International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
2. Personal History
4. Literary Genius and Style
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom
7. Analysis and Contents
8. Isaiah's Prophecies Chronologically Arranged
9. The Critical Problem
(1) The History of Criticism
(2) The Disintegration of "Deutero-Isaiah"
(3) Recent Views
(4) The Present State of the Question
(5) Reasons for Dissecting the Book
(6) Arguments for One Isaiah
(a) The Circle of Ideas
(b) The Literary Style
(c) Historical References
(d) The Predictire Element
(e) Cyrus a Subject of Prediction
Of all Israel's celebrated prophets, Isaiah is the king. The writings which bear his name are among the profoundest in all literature. One great theme-salvation by faith-stamps them all. Isaiah is the Paul of the Old Testament.
In Hebrew yesha`yahu, and yesha`yah; Greek Esaias; Latin Esaias and Isaias. His name was symbolic of his message. Like "Joshua," it means "Yahweh saves," or "Yahweh is salvation," or "salvation of Yahweh."
2. Personal History:
Isaiah was the son of Amoz (not Amos). He seems to have belonged to a family of some rank, as may be inferred from his easy access to the king (Isaiah 7:3), and his close intimacy with the priest (Isaiah 8:2). Tradition says he was the cousin of King Uzziah. He lived in Jerusalem and became court preacher. He was married and had two sons: Shear-jashub, his name signifying "a remnant shall return" (Isaiah 7:3), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "hasting to the spoil, hurrying to the prey," symbolic of Assyria's mad lust of conquest (Isaiah 8:3). Jewish tradition, based upon a false interpretation of Isaiah 7:14, declares he was twice married.
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah, apparently while worshipping in the temple, received a call to the prophetic office (Isaiah 6). He responded with noteworthy alacrity, and accepted his commission, though he knew from the outset that his task was to be one of fruitless warning and exhortation (6:9-13). Having been reared in Jerusalem, he was well fitted to become the political and religious counselor of the nation, but the experience which prepared him most for his important work was the vision of the majestic and thrice-holy God which he saw in the temple in the death-year of King Uzziah. There is no good reason for doubting that this was his inaugural vision, though some regard it as a vision which came to him after years of experience in preaching and as intended to deepen his spirituality. While this is the only explicit "vision" Isaiah saw, yet his entire book, from first to last, is, as the title (11) suggests, a "vision." His horizon, both political and spiritual, was practically unbounded. In a very true sense, as Delitzsch says, he was "the universal prophet of Israel."
4. Literary Genius and Style:
For versatility of expression and brilliancy of imagery Isaiah had no superior, not even a rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary article Both his periods and Genius and descriptions are most finished and sublime. He is a perfect artist in words. Beauty and strength are characteristic of his entire book. Epigrams and metaphors, particularly of flood, storm and sound (1:13; 5:18, 22; 8:08; 10:22; 28:17, 20; 30:28, 30), interrogation and dialogue (6:8; 10:8, 9), antithesis and alliteration (1:18; 3:24; 17:10, 12), hyperbole and parable (2:7; 5:1-7; 28:23-29), even paranomasia, or play upon words (5:7; 7:9), characterize Isaiah's book as the great masterpiece of Hebrew literature. He is also famous for his richness of vocabulary and synonyms. For example, Ezekiel uses 1,535 words; Jeremiah, 1,653; the Psalmists 2,170; while Isaiah uses 2,186. Isaiah was also an orator: Jerome likened him to Demosthenes; and a poet: he frequently elaborates his messages in rhythmic or poetic style (12:1-6; 25:1-5; 26:1-12; 38:10-20; 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; 60-62; 66:5-24); and in several instances slips into elegiac rhythm, e.g. in 37:22-29 there is a fine taunting poem on Sennacherib, and in 14:4-23 another on the king of Babylon. As Driver observes, "Isaiah's poetical genius is superb."
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom:
Nothing definite or historical is known concerning the prophet's end. Toward the close of the 2nd century A.D., however, there was a tradition to the effect that he suffered martyrdom in the heathen reaction which occurred under King Manasseh, because of certain speeches concerning God and the Holy City which his contemporaries alleged were contrary to the law. Indeed the Jewish Mishna explicitly states that Manasseh slew him. Justin Martyr also (150 A.D.), in his controversial dialogue with the Jew Trypho, reproaches the Jews with this accusation, "whom ye sawed asunder with a wooden saw"; this tradition is further confirmed by a Jewish Apocalypse of the 2nd century A.D., entitled, The Ascension of Isaiah, and by Epiphanius in his so-called Lives of the Prophets. It is barely possible that there is an allusion to his martyrdom in Hebrews 11:37, which reads, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder," but this is by no means certain. In any case Isaiah probably survived the great catastrophe of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 B.C., and possibly also the death of Hezekiah in 699 B.C.; for in 2 Chronicles 32:32 it is stated that Isaiah wrote a biography of King Hezekiah. If so, his prophetic activity extended over a period of more than 40 years. Dr. G. A. Smith extends it to "more than 50" (Jerusalem, II, 180; compare Whitehouse, "Isaiah," New Century Bible, I, 72).
According to the title of his book (11), Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. He dates his inaugural vision (6:1) in Uzziah's death-year, which was approximately 740 B.C. This marks, therefore, the beginning of his prophetic ministry. And we know that he was still active as late as the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. Hence, the minimum period of his activity as a prophet was from 740 to 701 B.C. As a young man Isaiah witnessed the rapid development of Judah into a strong commercial and military state; for under Uzziah Judah attained a degree of prosperity and strength never before enjoyed since the days of Solomon. Walls, towers, fortifications, a large standing army, a port for commerce on the Red Sea, increased inland trade, tribute from the Ammonites, success in war with the Philistines and the Arabians-all these became Judah's during Uzziah's long and prosperous reign of 52 years. But along with power and wealth came also avarice, oppression, religious formality and corruption. The temple revenues indeed were greatly increased, but religion and life were too frequently dissociated; the nation's progress was altogether material. During the reign of Jotham (740-736 B.C.), who for several years was probably associated with his father as co-regent, a new power began to appear over the eastern horizon. The Assyrians, with whom Ahab had come in contact at the battle of Karkar in 854 B.C., and to whom Jehu had paid tribute in 842 B.C., began to manifest anew their characteristic lust of conquest. Tiglathpileser III, who is called "Pul" in 2 Kings 15:19 and reigned over Assyria from 745 to 727 B.C., turned his attention westward, and in 738 B.C. reduced Arpad, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath and Damascus, causing them to pay tribute. His presence in the West led Pekah, king of North Israel, and Rezin, king of Damascus, to form an alliance in order to resist further encroachment on the part of Assyria. When Ahaz refused to join their confederacy they resolved to dethrone him and set in his stead the son of Tabeel upon the throne of David (2 Kings 16:5 Isaiah 7:6). The struggle which ensued is commonly known as the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734 B.C.)-one of the great events in Isaiah's period. Ahaz in panic sent to Tiglath-pileser for help (2 Kings 16:7), who of course responded with alacrity. The result was that the great Assyrian warrior sacked Gaza and carried all of Galilee and Gilead into captivity (734) and finally took Damascus (732 B.C.). Ahaz was forced to pay dearly for his protection and Judah was brought very low (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:7-9 2 Chronicles 28:19 Isaiah 7:1). The religious as well as the political effect of Ahaz' policy was decidedly baneful. To please Tiglath-pileser, Ahaz went to Damascus to join in the celebration of his victories, and while there saw a Syrian altar, a pattern of which he sent to Jerusalem and had a copy set up in the temple in place of the brazen altar of Solomon. Thus Ahaz, with all the influence of a king, introduced idolatry into Jerusalem, even causing his sons to pass through the fire (2 Kings 16:10-16 2 Chronicles 28:3).
Hezekiah succeeded Ahaz, beginning to rule at the age of 25 and reigning 29 years (727-699 B.C.). Isaiah was at least 15 years his senior. The young king inherited from his father a heavy burden. The splendor of Uzziah's and Jotham's reigns was rapidly fading before the ever-menacing and avaricious Assyrians. Hezekiah began his reign with reformation. "He removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the Asherah" (2 Kings 18:4, 22). He even invited the surviving remnant of North Israel to join in celebrating the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1). But Israel's end was drawing near. Hoshea, the vacillating puppet-king of North Israel (730-722 B.C.), encouraged by Egypt, refused longer to pay Assyria his annual tribute (2 Kings 17:4); whereupon Shalmaneser IV, who had succeeded Tiglath-pileser, promptly appeared before the gates of Samaria in 724 B.C., and for 3 weary years besieged the city (2 Kings 17:5). Finally, the city was captured by Sargon II, who succeeded Shalmaneser IV in 722 B.C., and 27,292 of Israel's choicest people (according to Sargon's own description) were deported to Assyria, and colonists were brought from Babylon and other adjacent districts and placed in the cities of Samaria (2 Kings 17:6, 24). Thus the kingdom of North Israel passed into oblivion, and Judah was left ever after quite exposed to the direct ravages, political and religious, of her Assyrio-Babylonian neighbors. In fact Judah herself barely escaped destruction by promising heavy tribute. This was the second great political crisis during Isaiah's ministry. Other crises were soon to follow. One was the desperate illness of King Hezekiah, who faced assured death in 714 B.C. Being childless, he was seriously concerned for the future of the Davidic dynasty. He resorted to prayer, however, and God graciously extended his life 15 years (2 Kings 20 Isaiah 38). His illness occurred during the period of Babylon's independence under Merodach-baladan, the ever-ambitious, irresistible and uncompromising enemy of Assyria, who for 12 years (721-709 B.C.) maintained independent supremacy over Babylon. Taking advantage of Hezekiah's wonderful cure, Merodach seized the opportunity of sending an embassy to Jerusalem to congratulate him on his recovery (712 B.C.), and at the same time probably sought to form an alliance with Judah to resist Assyrian supremacy (2 Kings 20:12 Isaiah 39). Nothing, however, came of the alliance, for the following year Sargon's army reappeared in Philistia in order to discipline Ashdod for conspiracy with the king of Egypt (711 B.C.). The greatest crisis was yet to come. Its story is as follows: Judah and her neighbors groaned more and more under the heavy exactions of Assyria. Accordingly, when Sargon was assassinated and Sennacherib came to the throne in 705 B.C., rebellion broke out on all sides. Merodach-baladan, who had been expelled by Sargon in 709 B.C., again took Babylon and held it for at least six months in 703 B.C. Hezekiah, who was encouraged by Egypt and all Philistia, except Padi of Ekron, the puppet-king of Sargon, refused longer to pay Assyria tribute (2 Kings 18:7). Meanwhile a strong pro-Egyptian party had sprung up in Jerusalem. In view of all these circumstances, Sennacherib in 701 B.C. marched westward with a vast army, sweeping everything before him. Tyre was invested though not taken; on the other hand, Joppa, Eltekeh, Ekron, Ashkelon, Ammon, Moab, and Edom all promptly yielded to his demands. Hezekiah was panic stricken and hastened to bring rich tribute, stripping even the temple and the palace of their treasures to do so (2 Kings 18:13-16). But Sennacherib was not satisfied. He overran Judah, capturing, as he tells us in his inscription, 46 walled towns and smaller villages without number, carrying 200,150 of Judah's population into captivity to Assyria, and demanding as tribute 800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, in all, over USD1,500,000; he took also, he claims, Hezekiah's daughters and palace women, seized his male and female singers, and carried away enormous spoil. But the end was not yet. Sennacherib himself, with the bulk of the army, halted in Philistia to reduce Lachish; thence he sent a strong detachment under his commander-in-chief, the Rabshakeh, to besiege Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17-19:8 Isaiah 36:2-37:8). As he describes this blockade in his own inscription: "I shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage." The Rabshakeh, however, failed to capture the city and returned to Sennacherib, who meanwhile had completely conquered Lachish, and was now warring against Libnab. A second expedition against Jerusalem was planned, but hearing that Tirhakah (at that time the commander-in-chief of Egypt's forces and only afterward "king of Ethiopia") was approaching, Sennacherib was forced to content himself with sending messengers with a letter to Hezekiah, demanding immediate surrender of the city (2 Kings 19:9 Isaiah 37:9). Hezekiah, however, through Isaiah's influence held out; and in due time, though Sennacherib disposed of Tirhakah's army without difficulty, his immense host in some mysterious way-by plague or otherwise-was suddenly smitten, and the great Assyrian conqueror was forced to return to Nineveh; possibly because Merodach-baladan had again appeared in Babylonia. Sennacherib never again returned to Palestine, so far as we know, during the subsequent 20 years of his reign, though he did make an independent expedition into North Arabia (691-689 B.C.). This invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. was the great political event in Isaiah's ministry. Had it not been for the prophet's statesmanship, Jerusalem might have capitulated. As it was, only a small, insignificantly small, remnant of Judah's population escaped. Isaiah had at this time been preaching 40 years. How much longer he labored is not known.
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;
(2) Isaiah 13-23, oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem;
(3) Isaiah 24-27, Yahweh's world-judgment in the redemption of Israel;
(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;
(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;
(6) Isaiah 40-66, prophecies of comfort and salvation, and also of the future glory awaiting Israel.
By examining in detail these several divisions we can trace better the prophet's thought. Thus, 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 (1:2-9), formalism in worship (1:10-17), pardon (1:18-23) and judgment (1:24-31). Isaiah 2-4 contain three distinct pictures of Zion:
(a) her exaltation (2:2-4),
(b) her present idolatry (2:5-4:1), and (c) her eventual purification (4:2-6).
Isaiah 5 contains an arraignment of Judah and Jerusalem, composed of three parts:
(a) a parable of Yahweh's vineyard (5:1-7);
(b) a series of six woes pronounced against insatiable greed (5:8-10), dissipation (5:11-17), daring defiance against Yahweh (5:18, 19), confusion of moral distinctions (5:20), political self-conceit (5:21), and misdirected heroism (5:22, 23); and
(c) an announcement of imminent judgment. The Assyrian is on the way and there will be no escape (5:24-30). 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 (6:5). Plainly Isaiah tells them that Judah's sins are well-nigh hopeless. They are becoming spiritually insensible. They have eyes but they cannot see. Only judgment can, avail: "the righteous judgment of a forgotten God" awaits them. A "holy seed," however, still existed in Israel's stock (6:13).
Coming to Isaiah 7-12, Isaiah appears in the role of a practical statesman. He warns Ahaz against political entanglements with Assyria. The section 7:1-9:7 is a prophecy of Immanuel, history and prediction being intermingled.
They describe the Syro-Ephraimitic uprising in 736 B.C., when Pekah of North Israel and Rezin of Damascus, in attempting to defend themselves against the Assyrians, demanded that Ahaz of Jerusalem should become their ally. But Ahaz preferred the friendship of Assyria, and refused to enter into alliance with them. And in order to defend himself, he applied to Assyria for assistance, sending ambassadors with many precious treasures, both royal and sacred, to bribe Tiglath-pileser. It was at this juncture that Isaiah, at Yahweh's bidding, expostulates with Ahaz concerning the fatal step he is about to take, and as a practical statesman warns Ahaz, "the king of No-Faith," that the only path of safety lies in loyalty to Yahweh and keeping clear of foreign alliances; that "God is with us" for salvation; and that no "conspiracy" can possibly be successful unless God too is against us. When, however, the prophet's message of promise and salvation finds no welcome, he commits it to his disciples, bound up and sealed for future use; assuring his hearers that unto them a child is born and unto them a son is given, in whose day the empire of David will be established upon a basis of justice and righteousness. The Messianic scion is the ground of the prophet's hope; which hope, though unprecedented, he thus early in his ministry commits, written and sealed, to his inner circle of "disciples."
See, further, IMMANUEL.
The section Isaiah 9:8-10:4 contains an announcement to North Israel of accumulated wrath and impending ruin, with a refrain (9:12, 17, 21; 10:4). Here, in an artistic poem composed of four strophes, the prophet describes the great calamities which Yahweh has sent down upon North Israel but which have gone unheeded: foreign invasion (9:8-12), defeat in battle (9:13-17), anarchy (9:18-21), and impending captivity (10:1-4). Yet Yahweh's judgments have gone unheeded: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." Divine discipline has failed; only judgment remains.
In 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 (11:1-10). A second great exodus will take place, for the Lord will set His hand again "the second time" to recover the remnant of His people "from the four corners of the earth" (11:11, 12). In that day, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (11:13). On the contrary, the reunited nation, redeemed and occupying their rightful territory (11:14-16), shall sing a hymn of thanksgiving, proclaiming the salvation of Yahweh to all the earth (Isaiah 12).
Isaiah 13-23 contain oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem. They are grouped together by the editor, as similar foreign oracles are in 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 (21:1-10) describes the city's fall as imminent. Both oracles stand or fall together as genuine prophecies of Isaiah. Both seem to have been written in Jerusalem (13:2; 21:9, 10). It cannot be said that either is absolutely unrelated in thought and language to Isaiah's age (14:13; 21:2); each foretells the doom to fall on Babylon (13:19; 21:9) at the hands of the Medes (13:17; 21:2); and each describes the Israelites as already in exile-but not necessarily all Israel.
The section 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 (16:13, 14). The three points of particular interest in the oracle are:
(1) the prophet's tender sympathy for Moab in her affliction (15:5; 16:11). Isaiah mingles his own tears with those of the Moabites. As Delitzsch says, "There is no prophecy in the Book of Isaiah in which the heart of the prophet is so painfully moved by what his spirit beholds and his mouth must prophecy."
(2) Moab's pathetic appeal for shelter from her foes; particularly the ground on which she urges it, namely, the Messianic hope that the Davidic dynasty shall always stand and be able to repulse its foes (16:5). The prophecy is an echo of 9:5-7.
(3) The promise that a remnant of Moab, though small, shall be saved (16:14). Wearied of prayer to Chemosh in his high places, the prophet predicts that Moab will seek the living God (16:12).
The passage 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 B.C., with a promise that only a scanty remnant will survive (17:6). In 17:12-14, the prophet boldly announces the complete annihilation of Judah's unnamed foes-the Assyrians.
Isaiah 18 describes Ethiopia as in great excitement, sending ambassadors hither and thither-possibly all the way to Jerusalem-ostensibly seeking aid in making preparations for war. Assyria had already taken Damascus (732 B.C.) and Samaria (722 B.C.), 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 B.C.), they will bring a present to Yahweh to His abode in Mount Zion.
Isaiah 19, which is an oracle concerning Egypt, contains both a threat (19:1-17) and a promise (19:18-25), and is one of Isaiah's most remarkable foreign messages. Egypt is smitten and thereby led to abandon her idols for the worship of Yahweh (19:19-22). Still more remarkable, it is prophesied that in that day Egypt and Assyria will join with Judah in a triple alliance of common worship to Yahweh and of blessing to others (19:23-25). Isaiah's missionary outlook here is wonderful!
Isaiah 20 describes Sargon's march against Egypt and Ethiopia, containing a brief symbolic prediction of Assyria's victory over Egypt and Ethiopia. By donning a captive's garb for three years, Isaiah attempts to teach the citizens of Jerusalem that the siege of Ashdod was but a means to an end in Sargon's plan of campaign, and that it was sheer folly for the Egyptian party in Jerusalem, who were ever urging reliance upon Egypt, to look in that direction for help. Isaiah 21:11, 12 is a brief oracle concerning Seir or Edom, "the only gentle utterance in the Old Testament upon Israel's hereditary foe." Edom is in great anxiety. The prophet's answer is disappointing, though its tone is sympathetic. Isaiah 21:13 is a brief oracle concerning Arabia. It contains a sympathetic appeal to the Temanites to give bread and water to the caravans of Dedan, who have been driven by war from their usual route of travel.
Isaiah 22 is concerning the foreign temper within theocracy. It is composed of two parts:
(1) an oracle "of the valley of vision," i.e. Jerusalem (22:1-14); and
(2) a philippic against Shebna, the comptroller of the palace. Isaiah pauses, as it were, in his series of warnings to foreign nations to rebuke the foreign temper of the frivolous inhabitants of Jerusalem, and in particular Shebna, a high official in the government.
The reckless and God-ignoring citizens of the capital are pictured as indulging themselves in hilarious eating and drinking, when the enemy is at that very moment standing before the gates of the city. Shebna, on the other hand, seems to have been an ostentatious foreigner, perhaps a Syrian by birth, quite possibly one of the Egyptian party, whose policy was antagonistic to that of Isaiah and the king. Isaiah's prediction of Shebna's fall was evidently fulfilled (36:3; 37:2).
Isaiah 23 is concerning Tyre. In this oracle Isaiah predicts that Tyre shall be laid waste (23:1), her commercial glory humbled (23:9), her colonies become independent of her (23:10), and she herself forgotten for "seventy years" (23:15); but "after the end of seventy years," her trade will revive, her business prosperity will return, and she will dedicate her gains in merchandise as holy to Yahweh (23:18).
The third great section of the Book of Isaiah embraces 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 15:5; 16:11, and sum up as in one grand finale the prophet's oracles to Israel's neighbors. For religious importance they stand second to none in the Book of Isaiah, teaching the necessity of Divine discipline and the glorious redemption awaiting the faithful in Israel. They are a spiritual commentary on the great Assyrian crisis of the 8th century; they are messages of salvation intended, not for declamation, but for meditation, and were probably addressed more particularly to the prophet's inner circle of "disciples" (8:16). These chapters partake of the nature of apocalypse. Strictly speaking, however, they are prophecy, not apocalypse. No one ascends into heaven or talks with an angel, as in Daniel 7 and Re 4. They are apocalypse only in the sense that certain things are predicted as sure to come to pass. Isaiah was fond of this kind of prophecy. He frequently lifts his reader out of the sphere of mere history to paint pictures of the far-off, distant future (2:2-4; 4:2-6; 11:6-16; 30:27-33).
In 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 (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 2:2-4, come up to Jerusalem, to celebrate "a feast of fat things," rich and marrowy. While the people are present at the banquet, Yahweh graciously removes their spiritual blindness so that they behold Him as the true dispenser of life and grace. He also abolishes violent death, that is to say, war (compare 2:4) and its sad accompaniment, "tears," so that "the earth" (i.e. the land of Judah) is no longer the battlefield of the nations, but the blessed abode of the redeemed, living in peace and happiness. The prophet's aim is not political but religious.
In 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" (26:4 margin).
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ASCENSION OF ISAIAH
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
ISAIAH, ASCENSION OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.