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Book of Isaiah


Author and Date
Isaiah son of Amoz is often thought of as the greatest of the writing prophets. His name means "The Lord saves." He was a contemporary of Amos, Hosea and Micah, beginning his ministry in 740 b.c., the year King Uzziah died (see ). According to an unsubstantiated Jewish tradition (The Ascension of Isaiah), he was sawed in half during the reign of Manasseh (cf. ). Isaiah was married and had at least two sons, Shear-Jashub () and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (). He probably spent most of his life in Jerusalem, enjoying his greatest influence under King Hezekiah (see ). Isaiah is also credited with writing a history of the reign of King Uzziah ().

Many scholars today challenge the claim that Isaiah wrote the entire book that bears his name. Yet his is the only name attached to it (see ). The strongest argument for the unity of Isaiah is the expression "the Holy One of Israel," a title for God that occurs 12 times .

Most of the events referred to in chs. Isa 1 - Isa 39 occurred during Isaiah's ministry (see ), so these chapters may have been completed not long after 701 b.c., the year the Assyrian army was destroyed (). The prophet lived until at least 681 (see ) and may have written chs. Isa 40 - Isa 66 during his later years. In his message to the exiles of the sixth century b.c., Isaiah was projected into the future, just as Ezekiel .

Theological Theme and Message
Isaiah is a book that unveils the full dimensions of God's judgment and salvation. God is "the Holy One of Israel" (see ) who must punish his rebellious people () but will afterward redeem them (). Israel is a nation blind and deaf (), a vineyard that will be trampled (), a people devoid of justice or righteousness (). The awful judgment that will be unleashed upon Israel and all the nations that defy God is called "the day of the Lord." Although Israel has a foretaste of that day (), the nations bear its full power (see ). It is a day associated in the NT with Christ's second coming and the accompanying judgment (see ). Throughout the book, God's judgment is referred to as "fire" (). He is the "Sovereign Lord" (see ), far above all nations and rulers ().

Yet God will have compassion on his people () and will rescue them from both political and spiritual oppression. Their restoration is like a new exodus () as God redeems them (see ) and saves them (see ). Israel's mighty Creator () will make streams spring up in the desert () as he graciously leads them home. The theme of a highway for the return of exiles is a prominent one (see ) in both major parts of the book. The Lord raises a banner to summon the nations to bring Israel home ().

Peace and safety mark this new Messianic age (). A king descended from David will reign in righteousness (), and all nations will stream to the holy mountain of Jerusalem (). God's people will no longer be oppressed by wicked rulers (), and Jerusalem will truly be the "City of the Lord" ).

The Lord calls the Messianic King "my servant" in chs. 42-53, a term also applied to Israel as a nation (see ). It is through the suffering of the servant that salvation in its fullest sense is achieved. Cyrus was God's instrument to deliver Israel from Babylon (), but Christ delivered humankind from the prison of sin (). He became a "light for the Gentiles" (), so that those nations that faced judgment (chs. Isa 13 - Isa 23) could find salvation (). These Gentiles also became "servants of the Lord" ().

The Lord's kingdom on earth, with its righteous Ruler and his righteous subjects, is the goal toward which the book of Isaiah steadily moves. The restored earth and the restored people will then conform to the divine ideal, and all will result in the praise and glory of the Holy One of Israel for what he has accomplished.