The son of Amoz, (not Amos,) one of the most distinguished of the Hebrew prophets. He began to prophesy at Jerusalem towards the close of the reign of Uzziah, about the year 759 B. C., and exercised the prophetical office some sixty years, under the three following monarchs, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Isaiah 1:1. Compare 2 Kings 15:1-20:21 2 Chronicles 26:1-32:33. The first twelve chapters of his prophecies refer to the kingdom of Judah; then Isaiah 13:1-23:18, directed against foreign nations, except Isaiah 22:1-23, against Jerusalem. In Isaiah 24:1-35:10, which would seem to belong to the time of Hezekiah, the prophet appears to look forward in prophetic vision to the times of the exile and of the Messiah. Isaiah 36:1-39:8 gives a historical account to Sennacherib’s invasion, and of the advice given by Isaiah to Hezekiah. This account is parallel to that in 2 Kings 18:13-20:19; and indeed Isaiah 37:1-38 is almost word for word with 2 Kings 19:1-37. The remainder of the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 40:1-66:24, contains a series of oracles referring to the future times of temporal exile and deliverance, and expanding into glorious views of the spiritual deliverance to be wrought by the Messiah.
Isaiah seems to have lived and prophesied wholly at Jerusalem; and disappears from history after the accounts contained in Isaiah 39:1-8. A tradition among the Talmudist and fathers relates that he was sawn asunder during the reign of Manasseh, Hebrews 11:37; and this tradition is embodied in an apocrtphal book, called the "ascension of Isaiah;" but it seems to rest on no certain grounds.
Some commentators have proposed to divide the book of Isaiah chronologically into three parts, as if composed under the three kings, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. But this is of very doubtful propriety; since several of the chapters are evidently transposed and inserted out of their chronological order. But a very obvious and striking division of the book into two parts exists; the first part, including Isaiah 1:1-39:8, and the second, the remainder of the book, Isaiah 40:1-66:24.
The first part is made up of those prophecies and historical accounts which Isaiah wrote during the period of his active exertions, when he mingled in the public concerns of the rulers and the people, and acted as the messenger of God to the nation in reference to their internal and external existing relations. These are single prophecies, published at different times, and on different occasions; afterwards, indeed, brought together into one collection, but still marked as distinct and single, either by the superscriptions, or in some other obvious and known method.
The second part, on the contrary, is occupied wholly with the future. It was apparently written in the later years of the prophet, when, having left all active exertions in the theocracy to his younger associates in the prophetical office, he transferred his contemplations for the present to that which was to come. In this part therefore, which was not, like the first, occasioned by external circumstance, it is not so easy to distinguish in like manner between the different single prophecies. The whole is more like a single gush of prophecy. The prophet first consoles his people by announcing their deliverance from the approaching Babylonish exile, which he had himself predicted, Isaiah 39:6,7; he names the monarch whom Jehovah will send to punish the insolence of their oppressors, and lead back the people to their home. But he does not stop at this inferior deliverance. With the prospect of freedom from the Babylonish exile, he connects the prospect of deliverance from sin and error through the Messiah. Sometimes both objects seem closely interwoven with each other; sometimes one of them appears alone with particular clearness and prominency. Especially is the view of the prophet sometimes so exclusively directed upon the latter object, that, filled with the contemplation of the glory of the spiritual kingdom of God and of its exalted Founder, he loses sight for a time of the less distant future. In the description of this spiritual deliverance also, the relations of time are not observed. Sometimes the prophet beholds the Author of this deliverance in his humiliation and sorrows; and again, the remotest ages of the Messiah’s kingdom present themselves to his enraptured vision-when man, so long estranged from God, will have again returned to him; when every thing opposed to God shall have been destroyed, and internal and external peace universally prevail; and when all the evil introduced by sin into the world, will be for ever done away. Elevated above all space and time, the prophet contemplates from the height on which the Holy Spirit has thus placed him, the whole development of the Messiah’s kingdom, from its smallest beginnings to its glorious completion.
Isaiah is appropriately named "the evangelical prophet," and the fathers called his book "the Gospel according to St. Isaiah." In it the wonderful person and birth of "Emmanuel-God with us," his beneficent life, his atoning death, and his triumphant and everlasting kingdom, are minutely foretold, Isaiah 7:14-16 9:6-7 11:1-10 32:1-20 42:1-25 49:1-26 52:13-15 53:1-12 60:1-21 61:1-3. The simplicity, purity, sweetness, and sublimity of Isaiah, and the fullness of his predictions respecting the Messiah, give him the preeminence among the Hebrew prophets and poets.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'ISAIAH'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".