The Latter Prophets
[The Pentateuch] stands by itself as perfectly unique -- the
original record which regulated on all sides the being and life
of Israel as to chosen nation, and to which all other prophesy
in Israel stood in a derivative relation.
To understand the prophetic books of the Old Testament, it is important to recognize that:
1. The prophets were not innovators. Their message depended and was derived from the messages that had gone before, especially the word of God as given in the five books of Moses.
2. Therefore, in order to comprehend the prophetic books, it is absolutely vital that the reader know the Pentateuch.
a. God is the God of the whole human race (Gen. 1-9)
b. There are no other gods but Yahweh (Deut. 6:4)
c. Love is the cause and purpose of the covenant God made with Israel (Deuteronomy 7:7-11)
d. Therefore, the Covenant forms the basis of God's dealings with Israel and Judah (Deuteronomy 27-30).
The Book of Isaiah
The title of the book is derived from the name of the author; Isaiah's name, like Joshua's, means "Yahweh saves", "Yahweh is salvation" or "Salvation of Yahweh".
II. Author and Setting
Isaiah was the son of Amoz. Nothing is known about his father, Amoz, beyond his name. Isaiah mentions two sons in his book: Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means "Hasten spoil, quick booty" and She'ar-Yashub, which means "a remnant shall remain". Isaiah prophesied mainly in Jerusalem. Based on his vocabulary usage and style, it seems clear that Isaiah was very well educated. According to Jewish tradition found in the Mishna, Manasseh stuck Isaiah in a hollow tree and then sawed him in half as punishment for opposing him (cf. Hebrews 11:37).
B. Authorship Problem
1. Since the rise of higher criticism in the nineteenth century,
the majority opinion has been to divide Isaiah into two parts,
and to postulate two authors. Chapters 1-39, so the theory goes,
were written by Isaiah son of Amoz in the eighth century BC. Chapters
40-66 were then composed by the so-called "Second Isaiah",
an anonymous writer, living during or shortly after the time of
the Babylonian Exile.
The reasons for this belief in a multiple authorship of Isaiah are as follows:
a. the philosophic denial of the possibility of predictive prophesy.
b. Anti-Semitism in 19th century Germany. When the theory was developed, anti-semites had as their goal the elimination of any claim to greatness by Jews and Judaism. Therefore, they attempted to discredit the reliability and veracity of the Old Testament. This point is made by Rachel Margalioth in her book, The Indivisible Isaiah, New York: Yeshiva University; Jerusalem: Sura Institute for Research, 1964:
"One of the principle incentives for splitting up the book is the anti-Semitic factor. The German professors, Marti, Duhm, and their colleagues, evolved a system proclaiming the "true" Isaiah, who lived in the days of Hezekiah, the prophet of doom of the Jewish people: 'der Prophet des Endes dieses Volkes Judas.'In the opinion of Marti and his colleagues the people of Israel have no future whatsoever in the outlook of the 'true' Isaiah. He prophesied utter doom and destruction, leaving them no remnant, name, or vestige. Thus all expressions of consolation scattered through the book must necessarily be later additions..." (p. 17)
c. the difference in literary style between chapters 1-39 and chapters 40-66.
d. theological differences between the two halves.
2. The older tradition, of course, is to accept the claim of authorship for Isaiah, and to insist on a single author for the entire book. The reasons for rejecting the concept of two Isaiahs are as follows:
a. acceptance of the possibility of predictive prophesy.
b. the subjectivity of the new tradition lacks the firm ground of objective, unambiguous fact.
c. unbroken Jewish tradition argues for a single author for the book.
C. Historical Setting
If the traditional authorship of Isaiah is accepted, it is a compilation of a series of prophesies Isaiah received and committed to writing over the years 740 to 690 BC. At the same time he was prophesying in Judah, Amos and Hosea were busy in the Northern Kingdom of Israel; Micah was writing in the south. Isaiah's prophetic work was composed during the reigns of the following kings (see 2 Kings 15:8-21:18):
|Uzziah (Azariah) 792-740||Jehoash 798-782|
|Jotham 750-732||Jereboam II 793-753|
|Ahaz 735-715||Israel Taken Captive|
D. Political Situation
1. Assyria was gaining momentum and strength in the west as a
major world power. In Isaiah's lifetime, the Northern Kingdom
of Israel, as a separate political entity, came to an end. Tiglath-Pileser
III invaded Gilead and the Northern Kingdom in 734; its capital,
Samaria, finally fell between 724- 722 BC.
2. Sennacherib invaded Judah, the Southern Kingdom, in 701 BC.
E. Spiritual Situation
Degeneracy and official sanction of idolatry in Judah during the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh only encouraged an already existing problem. Although Hezekiah instituted reforms, both the common people, as well as the upper classes, continued to be attracted to false gods.
F. Economic Situation
Isaiah lived during a period of great prosperity, especially at the beginning of his ministry. However, this prosperity was concentrated in the upper classes, who had a tendency to be stingy and oppressive in handling their wealth.
III. An Outline of Isaiah
I. Prophecies of Condemnation 1-35A. Concerning Judah and Israel 1-12
B. Concerning the Nations 13-23
C. The Little Apocalypse 24-27
D. Concerning Sinners in Israel 28-35
II. Hezekiah's Troubles 36-39A. The Threat of Assyria 36-37
B. The Threat of Babylon 38-39
III. Prophecies of Consolation 40-66A. God's Greatness 40-48
B. God's Grace 49-59
C. God's Glory for Israel 60-66
Questions on Isaiah
1. When did Isaiah prophesy?
2. To which kingdom did he prophesy?
3. To whom was the sign of the virgin given, why was it given, and when was it fulfilled?
4. How do chapters seven and eight relate to each other?
5. Characterize the work of the Messiah in chapter eleven.
6. Who is being talked about in chapter fourteen? What are the possibilities? What is your position and why?
7. What alliance is to be judged in chapter seventeen?
8. Who is being judged in chapter twenty-three? Why?
9. Who is the servant of Yahweh in the book of Isaiah?
10. Discuss Hezekiah and his troubles.
11. Characterize the work of the Messiah in chapter fifty-three.
12. What is the "day of the Lord"?
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