|Isaiah - |
Yeshayahu or Isaiahuw (?), Hebrew "the salvation of Jehovah," his favorite expression, which means the same as the name "Jesus", who is the grand subject of his prophecies, and in whom in the New Testament the name Jehovah merges, being never found in Scripture after the Old Testament. The Yahu (or Jahu) in Yeshayahu shows that Yahweh (or Jahveh) is the more correct form than Jehovah. Son of Amoz (not Amos), a younger contemporary of Jonah, Amos, and Hosea in Israel, and of Micah in Judah. His call to the full exercise of the prophetic office (Isaiah 6:1) was in the same year that king Uzziah died, probably before his death, 754 B.C., the time of the building of Rome, Judah's destined scourge, whose kingdom was to stretch on to the Messianic times which form the grand subject of Isaiah's prophecies. Whatever prophecies were delivered by Isaiah previously were oral, and not recorded because not designed for all ages.
(1) Isaiah 1-6, are all that were written for the church universal of the prophecies of the first 20 years of his ministry. New epochs in the relations of the church to the world were fittingly marked by revelations to and through prophets. God had given Judah abundant prosperity during Uzziah's reign of 52 years, that His goodness might lead the people to loving obedience, just as in northern Israel He had restored prosperity daring the brilliant reign of Jeroboam II with the same gracious design. Israel was only hardened in pride by prosperity, so was soon given over to ruin. Isaiah comes forward at this point to warn Judah of a like danger. Moreover, in the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah Israel and Judah came into conflict with the Asiatic empires. (See AHAZ; HEZEKIAH.) The prophets were now needed to interpret Jehovah's dealings, that the people might recognize His righteous judgments as well as His merciful longsuffering.
(2) Isaiah 7 - Isaiah 10:4 relate to Ahaz' reign.
(3) Isaiah 10:5 - Isaiah 12 to the first 15 years of Hezekiah's reign probably.
(4) As also Isaiah 13-23 as to foreign nations.
(5) Isaiah 24-27 on the last times of the world, and of Judah, the representative and future head of the churches.
(6) Isaiah 28-33 concern Ephraim's overthrow, Judah's impious folly, the danger of the league with Egypt, their straits and deliverance from Assyria; Isaiah 28 before the sixth year of Hezekiah, when Israel fell; the rest before his 14th year of reign.
(7) Isaiah 34-35, denounce God's judgments against His people's enemies of whom Edom is representative, and the blessed state that shall follow.
(8) The historical section (Isaiah 36-39) as to Sennacherib, Assyria, and Babylon, forms the fitting appendix to the prophecies concerning Assyria mainly, and the preface to the latter portion of the book, concerning the deliverance from Babylon. Isaiah's generation had before their eyes the historical fact of the Assyrian invasion, and the extraordinary deliverance from it, as recorded by Isaiah. The prophet further announced to Hezekiah that all his treasures which he had ostentatiously shown to the Babylonian ambassadors should be carried off to that very land, and his descendants be made eunuchs in the Babylonian king's palace, the world on which Judah rested instead of on God being made her scourger. Fittingly, then followed the cheering prophecy, "Comfort ye My people," etc. Ages should elapse before the realization of this comforting assurance of deliverance.
The history of the deliverance from Assyria, accomplished according to the previous prophecy, was the pledge that the far off deliverance from Babylon also, because foretold, would surely come to pass. Thus, the historical section, midway between the earlier and later parts of Isaiah's book, forms the connecting link spiritually and historically between the two; it closes the one epoch, and introduces the other, so combining all Isaiah's prophecies in one unity. The fulfillment of his past prophecies constituted the prophet's credentials to the unborn generation on which the Babylonian captivity should fall, that they might securely trust his word. foretelling the future deliverance by Cyrus. "It is incredible that the latter chapters, if not Isaiah's but of a later date, should have been tacked on to his existing prophecies with the interval of the four historical chapters: thrown in as a connecting link to complete the unity of his alleged writings as a whole" (Stanley Leathes).
The "comfort" applies mainly to ages subsequent to his own; this accords with the principle stated 1 Peter 1:10-1; 1 Peter 1:9; 2 Peter 1:20-21. But it also applied to his own and all ages before Christ's consummated kingdom. For the law of prophetical suggestion carried him on to the greater deliverance from the spiritual Babylon and the God-opposed world power and Satan, by Cyrus' Antitype, Messiah, the Saviour of the present elect church gathered from Jews and Gentiles, and the Restorer of Israel and Head of the worldwide kingdom yet to come.
Even in the former part Babylon's downfall through Elamite and Persian assailants is twice foretold (Isaiah 13 and Isaiah 21). The mellowness of tone in the second part implies that it was the ripe fruit of his old age, some time after the beginning of Hezekiah's last 15 years. He is no longer the godly politician taking part in public life in vindication of the truth, but is far away in the spirit amidst the Babylonian exiles whom he cheers. More contemplative and ideal in this part, he soars aloft in glorious visions of the future, no longer tied down to the existing political circumstances of his people, as in the former part.
The threefold theme of this latter part is stated at the outset (Isaiah 40:2):
(1) Jerusalem's warfare is accomplished;
(2) her iniquity is pardoned;
(3) she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The divisions are marked by the ending twice the "salvation" foretold is not for the unfaithful, but for the believing and waiting true Israelites; for, "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
(9) Isaiah 40 - Isaiah 48:22;
(10) Isaiah 49-57;
(11) Isaiah 58-66, which exchanges the previous refrain for the awful one that with moving pathos describes the apostates' final doom, "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh!"
The first of the three concerns the outward deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus. The second, Messiah's advent prefigured by Cyrus. The third, the coming glory of God's kingdom on earth, along with judgments on the ungodly. The contemporary Micah (Micah 4:8-10) foretells the same exile in Babylon and the return from it, so that it is no objection to the genuineness of Isaiah 40-66, that herein Isaiah passes from Assyria to the restoration from Babylon much more than a century later.
Moses' general prophecy (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64) had assumed more definiteness in Ahijah's specification of the direction of the exile, "beyond the river," in Jeroboam's time 1 Kings 14:15), and Amos 5:27, "beyond Damascus"; and now the place is defined, Babylon. Moreover, Isaiah's reproof of the prevailing neglect of the temple worship, and his allusion to the slaying of children in the valleys (Isaiah 57:5), and mention of Hephzibah (Hezekiah's wife) in Isaiah 62:4, all accord with the times of Isaiah. The former part ends with the Babylonian exile (Isaiah 39:6); the latter part begins with the deliverance from it, to remove the deep gloom which the prophecy of the captivity caused to all who looked for redemption in Israel. Isaiah 40-66, has no heading of its own, which is accounted for best by its connection with the previous part, bringing it under the same heading, Isaiah 1:1.
The whole book falls into the sacred seven divisions:
(1) Isaiah 1-12;
(2) Isaiah 13-27, the burdens and their sequel;
(3) Isaiah 28-35;
(4) Isaiah 36-39; and
(5-7) the three divisions (a sacred ternary) of Isaiah 40-66. The former part itself also, before the historic, may be divided into seven; see above.
The return of the Lord's ransomed with everlasting joy in the last chapter of the former part (Isaiah 35:10) is the starting point of and the text expanded in the latter part; compare Isaiah 51:11. Josephus (Ant. 11:1, section 1-2) says that Cyrus was indued by Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 44:38; Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:13) to help the Jews to return and rebuild their temple. Ezra 1 confirms this. Cyrus in his edict refers to the prophecies of the latter portion, which assign him the kingdoms from Jehovah and the duty of rebuilding His temple. Probably he adopted from them his historical name Cyrus (Koresh). Subsequent prophets imitate the latter portion (Jeremiah 1:34, compare Isaiah 47:4; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:45 with Isaiah 48:20). "The Holy One of Israel" is a characteristic phrase in the latter as in the former parts, and occurs but three times elsewhere in Old Testament. It marks God's holy faithfulness to His covenanted promises. Jeremiah borrows it.
Luke (Luke 4:17) quotes Isaiah 61 as Isaiah's, the passage read by Jesus Christ in the Nazareth synagogue. The definiteness of the prophecies makes it impossible that they were shrewd political guesses from probabilities. Thus Isaiah foretells Judah's deliverance from the Assyrian invasion, not by Egyptian aid (the only seeming possible deliverer), but by the Lord directly. On the other hand Isaiah announces the captivity in Babylon when as yet it was but a secondrate power and moreover in alliance with Judah, and further the return of the exiles. Eichhorn admits that they are not vague poetical fancies, but "veiled historical descriptions." Blunt (Undesigned Coincidences) notices the absence of such allusions as one in the Babylonian captivity would have made and the presence of allusions to idolatry which had almost no place in Judah after the captivity.
This and such allusions as that to the stopping of the water fountains outside the city, the display of Hezekiah's treasure, all accord with Isaiah's prophesying under Hezekiah. Isaiah 53 minutely depicts Messiah's sufferings ages before the event, as Jews, unwilling witnesses, admit, while evading the acceptance of Jesus by various makeshifts. Its testimony convinced the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) and must convince all who seek the truth. Israel in the Babylonian exile, suffering as God's representative amidst pagan conquerors, is viewed as "the servant of Jehovah"; but as the mass of Jews were suffering for their sins the idea of "servant of Jehovah" limited itself to the elect, the holy seed of Israel's future. Then in the fullest sense Israel, the "elect servant of Jehovah," becomes concentrated in MESSIAH, the innocent sufferer atoning for the guilty, the seed of an everlasting and holy generation (Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 44:1; Isaiah 49:3-25; Isaiah 49:52; Isaiah 49:53).
Messiah appears as Prophet (Isaiah 42:4), as Priest (Isaiah 53), as King (Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 52:15). His sufferings are the appointed path to His glory (Isaiah 53:11-12). They are borne as a vicarious penalty for us: "the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; ... the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4-6). The mystical union of Messiah the Head and the members is implied in His being called "Israel," just as the New Testament church is called "Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 16:7). He is the top-most "Branch" of which Israel is the body of the tree. He is also "the Root of David" as well as the "rod out of the stem of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1; Revelation 22:16), "a tender plant, a root out of a dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2). Prophecy is not soothsaying at random. It rests on law, and that law the character of God.
Having deep insight into the eternal principles on which God governs the world, that sin entails judgment but that God's covenant mercy to His people is unchangeable, the prophets speak accordingly. Babylon was then under Assyria. It had revolted unsuccessfully, but the elements of its subsequent greatness were existing. The Holy Spirit enlightened Isaiah's natural powers to foresee its rise and his spiritual faculties to foresee its fall, the sure result, in God's ways, of the pride which pagan success generates; also Judah's restoration as the covenant people with whom God according to His immutable faithfulness would not be wroth forever. Isaiah's politics consisted in insisting on conversion as the only remedy for the nation's disorders. Rebuke, threatening, invitation, and promise succeed in regular order. The fundamental idea is in Isaiah 26:7-9; compare Leviticus 10:3; Amos 3:2.
His wife is called "the prophetess," and must therefore have had the prophetic gifts. His children "were for signs." (See IMMANUEL.) Shearjashub, "the remnant shall return," and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "speeding to the spoil he hasteth to the prey," intimate the two chief points of his prophecies, Jehovah's judgments on the world yet His mercy to the elect. Isaiah's garment of sackcloth was a silent preaching by action, he embodied the repentance he taught. History as written by the prophets is retroverted prophecy. Spiritual insight into the past, inspired by God, implies insight into the future and vice verse. Hence the Old Testament histories (1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings) were written by contemporary prophets, Samuel, Nathan, Iddo, Isaiah, etc., and are classed with the prophetic books. The Chronicles are not classed so, and therefore can hardly be their composition, but probably Ezra's, gathered from the public records and historical monographs of the prophets (as Isaiah's life of Uzziah and of Hezekiah: 2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:32). frontCHRONICLES.)
The historical books from Joshua onwards and the prophetic books from Isaiah form a bipartite whole of prophetic writings called "the prophets"; for the history of the past in the former part is as prophetic as the history of the future in the latter part. His ministry was exercised at Jerusalem. "The valley of vision" (Isaiah 22:1) may imply that it was in "the lower city" he resided and saw visions, though "valley" may refer to Jersalem generally, surrounded by hills higher than Zion and Moriah. The Talmud, from an old genealogical roll found in Jerusalem, and from the Palestinian Targum on 2 Kings 21:16, states that king Manasseh "sawed Isaiah asunder" with a wooden saw, to which the allusion may be in Hebrews 11:37. Isaiah 1:1 shows that none of the collection of prophecies of which that is the heading were written under Manasseh. They were collected by Isaiah himself in the close of Hezekiah's reign.
Then at the beginning of Manasseh's reign Isaiah fell a victim to the persecuting idolatry which superseded Jehovah's worship. The pretext was that Isaiah had said he had seen Jehovah (Isaiah 6), in opposition to Exodus 33:20. This agrees with 2 Kings 21:16, "Manasseh shed innocent blood very much." That Isaiah served Hezekiah appears implied in 2 Chronicles 32:32. The chronological arrangement favors the view that Isaiah himself collected his prophecies into one volume. Excepting a few of similar contents grouped together, the several portions are placed according to their dates. The former part ending with the historical section was more for the public in general; the latter part is his prophetic legacy to the faithful few, analogous to Moses' last speech and our Lord's closing discourses to His chosen disciples. The Messianic hopes in Isaiah are so vivid that Jerome (Ad Paulinum) calls his book not a prophecy but the "Gospel," "he is not so much a prophet as an evangelist."
The "Shiloh" ("tranquilizer") of Genesis 49:10 appears in Isaiah as "the Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6). He is represented as "King" in Psalm 2, Psalm 45, Psalm 72, Psalm 110. Isaiah develops most His priestly and prophetic offices; Psalm 110. His royal priesthood, Isaiah His suffering priesthood; this last, especially in the latter portion, addressed to the faithful elect, whereas in the former part, addressed to the whole people, he dwells on Messiah's glory, the antidote to the fears of the people and the pledge to assure them that the kingdom of God, represented by Judah, would not be overwhelmed by Syria, Israel, and Assyria; so that they should trust wholly in Him and not in Egypt. His style is simple and sublime, intermediate between the lowly tenderness of Jeremiah and the bold exuberance of Ezekiel.
The variation of style in the latter portion proves, not its spuriousness, but Isaiah's power to vary his style with his subject. In it he is tender, and abounds in repetitions such as suit comforting exhortations. The many epithets attached to God's name are designed as so many stays whereon faith may rest and repel despair. Peculiarities which are characteristic of Isaiah occur in the latter portion as in the former, e.g. "to be called," i.e. to be; instead of synonyms the same words repeated in the parallel members of verses; hymns interspersed; "the remnant of olive trees," etc., for the remnant of people who escape judgments. Compare also Isaiah 65:25 with Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 51:11 with Isaiah 35:10. The form is Hebrew poetical parallelism, varied however according to the subject. Judah and Jerusalem, not the more apostate and doomed Israel, are the people addressed.
No prophet is quoted so frequently by our Lord and His apostles. His sacred scows are a prominent feature. Thus, Isaiah 12, closing the section of Isaiah 7-12, aptly called "the book of Immanuel," is the future song of redeemed Israel, answering to that at the Red Sea (Exodus 15; compare Revelation 15:2-3). Again Isaiah 25-27, is the lyric prophecy of the downfall of the world city, the coming blessed personal epiphany of the Lord to His people, and the destruction of the foe (Isaiah 25), Judah's and Israel's resurrection politically and spiritually (Isaiah 26), the church vineyard ever kept by Jehovah (Isaiah 27); it forms the finale to Isaiah 13-23, concerning the pagan foes of Israel. The frequent alliteration of like sounds in Isaiah 25-27, effectively realizes to the ear, as well as the eye and the understanding, the deeply moving finale. His elegiac power appears in Isaiah 15-16, concerning Moab.