Bible Study: Isaiah

Overview of Isaiah

“For sheer grandeur and majesty, probably no book in the Hebrew Bible can be compared with Isaiah. Because the New Testament writers make frequent appeal to the book in presenting their claims about the nature of Jesus and the Church, Isaiah assumed a role of particular importance in Christian interpretation.”[1]

The Prophet

Isaiah’s name means “Salvation of Jehovah.” He was a married man who had at least two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). His father was Amoz, and he prophesied to Judah and Jerusalem. Tradition says that he was eventually put to death by Manasseh, being sawn in half (Hebrews 11:37 being an allusion to this).

The Period

Isaiah tells us that his prophecy spanned the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. During his life, the northern kingdom was carried away captive by Assyria. His contemporaries among the prophetic class included Amos, Hosea and Micah.

It is certain that, if his ministry began in the year that King Uzziah died, he prophesied for a minimum of 47 years. It is likely that it was even longer.

The Purpose

The experience detailed in chapter 6, when Isaiah had a sight of the throne, stamped itself upon the mind and ministry of the young prophet. Something of the purpose of the book can be found in the words which recur throughout the evangelical prophecy:

  • Salvation – occurs 27 times
  • Sanctity or Holiness – the title “Holy One of Israel” occurs 28 times; the word “holy” by itself occurs 25 times
  • Spirit of God – 16 times, at times just “Spirit” or “My Spirit”
  • Savior or Redeemer – 19 times, at times together and at other times separate
  • Future return to the land – perhaps 14 times this is mentioned

Isaiah has been called the Gospel of Isaiah because he details the salvation of the nation from its bondage. But he also looks ahead to the salvation provided for individuals through God’s Servant-Messiah.

It is a prophecy in the truest sense in that it details the rise and fall of Assyria, the ascendancy of Babylon, the coming of Cyrus and the advent of Israel’s Messiah.

Special attention should be drawn to the crucial place that the citation of Isaiah 6:9-10 has at four specific rejections by the Jews of the message of the gospel (Mat 13:14-15; Joh 12:40; Act 28:25-27; Rom 11:8).

The Pictures of Christ

We come to Isaiah with delight as we trace the many prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Isaiah furthers the revelation of the coming Christ far more than any other book in our Bible. He tells of His birth, the nature of His person (ch.9), His life and service, His rejection and His coming Kingdom. His four servant songs are a rich source of insight into the Lord Jesus Christ in His life, ministry and crucifixion.

The Prospect of a Coming Kingdom

As intimated, Isaiah points forward to a coming kingdom for the nation. Promises of restoration and kingdom glory are prominent throughout the book. The theme of a remnant’s returning, of a day of fruitfulness for the land and the people, and a time of kingdom glory highlight the book. Chapters 11, 32, 65 and 66 are only a few of the places where these truths are prophesied.

The Plan of the Book

Tremendous controversy arose in the last century over the authorship of the book, some claiming that there were at least two different authors of Isaiah. The accuracy of the prophecies in chapters 40-66 were the likely impetus for this teaching. It is sufficient to say that the Lord Jesus Himself and the Spirit of God attributed both parts of Isaiah’s prophecy to Isaiah (Mat 12:17-21; 13:14-15; Mar 7:6-7; Luk 4:17; Joh 12:37-41).

It is often pointed out that Isaiah is like a miniature Bible, its 66 chapters corresponding to the 66 books of the Bible, with the division into 39 and 27.

I. The Pronouncements of a Righteous God – Prophetic (chs.1-35)

A. Sentence Beginning at the House of God (chs.1-12)

        1. Judah and Jerusalem (chs.1-6)
        2. The Invader and Immanuel (chs.7-12) – Section ends with a Song

B. Sighs and Songs (chs.13-27)

        1. Ten-fold Sigh (chs.13-23)
        2. Songs (chs.24-27) – Section ends with a Song

C. Sorrows (chs.28-35)

        1. Woes (chs.28-34)
        2. Song (ch.35) – Section ends with a Song

II. The Power of a Resourceful God – Historic (chs.36-39)

A. Invasion and Intercession – The Assyrian Invasion (chs.36-37)

B. Illness and Intervention – The Healing of Hezekiah (ch.38)

C. Inquiry and Indiscretion – The Prophecy of Captivity to Babylon (ch.39)

III.  The Promises of a Redeeming God – Messianic (chs.40-66)

A. The Sovereignty of God over Idols (chs.40-48)

        1. Sympathy of Jehovah (chs.40-42)
        2. Saviorhood of Jehovah (chs.43-45)
        3. Supremacy of Jehovah (chs.46-48)

B. The Servant of God Suffering and Glorified (chs.49-57)

        1. Servant Characterized (chs.49-52)
        2. Servant Crucified (chs.53-55)
        3. Servant Magnified (chs.56-57)

C. The Spirit of God and His Work (chs.58-66)

        1. Spirit of God Convicting (chs.58-60)
        2. Spirit of God Commissioning (chs.61-63)
        3. Spirit of God Consummating (chs.64-66)

[1] Longman III and Dillard, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 267.