Isaiah

This history, origins, and contents of Isaiah are examined. Isaiah is one of the major prophets—you can expect to spend quite some time in this book, but it's definitely worth it! Isaiah gives us the bulk of Messianic prophecies and is often quoted in the New Testament, so you know it's an important book.

Introduction

Isaiah is the first book of the prophets. The prophets are divided into two categories—major and minor— and Isaiah is considered one of the major prophets. The title of major prophet is given due to the length of the book, but if anyone deserves the title of major prophet, it's Isaiah. Quantity doesn't always mean quality, but in the case of the major prophets, especially Isaiah, the length of the book definitely correlates to the awesomeness of the prophecies given. I'm excited about jumping back in to Isaiah because, let's face it, prophecy is arguably the most important and exciting part of the Bible!
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Date and Authorship

Both the New Testament and the book of Isaiah confirm Isaiah as the author. Isaiah prophesied in Israel from the reign of King Uzziah through King Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). Given this information, the book would have been written sometime between 701 and 681 bc.[5][6] This view was not contested by early Christians.

In 1795, J.C. Doederlein began the trend of questioning Isaiah's authorship.[3] Isaiah's prophecies are so accurate, that to believe he is the author is to believe that he is a true prophet of God and God is truly divine. As such, non believing scholars are quick to follow in Doederlein's footsteps and do not believe Isaiah wrote the whole text.

Argument Against Isaiah

Like the other books of the prophets, Isaiah contains accurate information about a time that occurs after the book is written. If someone predicted Donald Trump was going to be president during the presidential race, it wouldn't be be a big deal since the odds of being right were close to 50%. If they predicted he would win before he announced his decision to run, people may assume the person had insider information. A prediction that he would win the election before he was born would be much more impressive, right? Isaiah foretold of Cyrus the Great, by name, and the decree he made for the Israelites to return to Israel 150 years before Cyrus made the decree.[2] This was before Israel was taken captive

Naturally, those who do not believe in the sovereign, all knowing power of God will say this is impossible. These scholars then decided there had to be at least 2 authors. The fact that the book naturally divides into two section lends to this argument. Supporters of multiple authors assert that Isaiah only wrote the first section, while other authors composed the rest of the text.

Argument For Isaiah

The New Testament confirms Isaiah as the author of the book of Isaiah (though often spelled with the Greek spelling Esaias in the KJV). In Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4, and John 1:23, John the Baptist confirms Isaiah as the prophet who penned the book while pointing out the fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus. Matthew confirms Isaiah in Matthew 8:17 and 12:17-21. Paul attributes the book to Isaiah in Romans 9:27-33 and 10:16-21). John (the disciple) also attributes the book to Isaiah in John 12:38-41. Once you note that the verses these men reference are from all over Isaiah, not just in one section, it becomes clear that the those closest to Jesus agreed that Isaiah was the sole author of the book.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the oldest manuscripts to be found to date, do not show any indication of Isaiah being two books or having multiple authors. This further confirms that early believers knew Isaiah to be sole author of the book.[3]

My Bible commentary (and many commentaries online) go into detail about several reasons to conclude that the book of Isaiah only has one author. The commentary points out the oddity that the identity poet who wrote the second half of Isaiah would be lost to history considering the skill and beauty of the text. If the Israelites could remember the names of the minor prophets, why wouldn't they preserve the name of this master poet? Furthermore, the style of the text shows Philistine influence and matches that of Isaiah's era, versus exhibiting Babylonian influence.

Overall, there really is no scientific reason to claim Isaiah isn't the author. As I said earlier, if scholars confirm Isaiah as the author, they would be confirming their belief in Jesus!

Message and Purpose

Isaiah tells us a lot about judgment and salvation. It is in the book of Isaiah that we learn how to identify the Messiah, which is important to Christians because this is how we know Jesus is who He says He is and not a deception from the devil. Isaiah also makes prophecies about the judgment of nations, including the captivity and release of Israel. He even prophesies about the end of the world! In short, I'd say Isaiah's purpose is to get us to open our eyes and pay attention.

Interesting Facts

How the Book is Split

Isaiah is often split into two sections: Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-66. The first section mirrors the Old Testament, while the second mirrors the New Testament. Even though the numbering of chapters was started only a few centuries ago and was not present in the original work, it is interesting that these sections also contain the same number of chapters as there are books in the testament it mirrors. While it is possible the editor who added the chapters could have done this of his own desire, the text still had to be structured in a way to make this possible.

Foretelling Jesus

On a website that lists 365 Messianic Prophecies, 132 of them are from the book of Isaiah![1] If you think of a prophecy that Jesus fulfilled, off the top of your head, there's a high probability that the prophecy is found in Isaiah, because most identifying prophecies of the Messiah come from the book of Isaiah (particularly Isaiah 53!).

Isaiah's Name

The name Isaiah is Yesha'yahu in Hebrew, and it means Jehovah is salvation.[3][4] Not only does this phrase appear inside the book, but it also sums up the message Isaiah was given to share with us. I think of this when I need to remember that God creates us already knowing the plan He has for us!

References

  1. "365 Messianic Prophecies". Bible Probe; visited January 2018
  2. "Who was Cyrus in the Bible?". Got Questions; visited January 2018
  3. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 935-938. 1995
  4. Mike Campbell. "Isaiah". Behind the Name; visited January 2018
  5. "Book of Isaiah". GotQuestions; visited January 2018
  6. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 1124-1125. 2014

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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