, the internal evidence, the similarity in the language and style,
in the thoughts and images and rhetorical ornaments, all points to the same conclusion;
and its local colouring and allusions show that it is obviously of Palestinian
origin. The theory therefore of a double authorship of the book, much less of
a manifold authorship, cannot be maintained. The book, with all the diversity
of its contents, is one, and is, we believe, the production of the great prophet
whose name it bears.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
I. Isaiah Chapters 1 - 5 contain Isaiahs prophecies
in the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, foretelling that the present prosperity of
Judah should be destroyed, and that Israel should be brought to desolation. In
Isaiah 6 , 7 he announces the birth of the child Immanuel, which in Isaiah 9 is
more positively predicted. Isaiah 9 - 12 contain additional prophecies against
Israel, chs. ( Isaiah 10:5 - 12 ) (6) being the most highly-wrought passages in
the whole book. Isaiah 13 - 23 contain chiefly a collection of utterances, each
of which is styled a "burden," fore-telling the doom of Babylon, Philistia, Moab,
Ethiopia, Egypt and Tyre. The ode of triumph in ch. ( Isaiah 14:3 - 23 ) is among
the most poetical passages in all literature. Isaiah 24 - 27 form one prophecy,
essentially connected with the preceding ten "burdens," Isaiah 13 - 23, of which
it is in effect a general summary. Isaiah 23 - 35 predict the Assyrian invasion,
and Isaiah 36 - 39 have reference to this invasion; prophecies that were so soon
fulfilled. ( 2 Kings 19:35 )
II. The last 27 chapters form a separate prophecy, and are supposed by many critics
to have been written in the time of the Babylonian captivity, and are therefore
ascribed to a "later Isaiah;" but the best reasons are in favor of but one Isaiah.
This second part falls into three sections, each consisting of nine chapters:--
|The first section, chs 40 - 48 has for its main topic the
comforting assurance of the deliverance from Babylon by Koresh (Cyrus), who is
even named twice. ch. ( Isaiah 41:2 , 41:3 , 41:25 ; 44:28 ; 45:1 - 4 , 45:13
; 46:11 ; 48:14 , 48:15 )
The second section, chs. 49-56, is distinguished from the first by several features.
The person of Cyrus as well as his name and the specification of Babylon, disappear
altogether. Return from exile is indeed spoken of repeatedly and at length, ch.
( Isaiah 49:9 - 26 ; 51:9 - 52 ; 12 ; 55:12 , 55:13 ; 57:14 ) but in such general
terms as admit of being applied to the spiritual and Messianic as well as to the
This section is mainly occupied with various practical exhortations founded upon
the views of the future already set forth. In favor of the authenticity of the
last 27 chapters the following reasons may be advanced:--
|(a) The unanimous testimony of Jewish and Christian tradition,
comp. Ecclus. 48:24, and the evidence of the New Testament quotations. ( Matthew
3:3 ; Luke 4:17 ; Acts 8:28 ; Romans 10:16 , Romans 10:20 )
(b) The unity of design which connects these last 27 chapters with the preceding;
the oneness of diction which pervades the whole book; the peculiar elevation and
grandeur of style which characterize the second part as well as the first; the
absence of any other name than Isaiahs claiming the authorship; lastly, the Messianic
predictions which mark its inspiration and remove the chief ground of objection
against its having been written by Isaiah. In point of style we can find no difficulty
in recognizing in the second part the presence of the same plastic genius as we
discover in the first.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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
1 - 6. (SEE ISAIAH)
7. Analysis and Contents
There are six general divisions of the book:
|(1) Isaiah 1 - 12, prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem,
closing with promises of restoration and a psalm of thanksgiving;
|By examining in detail these several divisions we can trace
better the prophet's thought. Thus, Isaiah 1 - 12 unfold Judah's social sins (Isaiah
1-6), and her political entanglements (Isaiah 7 - 12); Isaiah 1 is an introduction,
in which the prophet strikes the chief notes of his entire book: namely, thoughtlessness
(Isaiah 1:2 - 9), formalism in worship (Isaiah
1:10 - 17), pardon (Isaiah 1:18 - 23) and
judgment (Isaiah 1:24 - 31).
Isaiah 2-4 contain three distinct pictures of Zion:
|(a) her exaltation (Isaiah 2:2
(b) her present idolatry (Isaiah 2:5 - 4:1), and
(c) her eventual purification (Isaiah 4:2 - 6).
Isaiah 5 contains an arraignment of Judah and Jerusalem, composed of three parts:
|(a) a parable of Yahweh's vineyard (Isaiah 5:1 - 7);
(b) a series of six woes pronounced against insatiable greed (Isaiah 5:8 - 10), dissipation (Isaiah 5:11 - 17),
daring defiance against Yahweh (Isaiah 5:18 , 19),
confusion of moral distinctions (Isaiah 5:20),
political self-conceit (Isaiah 5:21), and misdirected
heroism (Isaiah 5:22 , 23); and
(c) an announcement of imminent judgment. The Assyrian is on the way and there
will be no escape (Isaiah 5:24 - 30). Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 6:13).
Coming to Isaiah 7-12, Isaiah appears in the role of a practical statesman. He
warns Ahaz against political entanglements with Assyria. The section Isaiah 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
See, further, IMMANUEL.
The section Isaiah 9:8 - 10:4 contains an announcement to North Israel of accumulated
wrath and impending ruin, with a refrain (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 9:8
- 12), defeat in battle (Isaiah 9:13 - 17), anarchy
(Isaiah 9:18 - 21), and impending captivity (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 10:5-34, Assyria is declared to be an instrument of Yahweh, the rod
of Yahweh's anger. Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 11:11 , 12). In that day, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall
not vex Ephraim" (Isaiah 11:13). On the contrary,
the reunited nation, redeemed and occupying their rightful territory (Isaiah 11:14 - 16), shall sing a hymn of thanksgiving, proclaiming the salvation
of Yahweh to all the earth (Isaiah 12).
(2) Isaiah 13 - 23, oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning
those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem;
|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 Jeremiah 46 - 51 and Ezekiel 25 - 32. Isaiah's horizon was world-wide.
First among the foreign prophecies stands the oracle concerning Babylon (Isaiah
13:1 - 14:23), in which he predicts the utter destruction of the city (Isaiah
13:2 - 22), and sings a dirge or taunt-song over her fallen king (Isaiah 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 Isaiah
14:24 - 27 concerning Assyria tacitly confirms this interpretation. Another brief
oracle concerning Babylon (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 13:2 ; 21:9 , 10). It cannot be said that either is absolutely unrelated
in thought and language to Isaiah's age (Isaiah 14:13
; 21:2); each foretells the doom to fall on Babylon (Isaiah 13:19 ; 21:9) at the hands of the Medes (Isaiah 13:17 ; 21:2); and each describes the Israelites as already in exile--but
not necessarily all Israel.
The section Isaiah 14:24 - 27 tells of the certain destruction of the Assyrian.
The passage Isaiah 14:28 - 32 is an oracle concerning Philistia.
Isaiah 15 - 16 are ancient oracles against Moab, whose dirgelike meter resembles
that of Isaiah 13 - 14. It is composed of two separate prophecies belonging to
two different periods in Isaiah's ministry (Isaiah 16:13
, 14). The three points of particular interest in the oracle are:
|(1) the prophet's tender sympathy for Moab in her affliction
(Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 16:5).
The prophecy is an echo of Isaiah 9:5 - 7.
(3) The promise that a remnant of Moab, though small, shall be saved (Isaiah 16:14). Wearied of prayer to Chemosh in his high places, the prophet predicts
that Moab will seek the living God (Isaiah 16:12).
The passage Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 17:6). In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 19:1 - 17) and a promise (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 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
|(1) an oracle "of the valley of vision," i.e. Jerusalem
(Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 36:3 ; 37:2).
Isaiah 23 is concerning Tyre. In this oracle Isaiah predicts that Tyre shall be
laid waste (Isaiah 23:1), her commercial glory
humbled (Isaiah 23:9), her colonies become independent
of her (Isaiah 23:10), and she herself forgotten
for "seventy years" (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 23:18).
(3) Isaiah 24 - 27, Yahweh's world-judgment in the redemption of Israel;
The third great section of the Book of Isaiah embraces Isaiah 24 - 27, which tell
of Yahweh's world-judgment, issuing in the redemption of Israel. These prophecies
stand closely related to Isaiah 13 - 23. They express the same tender emotion
as that already observed in Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 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 Daniel 7 and Revelation 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 (Isaiah 2:2 - 4 ; 4:2 - 6 ; 11:6 - 16 ; 30:27 - 33).
|In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 24:1
- 15). The prophet fancies he hears songs of deliverance, but alas! they are premature;
more judgment must follow. In Isaiah 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.
Isaiah 25:6 - 8 describe Yahweh's bountiful banquet on Mount Zion to all nations,
who, in keeping with Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 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! (Isaiah 26:19).
This is the first clear statement of the resurrection in the Old Testament. But
it is national and restricted to Israel (compare Isaiah 26:14), and is merely Isaiah's method of expressing a hope of the return
of Israel's faithful ones from captivity (compare Hosea 6:2 ; Ezekiel 37:1 - 14
; Daniel 12:2).
In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 27:2 - 6). And then, after showing that Yahweh's chastisements of Israel
were light compared with His judgments upon other nations (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 11:11); and together they shall
once more worship Yahweh in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:12 , 13).
The prophet's fundamental standpoint in Isaiah 24 - 27 is the same as that of
Isaiah 2:2 - 4 and Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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.
The practical religious value of these prophecies to Isaiah's own age would be
very great. In a period of war and repeated foreign invasion, when but few men
were left in the land (Isaiah 24:6 , 13 ; 26:18), and Judah's cities were laid
waste and desolate (Isaiah 24:10 , 12 ; 25:2 ; 26:5 ; 27:10), and music and gladness
were wanting (Isaiah 24:8), when the nation still clung to their idols (Isaiah
27:9) and the Assyrians' work of destruction was still incomplete, other calamities
being sure to follow (Isaiah 24:16), it would certainly be comforting to know
that forgiveness was still possible (Isaiah 27:9), that Yahweh was still the keeper
of His vineyard (Isaiah 27:3 , 4), that His judgments were to last but for a little
moment (Isaiah 26:20), and that though His people should be scattered, He would
soon carefully gather them "one by one" (Isaiah 27:12 , 13), and that in company
with other nations they would feast together on Mt. Zion as Yahweh's guests (Isaiah
25:6 , 7 , 10), and that Jerusalem should henceforth become the center of life
and religion to all nations (Isaiah 24:23 ; 25:6 ; 27:13). Such faith in Yahweh,
such exhortations and such songs and confessions of the redeemed, seen in vision,
would be a source of rich spiritual comfort to the few suffering saints in Judah
and Jerusalem, and a guiding star to the faithful disciples of the prophet's most
(4) Isaiah 28 - 35, a cycle of prophetic warnings against alliance with Egypt,
closing with a prophecy concerning Edom and a promise of Israel's ransom;
As in Isaiah 5:8 - 23, the prophet indulges in
a series of six woes:
|(1) Woe to drunken, scoffing politicians (Isaiah 28). This
is one of the great chapters of Isaiah's book. In the opening section (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 28:23 - 29).
(2) Woe to formalists in religion (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 29:13 ; compare 1:10
- 15 ; Micah 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 (Isaiah
(3) Woe to those who hide their plans from God (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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
(Isaiah 32:15 - 20).
(6) Woe to the Assyrian destroyer (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 35)
(5) Isaiah 36 - 39, history, prophecy and song intermingled; serving both as an
appendix to Isaiah 1-35, and as an introduction to Isaiah 40 - 66; Isaiah 36 -
39 contain history, prophecy and song intermingled. These chapters serve both
as an appendix to Isaiah 1 - 35 and as an introduction to Isaiah 40 - 66. In them
three important historical events are narrated, in which Isaiah was a prominent
(1) the double attempt of Sennacherib to obtain possession of Jerusalem (Isaiah
36 - 37);
(2) Hezekiah's sickness and recovery (Isaiah 38);
(3) the embassy of Merodach-baladan (Isaiah 39).
With certain important omissions and insertions these chapters are duplicated
almost verbatim in 2 Kings 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 Isaiah
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 (Isaiah 36:2 - 37:8), and another from Libnah
with a threat conveyed by messengers (Isaiah 37:9). The brief section contained
in 2 Kings 18:14 - 16 is omitted from between verses 1 and 2 of Isaiah 36, because
it was not the prophet's aim at this time to recount the nation's humiliation.
Isaiah's last "word" concerning Assyria (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 37:22 - 29);
(2) a short poem in different rhythm, directed to Hezekiah, in order to encourage
his faith (Isaiah 37:30 - 32);
(3) a definite prediction, in less elevated style, of the sure deliverance of
Jerusalem (Isaiah 37:33 - 35). Isaiah's prediction was literally fulfilled.
The section Isaiah 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 2 Kings
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 (Isaiah 39:3 - 6; compare Micah 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 Isaiah 40 - 66, which
(6) Isaiah 40 - 66, prophecies of comfort and salvation, and also of the future
glory awaiting Israel.
Coming now to Isaiah 40 - 66, we have prophecies of comfort, salvation, and of
the future glory awaiting Israel. These chapters naturally fall into three sections:
|(1) Isaiah 40 - 48, announcing deliverance from captivity
Entering into greater detail, the first section (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 40). Israel's
all-powerful Yahweh in comparison with other gods is incomparable. In the prologue
(Isaiah 40:1 - 11) he hears the four voices:
|(1) of grace (Isaiah 40:1 , 2);
(2) of prophecy (Isaiah 40:3 - 5);
(3) of faith (Isaiah 40:6 - 8), and
(4) of evangelism (Isaiah 40:9 - 11).
Then, after exalting the unique character of Israel's all-but-forgotten God (Isaiah
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 (Isaiah 40:27 - 31).
In Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 3:8 ; 5:13 ;
21:9. The answer to the inquiry is, "I, Yahweh, the first, and with the last,
I am he" (Isaiah 41:4). Israel is Yahweh's servant.
The dialogue continues; but it is no longer between Yahweh and the nations, as
in Isaiah 41:1 - 7, but between Yahweh and the idols (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 41:26), in order that the future may verify my prediction, and prove my
sole deity. I, Yahweh, alone know the future. In Isaiah 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 Isaiah 24 - 27.
In Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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
(Isaiah 42:10 - 17). Israel has long been blind
and deaf to Yahweh's instructions (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 42:18 - 43:13).
In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 44:9 - 20 is a most remorseless
exposure of the folly of idolatry.
In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 44:28); he shall also subdue
nations and let the exiles go free (Isaiah 45:1
, 13). He speaks of Cyrus in the most extraordinary, almost extravagant terms.
He is Yahweh's "shepherd" (Isaiah 44:28), he is
also Yahweh's "anointed," i.e. Messiah (Isaiah 45:1),
"the man of my counsel" (Isaiah 46:11), whom Yahweh
has called by name, and surnamed without his ever knowing Him (Isaiah 45:3,1); the one "whom Yahweh loveth" (Isaiah 48:14),
whose right hand Yahweh upholdeth (Isaiah 45:1),
and who will perform all Yahweh's pleasure (Isaiah 44:28);
though but "a ravenous bird from the east (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 14:4
Isaiah 48 is a hortatory summary and recapitulation of the argument contained
in Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 48:20 - 22). Thus ends the first division of Isaiah's remarkable "vision"
of Israel's deliverance from captivity through Cyrus.
(2) Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 57:21; compare 48:22);
The second section (Isaiah 49 - 57) deals with the spiritual agent of salvation,
Yahweh's suffering "Servant." With Isaiah 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 Isaiah 40-48, he had alluded several times to this unique
and somewhat enigmatical personage, speaking of him both collectively and as an
individual (Isaiah 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) Isaiah 42:1 - 9, a poem
descriptive of the Servant's gentle manner and world-wide mission;
(2) Isaiah 49:1 - 13, describing the Servant's
mission and spiritual success;
(3) Isaiah 50:4 - 11, the Servant's soliloquy concerning
His perfection through suffering; and
(4) Isaiah 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.
(3) Isaiah 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 Isaiah 53 is of the second, and Isaiah 40 of the first.
Having described in Isaiah 40 - 48 the temporal agent of Israel's salvation, Cyrus,
and in Isaiah 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 Isaiah 40:1 ; 49:1).
In Isaiah 58 he discusses true fasting and faithful Sabbath observance.
In Isaiah 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 Isaiah 59:9 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 59:20 - 21).
Isaiah 60 - 61 describe the future blessedness of Zion. The long-looked-for "light"
(compare Isaiah 59:9) begins to dawn: "Arise, shine;
for thy light is come, and the glory of Yahweh is risen upon thee" (Isaiah 60:1). The prophet pauses at this point to paint a picture of the redeemed
community. As in Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 60:10 - 22).
In Isaiah 61, which Drummond has called "the program of Christianity," the "Servant"
of Yahweh is again introduced, though anonymously, as the herald of salvation
(Isaiah 61:1 - 3). The gospel monologue of the
"Servant" is followed by a promise of the restoration and blessedness of Jerusalem
(Isaiah 61:4 - 11). Thus the prophecy moves steadily
forward toward its goal in Jesus Christ (compare Luke 4:18 - 21).
In Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 63:7 - 64:12, Yahweh's "servants" resort to prayer. They appeal to Yahweh
as the Begetter and Father of the nations (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 64:11). Such language, however,
is the language of fervent prayer and must not be taken with rigid literalness,
as Isaiah 63:18 and 3:8 plainly show.
Finally, in Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 65:3 ; 66:17), offering libations
to Fortune and Destiny (Isaiah 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
(Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 65:5)--such Yahweh designs to punish, measuring their work into their bosom
and destroying them utterly with the sword (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 66:15
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 Isaiah 66:1 , 2 , in particular, anticipates
the great principle enunciated by Jesus in John 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. Isaiah 6:1, "In the
year that king Uzziah died" (740 BC); Isaiah 7:1, "In the days of Ahaz" (736 BC);
Isaiah 14:28, "In the year that king Ahaz died" (727 BC); Isaiah 20:1, "In the
year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him" (711
BC); Isaiah 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, Isaiah 1 - 6
for the most part belong to the last years of Jotham's reign (740 - 736 BC); Isaiah
7 - 12 to the period of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734 BC); Isaiah 20, to the year
of Sargon's siege of Ashdod (711 BC); Isaiah 28 - 32, to the invasion of Judah
by Sennacherib (701 BC); while the distinctively promissory portions (Isaiah 40-66),
as is natural, conclude the collection. In several minor instances, however, there
are notable departures from a rigid chronological order. For example, Isaiah 6,
which describes the prophet's initial call to preach, follows the rebukes and
denunciations of Isaiah 1 - 5; but this is probably due to its being used by the
prophet as an apologetic. Again, the oracles against foreign nations in Isaiah
13 - 23 belong to various dates, being grouped together, in part, at least, because
of their subject-matter. Likewise, Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 36 - 37 (about Sennacherib, king of
Assyria) an appropriate conclusion to Isaiah 1 - 35 (which say much about Assyria),
and, on the other hand, to make Isaiah 38 - 39 (about Merodach-baladan of Babylon)
a suitable introduction to Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 1:7
, 8), Jerusalem as "ruined," Judah as "fallen" (Isaiah 3:8), and Yahweh's people as already "gone into captivity" (Isaiah 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" (Isaiah 63:18) and "burned with fire," and all Judah's pleasant places "laid waste"
(Isaiah 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 Isaiah 44:26
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 (Isaiah 8:9 , 10 ; 10:24 , 25); and conceive a beautiful parable of comfort like
that contained in Isaiah 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
(Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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
There was one circumstance of the prophet's position after 701 BC which was new,
and which is too often overlooked, a circumstance which he could not have employed
to anything like the same degree as an argument in enforcing his message prior
to the Assyrian's overthrow and the deliverance of Jerusalem. It was this: the
fulfillment of former predictions as proof of Yahweh's deity. From such passages
we obtain an idea of the prophet's true historical position (Isaiah 42:9 ; 44:8
; 45:21 ; 46:10 ; 48:3). Old predictions have already been fulfilled (Isaiah 6:11
- 13 ; 29:8 ; 30:31 ; 31:8 ; 37:7 , 30), on the basis of which the prophet ventures
to predict new and even more astounding things concerning the overthrow of Babylon
by Cyrus, and Israel's deliverance through him from their captors (Isaiah 43:6).
Isaiah's book is signally full of predictions (Isaiah 7:8 , 10 ; 8:4 , 8 ; 9:11
, 12 ; 10:26 ; 14:24 - 27 ; 16:14 ; 17:9 ,12 - 14 ; 20:4 - 6 ; 21:16 ; 22:19 ;
23:15 ; 38:5), some of which, written down and sealed, were evidently committed
by the prophet to his inner circle of disciples to be used and verified by them
in subsequent crises (Isaiah 8:16). Failure to recognize this element in Isaiah's
book is fatal to a true interpretation of the prophet's real message.
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 Isaiah 50. Nine years later Doederlein suspected the whole
of Isaiah 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 Isaiah 23,
and he, with Gesenius and Ewald, also denied the Isaianic origin of Isaiah 24-27.
Gesenius also ascribed to some unknown prophet Isaiah 15 and 16. Rosenmueller
then went farther, and pronounced against Isaiah 34 and 35, and not long afterward
(1840) Ewald questioned Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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
(2) The Disintegration of "Deutero-Isaiah."
Even the unity of Isaiah 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 Isaiah 63-66 as a later addition to "Deutero-Isaiah's"
prophecies; but more recently it has become the fashion to distinguish between
Isaiah 40-55, which are claimed to have been written by "Deutero-Isaiah" in Babylonia
about 549-538 BC, and Isaiah 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), sums up the results of investigations
|(a) all of Isaiah 3; 5; 6; 7; 20 and 31, and large portions
of Isaiah 1; 2; 4; 8; 9; 10; 14; 17; 22 and 23, may be assigned to Isaiah, the
son of Amoz;
(b) all of Isaiah 13; 40 and 47, and large portions of Isaiah 14; 21; 41; 43;
44; 45; 46 and 48, may be assigned to the time of Cyrus;
(c) all of Isaiah 15; 36; 37 and 39, and portions of Isaiah 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 Isaiah 11; 12; 19; 24-27; 29; 30; 32-35; 42; 49-66; and portions of
Isaiah 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), makes the following critical observations on Isaiah 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 Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah 56-66 are
generally recognized as post-exilic. .... In Isaiah 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
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 Isaiah 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
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" (Isaiah 8:16); that is, preserve my
teachings for the future. Again in Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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, Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah
14:26 and elsewhere quite transcends Isaiah's range of thought.
(d) To others still, the apocalyptic character of Isaiah 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 Isaiah 12, and the references to a "return" from captivity, as in Isaiah
11:11 - 16, and the promises and consolations such as are found in Isaiah 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 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23 as external
evidence that Isaiah 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 2 Chronicles 36:21, which Jeremiah actually did predict (compare Jeremiah
25:11; 29:10). On the other hand, Isaiah 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; compare Isaiah 40:1). Furthermore, there is absolutely no proof that Isaiah
1 - 39, or Isaiah 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 Isaiah 1 - 39, and 13 times
in Isaiah 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 2 Kings 19:22; Psalms 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jeremiah 50:29;
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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Deuteronomy 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,"
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
(Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 16:l4), and that within
a year all the glory of Kedar should fail (Isaiah 21:16).
(iii) And not long prior to the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC, he
predicted that in an instant, suddenly, a multitude of Jerusalem's foes should
be as dust (Isaiah 29:5); that yet a very little while and Lebanon should be turned
into a fruitful field (Isaiah 29:17); and that Assyria should be dismayed and
fall by the sword, but not of men (Isaiah 30:17, 31; 31:8). And more, that for
days beyond a year, the careless women of Jerusalem should be troubled (Isaiah
32:10, 16 - 20); and that the righteous in Zion should see Jerusalem a quiet habitation,
and return and come with singing (Isaiah 33:17; 35:4,10); but that Sennacherib,
on the contrary, should hear tidings and return without shooting an arrow into
the city (Isaiah 37:7, 26 - 29, 33 - 35).
In like manner, also, after the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC was
over, the prophet seems to have continued to predict; and, in order to demonstrate
to the suffering and unbelieving remnant about him the deity of Yahweh and the
folly of idolatry, pointed to the predictions which he had already made in the
earlier years of his ministry, and to the fact that they had been fulfilled. Thus,
he says, "Who hath declared it from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime,
that we may say, He is right?" (Isaiah 41:21-23,16); "Behold, the former things
are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell
you of them" (Isaiah 42:9,23); "Who among them can declare this, and show us former
things (i.e. things to come in the immediate future)? .... I have declared, and
I have saved, and I have showed" (Isaiah 43:9,12); "Who, as I, shall call, and
shall declare it ....? And the things that are coming, and that shall come to
pass, let them (the idols) declare. .... Have I not declared unto thee of old,
and showed it? And ye are my witnesses. .... That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd,
and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built;
and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah 44:7,8,27,28); "It is
I, Yahweh, who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel. .... I have called
thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. .... Ask
me of the things that are to come. .... I have raised him (Cyrus) up in righteousness,
and .... he shall build my city, and he shall let my exiles go free" (45:3,4,11,13);
"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are
not yet done; .... calling a ravenous bird (Cyrus) from the east, the man of my
counsel from a far country; yea, I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass"
(Isaiah 46:10,11); "I have declared the former things from of old, .... and I
showed them: suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. .... I have declared
it .... from of old; before it came to pass I showed it thee; lest thou shouldest
say, Mine idol hath done them" (Isaiah 48:3,5); "I have showed thee new things
from this 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" (Isaiah
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 Isaiah 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,
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 Isaiah 40 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 (Isaiah
6), of which Delitzsch remarks that it is "like a prediction in the process of
being fulfilled." The same is true of Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Deuteronomy 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 (1 Kings 13:2; compare 2 Kings 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 Isaiah 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 Amos 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 Isaiah 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
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, Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 40-62" in Harper Memorial Volume.
George L. Robinson
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of isaiah, define, desolation of israel, fall of judah, immanuel, isaiah, jerusalem, judgment, oracle, prophet, redemption, salvation by faith, woe