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The Prophet Isaiah

c. 740-681 BC


Isaiah was a Biblical prophet who lived in the land of Judah c. 740 - 681 BC. Prophets such as Isaiah were said to have a special message from God. The message Isaiah was delivering mainly concerned the rebellious nature of God's chosen people Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. [1]

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It has been theorized that the book itself is a combination of the writings of Isaiah and "Second" Isaiah, a man who lived mid- to late sixth century BC and simply carried on the original Isaiah's tradition in chapters 40 - 55, teaching that "the Lord," or Yahweh, controls the destinies of all people. [2] Jewish tradition held that original Isaiah was sawed in half in the year 681, but we know nothing of Second Isaiah's life. [3] However, original Isaiah was unique in his expression of Yahweh as "the Holy One of Israel," a title occurring 12 times in chapters 1-39 , and used again 14 times in chapters 40-66, while only occurring elsewhere in the Old Testament a total of 6 times. Also, there are remarkable verbal similarities in certain verses, among them are those found in 11: 12 & 49: 22, 11: 6-9 & 65: 25, and 35: 10 & 51: 11, as well as 25 major words or forms of words in Isaiah found in no other prophetic writing. Such parallels suggest that both sections had one author. [4]

Having already been split into two independent provinces, Samaria and Judea, since 922 BC, the Israelites faced Assyrian conquest in 722 BC. [5] Although Judea, centered on Jerusalem, survived while Samaria fell, the Semitic Chaldeans swept through in 586 BC, carrying off the Judean upper classes into subjection, later called the "Babylonian Captivity." [6]

King Ahaz of Judah (Judea), was pressured in 733 BC by the Israelite king to join forces against Assyria, but instead Ahaz sought union with Assyria, a decision condemned by Isaiah according to 7: 1. When Israel was defeated in 722, it left Judah that much more vulnerable. It was threatened by King Sennacherib of Assyria in 701, but the godly King of Judah, Hezekiah, prayed to God and, as read in chapter 36: 6-7, Isaiah predicted that the Assyrians would withdraw.

Isaiah did, however, continue to warn Judah that her sin would cause her to fall, this time into Babylonian captivity, though this would still not take place until 586 BC. Isaiah believes that this will come to pass for Judah and simply goes on from that presumption to foretell of God's deliverance from that situation in verses 40: 2-3.

Isaiah is a book of disclosure, revealing Judah's sinful nature and the consequences of that nature (6: 9-10, 42:7), characterizing the lengths of "the Holy One's" punishment of a rebellious chosen Israel (1: 2, 5: 1-7), as well as their subsequent redemption and national renewal (41: 14: 1-2) revealing that the Lord shows compassion. Finally, an examination of chapter 11 gives readers a glimpse of the coming "Messiah," a deliverer sent from Yahweh to take whatever remains of Israel out of humiliation and suffering and bring them into future earthly glory, [7] an age marked by peace (verses 6-9), predicting that this redeemer will rise out of the "stump" of Jesse, King David's father (1 Samuel 16:10-13), the "stump" symbolic of the end of Judah.


1. Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield, The Human Record: Sources of Global History, (Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994) p.81.

2. ibid.

3. NIV Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Corporation, 1985) pp. 1014.

4. ibid.

5 Andrea and Overfield, p. 80

6 ibid., pp. 81

7 Philip J. Adler, World Civilizations, (New York; West Publishing Company, 1996) p.53

Edited by: Matthew E. Johnson
Researched by: Matthew C. Guncheon
Written by: Adam A. Ward
October 16, 1996

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