The Book of Isaiah is the first and longest of the books of the Major Prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. It derives its name from the prophet Isaiah, who lived in Jerusalem, perhaps of aristocratic origin. His prophetic career spanned half a century, from around 742 BC to at least 701.
The book, however, contains the work of more than one man. Scholars now generally agree that chapters 1 to 35, known as First Isaiah, can be ascribed either to Isaiah himself or to his disciples; chapters 36 to 39 have been taken directly from 2 Kings 18:13 - 20:18. Chapters 40 to 55, known as Second Isaiah, or Deutero - Isaiah, were the work of an anonymous prophet - poet during the latter part (c. 545 - 540 BC) of the Babylonian exile. Chapters 56 to 66, known as Third Isaiah, or Trito - Isaiah, were written by authors unknown in detail but working around the end of the 6th century (525 - 500 BC) or the beginning of the 5th (500 - 475 BC). Some of the material may be derived from a period even later than these times (c. 375 - 250 BC).
First Isaiah falls roughly into four periods: (1) From 747 to 736 BC the prophet speaks about internal political and economic policy; (2) in 736 - 735 he addresses the crisis caused by the Syro - Ephraimite War, an attempt to force Jerusalem into an anti - Assyrian alliance; (3) after a period of silence, he speaks again, addressing himself to the attempt of King Hezekiah to free himself from the status of a vassal to Assyria (716 - 711); (4) again after a time of silence, Isaiah speaks of Hezekiah's second attempt to establish political independence (705 - 701). The writings from these periods fall into seven collections of sayings on themes of sin, judgment, and deliverance from the judgment. The Immanuel prophecies (chapter 6 - 12) are well known to Christians, who interpret them as references to Christ.
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Third Isaiah includes 14 independent sayings concerning the operation of the restored Temple, with corresponding emphasis on the sabbath and cult. The material comprises a short prophetic liturgy (56:9 - 47:13), an oracle of promise (57:14 - 21), an exhortation and promise (58:1 - 12), prophetic invective and threat (65:1 - 2), and a promise (65:8 - 25). The final chapter contains a prophetic denunciation of the Temple and a rejection of the sacrificial cult, as well as three prophetic sayings that announce an imminent end and its results. Isaiah contains some of the most beautiful and best known passages in the Bible. Two manuscripts of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
George W Coats
J H Hayes and S A Irvine, Isiah (1987); G A F Knight, Prophets of Israel: Isaiah (1962); J R Rosenbloom, The Dead Sea Isaiah Scrolls (1970); J W Whedbee, Isaiah and Wisdom (1971).
Isaiah, (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" (8:3), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah (Judg. 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 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.), 2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chr. 28:5, 6). Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglathpileser against Israel and Syria.
The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29; 16: 9; 1 Chr. 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" (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 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 (37:1-7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the Lord" (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 (2 Chr. 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 (1 Chr. 25:3,15, "Jeshaiah"). (3.) A Levite (1 Chr. 26:25). (4.) Ezra 8:7. (5.) Neh. 11:7.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The Book of Isaiah consists of prophecies delivered (Isa. 1) in the reign of Uzziah (1-5), (2) of Jotham (6), (3) Ahaz (7-14:28), (4) the first half of Hezekiah's reign (14:28-35), (5) the second half of Hezekiah's reign (36-66). Thus, counting from the fourth year before Uzziah's death (B.C. 762) to the last year of Hezekiah (B.C. 698), Isaiah's ministry extended over a period of sixty-four years. He may, however, have survived Hezekiah, and may have perished in the way indicated above. The book, as a whole, has been divided into three main parts: (1.) The first thirty-five chapters, almost wholly prophetic, Israel's enemy Assyria, present the Messiah as a mighty Ruler and King. (2.) Four chapters are historical (36-39), relating to the times of Hezekiah. (3.) Prophetical (40-66), Israel's enemy Babylon, describing the Messiah as a suffering victim, meek and lowly.
The genuineness of the section Isa. 40-66 has been keenly opposed by able critics. They assert that it must be the production of a deutero-Isaiah, who lived toward the close of the Babylonian captivity. This theory was originated by Koppe, a German writer at the close of the last century. There are other portions of the book also (e.g., ch. 13; 24-27; and certain verses in ch. 14 and 21) which they attribute to some other prophet than Isaiah. Thus they say that some five or seven, or even more, unknown prophets had a hand in the production of this book.
The considerations which have led to such a result are various:, (1.) They cannot, as some say, conceive it possible that Isaiah, living in B.C. 700, could foretell the appearance and the exploits of a prince called Cyrus, who would set the Jews free from captivity one hundred and seventy years after. (2.) It is alleged that the prophet takes the time of the Captivity as his standpoint, and speaks of it as then present; and (3) that there is such a difference between the style and language of the closing section (40-66) and those of the preceding chapters as to necessitate a different authorship, and lead to the conclusion that there were at least two Isaiahs. But even granting the fact of a great diversity of style and language, this will not necessitate the conclusion attempted to be drawn from it.
The diversity of subjects treated of and the peculiarities of the prophet's position at the time the prophecies were uttered will sufficiently account for this. The arguments in favour of the unity of the book are quite conclusive. When the LXX. version was made (about B.C. 250) the entire contents of the book were ascribed to Isaiah, the son of Amoz. It is not called in question, moreover, that in the time of our Lord the book existed in the form in which we now have it. Many prophecies in the disputed portions are quoted in the New Testament as the words of Isaiah (Matt. 3:3; Luke 3:4-6; 4: 16-41; John 12:38; Acts 8:28; Rom. 10:16-21). Universal and persistent tradition has ascribed the whole book to one author.
Besides this, the internal evidence, the similarity in the language and style, in the thoughts and images and rhetorical ornaments, all points to the same conclusion; and its local colouring and allusions show that it is obviously of Palestinian origin. The theory therefore of a double authorship of the book, much less of a manifold authorship, cannot be maintained. The book, with all the diversity of its contents, is one, and is, we believe, the production of the great prophet whose name it bears.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
Among the writers whom the Hebrew Bible styles the "Latter Prophets" foremost stands "Isaias, the holy prophet . . . the great prophet, and faithful in the sight of God" (Eccliasticus 48:23-25).
The name Isaias signifies "Yahweh is salvation". It assumes two different forms in the Hebrew Bible: for in the text of the Book of Isaias and in the historical writings of the Old Testament, for example in 2 Kings 19:2; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 32:20-32, it is read Yeshá`yahu, whereas the collection of the Prophet's utterances is entitled Yeshá`yah, in Greek `Esaías, and in Latin usually Isaias, but sometimes Esaias. Four other persons of the same name are mentioned in the Old Testament (Ezra 8:7; 8:19; Nehemiah 11:7; 1 Chronicles 26:25); while the names Jesaia (1 Chronicles 25:15), Jeseias (1 Chronicles 3:21; 25:3) may be regarded as mere variants. From the Prophet himself (i, 1; ii, 1) we learn that he was the son of Amos. Owing to the similarity between Latin and Greek forms of this name and that of the Shepherd-Prophet of Thecue, some Fathers mistook the Prophet Amos for the father of Isaias. St. Jerome in the preface to his "Commentary on Amos" (P.L., XXV, 989) points out this error. Of Isaias's ancestry we know nothing; but several passages of his prophecies (iii, 1-17, 24; iv, 1; viii, 2; xxxi, 16) lead us to believe that he belonged to one of the best families of Jerusalem. A Jewish tradition recorded in the Talmud (Tr. Megilla, 10b.) held him to be a nephew of King Amasias. As to the exact time of the Prophet's birth we lack definite data; yet he is believed to have been about twenty years of age when he began his public ministry. He was a citizen, perhaps a native, of Jerusalem. His writings give unmistakable signs of high culture. From his prophecies (vii and viii) we learn that he married a woman whom he styles "the prophetess" and that he had two sons, She`ar-Yashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Nothing whatever indicates that he was twice married as some fancy on the gratuitous and indefensible supposition that the `almah of vii, 14, was his wife.
The prophetical ministry of Isaias lasted wellnigh half a century, from the closing year of Ozias, King of Juda, possibly up to that of Manasses. This period was one of great prophetical activity. Israel and Juda indeed were in sore need of guidance. After the death of Jeroboam II revolution followed upon revolution and the northern kingdom had sunk rapidly into an abject vassalage to the Assyrians. The petty nations of the West, however, recovering from the severe blows received in the beginning of the eighth century, were again manifesting aspirations of independence. Soon Theglathphalasar III marched his armies towards Syria; heavy tributes were levied and utter ruin threatened on those who would show any hesitation to pay. In 725 Osee, the last King of Samaria, fell miserably under the onslaught of Salmanasar IV, and three years later Samaria succumbed to the hands of the Assyrians. In the meantime the Kingdom of Juda hardly fared better.
A long period of peace had enervated characters, and the young, inexperienced, and unprincipled Achaz was no match for the Syro-Israelite coalition which confronted him. Panic-stricken he, in spite of the remonstrances of Isaias, resolved to appeal to Theglathphalasar. The help of Assyria was secured, but the independence of Juda was thereby practically forfeited. In order to explain clearly the political situation to which so many allusions are made in Isaias's writings there is here subjoined a brief chronological sketch of the period: 745, Theglathphalasar III, king of Assyria; Azarias (A. V. Uzziah), of Juda; Manahem (A. V. Menahem) of Samaria; and Sua of Egypt; 740, death of Azarias; Joatham (A. V. Jotham), king of Juda; capture of Arphad (A. V. Arpad) by Theglathphalasar III (Isaiah 10:9); 738, campaign of Theglathphalasar against Syria; capture of Calano (A. V. Calno) and Emath (A. V. Hamath); heavy tribute imposed upon Manahem (2 Kings 15:19-20); victorious wars of Joatham against the Ammonites (2 Chronicles 27:4-6); 736, Manahem succeeded by Phaceia (A. V. Pekahiah); 735, Joatham succeeded by Achaz (2 Kings 16:1);
Phaceia replaced by Phacee (A. V. Pekah), son of Remelia (A. V. Remaliah), one of his captains; Jerusalem besieged by Phacee in alliance with Rasin (A. V. Rezin), king of Syria (2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1-2); 734, Theglathphalasar, replying to Achaz' request for aid, marches against Syria and Israel, takes several cities of North and East Israel (2 Kings 15:29), and banishes their inhabitants; the Assyrian allies devastate part of the territory of Juda and Jerusalem; Phacee slain during a revolution in Samaria and succeeded by Osee (A. V. Hoshea); 733, unsuccessful expeditions of Achaz against Edom (2 Chronicles 28:17) and the Philistines (20); 732, campaign of Theglathphalasar against Damascus; Rasin besieged in his capital, captured, and slain; Achaz goes to Damascus to pay homage to the Assyrian ruler (2 Kings 16:10-19); 727, death of Achaz; accession of Ezechias (2 Kings 18:1); in Assyria Salmanasar IV succeeds Theglathphalasar III, 726, campaign of Salmanasar against Osee (2 Kings 17:3); 725, Osee makes alliance with Sua, king of Egypt (2 Kings 17:4); second campaign of Salmanasar IV, resulting in the capture and deportation of Osee (2 Kings 17:4);
beginning of the siege of Samaria; 722, Sargon succeeds Salmanasar IV in Assyria; capture of Samaria by Sargon; 720, defeat of Egyptian army at Raphia by Sargon; 717, Charcamis, the Hittite stronghold on the Euphrates, falls into the hands of Sargon (Isaiah 10:8); 713, sickness of Ezechias (2 Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38); embassy from Merodach Baladan to Ezechias (2 Kings 20:12-13; Isaiah 39); 711, invasion of Western Palestine by Sargon; siege and capture of Azotus (A. V. Ashdod; Isaiah 20); 709, Sargon defeats Merodach Baladan, seizes Babylon, and assumes title of king of Babylon; 705, death of Sargon; accession of Sennacherib; 701, expedition of Sennacherib against Egypt; defeat of latter at Elteqeh; capture of Accaron (A. V. Ekron); siege of Lachis; Ezechias's embasy; the conditions laid down by Sennacherib being found too hard the king of Juda prepares to resist the Assyrians; destruction of part of the Assyrian army; hurried retreat of the rest (2 Kings 18; Isaiah 36:37); 698, Ezechias is succeeded by his son Manasses. The wars of the ninth century and the peaceful security following them produced their effects in the latter part of the next century.
Cities sprang up; new pursuits, although affording opportunities of easy wealth, brought about also an increase of poverty. The contrast between class and class became daily more marked, and the poor were oppressed by the rich with the connivance of the judges. A social state founded on iniquity is doomed. But as Israel's social corruption was greater than Juda's, Israel was expected to succumb first. Greater likewise was her religious corruption. Not only did idolatrous worship prevail there to the end, but we know from Osee what gross abuses and shameful practices obtained in Samaria and throughout the kingdom, whereas the religion of the people of Juda on the whole seems to have been a little better. We know, however, as regards these, that at the very time of Isaias certain forms of idolatrous worship, like that of Nohestan and of Moloch, probably that also of Tammur and of the "host of heaven", were going on in the open or in secret.
Commentators are at variance as to when Isaias was called to the prophetical office. Some think that previous to the vision related in vi, 1, he had received communications from heaven. St. Jerome in his commentary on the passage holds that chapters i-v ought to be attributed to the last years of King Ozias, then ch. vi would commence a new series begun in the year of the death of that prince (740 B.C.; P.L., XXIV, 91; cf. St. Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. ix; P.G., XXXV, 820). It is more commonly held, however, that ch. vi refers to the first calling of the Prophet; St. Jerome himself, in a letter to Pope Damasus seems to adopt this view (P. L., XXII, 371; cf. Hesychius "In Is.", P.G. XCIII, 1372), and St. John Chrysostom, commenting upon Is., vi, 5, very aptly contrasts the promptness of the Prophet with the tergiversations of Moses and Jeremias. On the other hand, since no prophecies appear to be later than 701 B.C., it is doubtful if Isaias saw the reign of Manasses at all; still a very old and widespread tradition, echoed by the Mishna (Tr. Yebamoth, 49b; cf. Sanhedr., 103b), has it that the Prophet survived Ezechias and was slain in the persecution of Manasses (2 Kings 21:16).
This prince had him convicted of blasphemy, because he had dared say: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne" (vi, 1), a pretension in conflict with God's own assertion in Exod., xxxiii, 20: "Man shall not see me and live". He was accused, moreover, of having predicted the ruin of Jerusalem and called the holy city and the people of Juda by the accursed names of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the "Ascension of Isaias", the Prophet's martyrdom consisted in being sawed asunder. Tradition shows this to have been unhesitatingly believed. The Targum on 2 Kings 21:6, admits it; it is preserved in two treatises of the Talmud (Yebamoth, 49b; Sanhedr., 103b); St. Justin (Dial. c. Tryph., cxx), and many of the Fathers adopted it, taking as unmistakable allusions to Isaias those words of the Heb., xi, 37, "they (the ancients) were cut asunder" (cf. Tertullian, "De patient.", xiv; P.L., I, 1270; Orig., "In Is., Hom." I, 5, P.G., XIII, 223; "In Matt.", x, 18, P.G., XIII, 882; "In Matt.", Ser. 28, P.G., XIII, 1637; "Epist. ad Jul. Afr.", ix, P.G., XI, 65; St. Jerome, "In Is.", lvii, 1, P.L., XXIV, 546-548; etc.). However, little trust should be put in the strange details mentioned in the "De Vit. Prophet." of pseudo-Epiphanius (P.G., XLIII, 397, 419). The date of the Prophet's demise is not known. The Roman Martyrology commemorates Isaias on 6 July. His tomb is believed to have been in Paneas in Northern Palestine, whence his relics were taken to Constantinople in A.D. 442.
The literary activity of Isaias is attested by the canonical book which bears his name; moreover allusion is made in II Par., xxvi, 22, to "Acts of Ozias first and last . . . written by Isaias, the son of Amos, the prophet". Another passage of the same book informs us that "the rest of the acts of Ezechias and his mercies, are written in the Vision of Isaias, son of Amos, the prophet", in the Book of the Kings of Juda and Israel. Such at least is the reading of the Massoretic Bible, but its text here, if we may judge from the variants of the Greek and St. Jerome, is somewhat corrupt. Most commentators who believe the passage to be authentic think that the writer refers to Is., xxxvi-xxxix. We must finally mention the "Ascension of Isaias", at one time attributed to the Prophet, but never admitted into the Canon.
II. THE BOOK OF ISAIAS
The canonical Book of Isaias is made up of two distinct collections of discourses, the one (chapters 1-35) called sometimes the "First Isaias"; the other (chapters 40-66) styled by many modern critics the "Deutero- (or Second) Isaias"; between these two comes a stretch of historical narrative; some authors, as Michaelis and Hengstenberg, holding with St. Jerome that the prophecies are placed in chronological order; others, like Vitringa and Jahn, in a logical order; others finally, like Gesenius, Delitzsch, Keil, think the actual order is partly logical and partly chronological. No less disagreement prevails on the question of the collector. Those who believe that Isaias is the author of all the prophecies contained in the book generally fix upon the Prophet himself. But for the critics who question the genuineness of some of the parts, the compilation is by a late and unknown collector. It would be well, however, before suggesting a solution to analyse cursorily the contents.
In the first collection (cc. i-xxxv) there seems to be a grouping of the discourses according to their subject-matter: (1) cc. i-xii, oracles dealing with Juda and Israel; (2) cc. xiii-xxiii, prophecies concerning (chiefly) foreign nations; (3) cc. xxiv-xxvii, an apocalypse; (4) cc. xxviii-xxxiii, discourses on the relations of Juda to Assyria; (5) cc. xxxiv-xxxv, future of Edom and Israel.
In the first group (i-xii) we may distinguish separate oracles. Ch. i arraigns Jerusalem for her ingratitude and unfaithfulness; severe chastisements have proved unavailing; yet forgiveness can be secured by a true change of life. The ravaging of Juda points to either the time of the Syro-Ephraimite coalition (735) or the Assyrian invasion (701). Ch. ii threatens judgment upon pride and seems to be one of the earliest of the Prophet's utterances. It is followed (iii-iv) by a severe arraignment of the nation's rulers for their injustice and a lampoon against the women of Sion for their wanton luxury. The beautiful apologue of the vineyard serves as a preface to the announcement of the punishment due to the chief social disorders. These seem to point to the last days of Joatham, or the very beginning of the reign of Achaz (from 736-735 B.C.). The next chapter (vi), dated in the year of the death of Ozias (740), narrates the calling of the Prophet. With vii opens a series of utterances not inappropriately called "the Book of Emmanuel"; it is made up of prophecies bearing on the Syro-Ephraimite war, and ends in a glowing description (an independent oracle?) of what the country will be under a future sovereign (ix, 1-6). Ch. ix, 7-x, 4, in five strophes announces that Israel is foredoomed to utter ruin; the allusion to rivalries between Ephraim and Manasses possibly has to do with the revolutions which followed the death of Jeroboam II; in this case the prophecy might date some time between 743-734. Much later is the prophecy against Assur (x, 5-34), later than the capture of Arshad (740), Calano (738), or Charcamis (717). The historical situation therein described suggests the time of Sennacherib's invasion (about 702 or 701 B.C.). Ch. xi depicts the happy reign to be of the ideal king, and a hymn of thanksgiving and praise (xii) closes this first division.
The first "burden" is aimed at Babylon (viii, 1-xiv, 23). The situation presupposed by the Prophet is that of the Exile; a fact that inclines some to date it shortly before 549, against others who hold it was written on the death of Sargon (705). Ch. xiv, 24-27, foretelling the overthrow of the Assyrian army on the mountains of Juda, and regarded by some as a misplaced part of the prophecy against Assur (x, 5-34), belongs no doubt to the period of Sennacherib's campaign. The next passage (xiv, 28-32) was occasioned by the death of some foe of the Philistines: the names of Achaz (728), Theglathphalasar III (727), and Sargon (705) have been suggested, the last appearing more probable. Chapters xv-xvi, "the burden of Moab", is regarded by many as referring to the reign of Jeroboam II, King of Israel (787-746); its date is conjectural. The ensuing "burden of Damascus" (xvii, 1-11), directed against the Kingdom of Israel as well, should be assigned to about 735 B.C. Here follows a short utterance on Ethiopia (prob. 702 or 701). Next comes the remarkable prophecy about Egypt (xix), the interest of which cannot but be enhanced by the recent discoveries at Elephantine (vv. 18, 19). The date presents a difficulty, the time ranging, according to diverse opinions, from 720 to 672 B. C.. The oracle following (xx), against Egypt and Ethiopia, is ascribed to the year in which Ashdod was besieged by the Assyrians (711). Just what capture of Babylon is alluded to in "the burden of the desert of the sea" (xxi, 1-10) is not easy to determine, for during the lifetime of Isaias Babylon was thrice besieged and taken (710, 703, 696 B. C.). Independent critics seem inclined to see here a description of the taking of Babylon in 528 B. C., the same description being the work of an author living towards the close of the Babylonian Captivity. The two short prophecies, one on Edom (Duma; xxi, 11-12) and one on Arabia (xxi, 13-17), give no clue as to when they were uttered. Ch. xxii, 1-14, is a rebuke addressed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the rest of the chapter Sobna (Shebna) is the object of the Prophet's reproaches and threats (about 701 B.C.). The section closes with the announcement of the ruin and the restoration of Tyre (xxiii).
The third section of the first collection includes chapters xxiv-xxviii, sometimes called "the Apocalypse of Isaias". In the first part (xxiv-xxvi, 29) the Prophet announces for an undetermined future the judgment which shall precede the kingdom of God (xxiv); then in symbolic terms he describes the happiness of the good and the punishment of the wicked (xxv). This is followed by the hymn of the elect (xxvi, 1-19). In the second part (xxvi, 20-xxvii) the Prophet depicts the judgment hanging over Israel and its neighbours. The date is most unsettled among modern critics, certain pasages being attributed to 107 B.C., others even to a date lower than 79 B.C.. Let it be remarked, however, that both the ideas and the language of these four chapters support the tradition attributing this apocalypse to Isaias. The fourth division opens with a pronouncement of woe against Ephraim (and perhaps Juda; xxviii, 1-8), written prior to 722 B.C.; the historical situation implied in xxviii, 9-29, is a strong indication that this passage was written about 702 B.C. To the same date belong xxix-xxxii, prophecies concerned with the campaign of Sennacherib. This series fittingly concludes with a triumphant hymn (xxxiii), the Prophet rejoicing in the deliverance of Jerusalem (701). Chapters xxxi-xxxv, the last division, announce the devastation of Edom, and the enjoyment of bountiful blessings by ransomed Israel. These two chapters are thought by several modern critics to have been written during the captivity in the sixth century. The foregoing analysis does not enable us to assert indubitably that this first collection as such is the work of Isaias; yet as the genuineness of almost all these prophecies cannot be seriously questioned, the collection as a whole might still possibly be attributed to the last years of the Prophet's life or shortly afterwards. If there really be passages reflecting a later epoch, they found their way into the book in the course of time on account of some analogy to the genuine writings of Isaias. Little need be said of xxxvii-xxxix. The first two chapters narrate the demand made by Sennacherib–the surrender of Jerusalem, and the fulfillment of Isaias's predictions of its deliverance; xxxviii tells of Ezechias's illness, cure, and song of thanksgiving; lastly xxxix tells of the embassy sent by Merodach Baladan and the Prophet's reproof of Ezechias.
The second collection (xl-lvi) deals throughout with Israel's restoration from the Babylonian exile. The main lines of the division as proposed by the Jesuit Condamine are as follows: a first section is concerned with the mission and work of Cyrus; it is made up of five pieces: (a) xl-xli: calling of Cyrus to be Yahweh's instrument in the restoration of Israel; (b) xlii, 8-xliv, 5: Israel's deliverance from exile; (c) xliv, 6-xlvi, 12: Cyrus shall free Israel and allow Jerusalem to be built; (d) xlvii: ruin of Babylon; (e) xlviii: past dealings of God with his people are an earnest for the future. Next to be taken up is another group of utterances, styled by German scholars "Ebed-Jahweh-Lieder"; it is made up of xlix-lv (to which xlii, 1-7, should be joined) together with lx-lxii. In this section we hear of the calling of Yahweh's servant (xlix, 1-li, 16); then of Israel's glorious home-coming (li, 17-lii, 12); afterwards is described the servant of Yahweh ransoming his people by his sufferings and death (xlii, 1-7; lii, 13-15; liii, 1-12); then follows a glowing vision of the new Jerusalem (liv, 1-lv, 13, and lx, 1-lxii, 12). Ch. lvi, 1-8, develops this idea, that all the upright of heart, no matter what their former legal status, will be admitted to Yahweh's new people. In lvi, 9-lvii, the Prophet inveighs against the idolatry and immorality so rife among the Jews; the sham piety with which their fasts were observed (lvii). In lix the Prophet represents the people confessing their chief sins; this humble acknowledgment of their guilt prompts Yahweh to stoop to those who have "turned from rebellion". A dramatic description of God's vengeance (lxiii, 1-7) is followed by a prayer for mercy (lxiii, 7-lxiv, 11), and the book closes upon the picture of the punishment of the wicked and the happines of the good. Many perplexing questions are raised by the exegesis of the "Second Isaias". The "Ebed-Jahweh-Lieder", in particular, suggest many difficulties. Who is this "servant of Yahweh"? Does the title apply to the same person throughout the ten chapters? Had the writer in view some historical personage of past ages, or one belonging to his own time, or the Messias to come, or even some ideal person? Most commentators see in the "servant of Yahweh" an individual. But is that individual one of the great historical figures of Israel? No satisfactory answer has been given. The names of Moses, David, Ozias, Ezechias, Isaias, Jeremias, Josias, Zorobabel, Jechonias, and Eleazar have all been suggested as being the person. Catholic exegesis has always pointed out the fact that all the features of the "servant of Yahweh" found their complete realization in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He therefore should be regarded as the one individual described by the Prophet. The "Second Isaias" gives rise to other more critical and less important problems. With the exception of one or two passages, the point of view throughout this section is that of the Babylonian Captivity; there is an unmistakable difference between the style of these twenty-seven chapters and that of the "First Isaias"; moreover, the theological ideas of xl-lxvi show a decided advance on those found in the first thirty-nine chapters. If this be true, does it not follow that xl-lxvi are not by the same author as the prophecies of the first collection, and may there not be good grounds for attributing the authorship of these chapters to a "second Isaias" living towards the close of the Babylonian Captivity? Such is the contention of most of the modern non-Catholic scholars.
This is hardly the place for a discussion of so intricate a question. We therefore limit ourselves to stating the position of Catholic scholarship on this point. This is clearly set out in the decision issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, 28 June, 1908. (1) Admitting the existence of true prophecy; (2) There is no reason why "Isaias and the other Prophets should utter prophecies concerning only those things which were about to take place immediately or after a short space of time" and not "things that should be fulfilled after many ages". (3) Nor does anything postulate that the Prophets should "always address as their hearers, not those who belonged to the future, but only those who were present and contemporary, so that they could be understood by them". Therefore it cannot be asserted that "the second part of the Book of Isaias (xl-lxvi), in which the Prophet addresses as one living amongst them, not the Jews who were the contemporaries of Isaias, but the Jews mourning in the Exile of Babylon, cannot have for its author Isaias himself, who was dead long before, but must be attributed to some unknown Prophet living among the exiles". In other words, although the author of Isaias xl-lxvi does speak from the point of view of the Babylonian Captivity, yet this is no proof that he must have lived and written in those times. (4) "The philological argument from language and style against the identity of the author of the Book of Isaias is not to be considered weighty enough to compel a man of judgment, familiar with Hebrew and criticism, to acknowledge in the same book a plurality of authors". Differences of language and style between the parts of the book are neither denied nor underrated; it is asserted only that such as they appear, they do not compel one to admit the plurality of authors. (5) "There are no solid arguments to the fore, even taken cumulatively, to prove that the book of Isaias is to be attributed not to Isaias himself alone, but to two or rather to many authors".
III. APPRECIATION OF THE WORK OF ISAIAS
It may not be useless shortly to set forth the prominent features of the great Prophet, doubtless one of the most striking personalities in Hebrew history. Without holding any official position, it fell to the lot of Isaias to take an active part during well nigh forty troublesome years in controlling the policy of his country. His advice and rebukes were sometimes unheeded, but experience finally taught the rulers of Juda that to part from the Prophet's views meant always a set-back for the political situation of Juda. In order to understand the trend of his policy it is necessary to remember by what principle it was animated. This principle he derived from his unshaken faith in God governing the world, and particularly His own people and the nations coming in contact with the latter. The people of Juda, forgetful of their God, given to idolatrous practices and social disorders of many kinds, had paid little heed to former warnings. One thing only alarmed them, namely that hostile nations were threatening Juda on all sides; but were they not the chosen people of God? Certainly He would not allow His own nation to be destroyed, even as others had been. In the meantime prudence dictated that the best possible means be taken to save themselves from present dangers. Syria and Israel were plotting against Juda and her king; Juda and her king would appeal to the mighty nation of the North, and later to the King of Egypt.
Isaias would not hear aught of this short-sighted policy, grounded only on human prudence, or a false religious confidence, and refusing to look beyond the moment. Juda was in terrible straits; God alone could save her; but the first condition laid down for the manifestation of His power was moral and social reformation. Syrians, Ephraimites, Assyrians, and all the rest were but the instruments of the judgment of God, the purpose of which is the overthrow of sinners. Certainly Yahweh will not allow His people to be utterly destroyed; His covenant He will keep; but it is vain to hope that well-deserved chastisement may be escaped. From this view of the designs of God never did the faith of Isaias waver. He first proclaimed this message at the beginning of the reign of Achaz. The king and his counsellors saw no salvation for Juda except in an alliance with, that is an acknowledgment of vassalage to, Assyria. This the Prophet opposed with all his might. With his keen foresight he had clearly perceived that the real danger to Juda was not from Ephraim and Syria, and that the intervention of Assyria in the affairs of Palestine involved a complete overthrow of the balance of power along the Mediterranean coast. Moreover, the Prophet entertained no doubt but that sooner or later a conflict between the rival empires of the Euphrates and the Nile must arise, and then their hosts would swarm over the land of Juda. To him it was clear that the course proposed by Juda's self-conceited politicians was like the mad flight of "silly doves", throwing themselves headlong into the net. Isaias's advice was not followed and one by one the consequences he had foretold were realized. However, he continued to proclaim his prophetical views of the current events. Every new event of importance is by him turned into a lesson not only to Juda but to all the neighbouring nations. Damascus has fallen; so will the drunkards and revellers of Samaria see the ruin of their city. Tyre boasts of her wealth and impregnable position; her doom is no less decreed, and her fall will all the more astound the world. Assyria herself, fattened with the spoils of all nations, Assyria "the rod of God's vengeance", when she will have accomplished her providential destiny, shall meet with her fate. God has thus decreed the doom of all nations for the accomplishment of His purposes and the establishment of a new Israel cleansed from all past defilements.
Judean politicians towards the end of the reign of Ezechias had planned an alliance with the King of Egypt against Assyria and carefully concealed their purpose from the Prophet. When the latter came to know the preparations for rebellion, it was already too late to undo what had been done. But he could at least give vent to his anger (see Isaiah 30), and we know both from the Bible and Sennacherib's own account of the campaign of 701 how the Assyrian army routed the Egyptians at Altaku (Elteqeh of Joshua 19:44), captured Accaron, and sent a detachment to ravage Juda; Jerusalem, closely invested, was saved only by the payment of an enormous ransom. The vindication of Isaias's policy, however, was not yet complete. The Assyrian army withdrew; but Sennacherib, apparently thinking it unsafe to leave in his wake a fortified city like Jerusalem, demanded the immediate surrender of Ezechias's capital. At the command of Ezechias, no answer was given to the message; but the king humbly bade Isaias to intercede for the city. The Prophet had for the king a reassuring message. But the respite in the Judean capital was short. Soon a new Assyrian embassy arrived with a letter from the king containing an ultimatum. In the panic-stricken city there was a man of whom Sennacherib had taken no account; it was by him that the answer was to be given to the ultimatum of the proud Assyrians: "The virgin, the daughter of Sion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; . . . He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow into it. . . . By the way that he came, he shall return, and into this city he shall not come, saith the Lord" (xxxvii, 22, 33). We know in reality how a sudden catastrophe overtook the Assyrian army and God's promise was fulfilled. This crowning vindication of the Divinely inspired policy of Isaias prepared the hearts of the Jews for the religious reformation brought about by Ezechias, no doubt along lines laid down by the Prophet.
In reviewing the political side of Isaias's public life, we have already seen something of his religious and social ideas; all these view-points were indeed most intimately connected in his teaching. It may be well now to dwell a little more fully on this part of the Prophet's message. Isaias's description of the religious condition of Juda in the latter part of the eighth century is anything but flattering. Jerusalem is compared to Sodom and Gomorrah; apparently the bulk of the people were superstitious rather than religious. Sacrifices were offered out of routine; withcraft and divination were in honour; nay more, foreign deities were openly invoked side by side with the true God, and in secret the immoral worship of some of these idols was widely indulged in, the higher-class and the Court itself giving in this regard an abominable example. Throughout the kingdom there was corruption of higher officials, ever-increasing luxury among the wealthy, wanton haughtiness of women, ostentation among the middle-class people, shameful partiality of the judges, unscrupulous greed of the owners of large estates, and oppression of the poor and lowly. The Assyrian suzerainty did not change anything in this woeful state of affairs. In the eyes of Isaias this order of things was intolerable; and he never tired repeating it could not last. The first condition of social reformation was the downfall of the unjust and corrupt rulers; the Assyrians were the means appointed by God to level their pride and tyranny with the dust. With their mistaken ideas about God, the nation imagined He did not concern Himself about the dispositions of His worshippers. But God loathes sacrifices offered by ". . . hands full of blood. Wash yourselves, be clean, . . . relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. . . . But if you will not, . . . the sword shall devour you" (i, 15-20). God here appears as the avenger of disregarded human justice as much as of His Divine rights. He cannot and will not let injustice, crime, and idolatry go unpunished. The destruction of sinners will inaugurate an era of regeneration, and a little circle of men faithful to God will be the first-fruits of a new Israel free from past defilements and ruled by a scion of David's House. With the reign of Ezechias began a period of religious revival. Just how far the reform extended we are not able to state; local sanctuaries around which heathenish abuses had gathered were suppressed, and many `asherîm and masseboth were destroyed. It is true the times were not ripe for a radical change, and there was little response to the appeal of the Prophet for moral amendment and redress of social abuses.
The Fathers of the Church, echoing the eulogy of Jesus, son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 48:25-28), agree that Isaias was the greatest of the literary Prophets (Eusebius, "Præp. Evang.", v, 4, P.G., XXII, 370; "Synops. Script. S.", among the works of St. Athan., P.G., XXXVIII, 363; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "In Is., Prooem.", P.G., LXX, 14; St. Isidore of Pelus., "Epist.", i, 42, P.G., LXXVIII, 208; Theodoret., "In Is. Argum.", P.G., LXXXI, 216; St. Jerome, "Prol. in Is.", P.L., XXIV, 18; "Præf. ad Paul. et Eustoch.", P.L., XXXII, 769; "De civ. Dei", XVIII, xxix, 1, P. L., XLI, 585, etc.). Isaias's poetical genius was in every respect worthy of his lofty position as a Prophet. He is unsurpassed in poetry, descriptive, lyric, or elegiac. There is in his compositions an uncommon elevation and majesty of conception, and an unparalleled wealth of imagery, never departing, however, from the utmost propriety, elegance, and dignity. He possessed an extraordinary power of adapting his language both to occasions and audiences; sometimes he displays most exquisite tenderness, and at other times austere severity; he successively assumes a mother's pleading and irresistible tone, and the stern manner of an implacable judge, now making use of delicate irony to bring home to his hearers what he would have them understand, and then pitilessly shattering their fondest illusions or wielding threats which strike like mighty thunderbolts. His rebukes are neither impetuous like those of Osee nor blustering like those of Amos; he never allows the conviction of his mind or the warmth of his heart to overdraw any feature or to overstep the limits assigned by the most exquisite taste. Exquisite taste indeed is one of the leading features of the Prophet's style. This style is rapid, energetic, full of life and colour, and withal always chaste and dignified. It moreover manifests a wonderful command of language. It has been justly said that no Prophet ever had the same command of noble throughts; it may be as justly added that never perhaps did any man utter lofty thoughts in more beautiful language. St. Jerome rejected the idea that Isaias's prophecies were true poetry in the full sense of the word (Præf. in Is., P.L., XXVIII, 772). Nevertheless the authority of the illustrious Robert Lowth, in his "Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews" (1753), esteemed "the whole book of Isaiah to be poetical, a few passages excepted, which if brought together, would not at most exceed the bulk of five or six chapters". This opinion of Lowth, at first scarcely noticed, became more and more general in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and is now common among Biblical scholars.
Publication information Written by Charles L. Souvay. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
In addition to general and special commentaries consult: CHEYNE, Book of Isaiah chronologically arranged (London, 1870); IDEM, Prophecies of Isaiah (London, 1880); IDEM, Introd. to the Book of Isaiah (London, 1895); DRIVER, Isaiah: his life and times and the writings which bear his name (London, 1888); LOWTH, Isaiah, translation, dissert. and notes (London, 1778); SKINNER, Isaiah (Cambridge, 1896); G. A. SMITH, Book of Isaiah (Expositor's Bible, 1888-1890); W. R. SMITH, The Prophets of Israel and their place in history (London, 1882); KNABENBAUER, Comment. in Isaiam prophetam (Paris, 1887); CONDAMINE, Livre d'Isaie, trad. critique avec notes et comment. (Paris, 1905; a volume of introduction to the same is forthcoming); LE HIR, Les trois grandes prophètes, Isaïe, Jérémie, Ezéchiel (Paris, 1877); IDEM, Etudes Bibliques (Paris, 1878); DELITZSCH, Commentar über das Buch Jesaja; tr. (Edinburgh, 1890); DUHM, Das Buch Jesaia (Gottingen, 1892); GESENIUS, Der Prophet Jesaja (Leipzig, 1820-1821); EWALD, Die Propheten des Alten Bundes (Tübingen, 1840-1841); tr. by F. SMITH, (London, 1876–); HITZIG, Der Prophet Jesaja übers. und ausgelegt (Heidelberg, 1833); KITTEL, Der Prophet Jesaia, 6th ed. of DILLMANN's work of the same title (Leipzig, 1898); KNABENBAUER, Erklärung des Proph. Isaias (Freiburg, 1881); MARTI, Das Buch Jesaja (Tübingen, 1900).
Commemorated May 9
The Holy Prophet Isaiah lived 700 years before the birth of Christ, and was of royal lineage. Isaiah's father Amos raised his son in the fear of God and in the law of the Lord. Having attained the age of maturity, the Prophet Isaiah entered into marriage with a pious prophetess (Is 8:3) and had a son Jashub (Is 8:18).
Isaiah was called to prophetic service during the reign of Oziah [Uzziah], king of Judea, and he prophesied for 60 years during the reign of kings Joatham, Achaz [Ahaz], Hezekiah, and Manasseh. The start of his service by him beholding the Lord God, sitting in a majestic heavenly temple upon a high throne. Six-winged Seraphim encircled Him. With two wings they covered their faces, and with two wings they covered their feet, and with two wings they flew about crying out one to another, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with His glory!" The pillars of the heavenly temple shook from their shouts, and in the temple arose the smoke of incense.
The prophet cried out in terror, "Oh, an accursed man am I, granted to behold the Lord Sabaoth, and having impure lips and living amidst an impure people!" Then was sent him one of the Seraphim, having in hand a red-hot coal, which he took with tongs from the altar of the Lord. He touched it to the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah and said, "Lo, this has touched thy lips, and will take away with thine iniquities, and will cleanse thy sins". After this Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord, directed towards him, "Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?" Isaiah answered, "Here am I, send me" (Is 6:1 ff). The Lord sent him to the Jews to exhort them to turn from the ways of impiety and idol worship, and to offer repentance.
To those that repent and turn to the true God, the Lord promised mercy and forgiveness, but punishment and the judgement of God are appointed for the unrepentant. Then Isaiah asked the Lord, how long would the falling away of the Jewish nation from God continue. The Lord answered, "Until the cities be deserted, by reason of there being no people, and the land shall be made desolate. Just as when a tree be felled and from the stump come forth new shoots, so also from the destruction of the nation a holy remnant will remain, from which will emerge a new tribe".
Isaiah left behind him a book of prophecy in which he denounces the Jews for their unfaithfulness to the God of their Fathers. He predicted the captivity of the Jews and their return from captivity during the time of the emperor Cyrus, the destruction and renewal of Jerusalem and of the Temple. Together with this he predicts the historical fate also of the other nations bordering the Jews. But what is most important of all for us, the Prophet Isaiah with particular clarity and detail prophesies about the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Saviour. The prophet names the Messiah as God and Man, teacher of all the nations, founder of the Kingdom of peace and love.
The prophet foretold the birth of the Christ from a Virgin, and with particular clarity he describes the Suffering of Christ for the sins of the world. He foresaw His Resurrection and the universal spreading of His Church. By his clear foretelling of Christ the Saviour, the Prophet Isaiah deserves to be called an Old Testament Evangelist. To him belong the words, "He bears our sins and is smitten for us.... He was wounded for our sins and tortured for our transgressions. The chastisement of our world was upon Him, and by His wounds we were healed...." (Is 53:4-5).
The holy Prophet Isaiah had also a gift of wonderworking. Therefore, when during the time of a siege of Jerusalem by enemies the besieged had become exhausted with thirst, he by his prayer drew out from beneath Mount Sion a spring of water, which was called Siloam, i.e. "sent from God". It was to this spring afterwards that the Saviour sent the man blind from birth to wash, and He restored his sight. By the prayer of the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord prolonged the life of Hezekiah for 15 years.
The Prophet Isaiah died a martyr's death. By order of the Jewish king Manasseh he was sawn through by a wood-saw. The prophet was buried not far from the Pool of Siloam. The relics of the holy Prophet were transferred by the emperor Theodosios the Younger to Constantinople and placed in the church of St Lawrence at Blachernae. At the present time part of the head of the Prophet Isaiah is preserved at Athos in the Hilandar monastery.
For the times and the events which happened during the life of the Prophet Isaiah, see the fourth Book of Kings [alt. 2 Kings] (Ch 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, etc.), and likewise 2 Chr:26-32).
Of all the Prophets, Isaiah is called the most eloquent because of the beauty and loftiness of his words. His book of prophecy, divided into sixty-six chapters, is ranked first among the greater Prophets. The Fifth Ode of the Psalter, "Out of the night my spirit wakes at dawn to You, O God..." is taken from his book. It was this holy Prophet who foretold that a Virgin would conceive in the womb (7:14); that not an ambassador, nor an angel, but the Lord Himself would save fallen man (63:9); that the Messiah would suffer, bearing our sins (ch. 53). His name means "Yah is helper".
Dismissal Hymn (Second
As we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Isaiah, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.
Kontakion (Second Tone)
Having received the gift of prophecy, O Prophet-martyr Esaias, herald of God, you made it clear to all under the sun the Incarnation of God by crying with a great voice: Behold the Virgin shall conceive in her womb.
The Call of the Prophet.
Reliance on Assyria.
Alliance with Egypt.
Book of Judgments.
The Question of Ch. xl.-lxvi.
The Critical Problem.
The "Variety" of Isaiah.
Periods of the Prophecy.
The chief note of the Book of Isaiah is
variety-variety of tone, of style, of thought, and of historical background. The first step in the study of Isaiah is to realize this variety by taking a survey of the contents. The heading (i. 1) prepares the reader to expect a collection of closely related prophecies (hence called a "vision," in the singular) concerning Judah and its capital. It is plain, therefore, that ch. xiii.-xxiii. were only inserted as an afterthought; for, with the exception of ch. xxii., they all relate to foreign nations; ch. xiv. 24-27, xvii. 12-14, xxii. 1-14, and 15-25 (which relate to Judah or Jerusalem) may be regarded as fragments which would have perished if an editor had not thought of inserting them in this group. Ch. xxiv.-xxvii., also, can only have been admitted through an extension of the original plan, for they speak primarily of a judgment upon the earth at large, and when they do digress to Israel it is in obscure language, which the men of "Judah and Jerusalem" could not generally have understood. Similarly, ch. xxxiv.-xxxv. can have formed no part of the original vision, for the larger part (xxxiv.) is concerned, not with Judah, but with Edom. Ch. xxxvi.-xxxix. speak of Isaiah in the third person, and largely coincide with II Kings xviii. 13-xx. 19. Ch. xl.-lxvi. have for their background, at any rate to a considerable extent, Jerusalem in ruins and her people in captivity. In following, therefore, that instinct of order, which is, of course, not the same thing as criticism, but is at least one element in it, the first impressions of Isaiah must be obtained from ch. i.-xii. and xxviii.-xxxiii.
Ch. i.: One of the finest specimens of prophetic rhetoric known. It is in its present form a general prophecy, full of edification for all periods of Israel's history, thòugh the prominence given in verses 29, 30 to the heathen worship practised in the recesses of gardens would not have seemed perfectly natural in the later period of strict religious purity. There are four leading ideas: Israel's ingratitude to its God; the false repentance of oblations; the true repentance of a changed life; purification from without, failing purification from within.
Ch. ii.-iv.: A series of denunciations of the national corruption enclosed between two pictures of the ideal age. Here Isaiah goes into greater detail, both as to the nature of Judah's sin and as to the inevitable punishment. Like a thunder-storm the wrath of God will overthrow the proud, and sweep away the heathenish luxury of the grandees of the land; all classes will be disturbed from their pleasant security; the ablest citizens will go into captivity, for theirs is the greatest guilt; nor shall the women of Jerusalem escape (comp. Amos iv. 1-3).
Ch. v.: A briefer utterance with similar scope. It begins with a bright parable on the vineyard of God, the moral of which is the danger of Judah's ingratitude; then follows a series of "wos" on the chief national sins, and a weird, mysterious announcement of terrible invaders.
The Call of the Prophet.
Ch. vi.: This chapter might well have stood at the head of the whole book. It describes the call of the prophet. A vision, such as all prophets may expect to have (though abundance of visions is no proof of the goodness of a "man of God"), came to Isaiah, and in this vision-the sum of which was the glorified and idealized Temple-God and Isaiah interchanged these words: "Whom shall I send?" "Send me." No passage is so important as is this one for the true biography of Isaiah.
Ch. vii.-ix. 7: Partly historical, partly prophetical. It is unfortunate that this precedent is not followed more frequently. It is now known that Isaiah sought to influence Ahaz, but was repelled by the king. Judah was in sore peril from the invaders Pekah and Rezin (not the invaders to whom he pointed so mysteriously in v. 26 et seq.), and there was a conflict between the two principles-reliance on outside human help and implicit trust in Israel's God. Ahaz stood for the first, Isaiah for the second. One result there was which Ahaz could never have anticipated: the sign of Immanuel has supplied material for controversy to the present hour. It might be thought that it was a promise of safety. But Isaiah could not "speak peace when there was no peace." It is desolation, and not deliverance, which the unbelief of Ahaz will ultimately bring on his unhappy country (vii. 17-25). In ch. viii. 1-4 Isaiah reaffirms his declaration (vii. 7-9) of a judgment swiftly coming to Damascus and Samaria. But will Judah escape? No, but the kernel of the nation will escape. Judgment will bring about purification. A deliverer already exists in the counsels of God, and he will restore the kingdom of David in an idealized form (ix. 1-7). Ch. ix. 8-x. 4: A highly poetical picture of the approaching ruin of the Northern Kingdom, though there are also glances at Judah. The rivalry of factions in the state and the fall of the incompetent rulers on the field of battle are graphically described.
Reliance on Assyria.
Ch. x. 5-xii. 6: There is more religious thought, however, in the discourses contained in these chapters. The variety of imagery, too, is highly remarkable. Assyria (that is, its king; comp. the use of "France" and "England" in Shakespeare) is the staff or the ax in God's hand. Its army is like a forest. Assyria's lust of conquest is like the sport of bird-nesting. See the astonishingly rapid march of the armed hosts! Some with their leader "shake their hands" at the sacred mountain. The Davidic kingdom will, as it seems, be cut down. But so, too, Assyria will be cut down; and while a "shoot" (R. V.) will "come forth out of the stock of Jesse," no such prospect is held out for Assyria. Not to Babylon, but to Jerusalem, will the nations repair. Not in Assyria, but in the land of Israel, will the peace of paradise be exemplified. Thither will all Israel's exiles be brought back, singing psalms of devout and grateful joy. Ch. xxviii.-xxxiii.: These chapters also are full of variety. From the first the prophet alternates between judgment and salvation. The proud crown of the drunkards (princely drunkards!) of Ephraim is trodden down; for the residue there is a crown of glory (Samaria fell 722 B.C.). But there are drunkards (priestly drunkards!) in Judah too, trusting in a "refuge of lies" instead of in the "sure foundation" stone (xxviii. 15-17). At another time the teacher seems to have adopted a different tone. A few, perhaps, became dejected by Isaiah's frequent reference to destruction. Would this plowing and thrashing go on forever? No; an earthly husbandman is too wise for that; and the heavenly husbandman knows best of all that destruction is justified only by the object of sowing some useful plant when the soil has been prepared (xxviii. 23-29).
It is true, as ch. xxix. shows, the great majority were quite otherwise impressed by Isaiah's preaching. A deep lethargy clouded the senses of the rulers (verses 10-12). But the crash of thunder will awaken them. Within a year Jerusalem will be besieged, and in the midst of the siege God Himself will fall upon Jerusalem and punish her (1-4, 6). But fear not; the foe will suffer most; God will not permit the nations to destroy Mount Zion (5, 7, 8). Wo to the formalists and to the unbelieving politicians of Judah! (13-15). But all the best blessings are to the poor and the meek.
Alliance with Egypt.
The cause of Isaiah's wrath against the politicians was an alliance with Egypt which was being planned in secret. This is shown by ch. xxx. Isaiah predicts the disappointment which awaits the ambassadors, and the terrible results which willfollow from this short-sighted statecraft. But here again the usual contrast is introduced. Storm and sunshine compete with each other. The Golden Age will yet come; Nature will participate in the happiness of regenerate Judah. Assyria will be crushed, and meantime the Jews will sing, as in the night of the feast-day (the vigil of the Passover; comp. Ex. xii. 42). In ch. xxxi.-xxxii. 8 the prophet still hovers about the same theme, while in xxxii. 9-20 the careless security of the women is chastised (comp. iii. 16 et seq.), the desolation soon to be wrought by the invader is described, and, as a cheering contrast, the future transformation of the national character and of the physical conditions of life are once more confidently announced. Ch. xxxiii. is one of the most singular of the extant specimens of prophetic writing. There is no apparent arrangement, and some of the verses seem to be quite isolated. It is a kind of vision which is described. The land is being laid waste. O Lord, help! But see! the hostile hordes suddenly disappear; Zion's God is her security. Alas! not yet. The highways still lie waste. The whole country from Lebanon to Sharon mourns. Yes, it is God's time to arise. He has, in fact, arisen, and the "godless" (the converted Jews) tremble, while the righteous are assured of salvation. How happy will the retrospect of their past troubles make them! (verse 18). Then, too, it will be plain that Zion's load of guilt has been removed.
Book of Judgments.
The idea which pervades the first of the five lesser books (ch. xiii.-xxiii., xxiv.-xxvii., xxxiv.-xxxv., xxxvi.-xxxix., and xl.-lxvi.) which still await consideration may be expressed in Isaiah's own words (they are taken here provisionally to be Isaiah's): "This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations" (xiv. 26). It is, in fact, a Book of Judgments on the nations, except that four passages have found admission into it which relate, not to the world outside, but to the little people which, as Isaiah may have thought, out-weighed in the eyes of God all the other nations put together. These four passages are as follows:
Ch. xiv. 24-27 is a short prophecy declaring the purpose of Israel's God to tread Assyria under foot upon the "mountains" of Judah, to which is appended a solemn declaration, part of which is quoted above (verses 26, 27). In ch. xvii. 12-14 there is a graphic prophecy of the destruction of the "many nations" which attack Jerusalem (comp. viii. 9, 10; xxix. 7, 8); no special nation is singled out. In ch. xxii. 1-14 there is an indignant rebuke of the people of Jerusalem, who are in no degree sobered by the danger, just now removed, from the Assyrians; instead of examining into their ways, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well, they indulge in wild revelry. In ch. xxii. 15-25 an invective against the vizier of the day (Shebna) is followed by a promise of his office to a worthier man (Eliakim), to which an appendix is attached announcing this second vizier's fall.
Of the judgments upon definite nations, other than the Jewish, the first (ch. xiii.) declares the doom of Babylon, and to it is appended a fine, artistic ode of triumph on the King of Babylon (xiv. 4b-21). Observe that the prophet distinctly speaks as if the Medes were already mustering for the march on Babylon. Is it to be supposed that Isaiah was at the time in an ecstasy? Ch. xiv. 22-23 is a prophecy, summing up Babylon's doom in more prosaic style. Ch. xiv. 28-32 contains the doom of the Philistines, who are in premature exultation at the "breaking" of some terrible "rod." Ch. xv.-xvi. 12 are highly dramatic; they begin with a picture of the consternation of the Moabites at the havoc wrought by an invader, describe the flight' of the people in much detail, mention how an appeal to Mount Zion for help was rejected, make sympathetic references to the lamentations of the Moabites over their ruined vines, and then, without any apparent connection, assert that no appeal to Chemosh for aid will be effectual. To this is added (verses 13, 14) a solemn declaration that the prophecy which had been delivered at some previous period shall be fulfilled within three years.
Ch. xvii. 1-11 is directed against Damascus (that is, Syria) and Ephraim (that is, Israel). These two powers have set themselves against the true God, and must suffer the same doom. However, the few who are left in Israel will turn to the holy God, and give up lower forms of worship.
Ch. xviii. was apparently intended to be an address to Ethiopia. But already (verse 3) the prophet turns to the world at large, and bids men take heed of the signs of the divine approach. When the power hostile to God is ripe for destruction, it will be cut off. Then will the Ethiopians send presents to Jerusalem. The doom, therefore, is really confined to verses 4-6.
Ch. xix. describes the utter collapse of Egypt, owing to its conquest by a "cruel lord" (verse 4). The main interest, however, lies in verses 18-24, which apparently contain circumstantial predictions of the establishment of Jewish colonies in five cities of Egypt, including the "city of the sun"; of the erection of a sanctuary in Egypt to Israel's God; of the deliverance of the Jews (?) in Egypt in their sore distress; of the conversion of the Egyptians; and of the providential discipline of Egypt, which henceforth will be a member of a sacred triad of closely connected nations-Egypt, Assyria, and Israel.
The prophecy in ch. xx. gives a second judgment upon Egypt, and a perfectly new judgment on Ethiopia. It stands in marked contrast both to ch. xviii. and to ch. xix. Its possession of a historical introduction would have led to its being grouped with ch. vii.-ix. 7 and ch. xxxvi.-xxxix.; but doubtless it was too short to stand alone.
Ch. xxi. contains three "burdens" (or oracles)- that of the "wilderness of the sea" (R. V.), relative to the destruction of Babylon by Elam and Media (contingents in the assailing army?), that of Dumah (that is, Edom), and that of the "Dedanites" (R. V.), entitled by the early editors of the Hebrew text "in Arabia," words apparently derived from the opening words "in the forest in Arabia." The oracles in ch. xxi. contain great textual difficulties. The only remaining prophecy in this section is that on Tyre. It has a strongly elegiac character, and its reference is much disputed. Here, again,textual problems have to be settled before any attempts at exegesis. But it is clear that the standpoint of verses 15-18 is not that of verses 1-14. It is an epilogue, and expresses a much more hopeful spirit than the original prophecy. Tyre will one day be of importance to the people of Jerusalem; its prosperity is therefore to be desired. Here, then, the note of variety or contrast is as strongly marked as in any part of Isaiah.
Still more remarkable is the variety in the contents of the second of the lesser books (ch. xxiv.-xxvii.). It is observed by R. G. Moulton that, dramatic as this fine passage is, one looks in vain for temporal succession, and finds instead "the pendulum movement dear to Hebrew imagination, alternating between judgment and salvation." However, the parts of this "rhapsody" can not safely be distributed among the dramatis personæ, for it is no literary whole, but a "rhapsody" in a sense not intended by Moulton, a collection of fragments, large or small, stitched, as it were, together. It might also be called a "mosaic," and, since very little, if any, attempt has been made to fuse the different elements, one might, with much advantage, read this composite work in the following order:
(1) xxiv. 1-23: The Last Judgment.
(2) xxv. 6-8: The Feast of Initiation into communion with God, spread not only for Israel, but for all peoples.
(3) xxvi. 20, 21: Summons to the Jews to shut themselves up, while God carries out the awful doom of the wicked (comp. Ex. xii. 22b, 23).
(4) xxvii. 1, 12: Mystic prophecy of the Leviathan's doom, and the restoration of the entire body of dispersed Jews.
(5) xxvii. 7-11: Conditions of salvation for the Jews.
(6) xxvi. 1-19: Song of praise for the deliverance of the Righteous, which passes into a meditative retrospect of recent events, and closes with a prophecy of the resurrection of those who have been faithful unto death.
(7) xxv. 1-5: Song of praise for the destruction of an insolent city.
(8) xxv. 9-12: Praise for deliverance, and anticipations of the downfall of Moab.
(9) xxvii. 2-5: Song concerning God's vineyard, Israel. Ch. xxxiv.-xxxv. show the same oscillation between judgment and salvation which has been previously noted. The judgment upon all nations (especially Edom) is depicted in lurid tints; upon this, with no link of transition, follows a picture of salvation and of the restoration of the Jewish exiles.
Ch. xxxvi.-xxxix. are a mixture of narrative, prophecy, and poetry. The great deliverance from Assyria under Hezekiah, in which Isaiah plays an important part, is related. An ode on the fall of the King of Assyria (recalling xiv. 4b-21) shows Isaiah (if it be Isaiah) to be a highly gifted poet (xxxvii. 21b-29); and a kind of psalm (see xxxviii. 20), ascribed to Hezekiah, tells how the speaker had recovered from a severe illness, and recognized in his recovery a proof of the complete forgiveness of his sins. A historical preface elucidates this. Both the ode in ch. xxxvii. and the psalm in ch. xxxviii. are accompanied with circumstantial prophecies, not in a poetic style, addressed to Hezekiah. Ch. xxxix. contains a prediction of a Babylonian captivity, also addressed to Hezekiah, and a historical preface.
The Question of Ch. xl.-lxvi.
There still remain ch. xl.-lxvi., which follow abruptly on ch. xxxvi.-xxxix., though a keen eye may detect a preparation for "Comfort ye, comfort ye," in the announcement of the spoiling of Jerusalem and the carrying away of Hezekiah's sons to Babylon in ch. xxxix. Ch. xl.-lxvi. are often called "The Prophecy of Restoration," and yet it requires no great cleverness to see that these twenty-seven chapters are full of variety in tone and style and historical background. A suggestion of this variety may be presented by giving a table of the contents. Alike from a historical and from a religious point of view, these chapters will reward the most careful study, all the more so because controversy is rendered less acute respecting these prophecies than respecting the prophecies in ch. i-xxxix. The word "prophecies," however, has associations which may mislead; they are better described as "unspoken prophetic and poetical orations."
(1) Good news for the Exiles (xl. 1-11).
(2) Reasoning with the mental difficulties of Israel (xl. 12-31).
(3) The Lord, the only true God, proved to be so by the prophecy concerning Cyrus (xli. 20).
(4) Dispute between the true God and the false deities (xli. 21-29).
(5) Contrast between the ideal and the actual Israel, with lofty promises (xlii. 1-xliii. 7).
(6) How Israel, blind as it is, must bear witness for the true God, who is the God of prophecy: the argument from prophecy is repeatedly referred to (xliii. 8-13).
(7) The fall of Babylon and the second Exodus (xliii. 14-21).
(8) The Lord pleads with careless Israel (xliii. 22-xliv. 5).
(9) Once more, the argument for the true God from prophecy, together with a sarcastic description of the fabrication of idols (xliv. 6-23).
(10) The true object of the victories of Cyrus-Israel's deliverance (xliv. 24-xlv. 25).
(11) The deities of Babylon contrasted with the God of Israel (xlvi. 1-13).
(12) A song of derision concerning Babylon (xlvii. 1-15).
(13) The old prophecies (those on Cyrus' victories) were great; the new ones (those on Israel's restoration) are greater (xlviii.).
(14) Israel and Zion, now that they are (virtually) restored, are the central figures in the divine work (xlix. 1-13).
(15) Consolations for Zion and her children (xlix. 14-l. 3).
(16) The true servant of the Lord, at once confessor and martyr, soliloquizes (l. 4-11).
(17) Exhortation and comfort, with a fervid ejaculatory prayer (li. 1-16).
(18) Words of cheer to prostrate Zion (li. 17-lii. 12).
(19) The martyrdom of the true servant of the Lord, and his subsequent exaltation (lii. 13-liii. 12).
(20) Further consolations for Zion, who is once more the Lord's bride, under a new and everlasting covenant (liv.).
(21) An invitation to the Jews of the Dispersion to appropriate the blessings of the new covenant, followed by more prophecies of deliverance (lv.).
(22) Promises to proselytes and to believing eunuchs (lvi. 1-8).
(23) An invective against the bad rulers of Jerusalem and against the evil courses of heretical or misbelieving persons, with promises to humble-minded penitents (lvi. 9-lvii. 21).
(24) Practical discourse on fasting and Sabbath-observance (lviii.).
(25) Partly denunciation of immorality, partly confession of sins (lix. 1-15a).
(26) A vision of deliverance, with a promise of the permanence of regenerate Israel's mission (lix. 15b-21).
(27) A poetic description of glorified Zion (lx.).
(28) The true servant of the Lord, or, perhaps, the prophetic writer, soliloquizes concerning the gracious message entrusted to him, and the Lord confirms his word (lxi. 1-12).
(29) Vision of the divine warrior returning from Edom (lxiii. 1-6).
(30) Exhausted and almost despairing, Israel complains to the Lord (lxiii. 7-lxiv. 12).
(31) Threatenings to the heretical and misbelieving faction, and promises to the faithful (lxv.).
(32) Polemic against those who would erect a rival temple to that of Jerusalem (lxvi. 1-4).
(33) The fates of Jerusalem and all her opponents contrasted (lxvi. 5-24).
The Critical Problem.
The reader who has not shrunk from the trouble of the orderly perusal of Isaiah which is here recommended will be in a position to judge to some extent between the two parties into which, as it may strike one who is not an expert, the theological world is divided. The study of criticism, as it is commonly called, apart from exegesis, is valueless; he is the best critic of Isaiah who knows the exegetical problems best, and to come into touch with the best critics the student must give his days and nights to the study of the text of this book. An attempt will now be made to give some idea of the main critical problem. Many persons think that the question at issue is whether ch. i.-xxxix. were (apart from slight editorial insertions) written by Isaiah, and ch. xl.-lxvi. by some other writer of a much later age. This is a mistake. A series of prophetic announcements of deliverances from exile is interspersed at intervals throughout the first half of Isaiah, and the date of these announcements has in each case to be investigated by the same methods as those applied to the different parts of Isa. xl.-lxvi.
The "parts" of Isa. xl.-lxvi. are referred to because here again there exists a widely prevalent error. That the second part of Isaiah has no literary unity will be obvious to any reader of the preceding synopsis. To argue the question whether the so-called Book of Isaiah has one or two authors is to beat the air. If there was more than one Isaiah, there must have been more than two, for the same variety of idea, phraseology, and background which is by so many scholars taken to prove that "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God" (xl. 1) was not written by Isaiah can be taken to prove that "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgressions" (lviii. 1, R. V.) was not written by the author of "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people."
The "Variety" of Isaiah.
By "variety" is not, of course, meant total, absolute difference. It stands to reason that a great prophet like Isaiah would exert considerable influence on subsequent prophetic writers. There is no justification, therefore, for arguing that because the phrases "the Holy One of Israel" and "the Mighty One of Israel" occur in both halves of Isaiah (the second phrase, however, is varied in Isa. xl. et seq. by the substitution of "Jacob" for "Israel"), the same prophet must have written both portions. A correspondence of isolated phrases which is not even uniformly exact is of little value as an argument, and may be counterbalanced by many phrases peculiar to the disputed prophecies. Still more unwise would it be to argue, from a certain general likeness between the idea of God in the prophecies of the two parts of Isaiah, that the two parts had the same prophetic author, especially now that the extent of Isaiah's contributions to the first half of the book is being so keenly debated. Most unwise of all would it be to attach any weight to a tradition of Isaiah's authorship of the whole book which goes back only to Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) xlviii. 24, 25: "By a spirit of might he saw the end, and comforted the mourners of Zion, forever he declared things that should be, and hidden things before they came" (Hebr.).
Two eminent Jewish rabbis, Abraham ibn Ezra and Isaac Abravanel, were the first who showed a tendency to disintegrate the Book of Isaiah, but their subtle suggestion had no consequences. Practically, the analytic criticism of Isaiah goes back to Koppe, the author of the notes to the German edition of Bishop Lowth's "Isaiah" (1779-81). The chief names connected with this criticism in its first phase are those of Hitzig, Ewald, and Dillmann; a new phase, however, has for some time appeared, the opening of which may perhaps be dated from the article "Isaiah" in "Encyc. Brit." (1881) and two articles in "J. Q. R." (July and Oct., 1891), all by T. K. Cheyne; to which may be added the fruitful hints of Stade in his "Gesch. des Volkes Israel" (1889, vol. i.), and the condensed discussions of Kuenen in the second edition of his "Investigations into the Origin and Collection of the Books of the Old Testament" (part ii., 2d ed., 1889). To these add Duhm's and Marti's recent commentaries, and the "Introduction" (1895) by T. K. Cheyne. Prof. G. A. Smith's two volumes on Isaiah reflect the variations of opinion in a candid mind, influenced at first, somewhat to excess, by the commentary of Dillmann. For a convenient summary of the present state of criticism the reader may consult Kautzsch's "Outline of the History of the Literature of the Old Testament" (1898), translated by John Taylor, and "Isaiah," in Cheyne-Black, "Encyc. Bibl." (1901). The former work shows how much light is thrown on the different parts of the Book of Isaiah by reading them as monuments of definite historical periods. For a much less advanced position Driver's "Life and Times of Isaiah" (1st ed., 1888) may be consulted; for an impartial sketch of different theories consult the sixth edition of the same writer's "Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament."
Periods of the Prophecy.
It must suffice here to give a few hints as to the probable periods of the chief prophecies. Three great national crises called forth the most certainly genuine prophecies of Isaiah-the Syro-Israelitish invasion (734), the siege and fall of Samaria (722), and the campaign of Sennacherib (701). Among the non-Isaian prophecies, there are two exilic prophecies of the fall of Babylon (xiii. 1-xiv. 23, and, as most suppose, xxi. 1-10); a probably post-exilic prophecy, or elegy, on the ruin of Moab (xv.-xvi.); prophecies on Egypt and on Tyre, both post-exilic, and the former furnished with a late appendix belonging to the Greek period. The strange and difficult work here called a "rhapsody" or a "mosaic" (ch. xxiv.-xxvii.) belongs at earliest to the fall of the Persian and the rise of the Greco-Macedonian empire. Ch. xxxiv.-xxxv. are so weak that it is not worth while to dogmatize on their date, which is certainly very late. The Prophecy of Restoration is, of course, a late exilic work; it is disputed whether it closes properly at ch. xlviii. or at ch. lv. The subsequent prophecies are additions, belonging presumably to the times of Nehemiah and Ezra. The latest editor of ch. xl.-lxvi. seems to have given a semblance of unity to thevarious prophecies by dividing the entire mass into three nearly equal books, the two former of which close with nearly the same words (xlviii. 22, lvii. 21).
Emil G. Hirsch, Thomas Kelly Cheyne
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
I. Commentaries, Translations, and Critical Editions: G. D. Luzzatto, Il Profeta Isaia, Padua, 1855 (Jewish); R. Lowth, Isaiah, a new translation with preliminary dissertation and notes, London, 1778; E. Henderson, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 2d ed. ib. 1840; J. A. Alexander, Commentary, Edinburgh, 1865; T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged, London, 1870; idem, Prophecies of Isaiah, a new translation, with commentary and appendixes, ib. 1880-82; G. A. Smith, Isaiah, in Expositor's Bible, ib. 1888-90; J. Skinner, Isaiah, in Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Cambridge, 1896-98; H. G. Mitchell, Isaiah, a Study of Chapters i.-xii. New York, 1897; T. K. Cheyne, Isaiah, translation and notes, in S. B. O. T. New York and London, 1898 (Hebrew ed. with notes, Leipsic, 1899); Ed. König, The Exiles' Book of Consolation, Edinburgh, 1899; Camp. Vitringa, Commentary, 2 vols., Leeuwarden, 1714-1720; J. C. Döderlein, Esaias (translation with notes), Nuremberg, 1789; E. Reuss, Les Prophètes, 1876; W. Gesenius, Der Prophet Jesaja Uebersetzt; mit einem Vollständigen Philologischen, Kritischen, und Historischen Commentar, Leipsic, 1820-21; F. Hitzig, Der Prophet Jesaja, Heidelberg, 1833; H. Ewald, Die Propheten des Alten Bundes, Tübingen, 1810-41 (2d ed. Göttingen, 1867-68; Eng. transl. by J. F. Smith, 1875-81); A. Knobel, Der Prophet Jesaja, Leipsic, 1843 (3d ed. 1861); Franz Delitzsch, Biblischer Commentar über das Buch Jesaja, Leipsic 1866 (4th ed. entirely recast, 1889; Eng. transl. 1892); C. J. Bredenkamp, Der Prophet Jesaja Erläutert, Erlangen, 1887; Conrad von Orelli, Die Propheten Jesaja und Jeremias, Nördlingen, 1887 (Eng. transl. by Banks, 1889); Aug. Dillmann, Der Prophet Jesaja, Leipsic. 1890; Duhm, Das Buch Jesaja, Göttingen, 1892; Aug. Klostermann, Deuterojesaia, Munich, 1893 (a critical edition of ch. xl.-lxvi.); H. Guthe and V. Ryssel, Jesaja, in Kautzsch, Die Heilige Schrift, vol. xv., Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Leipsic, 1894; K. Marti, Das Buch Jesaja, Tübingen, 1900. II. Illustrative and Comprehensive Notes: S. R. Driver and Ad. Neubauer, The 53d Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpretations (with introduction by E. B. Pusey), Oxford, 1876-77;
G. Vance Smith, The Prophecies Relating to Nineveh and the Assyrians, London, 1857; R. Payne Smith, The Authenticity and Messianic Interpretation of the Prophecies of Isaiah Vindicated, Oxford and London, 1862 (the lines of Jewish interpretations are well sketched); Sir E. Strachey, Jewish History and Politics in the Times of Sargon and Sennacherib, 2d ed. London, 1874; T. K. Cheyne, Introduction, to the Book of Isaiah, ib. 1895; W. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, Edinburgh, 1882 (2d ed. London, 1896); A. H. Sayce, Life of Isaiah, London, 1883; C. H. H. Wright, Pre-Christian Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah liii. in The Expositor (London), May, 1888; S. R. Driver, Isaiah, His Life and Times, and the Writings Which Bear His Name, London, 1888; J. Kennedy, Argument for the Unity of Isaiah, ib. 1891; C. H. H. Wright, Isaiah, in Smith's Dict. of the Bible, 2d ed. 1893;
G. Douglas, Isaiah One and His Book One, London, 1895; C. F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, ib. 1892; Max L. Keliner, The Prophecies of Isaiah, an Outline Study in Connexion with the Assyrian-Babylonian Records, Cambridge, Mass., 1895; J. F. McCurdy, History, Prophecy, and the Monuments, New York and London, 1894; F. H. Krüger, Essai sur la Théologie d'Esaie xl.-lxvi. Paris, 1861; C. P. Caspari, Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Buch Jesaja, Berlin, 1848; idem, Ueber den Syrisch-Ephraimit. Krieg Unter Jotham und Ahaz, Christiania, 1849; L. Seinecke, Der Evangelist des Alten Testaments, Leipsic, 1870; H. Guthe, Das Zukunftsbild, des Jesaja, ib. 1885; Fr. Giesebrecht, Beiträge zur Jesaiakritik, Göttingen, 1890; M. Schian, Die Ebed-Jahwe Lieder, Halle, 1895); H. Lane, Die Ebed-Jahwe Lieder, Wittenberg, 1898; E. Sellin, Serubbabel, Leipsic, 1898; A. Bertholet, Zu Jesaja liii.: Ein, Erklärungsversuch, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1899; H. Winckler, Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen, Leipsic, 1897; idem, Altorientalische Forschungen, ib. 1897; J. Meinhold, Jesaja und Seine Zeit, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1898; idem, Die Jesajaerzählungen, Jesaja xxxvi.-xxxix. Göttingen, 1898. See also the various histories of Israel, introductions to the Old Testament, and Old Testament theologies.E. G. H. T. K. C.
-In Rabbinical Literature:
The greatest of the Hebrew prophets of whom literary monuments remain. He resided at Jerusalem, and so contrasts with Micah, the prophet of the country districts. He was married (Isa. viii. 3), and had children (vii. 3, viii. 3). His bearing indicates that he could maintain his dignity in the highest society, as is shown by his freedom toward Ahaz (vii.) and his acquaintance with Uriah, the chief priest (viii. 2). The heading in Isa. i. 1 refers to Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah as the kings under whom he prophesied. This and similar headings, however, have no historical authority, being the work of later writers whose statements had no documentary basis and were purely inferential. It is true, moreover, that no prophecy can be shown to be as early as Uzziah's time, except indeed the kernel of ch. vi. "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord," etc. (vi. 1, R. V.), seems to come from a cycle of prophetic narratives, some of which (comp. viii. 1-3, 5; ii. 16), rightly or wrongly, claimed the authorship of Isaiah. Certainly the whole man is reflected in the grand vision of ch. vi. No personal consideration holds him back (contrast Jeremiah) from offering himself as the Lord's spokesman, and though assured that no exhortation will affect the callous consciences of his hearers, he still goes in and out among his people as if hope existed; and perhaps (human nature is inconsistent) hope still persisted even when reason altogether denied its right.
The story of him who "by vileness made the great refusal" (to apply Dante's well-known words), who might have led his people to social and personal reformation, by the wise counsel of the prophet, is recorded in ch. vii. Isaiah was no statesman, and yet the advice which he gave the king was as good from a political as from a religious point of view. For why should Ahaz pay Assyria for doing work whichan enlightened regard for its own interest would certainly impel it to perform? Why should he take the silver and gold in the Temple and in the palace, and send it as tribute to the Assyrian king?
It is to be noted that in ch. viii. Isaiah's wife is called "the prophetess." By her solidarity with her husband she is detached from the unholy people among whom she dwells, and made, as it were, sacrosanct. His children, too, are "signs and omens" of divine appointment; and one may conjecture that if Isaiah ever pictured the worst disaster coming to Jerusalem, he saw himself and his family, like Lot of old, departing in safety (for some work reserved for them by God) from the doomed city. Ch. xx. describes the strange procedure by which Isaiah, as it were, "gave an acted prediction" of the fate in store for Mizraim and Cush (Egypt and Ethiopia), or, as others think, for Mizrim and Cush (North Arabia), on which the peoples of Palestine had counted so much as allies. From ch. xxxvi.-xxxix., perhaps, much assistance can not be expected in the biography of Isaiah, for in their present form they are certainly rather late. No more can be said of Isaiah from direct documentary information. His words are his true biography. In them is seen the stern, unbending nature of the man, who loved his people much, but his God more.
Isaiah has all the characteristics of a classic writer-terseness, picturesqueness, and originality. But was he also a poet? It is hard to think so. Could such a man condescend to the arts necessary to the very existence of poetry? Isa. xxxvii. 22-29 is assigned to him. But the narration in which it is placed is thought by many critics to be late, and the phraseology of the poem itself seems to point away from Isaiah. On the late tradition of the martyrdom of Isaiah in the reign of Manasseh see Isaiah, Ascension of.E. G. H. T. K. C.
-In Rabbinical Literature:
According to the Rabbis Isaiah was a descendant of Judah and Tamar (Soṭah 10b). His father was a prophet and the brother of King Amaziah (Meg. 15a). While Isaiah, says the Midrash, was walking up and down in his study he heard God saying, "Whom shall I send ?" Then Isaiah said, "Here am I; send me!" Thereupon God said to him," My children are trouble-some and sensitive; if thou art ready to be insulted and even beaten by them, thou mayest accept My message; if not, thou wouldst better renounce it" (Lev. R. x.). Isaiah accepted the mission, and was the most forbearing, as well as the most ardent patriot, among the Prophets, always defending Israel and imploring forgiveness for its sins. He was therefore distinguished from all other prophets in that he received his communications directly from God and not through an intermediary (ib.). When Isaiah said, "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (vi. 5) he was rebuked by God for speaking in such terms of His people (Cant. R. i. 6).
In the order of greatness Isaiah is placed immediately after Moses by the Rabbis; in some respects Isaiah surpasses even Moses, for he reduced the commandments to six: honesty in dealing; sincerity in speech; refusal of illicit gain; absence of corruption; aversion for bloody deeds; contempt for evil (Mak. 24a). Later he reduced the six to two-justice and charity (ib.). The chief merit of Isaiah's prophecies is their consoling character, for while Moses said, "Thou shalt perish in the midst of the nation," Isaiah announced deliverance. Ezekiel's consoling addresses compared with Isaiah's are as the utterances of a villager to the speech of a courtier (Ḥag. 14a). Therefore consolation is awaiting him who sees Isaiah in a dream (Ber. 57b).
It is related in the Talmud that Rabbi Simeon ben 'Azzai found in Jerusalem an account wherein it was written that Manasseh killed Isaiah. Manasseh said to Isaiah, "Moses, thy master, said, 'There shall no man see God and live' [Ex. xxxiii. 20, Hebr.]; but thou hast said, 'I saw the Lord seated upon his throne'" (Isa. vi. 1, Hebr.); and went on to point out other contradictions-as between Deut. iv. 7 and Isa. lv. 6; between Ex. xxxiii. 26 and II Kings xx. 6. Isaiah thought: "I know that he will not accept my explanations; why should I increase his guilt?" He then uttered the Unpronounceable Name, a cedar-tree opened, and Isaiah disappeared within it. Then Manasseh ordered the cedar to be sawn asunder, and when the saw reached his mouth Isaiah died; thus was he punished for having said, "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Yeb. 49b). A somewhat different version of this legend is given in the Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin x.). According to that version Isaiah, fearing Manasseh, hid himself in a cedar-tree, but his presence was betrayed by the fringes of his garment, and Manasseh caused the tree to be sawn in half. A passage of the Targum to Isaiah quoted by Jolowicz ("Die Himmelfahrt und Vision des Prophets Jesajas," p. 8) states that when Isaiah fled from his pursuers and took refuge in the tree, and the tree was sawn in half, the prophet's blood spurted forth. From Talmudical circles the legend of Isaiah's martyrdom was transmitted to the Arabs ("Ta'rikh," ed. De Goeje, i. 644).S. I. Br.
Emil G. Hirsch, Thomas Kelly Cheyne, Isidore Singer, Isaac Broydé
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
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