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Reference: Isaiah


The son of Amoz, (not Amos,) one of the most distinguished of the Hebrew prophets. He began to prophesy at Jerusalem towards the close of the reign of Uzziah, about the year 759 B. C., and exercised the prophetical office some sixty years, under the three following monarchs, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Isa 1:1. Compare 2Ki 15-20; 2Ch 26-32. The first twelve chapters of his prophecies refer to the kingdom of Judah; then Isa 13-23, directed against foreign nations, except Isa 22:1-23, against Jerusalem. In Isa 24-35, which would seem to belong to the time of Hezekiah, the prophet appears to look forward in prophetic vision to the times of the exile and of the Messiah. Isa 36-39 gives a historical account to Sennacherib's invasion, and of the advice given by Isaiah to Hezekiah. This account is parallel to that in 2Ki 18:13-20:19; and indeed Isa 37 is almost word for word with 2Ki 19. The remainder of the book of Isaiah, Isa 40-66, contains a series of oracles referring to the future times of temporal exile and deliverance, and expanding into glorious views of the spiritual deliverance to be wrought by the Messiah.

Isaiah seems to have lived and prophesied wholly at Jerusalem; and disappears from history after the accounts contained in Isa 39. A tradition among the Talmudist and fathers relates that he was sawn asunder during the reign of Manasseh, Heb 11:37; and this tradition is embodied in an apocrtphal book, called the "ascension of Isaiah;" but it seems to rest on no certain grounds.

Some commentators have proposed to divide the book of Isaiah chronologically into three parts, as if composed under the three kings, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. But this is of very doubtful propriety; since several of the chapters are evidently transposed and inserted out of their chronological order. But a very obvious and striking division of the book into two parts exists; the first part, including Isa 1-39, and the second, the remainder of the book, Isa 40-66.

The first part is made up of those prophecies and historical accounts which Isaiah wrote during the period of his active exertions, when he mingled in the public concerns of the rulers and the people, and acted as the messenger of God to the nation in reference to their internal and external existing relations. These are single prophecies, published at different times, and on different occasions; afterwards, indeed, brought together into one collection, but still marked as distinct and single, either by the superscriptions, or in some other obvious and known method.

The second part, on the contrary, is occupied wholly with the future. It was apparently written in the later years of the prophet, when, having left all active exertions in the theocracy to his younger associates in the prophetical office, he transferred his contemplations for the present to that which was to come. In this part therefore, which was not, like the first, occasioned by external circumstance, it is not so easy to distinguish in like manner between the different single prophecies. The whole is more like a single gush of prophecy. The prophet first consoles his people by announcing their deliverance from the approaching Babylonish exile, which he had himself predicted, Isa 39:6-7; he names the monarch whom Jehovah will send to punish the insolence of their oppressors, and lead back the people to their home. But he does not stop at this inferior deliverance. With the prospect of freedom from the Babylonish exile, he connects the prospect of deliverance from sin and error through the Messiah. Sometimes both objects seem closely interwoven with each other; sometimes one of them appears alone with particular clearness and prominency. Especially is the view of the prophet sometimes so exclusively directed upon the latter object, that, filled with the contemplation of the glory of the spiritual kingdom of God and of its exalted Founder, he loses sight for a time of the less distant future. In the description of this spiritual deliverance also, the relations of time are not observed. Sometimes the prophet beholds the Author of this deliverance in his humiliation and sorrows; and again, the remotest ages of the Messiah's kingdom present themselves to his enraptured vision-when man, so long estranged from God, will have again returned to him; when every thing opposed to God shall have been destroyed, and internal and external peace universally prevail; and when all the evil introduced by sin into the world, will be for ever done away. Elevated above all space and time, the prophet contemplates from the height on which the Holy Spirit has thus placed him, the whole development of the Messiah's kingdom, from its smallest beginnings to its glorious completion.

Isaiah is appropriately named "the evangelical prophet," and the fathers called his book "the Gospel according to St. Isaiah." In it the wonderful person and birth of "Emmanuel-God with us," his beneficent life, his atoning death, and his triumphant and everlasting kingdom, are minutely foretold, Isa 7:14-16; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 32; 42; 49; 52:13-15; 53; 60:1-21; 61:1-3. The simplicity, purity, sweetness, and sublimity of Isaiah, and the fullness of his predictions respecting the Messiah, give him the preeminence among the Hebrew prophets and poets.

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(Heb Yesh'yahu, i.e., "the salvation of Jehovah"). (1.) The son of Amoz (Isa 1:1; 2:1), who was apparently a man of humble rank. His wife was called "the prophetess" (Isa 8:3), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah (Jg 4:4) and Huldah (2Ki 22:14-20), or simply because she was the wife of "the prophet" (Isa 38:1). He had two sons, who bore symbolical names.

He exercised the functions of his office during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). Uzziah reigned fifty-two years (B.C. 810-759), and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah's death, probably B.C. 762. He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and in all likelihood outlived that monarch (who died B.C. 698), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for the long period of at least sixty-four years.

His first call to the prophetical office is not recorded. A second call came to him "in the year that King Uzziah died" (Isa 6:1). He exercised his ministry in a spirit of uncompromising firmness and boldness in regard to all that bore on the interests of religion. He conceals nothing and keeps nothing back from fear of man. He was also noted for his spirituality and for his deep-toned reverence toward "the holy One of Israel."

In early youth Isaiah must have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Pul (q.v.), 2Ki 15:19; and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered on his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Samaria (2Ki 16:5; 2Ch 28:5-6). Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglath-pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2Ki 15:29; 16:9; 1Ch 5:26). Soon after this Shalmaneser determined wholly to subdue the kingdom of Israel. Samaria was taken and destroyed (B.C. 722). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah (B.C. 726), who "rebelled against the king of Assyria" (2Ki 18:7), in which he was encouraged by Isaiah, who exhorted the people to place all their dependence on Jehovah (Isa 10:24; 37:6), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isa 30:2-4). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (B.C. 701) led a powerful army into Palestine. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (2Ki 18:14-16). But after a brief interval war broke out again, and again Sennacherib (q.v.) led an army into Palestine, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem (Isa 36:2-22; 37:8). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (Isa 37:1-7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the Lord" (Isa 37:14). The judgement of God now fell on the Assyrian host. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either Southern Palestine or Egypt." The remaining years of Hezekiah's reign were peaceful (2Ch 32:23,27-29). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are unknown. There is a tradition that he suffered martyrdom in the heathen reaction in the time of Manasseh (q.v.).

(2.) One of the heads of the singers in the time of David (1Ch 25:3,15, "Jeshaiah"). (3.) A Levite (1Ch 26:25). (4.) Ezr 8:7. (5.) Ne 11:7.

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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 (Isa 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 1Pe 1:1-10,9; 2Pe 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 (Isa 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 (Mic 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 (Le 26:33; De 28:64) had assumed more definiteness in Ahijah's specification of the direction of the exile, "beyond the river," in Jeroboam's time 1Ki 14:15), and Am 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 (Isa 57:5), and mention of Hephzibah (Hezekiah's wife) in Isa 62:4, all accord with the times of Isaiah. The former part ends with the Babylonian exile (Isa 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, Isa 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 (Isa 35:10) is the starting point of and the text expanded in the latter part; compare Isa 51:11. Josephus (Ant. 11:1, se

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Of the four prophets of the 8th cent. b.c., some of whose prophecies are preserved in the OT, Isaiah appeared third in the order of time

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the prophet, son of Amoz. The Hebrew name signifies Salvation of Jahu (a shortened form of Jehovah), He prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah,

Isa 1:1

covering probably 758 to 698 B.C. He was married and had two sons. Rabbinical tradition says that Isaiah, when 90 years old, was sawn asunder in the trunk of a carob tree by order of Manasseh, to which it is supposed that reference is made in

Heb 11:37

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ISAIAH. Though fifth in the order of time, the writings of the Prophet Isaiah are placed first in order of the prophetical books, principally on account of the sublimity and importance of his predictions, and partly also because the book which bears his name is larger than all the twelve minor prophets put together. Concerning his family and descent, nothing certain has been recorded, except what he himself tells us, Isa 50:1, namely, that he was the son of Amos, and discharged the prophetic office "in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah," who successively flourished between A.M. 3194 and 3305. There is a current tradition that he was of the blood royal; and some writers have affirmed that his father Amoz or Amos was the son of Joash, and consequently brother of Uzziah, king of Judah. Jerom, on the authority of some rabbinical writers, says, that the prophet gave his daughter in marriage to Manasseh, king of Judah; but this opinion is scarcely credible, because Manasseh did not commence his reign until about sixty years after Isaiah had begun to discharge his prophetic functions. He must, indeed, have exercised the office of a prophet during a long period of time, if he lived to the reign of Manasseh; for the lowest computation, beginning from the year in which Uzziah died, when he is by some supposed to have received his first appointment to that office, brings it to sixty-one years. But the tradition of the Jews, which has been adopted by most Christian commentators, that he was put to death by Manasseh, is very uncertain; and Aben Ezra one of the most celebrated Jewish writers, is rather of opinion that he died before Hezekiah; which Bishop Lowth thinks most probable. It is, however, certain, that he lived at least to the fifteenth or sixteenth year of Hezekiah; which makes the least possible term of the duration of his prophetic office to be about forty-eight years. The name of Isaiah, as Vitringa has remarked after several preceding commentators, is in some measure descriptive of his high character, since it signifies the salvation of Jehovah; and was given with singular propriety to him, who foretold the advent of the Messiah, through whom "all flesh shall see the salvation of God," Isa 40:5; Lu 3:6; Ac 4:12. Isaiah was contemporary with the Prophets Amos, Hosea, Joel, and Micah.

Isaiah is uniformly spoken of in the Scriptures as a prophet of the highest dignity: Bishop Lowth calls him the prince of all the prophets, and pronounces the whole of his book to be poetical, with the exception of a few detached passages. It is remarkable, that his wife is styled a prophetess in Isa 8:3; whence the rabbinical writers have concluded that she possessed the spirit of prophecy: but it is very probable that the prophets' wives were called prophetesses, as the priests' wives were termed priestesses, only from the quality of their husbands. Although nothing farther is recorded in the Scriptures concerning the wife of Isaiah, we find two of his sons mentioned in his prophecy, who were types or figurative pledges; and their names and actions were intended to awaken a religious attention in the persons whom they were commissioned to address and to instruct. Thus, Shear-jashub signifies, "a remnant shall return," and showed that the captives who should be carried to Babylon should return thence after a certain time, Isa 7:3; and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which denotes, "make speed (or run swiftly) to the spoil," implied that the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would in a short time be ravaged, Isa 8:1,3. Beside the volume of prophecies, which we are now to consider, it appears from 2Ch 26:22, that Isaiah wrote an account of "the acts of Uzziah," king of Judah: this has perished with some other writings of the prophets, which, as probably not written by inspiration, were never admitted into the canon of Scripture. There are also two apocryphal books ascribed to him, namely, The Ascension of Isaiah, and The Apocalypse of Isaiah; but these are evidently forgeries of a later date, and the Apocalypse has long since perished.

The scope of Isaiah's predictions is threefold, namely,

1. To detect, reprove, aggravate, and condemn, the sins of the Jewish people especially, and also the iniquities of the ten tribes of Israel, and the abominations of many Gentile nations and countries; denouncing the severest judgments against all sorts and degrees of persons, whether Jews or Gentiles.

2. To invite persons of every rank and condition, both Jews and Gentiles, to repentance and reformation, by numerous promises of pardon and mercy. It is worthy of remark, that no such promises are intermingled with the denunciations of divine vengeance against Babylon, although they occur in the threatenings against every other people.

3. To comfort all the truly pious, in the midst of all the calamities and judgments denounced against the wicked, with prophetic promises of the true Messiah, which seem almost to anticipate the Gospel history, so clearly do they foreshow the divine character of Christ.

Isaiah has, with singular propriety, been denominated the evangelical prophet, on account of the number and variety of his prophecies concerning the advent and character, the ministry and preaching, the sufferings and death, and the extensive permanent kingdom, of the Messiah. So explicit and determinate are his predictions, as well as so numerous, that he seems to speak rather of things past than of events yet future; and he may rather be called an evangelist than a prophet. No one, indeed, can be at a loss in applying them to the mission and character of Jesus Christ, and to the events which are cited in his history by the writers of the New Testament. This prophet, says Bishop Lowth, abounds in such transcendent excellencies, that he may be properly said to afford the most perfect model of prophetic poetry. He is at once elegant and sublime, forcible and ornamented; he unites energy with copiousness, and dignity with variety. In his sentiments there is uncommon elevation and majesty; in his imagery, the utmost propriety, elegance, dignity, and diversity; in his language, uncommon beauty and energy; and, notwithstanding the obscurity of his subjects, a surprising degree of clearness and simplicity. To these we may add, that there is such sweetness in the poetical composition of his sentences, whether it proceed from art or genius, that, if the Hebrew poetry at present is possessed of any remains of its native grace and harmony, we shall chiefly find them in the writings of Isaiah: so that the saying of Ezekiel may most justly be applied to this prophet:

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