ISAIAH, 1-7 [ISBE]
- i-za'-ya, i-zi'-a:
2. Personal History
4. Literary Genius and Style
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom
7. Analysis and Contents
8. Isaiah's Prophecies Chronologically Arranged
9. The Critical Problem
(1) The History of Criticism
(2) The Disintegration of "Deutero-Isaiah"
(3) Recent Views
(4) The Present State of the Question
(5) Reasons for Dissecting the Book
(6) Arguments for One Isaiah
(a) The Circle of Ideas
(b) The Literary Style
(c) Historical References
(d) The Predictire Element
(e) Cyrus a Subject of Prediction
Of all Israel's celebrated prophets, Isaiah is the king. The writings which bear his name are among the profoundest in all literature. One great theme--salvation by faith--stamps them all. Isaiah is the Paul of the Old Testament.
In Hebrew yesha`yahu, and yesha`yah; Greek Esaias; Latin Esaias and Isaias. His name was symbolic of his message. Like "Joshua," it means "Yahweh saves," or "Yahweh is salvation," or "salvation of Yahweh."
2. Personal History:
Isaiah was the son of Amoz (not Amos). He seems to have belonged to a family of some rank, as may be inferred from his easy access to the king (Isa 7:3), and his close intimacy with the priest (Isa 8:2). Tradition says he was the cousin of King Uzziah. He lived in Jerusalem and became court preacher. He was married and had two sons: Shear-jashub, his name signifying "a remnant shall return" (Isa 7:3), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "hasting to the spoil, hurrying to the prey," symbolic of Assyria's mad lust of conquest (Isa 8:3). Jewish tradition, based upon a false interpretation of Isa 7:14, declares he was twice married.
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah, apparently while worshipping in the temple, received a call to the prophetic office (Isa 6). He responded with noteworthy alacrity, and accepted his commission, though he knew from the outset that his task was to be one of fruitless warning and exhortation (6:9-13). Having been reared in Jerusalem, he was well fitted to become the political and religious counselor of the nation, but the experience which prepared him most for his important work was the vision of the majestic and thrice-holy God which he saw in the temple in the death-year of King Uzziah. There is no good reason for doubting that this was his inaugural vision, though some regard it as a vision which came to him after years of experience in preaching and as intended to deepen his spirituality. While this is the only explicit "vision" Isaiah saw, yet his entire book, from first to last, is, as the title (11) suggests, a "vision." His horizon, both political and spiritual, was practically unbounded. In a very true sense, as Delitzsch says, he was "the universal prophet of Israel."
4. Literary Genius and Style:
For versatility of expression and brilliancy of imagery Isaiah had no superior, not even a rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary article Both his periods and Genius and descriptions are most finished and sublime. He is a perfect artist in words. Beauty and strength are characteristic of his entire book. Epigrams and metaphors, particularly of flood, storm and sound (1:13; 5:18,22; 8:8; 10:22; 28:17,20; 30:28,30), interrogation and dialogue (6:8; 10:8,9), antithesis and alliteration (1:18; 3:24; 17:10,12), hyperbole and parable (2:7; 5:1-7; 28:23-29), even paranomasia, or play upon words (5:7; 7:9), characterize Isaiah's book as the great masterpiece of Hebrew literature. He is also famous for his richness of vocabulary and synonyms. For example, Ezekiel uses 1,535 words; Jeremiah, 1,653; the Psalmists 2,170; while Isaiah uses 2,186. Isaiah was also an orator: Jerome likened him to Demosthenes; and a poet: he frequently elaborates his messages in rhythmic or poetic style (12:1-6; 25:1-5; 26:1-12; 38:10-20; 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; 60-62; 66:5-24); and in several instances slips into elegiac rhythm, e.g. in 37:22-29 there is a fine taunting poem on Sennacherib, and in 14:4-23 another on the king of Babylon. As Driver observes, "Isaiah's poetical genius is superb."
5. Traditions concerning His Martyrdom:
Nothing definite or historical is known concerning the prophet's end. Toward the close of the 2nd century AD, however, there was a tradition to the effect that he suffered martyrdom in the heathen reaction which occurred under King Manasseh, because of certain speeches concerning God and the Holy City which his contemporaries alleged were contrary to the law. Indeed the Jewish Mishna explicitly states that Manasseh slew him. Justin Martyr also (150 AD), in his controversial dialogue with the Jew Trypho, reproaches the Jews with this accusation, "whom ye sawed asunder with a wooden saw"; this tradition is further confirmed by a Jewish Apocalypse of the 2nd century AD, entitled, The Ascension of Isaiah, and by Epiphanius in his so-called Lives of the Prophets. It is barely possible that there is an allusion to his martyrdom in Heb 11:37, which reads, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder," but this is by no means certain. In any case Isaiah probably survived the great catastrophe of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC, and possibly also the death of Hezekiah in 699 BC; for in 2 Ch 32:32 it is stated that Isaiah wrote a biography of King Hezekiah. If so, his prophetic activity extended over a period of more than 40 years. Dr. G. A. Smith extends it to "more than 50" (Jerusalem, II, 180; compare Whitehouse, "Isaiah," New Century Bible, I, 72).
According to the title of his book (11), Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. He dates his inaugural vision (6:1) in Uzziah's death-year, which was approximately 740 BC. This marks, therefore, the beginning of his prophetic ministry. And we know that he was still active as late as the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC. Hence, the minimum period of his activity as a prophet was from 740 to 701 BC. As a young man Isaiah witnessed the rapid development of Judah into a strong commercial and military state; for under Uzziah Judah attained a degree of prosperity and strength never before enjoyed since the days of Solomon. Walls, towers, fortifications, a large standing army, a port for commerce on the Red Sea, increased inland trade, tribute from the Ammonites, success in war with the Philistines and the Arabians--all these became Judah's during Uzziah's long and prosperous reign of 52 years. But along with power and wealth came also avarice, oppression, religious formality and corruption. The temple revenues indeed were greatly increased, but religion and life were too frequently dissociated; the nation's progress was altogether material. During the reign of Jotham (740-736 BC), who for several years was probably associated with his father as co-regent, a new power began to appear over the eastern horizon. The Assyrians, with whom Ahab had come in contact at the battle of Karkar in 854 BC, and to whom Jehu had paid tribute in 842 BC, began to manifest anew their characteristic lust of conquest. Tiglathpileser III, who is called "Pul" in 2 Ki 15:19 and reigned over Assyria from 745 to 727 BC, turned his attention westward, and in 738 BC reduced Arpad, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath and Damascus, causing them to pay tribute. His presence in the West led Pekah, king of North Israel, and Rezin, king of Damascus, to form an alliance in order to resist further encroachment on the part of Assyria. When Ahaz refused to join their confederacy they resolved to dethrone him and set in his stead the son of Tabeel upon the throne of David (2 Ki 16:5; Isa 7:6). The struggle which ensued is commonly known as the Syro-Ephraimitic war (734 BC)--one of the great events in Isaiah's period. Ahaz in panic sent to Tiglath-pileser for help (2 Ki 16:7), who of course responded with alacrity. The result was that the great Assyrian warrior sacked Gaza and carried all of Galilee and Gilead into captivity (734) and finally took Damascus (732 BC). Ahaz was forced to pay dearly for his protection and Judah was brought very low (2 Ki 15:29; 16:7-9; 2 Ch 28:19; Isa 7:1). The religious as well as the political effect of Ahaz' policy was decidedly baneful. To please Tiglath-pileser, Ahaz went to Damascus to join in the celebration of his victories, and while there saw a Syrian altar, a pattern of which he sent to Jerusalem and had a copy set up in the temple in place of the brazen altar of Solomon. Thus Ahaz, with all the influence of a king, introduced idolatry into Jerusalem, even causing his sons to pass through the fire (2 Ki 16:10-16; 2 Ch 28:3).
Hezekiah succeeded Ahaz, beginning to rule at the age of 25 and reigning 29 years (727-699 BC). Isaiah was at least 15 years his senior. The young king inherited from his father a heavy burden. The splendor of Uzziah's and Jotham's reigns was rapidly fading before the ever-menacing and avaricious Assyrians. Hezekiah began his reign with reformation. "He removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the Asherah" (2 Ki 18:4,22). He even invited the surviving remnant of North Israel to join in celebrating the Passover (2 Ch 30:1). But Israel's end was drawing near. Hoshea, the vacillating puppet-king of North Israel (730-722 BC), encouraged by Egypt, refused longer to pay Assyria his annual tribute (2 Ki 17:4); whereupon Shalmaneser IV, who had succeeded Tiglath-pileser, promptly appeared before the gates of Samaria in 724 BC, and for 3 weary years besieged the city (2 Ki 17:5). Finally, the city was captured by Sargon II, who succeeded Shalmaneser IV in 722 BC, and 27,292 of Israel's choicest people (according to Sargon's own description) were deported to Assyria, and colonists were brought from Babylon and other adjacent districts and placed in the cities of Samaria (2 Ki 17:6,24). Thus the kingdom of North Israel passed into oblivion, and Judah was left ever after quite exposed to the direct ravages, political and religious, of her Assyrio-Babylonian neighbors. In fact Judah herself barely escaped destruction by promising heavy tribute. This was the second great political crisis during Isaiah's ministry. Other crises were soon to follow. One was the desperate illness of King Hezekiah, who faced assured death in 714 BC. Being childless, he was seriously concerned for the future of the Davidic dynasty. He resorted to prayer, however, and God graciously extended his life 15 years (2 Ki 20; Isa 38). His illness occurred during the period of Babylon's independence under Merodach-baladan, the ever-ambitious, irresistible and uncompromising enemy of Assyria, who for 12 years (721-709 BC) maintained independent supremacy over Babylon. Taking advantage of Hezekiah's wonderful cure, Merodach seized the opportunity of sending an embassy to Jerusalem to congratulate him on his recovery (712 BC), and at the same time probably sought to form an alliance with Judah to resist Assyrian supremacy (2 Ki 20:12 ff; Isa 39). Nothing, however, came of the alliance, for the following year Sargon's army reappeared in Philistia in order to discipline Ashdod for conspiracy with the king of Egypt (711 BC). The greatest crisis was yet to come. Its story is as follows: Judah and her neighbors groaned more and more under the heavy exactions of Assyria. Accordingly, when Sargon was assassinated and Sennacherib came to the throne in 705 BC, rebellion broke out on all sides. Merodach-baladan, who had been expelled by Sargon in 709 BC, again took Babylon and held it for at least six months in 703 BC. Hezekiah, who was encouraged by Egypt and all Philistia, except Padi of Ekron, the puppet-king of Sargon, refused longer to pay Assyria tribute (2 Ki 18:7). Meanwhile a strong pro-Egyptian party had sprung up in Jerusalem. In view of all these circumstances, Sennacherib in 701 BC marched westward with a vast army, sweeping everything before him. Tyre was invested though not taken; on the other hand, Joppa, Eltekeh, Ekron, Ashkelon, Ammon, Moab, and Edom all promptly yielded to his demands. Hezekiah was panic stricken and hastened to bring rich tribute, stripping even the temple and the palace of their treasures to do so (2 Ki 18:13-16). But Sennacherib was not satisfied. He overran Judah, capturing, as he tells us in his inscription, 46 walled towns and smaller villages without number, carrying 200,150 of Judah's population into captivity to Assyria, and demanding as tribute 800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, in all, over $1,500,000; he took also, he claims, Hezekiah's daughters and palace women, seized his male and female singers, and carried away enormous spoil. But the end was not yet. Sennacherib himself, with the bulk of the army, halted in Philistia to reduce Lachish; thence he sent a strong detachment under his commander-in-chief, the Rabshakeh, to besiege Jerusalem (2 Ki 18:17 through 19:8; Isa 36:2 through 37:8). As he describes this blockade in his own inscription: "I shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage." The Rabshakeh, however, failed to capture the city and returned to Sennacherib, who meanwhile had completely conquered Lachish, and was now warring against Libnab. A second expedition against Jerusalem was planned, but hearing that Tirhakah (at that time the commander-in-chief of Egypt's forces and only afterward "king of Ethiopia") was approaching, Sennacherib was forced to content himself with sending messengers with a letter to Hezekiah, demanding immediate surrender of the city (2 Ki 19:9 ff; Isa 37:9 ff). Hezekiah, however, through Isaiah's influence held out; and in due time, though Sennacherib disposed of Tirhakah's army without difficulty, his immense host in some mysterious way--by plague or otherwise--was suddenly smitten, and the great Assyrian conqueror was forced to return to Nineveh; possibly because Merodach-baladan had again appeared in Babylonia. Sennacherib never again returned to Palestine, so far as we know, during the subsequent 20 years of his reign, though he did make an independent expedition into North Arabia (691-689 BC). This invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in 701 BC was the great political event in Isaiah's ministry. Had it not been for the prophet's statesmanship, Jerusalem might have capitulated. As it was, only a small, insignificantly small, remnant of Judah's population escaped. Isaiah had at this time been preaching 40 years. How much longer he labored is not known.
7. Analysis and Contents:
There are six general divisions of the book: (1) Isa 1 through 12, prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem, closing with promises of restoration and a psalm of thanksgiving; (2) Isa 13 through 23, oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem; (3) Isa 24 through 27, Yahweh's world-judgment in the redemption of Israel; (4) Isa 28 through 35, a cycle of prophetic warnings against alliance with Egypt, closing with a prophecy concerning Edom and a promise of Israel's ransom; (5) Isa 36 through 39, history, prophecy and song intermingled; serving both as an appendix to Isa 1 through 35, and as an introduction to Isa 40 through 66; (6) Isa 40 through 66, prophecies of comfort and salvation, and also of the future glory awaiting Israel.
By examining in detail these several divisions we can trace better the prophet's thought. Thus, Isa 1 through 12 unfold Judah's social sins (Isa 1 through 6), and her political entanglements (Isa 7 through 12); Isa 1 is an introduction, in which the prophet strikes the chief notes of his entire book: namely, thoughtlessness (1:2-9), formalism in worship (1:10-17), pardon (1:18-23) and judgment (1:24-31). Isa 2 through 4 contain three distinct pictures of Zion: (a) her exaltation (2:2-4), (b) her present idolatry (2:5 through 4:1), and (c) her eventual purification (4:2-6). Isa 5 contains an arraignment of Judah and Jerusalem, composed of three parts: (a) a parable of Yahweh's vineyard (5:1-7); (b) a series of six woes pronounced against insatiable greed (5:8-10), dissipation (5:11-17), daring defiance against Yahweh (5:18,19), confusion of moral distinctions (5:20), political self-conceit (5:21), and misdirected heroism (5:22,23); and (c) an announcement of imminent judgment. The Assyrian is on the way and there will be no escape (5:24-30). Isa 6 recounts the prophet's inaugural vision and commission. It is really an apologetic, standing as it does after the prophet's denunciations of his contemporaries. When they tacitly object to his message of threatening and disaster, he is able to reply that, having pronounced "woe" upon himself in the year that King Uzziah died, he had the authority to pronounce woe upon them (6:5). Plainly Isaiah tells them that Judah's sins are well-nigh hopeless. They are becoming spiritually insensible. They have eyes but they cannot see. Only judgment can, avail: "the righteous judgment of a forgotten God" awaits them. A "holy seed," however, still existed in Israel's stock (6:13).
Coming to Isa 7 through 12, Isaiah appears in the role of a practical statesman. He warns Ahaz against political entanglements with Assyria. The section 7:1 through 9:7 is a prophecy of Immanuel, history and prediction being intermingled.
They describe the Syro-Ephraimitic uprising in 736 BC, when Pekah of North Israel and Rezin of Damascus, in attempting to defend themselves against the Assyrians, demanded that Ahaz of Jerusalem should become their ally. But Ahaz preferred the friendship of Assyria, and refused to enter into alliance with them. And in order to defend himself, he applied to Assyria for assistance, sending ambassadors with many precious treasures, both royal and sacred, to bribe Tiglath-pileser. It was at this juncture that Isaiah, at Yahweh's bidding, expostulates with Ahaz concerning the fatal step he is about to take, and as a practical statesman warns Ahaz, "the king of No-Faith," that the only path of safety lies in loyalty to Yahweh and keeping clear of foreign alliances; that "God is with us" for salvation; and that no "conspiracy" can possibly be successful unless God too is against us. When, however, the prophet's message of promise and salvation finds no welcome, he commits it to his disciples, bound up and sealed for future use; assuring his hearers that unto them a child is born and unto them a son is given, in whose day the empire of David will be established upon a basis of justice and righteousness. The Messianic scion is the ground of the prophet's hope; which hope, though unprecedented, he thus early in his ministry commits, written and sealed, to his inner circle of "disciples."
See, further, IMMANUEL.
The section Isa 9:8 through 10:4 contains an announcement to North Israel of accumulated wrath and impending ruin, with a refrain (9:12,17,21; 10:4). Here, in an artistic poem composed of four strophes, the prophet describes the great calamities which Yahweh has sent down upon North Israel but which have gone unheeded: foreign invasion (9:8-12), defeat in battle (9:13-17), anarchy (9:18-21), and impending captivity (10:1-4). Yet Yahweh's judgments have gone unheeded: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." Divine discipline has failed; only judgment remains.
In Isa 10:5-34, Assyria is declared to be an instrument of Yahweh, the rod of Yahweh's anger. Isa 11 through 12 predict Israel's return from exile, including a vision of the Messiah's reign of ideal peace. For Isaiah's vision of the nation's future reached far beyond mere exile. To him the downfall of Assyria was the signal for the commencement of a new era in Israel's history. Assyria has no future, her downfall is fatal; Judah has a future, her calamities are only disciplinary. An Ideal Prince will be raised up in whose advent all Nature will rejoice, even dumb animals (11:1-10). A second great exodus will take place, for the Lord will set His hand again "the second time" to recover the remnant of His people "from the four corners of the earth" (11:11,12). In that day, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (11:13). On the contrary, the reunited nation, redeemed and occupying their rightful territory (11:14-16), shall sing a hymn of thanksgiving, proclaiming the salvation of Yahweh to all the earth (Isa 12).
Isaiah 13 through 23 contain oracles of judgment and salvation, for the most part concerning those foreign nations whose fortunes affected Judah and Jerusalem. They are grouped together by the editor, as similar foreign oracles are in Jer 46 through 51 and Ezek 25 through 32. Isaiah's horizon was world-wide. First among the foreign prophecies stands the oracle concerning Babylon (Isa 13:1 through 14:23), in which he predicts the utter destruction of the city (Isa 13:2-22), and sings a dirge or taunt-song over her fallen king (Isa 14:4-23). The king alluded to is almost beyond doubt an Assyrian (not a Babylonian) monarch of the 8th century; the brief prophecy immediately following in Isa 14:24-27 concerning Assyria tacitly confirms this interpretation. Another brief oracle concerning Babylon (21:1-10) describes the city's fall as imminent. Both oracles stand or fall together as genuine prophecies of Isaiah. Both seem to have been written in Jerusalem (13:2; 21:9,10). It cannot be said that either is absolutely unrelated in thought and language to Isaiah's age (14:13; 21:2); each foretells the doom to fall on Babylon (13:19; 21:9) at the hands of the Medes (13:17; 21:2); and each describes the Israelites as already in exile--but not necessarily all Israel.
The section Isa 14:24-27 tells of the certain destruction of the Assyrian.
The passage Isa 14:28-32 is an oracle concerning Philistia.
Isaiah 15 through 16 are ancient oracles against Moab, whose dirgelike meter resembles that of Isa 13 through 14. It is composed of two separate prophecies belonging to two different periods in Isaiah's ministry (16:13,14). The three points of particular interest in the oracle are: (1) the prophet's tender sympathy for Moab in her affliction (15:5; 16:11). Isaiah mingles his own tears with those of the Moabites. As Delitzsch says, "There is no prophecy in the Book of Isaiah in which the heart of the prophet is so painfully moved by what his spirit beholds and his mouth must prophecy." (2) Moab's pathetic appeal for shelter from her foes; particularly the ground on which she urges it, namely, the Messianic hope that the Davidic dynasty shall always stand and be able to repulse its foes (16:5). The prophecy is an echo of 9:5-7. (3) The promise that a remnant of Moab, though small, shall be saved (16:14). Wearied of prayer to Chemosh in his high places, the prophet predicts that Moab will seek the living God (16:12).
The passage Isa 17:1-11 is an oracle concerning Damascus and North Israel, in which Isaiah predicts the fate of the two allies--Syria and Ephraim--in the Syro-Ephraimitic war of 734 BC, with a promise that only a scanty remnant will survive (17:6). In 17:12-14, the prophet boldly announces the complete annihilation of Judah's unnamed foes--the Assyrians.
Isaiah 18 describes Ethiopia as in great excitement, sending ambassadors hither and thither--possibly all the way to Jerusalem--ostensibly seeking aid in making preparations for war. Assyria had already taken Damascus (732 BC) and Samaria (722 BC), and consequently Egypt and Ethiopia were in fear of invasion. Isaiah bids the ambassadors to return home and quietly watch Yahweh thwart Assyria's self-confident attempt to subjugate Judah; and he adds that when the Ethiopians have seen God's hand in the coming deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem (701 BC), they will bring a present to Yahweh to His abode in Mount Zion.
Isaiah 19, which is an oracle concerning Egypt, contains both a threat (19:1-17) and a promise (19:18-25), and is one of Isaiah's most remarkable foreign messages. Egypt is smitten and thereby led to abandon her idols for the worship of Yahweh (19:19-22). Still more remarkable, it is prophesied that in that day Egypt and Assyria will join with Judah in a triple alliance of common worship to Yahweh and of blessing to others (19:23-25). Isaiah's missionary outlook here is wonderful!
Isaiah 20 describes Sargon's march against Egypt and Ethiopia, containing a brief symbolic prediction of Assyria's victory over Egypt and Ethiopia. By donning a captive's garb for three years, Isaiah attempts to teach the citizens of Jerusalem that the siege of Ashdod was but a means to an end in Sargon's plan of campaign, and that it was sheer folly for the Egyptian party in Jerusalem, who were ever urging reliance upon Egypt, to look in that direction for help. Isaiah 21:11,12 is a brief oracle concerning Seir or Edom, "the only gentle utterance in the Old Testament upon Israel's hereditary foe." Edom is in great anxiety. The prophet's answer is disappointing, though its tone is sympathetic. Isaiah 21:13 ff is a brief oracle concerning Arabia. It contains a sympathetic appeal to the Temanites to give bread and water to the caravans of Dedan, who have been driven by war from their usual route of travel.
Isaiah 22 is concerning the foreign temper within theocracy. It is composed of two parts: (1) an oracle "of the valley of vision," i.e. Jerusalem (22:1-14); and (2) a philippic against Shebna, the comptroller of the palace. Isaiah pauses, as it were, in his series of warnings to foreign nations to rebuke the foreign temper of the frivolous inhabitants of Jerusalem, and in particular Shebna, a high official in the government. The reckless and God-ignoring citizens of the capital are pictured as indulging themselves in hilarious eating and drinking, when the enemy is at that very moment standing before the gates of the city. Shebna, on the other hand, seems to have been an ostentatious foreigner, perhaps a Syrian by birth, quite possibly one of the Egyptian party, whose policy was antagonistic to that of Isaiah and the king. Isaiah's prediction of Shebna's fall was evidently fulfilled (36:3; 37:2).
Isaiah 23 is concerning Tyre. In this oracle Isaiah predicts that Tyre shall be laid waste (23:1), her commercial glory humbled (23:9), her colonies become independent of her (23:10), and she herself forgotten for "seventy years" (23:15); but "after the end of seventy years," her trade will revive, her business prosperity will return, and she will dedicate her gains in merchandise as holy to Yahweh (23:18).
The third great section of the Book of Isaiah embraces Isa 24 through 27, which tell of Yahweh's world-judgment, issuing in the redemption of Israel. These prophecies stand closely related to Isa 13 through 23. They express the same tender emotion as that already observed in 15:5; 16:11, and sum up as in one grand finale the prophet's oracles to Israel's neighbors. For religious importance they stand second to none in the Book of Isaiah, teaching the necessity of Divine discipline and the glorious redemption awaiting the faithful in Israel. They are a spiritual commentary on the great Assyrian crisis of the 8th century; they are messages of salvation intended, not for declamation, but for meditation, and were probably addressed more particularly to the prophet's inner circle of "disciples" (8:16). These chapters partake of the nature of apocalypse. Strictly speaking, however, they are prophecy, not apocalypse. No one ascends into heaven or talks with an angel, as in Dan 7 and Rev 4. They are apocalypse only in the sense that certain things are predicted as sure to come to pass. Isaiah was fond of this kind of prophecy. He frequently lifts his reader out of the sphere of mere history to paint pictures of the far-off, distant future (2:2-4; 4:2-6; 11:6-16; 30:27-33).
In Isa 24 the prophet announces a general judgment of the earth (i.e. the land of Judah), and of "the city" (collective, for Judah's towns), after which will dawn a better day (24:1-15). The prophet fancies he hears songs of deliverance, but alas! they are premature; more judgment must follow. In Isa 25 the prophet transports himself to the period after the Assyrian catastrophe and, identifying himself with the redeemed, puts into their mouths songs of praise and thanksgiving for their deliverance. Isa 25:6-8 describe Yahweh's bountiful banquet on Mount Zion to all nations, who, in keeping with 2:2-4, come up to Jerusalem, to celebrate "a feast of fat things," rich and marrowy. While the people are present at the banquet, Yahweh graciously removes their spiritual blindness so that they behold Him as the true dispenser of life and grace. He also abolishes violent death, that is to say, war (compare 2:4) and its sad accompaniment, "tears," so that "the earth" (i.e. the land of Judah) is no longer the battlefield of the nations, but the blessed abode of the redeemed, living in peace and happiness. The prophet's aim is not political but religious.
In Isa 26:1-19 Judah sings a song over Jerusalem, the impregnable city of God. The prophet, taking again his stand with the redeemed remnant of the nation, vividly portrays their thankful trust in Yahweh, who has been unto them a veritable "Rock of Ages" (26:4 margin). With hope he joyfully exclaims, Let Yahweh's dead ones live! Let Israel's dead bodies arise! Yahweh will bring life from the dead! (26:19). This is the first clear statement of the resurrection in the Old Testament. But it is national and restricted to Israel (compare 26:14), and is merely Isaiah's method of expressing a hope of the return of Israel's faithful ones from captivity (compare Hos 6:2; Ezek 37:1-14; Dan 12:2).
In Isa 26:20 through 27:13 the prophet shows that Israel's chastisements are salutary. He begins by exhorting his own people, his disciples, to continue a little longer in the solitude of prayer, till God's wrath has shattered the world-powers (26:20 through 27:1). He next predicts that the true vineyard of Yahweh will henceforth be safely guarded against the briars and thorns of foreign invasion (27:2-6). And then, after showing that Yahweh's chastisements of Israel were light compared with His judgments upon other nations (27:7-11), he promises that if Israel will only repent, Yahweh will spare no pains to gather "one by one" the remnant of His people from Assyria and Egypt (compare 11:11); and together they shall once more worship Yahweh in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (27:12,13).
The prophet's fundamental standpoint in Isa 24 through 27 is the same as that of 2:2-4 and Isa 13 through 23. Yet the prophet not infrequently throws himself forward into the remote future, oscillating backward and forward between his own times and those of Israel's restoration. It is especially noteworthy how he sustains himself in a long and continued transportation of himself to the period of Israel's redemption. He even studies to identify himself with the new Israel which will emerge out of the present chaos of political events. His visions of Israel's redemption carry him in ecstasy far away into the remote future, to a time when the nation's sufferings are all over; so that when he writes down what he saw in vision he describes it as a discipline that is past. For example, in 25:1-8 the prophet, transported to the end of time, celebrates in song what he saw, and describes how the fall of the world-empire is followed by the conversion of the heathen. In 26:8,9 he looks back into the past from the standpoint of the redeemed in the last days, and tells how Israel longingly waited for the manifestation of God's righteousness which has now taken place, while in 27:7-9 he places himself in the midst of the nation's sufferings, in full view of their glorious future, and portrays how Yahweh's dealings with Israel have not been the punishment of wrath, but the discipline of love. This kind of apocalypse, or prophecy, indeed, was to be expected from the very beginning of the group of prophecies, which are introduced with the word "Behold!" Such a manner of introduction is peculiar to Isaiah, and of itself leads us to expect a message which is unique.
The practical religious value of these prophecies to Isaiah's own age would be very great. In a period of war and repeated foreign invasion, when but few men were left in the land (Isa 24:6,13; 26:18), and Judah's cities were laid waste and desolate (Isa 24:10,12; 25:2; 26:5; 27:10), and music and gladness were wanting (Isa 24:8), when the nation still clung to their idols (Isa 27:9) and the Assyrians' work of destruction was still incomplete, other calamities being sure to follow (Isa 24:16), it would certainly be comforting to know that forgiveness was still possible (Isa 27:9), that Yahweh was still the keeper of His vineyard (Isa 27:3,4), that His judgments were to last but for a little moment (Isa 26:20), and that though His people should be scattered, He would soon carefully gather them "one by one" (Isa 27:12,13), and that in company with other nations they would feast together on Mt. Zion as Yahweh's guests (Isa 25:6,7,10), and that Jerusalem should henceforth become the center of life and religion to all nations (Isa 24:23; 25:6; 27:13). Such faith in Yahweh, such exhortations and such songs and confessions of the redeemed, seen in vision, would be a source of rich spiritual comfort to the few suffering saints in Judah and Jerusalem, and a guiding star to the faithful disciples of the prophet's most inner circle.
Isaiah 28 through 35 contain a cycle of prophetic warnings against alliance with Egypt, closing with a prophecy concerning Edom and a promise of Israel's ransom. As in 5:8-23, the prophet indulges in a series of six woes:
(1) Woe to drunken, scoffing politicians (Isa 28). This is one of the great chapters of Isaiah's book. In the opening section (28:1-6) the prophet points in warning to the proud drunkards of Ephraim whose crown (Samaria) is rapidly fading. He next turns to the scoffing politicians of Jerusalem, rebuking especially the bibulous priests who stumble in judgment, and the staggering prophets who err in vision (28:7-22); closing with a most instructive parable from agriculture, teaching that God's judgments are not arbitrary; that as the husbandman does not plow and harrow his fields the whole year round, so God will not punish His people forever; and as the husbandman does not thresh all kinds of grain with equal severity, no more will God discipline His people beyond their deserts (28:23-29).
(2) Woe to formalists in religion (Isa 29:1-14). Isaiah's second woe is pronounced upon Ariel, the altar-hearth of God, i.e. Jerusalem, the sacrificial center of Israel's worship. David had first inaugurated the true worship of Yahweh in Zion. But now Zion's worship has become wholly conventional, formal, and therefore insincere; it is learned by rote (29:13; compare 1:10-15; Mic 6:6-8). Therefore, says Isaiah, Yahweh is forced to do an extraordinary work among them, in order to bring them back to a true knowledge of Himself (Isa 29:14).
(3) Woe to those who hide their plans from God (Isa 29:15-24). What their plans are, which they are devising in secret, the prophet does not yet disclose; but he doubtless alludes to their intrigues with the Egyptians and their purpose to break faith with the Assyrians, to whom they were bound by treaty to pay annual tribute. Isaiah bravely remonstrates with them for supposing that any policy will succeed which excludes the counsel and wisdom of the Holy One. They are but clay; He is the potter. At this point, though somewhat abruptly, Isaiah turns his face toward the Messianic future. In a very little while, he says, Lebanon, which is now overrun by Assyria's army, shall become a fruitful field, and the blind and deaf and spiritually weak shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
(4) Woe to the pro-Egyptian party (Isa 30). Isaiah's fourth woe is directed against the rebellious politicians who stubbornly, and now openly, advocate making a league with Egypt. They have at length succeeded apparently in winning over the king to their side, and an embassy is already on its way to Egypt, bearing across the desert of the exodus rich treasures with which to purchase the friendship of their former oppressors. Isaiah now condemns what he can no longer prevent. Egypt is a Rahab "sitstill," i.e. a mythological sea-monster, menacing in mien but laggard in action. When the crisis comes, she will sit still, causing Israel only shame and confusion.
(5) Woe to those who trust in horses and chariots (Isa 31 through 32). Isaiah's fifth woe is a still more vehement denunciation of those who trust in Egypt's horses and chariots, and disregard the Holy One of Israel. Those who do so forget that the Egyptians are but men and their horses flesh, and that mere flesh cannot avail in a conflict with spirit. Eventually Yahweh means to deliver Jerusalem, if the children of Israel will but turn from their idolatries to Him; and in that day, Assyria will be vanquished. A new era will dawn upon Judah. Society will be regenerated. The renovation will begin at the top. Conscience also will be sharpened, and moral distinctions will no longer be confused (32:1-8). As Delitzsch puts it, "The aristocracy of birth and wealth will be replaced by an aristocracy of character." The careless and indifferent women, too, in that day will no longer menace the social welfare of the state (32:9-14); with the outpouring of Yahweh's spirit an ideal commonwealth will emerge, in which social righteousness, peace, plenty and security will abound (32:15-20).
(6) Woe to the Assyrian destroyer (Isa 33). Isaiah's last woe is directed against the treacherous spoiler himself, who has already laid waste the cities of Judah, and is now beginning to lay siege to Jerusalem (701 BC). The prophet prays, and while he prays, behold! the mighty hosts of the Assyrians are routed and the long-besieged but now triumphant inhabitants of Jerusalem rush out like locusts upon the spoil which the vanishing adversary has been forced to leave behind. The destroyer's plan to reduce Jerusalem has come to naught. The whole earth beholds the spectacle of Assyria's defeat and is filled with awe and amazement at the mighty work of Yahweh. Only the righteous may henceforth dwell in Jerusalem. their eyes shall behold the Messiah-king in his beauty, reigning no longer like Hezekiah over a limited and restricted territory, but over a land unbounded, whose inhabitants enjoy Yahweh's peace and protection, and are free from all sin, and therefore from all sickness (33:17-24). With this beautiful picture of the Messianic future, the prophet's woes find an appropriate conclusion. Isaiah never pronounced a woe without adding a corresponding promise.
In Isa 34 through 35, the prophet utters a fierce cry for justice against "all the nations," but against Edom in particular. His tone is that of judgment. Edom is guilty of high crimes against Zion (34:8 f), therefore she is doomed to destruction. On the other hand, the scattered ones of Israel shall return from exile and "obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa 35).
Isaiah 36 through 39 contain history, prophecy and song intermingled. These chapters serve both as an appendix to Isa 1 through 35 and as an introduction to Isa 40 through 66. In them three important historical events are narrated, in which Isaiah was a prominent factor: (1) the double attempt of Sennacherib to obtain possession of Jerusalem (Isa 36 through 37); (2) Hezekiah's sickness and recovery (Isa 38); (3) the embassy of Merodach-baladan (Isa 39). With certain important omissions and insertions these chapters are duplicated almost verbatim in 2 Ki 18:13 through 20:19. They are introduced with the chronological note, "Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah." Various attempts have been made to solve the mystery of this date; for, if the author is alluding to the siege of 701 BC, difficulty arises, because that event occurred not in Hezekiah's "14th" but 26th year, according to the Biblical chronology of his life; or, if with some we date Hezekiah's accession to the throne of Judah as 720 BC, then the siege of 701 BC occurred, as is evident, in Hezekiah's 19th year. It is barely possible of course that "the 14th year of king Hezekiah" was the 14th of the "15 years" which were added to his life, but more probably it alludes to the 14th of his reign. On the whole it is better to take the phrase as a general chronological caption for the entire section, with special reference to Isa 38, which tells of Hezekiah's sickness, which actually fell in his 14th year (714 BC), and which, coupled with Sargon's expected presence at Ashdod, was the great personal crisis of the king's life.
Sennacherib made two attempts in 701 BC to reduce Jerusalem: one from Lachish with an army headed by the Rabshakeh (Isa 36:2 through 37:8), and another from Libnah with a threat conveyed by messengers (Isa 37:9 ff). The brief section contained in 2 Ki 18:14-16 is omitted from between verses 1 and 2 of Isa 36, because it was not the prophet's aim at this time to recount the nation's humiliation. Isaiah's last "word" concerning Assyria (Isa 37:21-35) is one of the prophet's grandest predictions. It is composed of three parts: (1) a taunt-song, in elegiac rhythm, on the inevitable humiliation of Sennacherib (Isa 37:22-29); (2) a short poem in different rhythm, directed to Hezekiah, in order to encourage his faith (Isa 37:30-32); (3) a definite prediction, in less elevated style, of the sure deliverance of Jerusalem (Isa 37:33-35). Isaiah's prediction was literally fulfilled.
The section Isa 38:9-20 contains Hezekiah's Song of Thanksgiving, in which he celebrates his recovery from some mortal sickness. It is a beautiful plaintive "writing"; omitted altogether by the author of the Book of Kings (compare 2 Ki 20). Hezekiah was sick in 714 BC. Two years later Merodach-baladan, the veteran arch-enemy of Assyria, having heard of his wonderful recovery, sent letters and a present to congratulate him. Doubtless, also, political motives prompted the recalcitrant Babylonian. But be that as it may, Hezekiah was greatly flattered by the visit of Merodach-baladan's envoys, and, in a moment of weakness, showed them all his royal treasures. This was an inexcusable blunder, as the sight of his many precious possessions would naturally excite Babylonian cupidity to possess Jerusalem. Isaiah not only solemnly condemned the king's conduct, but he announced with more than ordinary insight that the days were coming when all the accumulated resources of Jerusalem would be carried away to Babylon (39:3-6; compare Mic 4:10). This final prediction of judgment is the most marvelous of all Isaiah's minatory utterances, because he distinctly asserts that, not the Assyrians, who were then at the height of their power, but the Babylonians, shall be the instruments of the Divine vengeance in consummating the destruction of Jerusalem. There is absolutely no reason for doubting the genuineness of this prediction. In it, indeed, we have a prophetic basis for Isa 40 through 66, which follow.
Coming now to Isa 40 through 66, we have prophecies of comfort, salvation, and of the future glory awaiting Israel. These chapters naturally fall into three sections: (1) Isa 40 through 48, announcing deliverance from captivity through Cyrus; (2) Isa 49 through 57, describing the sufferings of the "Servant" of Yahweh, this section ending like the former with the refrain, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (57:21; compare 48:22); (3) Isa 58 through 66, announcing the final abolition of all national distinctions and the future glory of the people of God. Isaiah 60 is the characteristic chapter of this section, as Isa 53 is of the second, and Isa 40 of the first.
Entering into greater detail, the first section (Isa 40 through 48) demonstrates the deity of Yahweh through His unique power to predict. The basis of the comfort which the prophet announces is Israel's incomparable God (Isa 40). Israel's all-powerful Yahweh in comparison with other gods is incomparable. In the prologue (Isa 40:1-11) he hears the four voices: (1) of grace (Isa 40:1,2); (2) of prophecy (Isa 40:3-5); (3) of faith (Isa 40:6-8), and (4) of evangelism (Isa 40:9-11). Then, after exalting the unique character of Israel's all-but-forgotten God (Isa 40:12-26), he exhorts them not to suppose that Yahweh is ignorant of, or indifferent to, Israel's misery. Israel must wait for salvation. They are clamoring for deliverance prematurely. Only wait, he repeats; for with such a God, Israel has no reason to despond (Isa 40:27-31).
In Isa 41 he declares that the supreme proof of Yahweh's sole deity is His power to predict. He inquires, "Who hath raised up one from the east?" Though the hero is left unnamed, Cyrus is doubtless in the prophet's mind (compare 44:28; 45:1). He is not, however, already appearing upon the horizon of history as some fancy, but rather predicted as sure to come. The verb tenses which express completed action are perfects of certainty, and are used in precisely the same manner as those in 3:8; 5:13; 21:9. The answer to the inquiry is, "I, Yahweh, the first, and with the last, I am he" (41:4). Israel is Yahweh's servant. The dialogue continues; but it is no longer between Yahweh and the nations, as in Isa 41:1-7, but between Yahweh and the idols (41:21-29). Addressing the dumb idols, Yahweh is represented as saying, Predict something, if you are real deities. As for myself, I am going to raise up a hero from the north who will subdue all who oppose him. And I announce my purpose now in advance "from the beginning," "beforetime," before there is the slightest ground for thinking that such a hero exists or ever will exist (41:26), in order that the future may verify my prediction, and prove my sole deity. I, Yahweh, alone know the future. In 41:25-29, the prophet even projects himself into the future and speaks from the standpoint of the fulfillment of his prediction. This, as we saw above, was a characteristic of Isaiah in Isa 24 through 27.
In Isa 42:1 through 43:13 the prophet announces also a spiritual agent of redemption, namely, Yahweh's "Servant." Not only a temporal agent (Cyrus) shall be raised up to mediate Israel's redemption, which is the first step in the process of the universal salvation contemplated, but a spiritual factor. Yahweh's "Servant" shall be employed in bringing the good tidings of salvation to the exiles and to the Gentiles also. In 42:1-9 the prophet describes this ideal figure and the work he will execute. The glorious future evokes a brief hymn of thanksgiving for the redemption which the prophet beholds in prospect (42:10-17). Israel has long been blind and deaf to Yahweh's instructions (41:18,19), but now Yahweh is determined to redeem them even at the cost of the most opulent nations of the world, that they may publish His law to all peoples (42:18 through 43:13).
In Isa 13:14 through 44:23 forgiveness is made the pledge of deliverance. Yahweh's determination to redeem Israel is all of grace. Salvation is a gift. Yahweh has blotted out their transgressions for His own sake (43:25). "This passage," Dillmann observes, "marks the highest point of grace in the Old Testament." Gods of wood and stone are nonentities. Those who manufacture idols are blind and dull of heart, and are "feeding on ashes." The section 44:9-20 is a most remorseless exposure of the folly of idolatry.
In Isa 44:24 through 45:25 the prophet at length names the hero of Israel's salvation and describes his mission. He is Cyrus. He shall build Jerusalem and lay the foundations of the temple (44:28); he shall also subdue nations and let the exiles go free (45:1,13). He speaks of Cyrus in the most extraordinary, almost extravagant terms. He is Yahweh's "shepherd" (44:28), he is also Yahweh's "anointed," i.e. Messiah (45:1), "the man of my counsel" (46:11), whom Yahweh has called by name, and surnamed without his ever knowing Him (45:3,1); the one "whom Yahweh loveth" (48:14), whose right hand Yahweh upholdeth (45:1), and who will perform all Yahweh's pleasure (44:28); though but "a ravenous bird from the east (46: 11). The vividness with which the prophet speaks of Cyrus leads some to suppose that the latter is already upon the horizon. This, however, is a mistake. Scarcely would a contemporary have spoken in such terms of the real Cyrus of 538 BC. The prophet regards him (i.e. the Cyrus of his own prediction, not the Cyrus of history) as the fulfillment of predictions spoken long before. That is to say, in one and the same context, Cyrus is both predicted and treated as a proof that prediction is being fulfilled (44:24-28; 45:21). Such a phenomenon in prophecy can best be explained by supposing that the prophet projected himself into the future from an earlier age. Most extraordinary of all, in 45:14-17, the prophet soars in imagination until he sees, as a result of Cyrus' victories, the conquered nations renouncing their idols, and attracted to Yahweh as the Saviour of all mankind (45:22). On any theory of origin, the predictive element in these prophecies is written large.
Isaiah 46 through 47 describe further the distinctive work of Cyrus, though Cyrus himself is but once referred to. Particular emphasis is laid on the complete collapse of the Babylonian religion; the prophet being apparently more concerned with the humiliation of Babylon's idols than with the fall of the city itself. Of course the destruction of the city would imply the defeat of her gods, as also the emancipation of Israel. But here again all is in the future; in fact Yahweh's incomparable superiority and unique deity are proven by His power to predict "the end from the beginning" and bring His prediction to pass (46:10,11).
Isaiah 47 is a dirge over the downfall of the imperial city, strongly resembling the taunt-song over the king of Babylon in 14:4-21.
Isaiah 48 is a hortatory summary and recapitulation of the argument contained in Isa 40 through 47, the prophet again emphasizing the following points: (1) Yahweh's unique power to predict; (2) that salvation is of grace; (3) that Cyrus' advent will be the crowning proof of Yahweh's abiding presence among His people; (4) that God's chastisements were only disciplinary; and (5) that even now there is hope, if they will but accept of Yahweh's proffered salvation. Alas! that there is no peace or salvation for the godless (48:20-22). Thus ends the first division of Isaiah's remarkable "vision" of Israel's deliverance from captivity through Cyrus.
The second section (Isa 49 through 57) deals with the spiritual agent of salvation, Yahweh's suffering "Servant." With Isa 49 the prophet leaves off attempting further to prove the sole deity of Yahweh by means of prediction, and drops entirely his description of Cyrus' victories and the overthrow of Babylon, in order to set forth in greater detail the character and mission of the suffering "Servant" of Yahweh. Already, in Isa 40 through 48, he had alluded several times to this unique and somewhat enigmatical personage, speaking of him both collectively and as an individual (41:8-10; 42:1-9,18-22; 43:10; 44:1-5,21-28; 45:4; 48:20-22); but now he defines with greater precision both his prophetic and priestly functions, his equipment for his task, his sufferings and humiliation, and also his final exaltation. Altogether in these prophecies he mentions the "Servant" some 20 t. But there are four distinctively so-called "Servant-Songs" in which the prophet seems to rise above the collective masses of all Israel to at least a personification of the pious within Israel, or better, to a unique Person embodying within himself all that is best in the Israel within Israel. They are the following: (1) 42:1-9, a poem descriptive of the Servant's gentle manner and world-wide mission; (2) 49:1-13, describing the Servant's mission and spiritual success; (3) 50:4-11, the Servant's soliloquy concerning His perfection through suffering; and (4) 52:13 through 53:12, the Servant's vicarious suffering and ultimate exaltation. In this last of the four "Servant-Songs" we reach the climax of the prophet's inspired symphony, the acme of Hebrew Messianic hope. The profoundest thoughts in the Old Testament revelation are to be found in this section. It is a vindication of the "Servant," so clear and so true, and wrought out with such pathos and potency, that it holds first place among Messianic predictions. Polycarp called it "the golden passional of the Old Testament." It has been realized in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 58 through 66 describe the future glory of the people of God. Having described in Isa 40 through 48 the temporal agent of Israel's salvation, Cyrus, and in Isa 49 through 57 the spiritual agent of their salvation, the "Servant" of Yahweh, the prophet proceeds in this last section to define the conditions on which salvation may be enjoyed. He begins, as before, with a double imperative, "Cry aloud, spare not" (compare 40:1; 49:1).
In Isa 58 he discusses true fasting and faithful Sabbath observance.
In Isa 59 he beseeches Israel to forsake their sins. It is their sins, he urges, which have hidden Yahweh's face and retarded the nation's salvation. In 59:9 ff the prophet identifies himself with the people and leads them in their devotions. Yahweh is grieved over Israel's forlorn condition, and, seeing their helplessness, He arms himself like a warrior to interfere judicially (59:15-19). Israel shall be redeemed. With them as the nucleus of a new nation, Yahweh will enter anew into covenant relation, and put His Spirit upon them, which will abide with them henceforth and forever (59:20-21).
Isaiah 60 through 61 describe the future blessedness of Zion. The long-looked-for "light" (compare 59:9) begins to dawn: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Yahweh is risen upon thee" (60:1). The prophet pauses at this point to paint a picture of the redeemed community. As in 2:3,4, the Gentiles are seen flocking to Zion, which becomes the mistress of the nations. Foreigners build her walls, and her gates are kept open continually without fear of siege. The Gentiles acknowledge that Zion is the spiritual center of the world. Even Israel's oppressors regard her as "the city of Yahweh," as "an eternal excellency," in which Yahweh sits as its everlasting light (60:10-22).
In Isa 61, which Drummond has called "the program of Christianity," the "Servant" of Yahweh is again introduced, though anonymously, as the herald of salvation (61:1-3). The gospel monologue of the "Servant" is followed by a promise of the restoration and blessedness of Jerusalem (61:4-11). Thus the prophecy moves steadily forward toward its goal in Jesus Christ (compare Lk 4:18-21).
In Isa 62:1 through 63:6 Zion's salvation is described as drawing near. The nations will be spectators of the great event. A new name which will better symbolize her true character shall be given to Zion, namely, Hephzibah, "My delight is in her"; for Jerusalem shall no more be called desolate. On the other hand, Zion's enemies will all be vanquished. In a brief poem of peculiar dramatic beauty (63:1-6), the prophet portrays Yahweh's vengeance, as a victorious warrior, upon all those who retard Israel's deliverance. Edom in particular was Israel's insatiate foe. Hence, the prophet represents Yahweh's judgment of the nations as taking place on Edom's unhallowed soil. Yahweh, whose mighty arm has wrought salvation, returns as victor, having slain all of Israel's foes.
In Isa 63:7 through 64:12, Yahweh's "servants" resort to prayer. They appeal to Yahweh as the Begetter and Father of the nations (63:16; 64:8). With this thought of the fatherhood of God imbedded in his language, Isaiah had opened his very first oracle to Judah and Jerusalem (compare 1:2). As the prayer proceeds, the language becomes increasingly tumultuous. The people are thrown into despair because Yahweh seems to have abandoned them altogether (63:19). They recognize that the condition of Jerusalem is desperate. "Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned with fire; and all our pleasant places are laid waste" (64:11). Such language, however, is the language of fervent prayer and must not be taken with rigid literalness, as 63:18 and 3:8 plainly show.
Finally, in Isa 65 through 66, Yahweh answers His people's supplications, distinguishing sharply between His own "servants" and Israel's apostates. Only His chosen "seed" shall be delivered (65:9). Those who have obdurately provoked Yahweh by sacrificing in gardens (65:3; 66:17), offering libations to Fortune and Destiny (65:11), sitting among the graves to obtain oracles from the dead, and, like the Egyptians, eating swine's flesh and broth of abominable things which were supposed to possess magical properties, lodging in vaults or crypts in which heathen mysteries were celebrated (65:4), and at the same time fancying that by celebrating such heathen mysteries they are holier than others and thereby disqualified to discharge the ordinary duties of life (65:5)--such Yahweh designs to punish, measuring their work into their bosom and destroying them utterly with the sword (65:7,12). On the other hand, the "servants" of Yahweh Shall inherit His holy mountains. They shall rejoice and sing for joy of heart, and bless themselves in the God of Amen, i.e. in the God of Truth (65:9,14,16). Yahweh will create new heavens and a new earth, men will live and grow old like the patriarchs; they will possess houses and vineyards and enjoy them; for an era of idyllic peace will be ushered in with the coming of the Messianic age, in which even the natures of wild animals will be changed and the most rapacious of wild animals will live together in harmony (65:17-25). Religion will become spiritual and decentralized, mystic cults will disappear, incredulous scoffers will be silenced. Zion's population will be marvelously multiplied, and the people will be comforted and rejoice (66:1-14). Furthermore, all nations will flock to Zion to behold Yahweh's glory, and from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh will come up to worship in Jerusalem (66:15-23).
It is evident that the Book of Isaiah closes, practically as it begins, with a polemic against false worship, and the alternate reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked. The only essential difference between the prophet's earlier and later oracles is this: Isaiah, in his riper years, on the basis of nearly half a century's experience as a preacher, paints a much brighter eschatological picture than was possible in his early ministry. His picture of the Messianic age not only transcends those of his contemporaries in the 8th century BC, but he penetrates regions beyond the spiritual horizon of any and all Old Testament seers. Such language as that contained in Isa 66:1,2, in particular, anticipates the great principle enunciated by Jesus in Jn 4:24, namely, that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." To attempt to date such oracles as these on the basis of internal evidence is an absolute impossibility. Humanly speaking, one age could have produced such revelations quite as easily as another. But no age could have produced them apart from the Divine spirit.