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Isaiah, son of Amoz, descendant of a royal line, husband, and father, wrote the book of Isaiah. The Hebrew Yeshaiah, shortened from Yesha’yahu, means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Isaiah preached in Jerusalem’s royal court, counseling the nation’s leaders both spiritually and politically. He, Micah and perhaps Hosea influenced King Hezekiah’s reformation efforts. King Manasseh killed Isaiah and undid his predecessor’s reform.

The political landscape

IsaiahBecause he mentions Cyrus, some scholars deny Isaiah’s prophetic foreknowledge and place him in the 6th century B.C. Other scholars believe two different Isaiahs wrote the book’s two sections (chapters 1-39 and 40-66), but these scholars ignore the book’s common theme. The second section’s subject matter and literary style do differ from that of the first, but a changing political scene may account for the different subject matter and Isaiah may have developed a different literary style with maturity and experience. Both Jesus and Paul cite Isaiah and other NT references imply it was a single book. What’s more, the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947 in a cave near the Dead Sea, included two copies of Isaiah. While one copy is more complete, both bear remarkable similarities to the Masoretic text, previously the oldest available manuscript.

Isaiah preached from around 745 B.C. near the end of Uzziah’s reign and through those of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah to about 686 B.C. Assyria’s domination climaxed during this well-known period of Near Eastern history, during which the nation’s mightiest kings reigned: Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.), Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.), Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.). After invading Babylon in 745 B.C., Tiglath-pileser spent nearly 20 battle-filled years gaining control of Western Asia and the Mediterranean. Shalmaneser V besieged Samaria for three years until the nation of Israel finally disintegrated. God intended for Judah to learn from Israel’s captivity and repent. Had they listened to Isaiah, Judah’s leaders would have understood the current political events. But they did not, and in 701 B.C. Sennacherib invaded Judah. When he returned later to conquer Jerusalem, divine intervention annihilated his army (2 Kings 18:13). (Assyrian history does not mention this defeat as they recorded only positive events.) Isaiah prophesies a Babylonian invasion, promising a similar rescue should Judah turn back to God.

Isaiah the prophetStrong and prosperous, both Judah and Israel had declined spiritually. Injustice and greed corrupted both societies. Wide class disparity placed the poor in virtual slavery to the rich. Most people practiced idolatry while the few who continued the rituals of true worship failed to comprehend its meaning and power. Isaiah longed to convey God’s true character and love, warning Judah and other nations that He would withdraw if they persisted in sin. Ultimately, he proclaimed, the entire earth will be punished for its sin and then God’s faithful people will worship Him in a new world.

Isaiah’s theme is that of deliverance: in the first section, through repentance and reformation; in the second, through faith in the coming Messiah. Some liken Isaiah to a miniature Bible: The first 39 chapters (like the 39 OT books) describe judgment while the final 27 (like the 27 NT books) portray the hope embodied in the Messiah. Isaiah describes the Savior’s mission more clearly than any other prophet. For those who trust God, political deliverance symbolizes an ultimate deliverance from sin.

Amid judgment prophecies lies hope in the possibility of Judah’s prosperity, the Messiah’s coming, and His future peaceful reign. Today, Isaiah’s message calls us to a true experience with Christ, not just an external façade.
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