|1.||The Text||6.||Rules of Understanding|
|2.||Historical Background||7.||Evidences for 1 Authorship|
|3.||The Theme of Isaiah||8.||The Book in Structure Form|
|4.||Literary & Theological Pronouncements||9.||Reference Materials|
|5.||Prophetic Oracles - Woes|
As we begin the study of Isaiah, I want you to look at it like the eunuch, who did not understand the Prophet’s words. I know we can memorize a few choice Scriptures from this book, but really do we have a good understanding of just what the Prophet said?
This study will challenge your understanding of the Scriptures and may even make you study more to prove me wrong where you disagree, but if it will do even this, then I have accomplished what I have set out to do. Remember, as Paul the Apostle said, “we know in part, and we see in part.” And not until Jesus Christ comes back to earth and changes our minds, so that we will know even as we are known, will we have full understanding. Paul the Learner
I want to take you through this study, as an Israelite would look at it. If I want to learn about a Ford car, I have to read a Ford Manuel, and if I want to learn about what a Jewish Prophet said, then I need to understand his words, not as someone who knows only English and English grammar, but as an Israelite who knows Hebrew grammar and just what the Prophet was talking about.
For the Bible Text, I am using
|The Jewish Bible||(Tanakh The Holy Scriptures), the new JPS Translation according to the Traditional Hebrew Text. This text is in contemporary English, based on the Masoretic – the traditional Hebrew – text. (The Jewish Publication Society Philadelphia - Jerusalem).|
|The Septuagint Bible||(285 BCE)|
|The Targum of Isaiah|
The structure of both Hebrew and Aramaic differs markedly from English, or any other Indo-European language with which the reader might be familiar.
|Isaiah's Historical Background|
|Yªsha`yaahuw||Isaiah||Personal name meaning, "Yahweh saves."|
The Historical Background of Isaiah's ministry spanned the period from
|His call vision||(about 740 B.C.)|
|until the last years of Hezekiah||(716-687)|
|or the early years of Manasseh||(687-642)|
The prophet lived during the reigns of the Judean kings
and perhaps the first years of Manasseh
He was contemporary with the last five kings of Israel
The tragic fall of Samaria to the Assyrian King Sargon II in 722 B.C. occurred during his ministry.
In northwest Mesopotamia, the energetic monarch Tiglath-pileser III (745-727)
founded the mighty Assyrian Empire.
A series of vigorous successors succeeded him: Shalmaneser V (726-722), Sargon II (721-705), Sennacherib (704-681), and Esarhaddon (680-669).
With As-shurbanipal (668-627) the Assyrian empire began to crumble and ultimately fell to the Babylonians in 612-609 under the command of Nabopolassar (625-585).
During this same period Egypt experienced a resurgence of power in the 25th Dynasty (about 716-663) and occasioned international intrigue among the Palestinian states to overthrow Assyria. The petty states of Palestine -- Syria, Philistia, Moab, Edom, Ammon, Arabia, Tyre, Israel, and Judah -- were ultimately conquered or made tributary to Assyria. With strong feelings of nationalism these states fomented rebellion and duplicity, a world of intrigue born of political and economic frustrations.
In this era Isaiah exercised his prophetic
ministry, a large part of which was politically involved with Judah and to a
lesser extent Israel. He advocated policies of state in line with the religious
creed of authentic prophetism.
(From Holman Bible Dictionary. (c) Copyright 1991 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.)
Isaiah the man
Isaiah, the son of Amoz, was born in Judah, no doubt in Jerusalem, about 760 B.C.
|He enjoyed a significant position in the contemporary society and had a close relationship with the reigning monarchs.|
|His education is clearly evident in his superb writing that has gained him an eminence in Hebrew literature hardly surpassed by any other.|
|He had a thorough grasp of political history and dared to voice unpopular minority views regarding the state and the economy.|
|His knowledge of the religious heritage of Israel and his unique theological contributions inspire awe.|
|He was alive to what was transpiring in the court, in the marketplace, in high society with its shallowness, and in the political frustrations of the nation.|
Isaiah was called to be a prophet of
Yahweh in striking visions that he
experienced in the Temple about 740 B.C., the year that the aged Judean king
Uzziah died (Isaiah 6).
The elements in that vision forecast the major themes of his preaching, particularly the transcendent nature of Yahweh, which may serve as a modern translation of Hebraic "holiness."
God warned him that his ministry would meet with disappointment and meager results -
|but also assured him that
forgiveness would ever attend the penitent (Isaiah 6:5-7; 1:19-20)
and that the ultimate promises of God would be realized (Isaiah 6:13 d).
The prophet was married and was the father of two sons whose names symbolized Isaiah's public preaching:
|Mahershalalhashbaz||(meaning: the spoil speeds; the prey
a conviction that Assyria would invade Syria and Israel about 734 B.C.
|Sherajashub||(meaning: a remnant shall return),
a name that publicized his belief in the survival and conversion of a faithful remnant in Israel (Isaiah 1:9; 7:3; 8:1,4; 10:20-23)
During the dark days when the Assyrians took over one Palestinian state after another, Isaiah firmly contended that the Judean monarchs ought to remain as neutral as possible, to refrain from rebellious acts, and to pay tribute. When the Israelites and Syrians jointly attacked Judah for refusing to join the anti-Assyrian coalition (Isaiah 7:1-9; 8:1-15), he deplored the dangerous policy of purchasing protection from the Assyrians. In 711 B.C. when the city of Ashdod rebelled against Assyria, Isaiah assumed the garb of a captive for three years calling on Hezekiah not to take the fatal step of joining the rebellion. No doubt he was instrumental in influencing Hezekiah to reject the seditious plot (Isaiah 20). That same resolute policy assured Isaiah that Jerusalem would not fall to Sennacherib in 701 B.C. despite the ominous outlook the Assyrian envoys forecast (Isaiah 36-37). Isaiah soundly reproved Hezekiah for entertaining the seditious Babylonian princelet whose real purpose was to secure military aid for a rebellion in south Babylonia in an effort to overthrow Sennacherib (Isaiah 39).
|The Theme of Isaiah|
Isaiah is a miniature of the Bible, having 66 chapters corresponding with the 66 books:
|Section 1||Dealing with Law and Judgment
|Section 2||Dealing with Comfort and Salvation through Christ
|Literary and Theological Pronouncements|
Israel made no clear separation of
church and state; accordingly most of the utterances of Isaiah are religious and
political in character in spite of their literary diversity.
Underlying his conceptual world was his inaugural vision:
|Yahweh was the ultimate King;
His nature was infinite holiness or transcendence;
His holiness manifested itself in righteousness (Isaiah 5:16)
Yahweh was the electing, endowing, forgiving God, possessing plans and purposes for His servant Israel by which they might secure the Abrahamic promise of world blessedness.
His wrath also attacked Israel (Isaiah
Among other travesties, Judah was rebellious, evil, iniquitous, alienated, corrupters, a sick people, undutiful in attitude, purposeless in their excessive religiosity, idolaters, proud ones whose land was filled with esoteric charlatans, brass in their defection, thankless and unappreciative, drunkards, monopolists of real estate, wise in their own eyes, morally indiscriminate. The character of true religion was absent; they needed to desist from evil, to learn to do good, to seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:17).
Though the indictments were severe, Isaiah still held out the hope of forgiveness to the penitent (Isaiah 1:18-31) and pointed to days coming when God
would establish peace (Isaiah 2:1-4; 4:2-6).
He promised the Messiah, the son of David, who would assume the chief role in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic-Davidic covenantal promises (Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:1-9).
Isaiah is remembered for his magnificent conception of God.
|The thrice-repeated term "holy" is equivalent to holiness to the infinite degree (6:3).|
|Yahweh is Lord of all, King of the universe, the Lord of history who exhibits His character in righteousness, that is, in self-consistent acts of rightness (Isaiah 5:16).|
|The prophet criticized the vanity and meaninglessness of religion's pride.|
|He demanded social and religious righteousness practiced in humility and faith.|
|He strongly affirmed God's plans that would not lack fulfillment, announcing that the Assyrian king was but the instrument of God and accountable to Him.|
|He stressed, too, the Day of Yahweh, a time when the presence of God would be readily discoverable in human history.|
|Isaiah was certain that a faithful remnant would always carry on the divine mission (Shearja-shub, Isaiah 1:9).|
During the ministry of Isaiah when the Judeans
discounted his stern warnings, he ordered that his "testimony" and "teaching" be
bound and sealed -- no doubt in a scroll -- and committed to his disciples until
history proved his words true (Isaiah 8:16).
Most people did not accept Isaiah's message, but he had disciples who did.
They formed the backbone of a prophetic party in Judah who
|preserved his writings,
sustained his political and religious power so that he had access to the person of the king,
and arranged the final form of his preaching in written form as can be seen by constant referral to the prophet in third person rather than first.
In Isaiah's time the great military power that threatened the Palestinian states
In much of the book that now bears the name of Isaiah, the reigning power was Babylon, which did not rise to power until after 625 B.C., over 50 years after Isaiah's death.
|Some Bible students think||The writings that reflect the Babylonian period may be the work of the disciples of Isaiah, who projected his thought into the new and changed situation of the Babylonian world.|
|Others would say||In the Spirit Isaiah was projected supernaturally into the future, thus able to know even the name of Cyrus, King of Persia (44:28; 45:1).|
The Prophetic Critique of Foreign Affairs
Israel's prophets such as Amos, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah devoted considerable attention to political
pronouncements regarding foreign nations.
Those thus singled out included
Every national capital hosted embassies of other friendly nations with their
Such visiting ambassadors were responsible to their home governments to report the relevant news.
These prophetic speeches to the nations proved significant in that they represented a strong minority group feeling, the religious and political thought of a traditional Yahwistic block with strong backing from the right wing of the government.
The speeches of Isaiah or his disciples would be relayed to the foreign capitals as a significant utterance on foreign affairs.
They also informed God's people of His world plans, giving encouragement of final victory.
The "Little Apocalypse" of Isaiah
Midway between prophetic prediction and apocalypticism are these four
chapters (Isaiah 24-27).
Apocalypticism is an expressive term that denotes the unveiling of the future.
Portions of Ezekiel, Joel, and Daniel are written in this style marked by cosmological orientation, proximate pessimism, symbolism with few historical allusions, suprahistorical perspective -- that is, the future was so bewildering and the events so vaguely perceived that the writer penned his forecast in the symbolic language of faith, pointing to a resolution of world history.
In Isaiah 24-27 two opposing forces were pitted
in conflict: they were presented as two cities. In the tension of history when
the city of chaos triumphs, the city of God laments; when it suffers defeat, the
city of God breaks forth into song. Some four hymns are in Isaiah 24-27.
Ultimately, the kingdom of God is victorious with such blessing as
of national hatred,
the overcoming of sorrow,
the overcoming of death,
the resurrection, in short,
the resolution of history as the kingdom of God.
|Isaiah - A collection of Prophetic Oracles|
Since five in this series of prophecies (Isaiah 28-35) commence with an introductory "woe," it suggests that much of this
block of materials will be negative in its criticism.
Thus in Isaiah 28 the inebriated aristocracy of Israel failed to discern the fading flower of their nation; and they were supported in their dereliction by the priests and prophets.
Indeed, they mimicked sarcastically Isaiah's plain speech as childish prattle, to which he retorted that if they did not understand simple Hebrew, Yahweh would speak to them in Assyrian!
Yet, those that trusted in God stood on a firm foundation, a foundation laid in righteousness and justice.
It alone would stand (Isaiah 28:16-22).
Isaiah 29-35 is largely directed to Judah; oracles of comfort often follow elements
of severe censure.
The Judeans were reproved for
|their rejection of the
authentic voice of prophecy,
their defiant atheism,
their meaningless parade of religion,
their rebellious plotting with the Egyptians,
and their buildup of the military.
The Historical Appendage
With the exception of Isaiah 38:9-21, an original
thanksgiving song of Hezekiah after a severe illness, the rest of Isaiah 36-39 duplicates 2 Kings 18:13-20:19.
A similar insertion of historical materials from the Book of Kings (2 Kings 24:18-25:30) concludes the Book of Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 52).
It provides the reader of the prophet with an historical background for the understanding of the book.
The Book of Consolation
Its Historical Background (Isaiah 40-55). The setting of
these chapters is incontestably that of the later years of the Babylonian Exile
when Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1) was beginning his conquests that would ultimately
overthrow the Babylonian power (550 B.C.).
The Babylonians had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its Temple in 587 B.C., and a considerable segment of the upper classes had been forcibly exiled to Babylon. The writer hailed Cyrus as the shepherd of Yahweh who would build Jerusalem and set the exiles free (Isaiah 44:26-45:1).
For some forty years the Judeans had lived as hostages in a strange land; they were discouraged by the seeming unimproving situation. Was it their unforgivable guilt; had God forgotten them?
The stunning victory of Cyrus over the mighty Babylonian power (538 B.C.) and his decree of liberation for the Jewish exiles were events too joyous to recount.
But what of the long, arduous journey through the desert with its multiplied dangers?
The prophetic voice assured the exiles that God would prepare a level highway for their journey, provide for their sustenance, and lead them back to their homeland (Isaiah 40).
The exiles were assured of divine pardon, comforted in every major problem area, and promised the restoration of Zion and its Temple.
Its Literary Structure
The prophetic voice of chapters 40-55 affirmed the
purpose of God in the dark days of the Babylonian Exile. Most of the chapters
articulate the various theological affirmations designed to comfort, challenge, and advise the hostage people. However, arising from the messages of comfort and
dialogue are four so-called Servant Songs (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12).
These songs reiterate the role of Israel as the chosen servant of God, the nation that would evangelize all nations, whose endowment by the Spirit would provide the enablement for that mission and the accompanying suffering attendant on the people of God addressing a sinful society, and the ultimate success of the divine mission by his faithful servants.
There can be no doubt but that the authentic Israel was the servant the prophet
had in mind (Isaiah 49:3).
While these songs unquestionably identify the Suffering Servant as the godly in Israel, they find their ultimate fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
The cross-bearing Christian church (Gal 6:14-16) carries on the Servant's mission.
Isaiah's Religious Affirmation
The overwhelming majesty of these
chapters (40-55) has ever impressed the faithful with its sublime consolation.
Against the gloom of Exile, the prophet portrayed the One Sovereign God, Creator, incomparable, unfailing, the Lord of history. What a sorry contrast was the Babylonian idolatry with its vaunted pretensions (Isaiah 46-47).
The prophetic announcement disclosed the movement of God in history -- the Exile was over.
The Persians were about to take over the Babylonian power; they would be trustworthy and friendly to the exiles.
The difficulties of the journey would be provided for by the God who programmed the Exodus and would once more duplicate that performance in the release of the exiles from Babylonian tyranny.
It was Yahweh who had stirred up Cyrus, and through him His purpose would be secured. Assured of divine forgiveness and comforted in their grief, the exiles were exhorted to identify with their ancient role in the blessing of the earth's population through the dissemination of the religion through which the world would be blessed (Gen 12:3). The Servant Songs were the blueprint for Israel's devotion and adherence --
to teach the knowledge of God for the salvation of humankind.
The Concluding Prophetic Oracles
It’s Historical Setting (Isaiah 56-66). Here is a change of venue from Isaiah 40-55; no longer was Babylon the focus; Palestine was, with the Temple restored and sacrifice and worship being conducted.
|Many scholars||place this collection sometime around 460 B.C. and attribute the diverse fields of interest, style, and religious affirmation to prophetic voices of this period addressing them to major issues of their day.|
|Others think||God transported the eighth century prophet into the fifth century setting.|
The Literary Structure
The subjects handled in this section include:
|(Isaiah 56:1-8)||An oracle on sabbath keeping|
|(Isaiah 56:9-57:12)||Censure of civil and religious leaders|
|(Isaiah 58)||An analysis of the meaning of fasting|
|(Isaiah 59)||The dilemma of the unfulfilled divine promises|
|(Isaiah 60-64)||Hopeful encouragement to be anticipated|
|(Isaiah 65)||The grievous sin of Judah and the blessedness of the righteous remnant|
|(Isaiah 66)||Brief fragments on a number of subjects|
Its Theological Affirmation
This portion of inspired Scripture contains some
very remarkable and advanced concepts.
It places the reader in the midst of a discordant community where the righteous struggle against their powerful opponents.
It censures the moral depravity of rulers, of those who succumb to pagan practices, of those who practice external rites without true identification with their meaning.
A most interesting affirmation regards foreigners and eunuchs (56:3-7), they would no longer be excluded from the Temple worship. This injected grace and hope into the law of Deut 23:1.
Other choice verses
|(Isaiah 66:1-2)||Praise humility|
|(Isaiah 66:22)||Announce the new heaven and the new earth|
|(Isaiah 61:1-4)||Report the anointing by the Spirit|
This remarkable conclusion to the Book of Isaiah discloses the struggles and aspirations of the post-exilic community. Without it we should be impoverished in our knowledge of that period
|Rules of Understanding|
|1st Rule:||Question:||How does God talk to the Old Testament Prophet?|
I need not explain what a dream is, but I will explain the meaning of the term mareh, “vision,” which occurs in the passage:
|“In a vision (be-mareh) do I make myself known unto him”
|mareh ha-nebuah||“prophetic vision”|
|yad ha-shem||“the hand of God”|
It is something terrible and fearful that the prophet feels while awake, as is
distinctly stated by Daniel:
“And I saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me, for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:8).
He after wards continues, “Thus was I in deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground”
But it was in a prophetic vision that the angel spoke to him and “set him upon
Under such circumstances the senses cease to act, and the [Active Intellect] influences the rational faculties, and through them the imaginative faculties, that become perfect and active.
Note: You must remember to the Jew, the ability to become a prophet was in the natural abilities of the man, that God uses for His purposes. (See Moses Maimonides – the guide for the perplexed)
Sometimes the prophecy begins with a prophetic vision, the prophet greatly
trembles, and is much affected in consequence of the perfect action of the
imaginative faculty; and after that the prophecy follows.
This was the case with Abraham. The commencement of the prophecy is:
“The word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision” (Genesis 15:1); after this, “a deep sleep fell upon Abraham;” and at last, “He said unto Abraham,” etc.
When prophets speak of the fact that they received a prophecy, they say that
they received it from an angel, or from God; but even in the latter case it was
likewise received through an angel.
Our Sages (Moses Maimonides of the 11th century is called a sage), therefore, explain the words, “And the Lord said unto her” that He spoke through an angel.
Generally whenever Scripture relates that the Lord or an angel spoke to a person, this took place in a dream or in a prophetic vision.
The Four Ways
There are four different ways in which Scripture relates the fact that a divine communication was made to the prophet:
|1.||The prophet relates that he heard the words of an angel in a dream or vision.|
|2.||He reports the words of the angel without mentioning that they were perceived in a dream or vision, assuming that it is well known that prophecy can only originate in one of the two ways, “In a vision I will make myself known unto him, in a dream I will speak unto him” (Numbers 12:6)|
|3.||The prophet does not mention the angel at all; he says that God spoke to him, and he states that he received the message in a dream or a vision.|
|4.||He introduces his prophecy by stating that God spoke to him, or told him to do a certain thing, or speak certain words, but he does not explain that he received the message in a dream or vision, because he assumes that it is well known, and has been established as a principle that no prophecy or revelation originates otherwise that in a dream or vision, and through an angel.|
Instances of the first form are the following:
|(Genesis 31:11)||“And the angel of the Lord said unto me in a dream, Jacob”|
|(Genesis 46:2)||[God spoke – LXX] “And an angel said unto Israel in a vision of night”|
|(Numbers 22:20-22)||[God came] “And an angel came to Balaam by night...And an angel said unto Balaam”|
Instances of the second form are the following:
|(Genesis 35:1)||[God said] “And Elohim (an angel) said unto Jacob, Rise, go up to Bethel”|
|(Genesis 35:1)||“And Elohim said unto him, Thy name is Jacob”|
|(Genesis 22:15)||“And an angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time”|
|(Genesis 6:13)||“And Elohim said unto Noah”|
Instance of the third form are the following:
|(Genesis 15:1)||“The word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision”|
Instances of the fourth form are the following:
|(Genesis 18:13)||“And the Lord said unto Abraham”|
|(Genesis 31:3)||“And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return”|
|(Joshua 5:9)||“And the Lord said unto Joshua”|
|(Judges 7:2)||“And the Lord said unto Gideon”|
Most of the prophets speak in a similar manner:
|(Deuteronomy 2:2)||“And the Lord said unto me”|
|(Ezekiel 30:1)||“And the word of the Lord came unto me”|
|(2 Samuel 24:11)||“And the word of the Lord came”|
|(1 Kings 19:9)||“And behold, the word of the Lord came unto him”|
|(Ezekiel 1:3)||“And the word of the Lord came expressly”|
|(Hosea 1:2)||“The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea”|
There are a great many instances of this class. And even though Scripture tells us that a person received a dream or vision from God, this doesn’t make this person a prophet. Because both Laban and Abimelech, it is said [that an angel appeared to them in a dream] they were not prophets. See Genesis 22:11 “Surely there is no fear of God in this place”
Onkelos makes the distinction clear; he translates, in the last
two instances, ata memar min dodam adonai, “a word came from the Lord,” and not
ve-itgeli, “and the Lord appeared.”
The phrase, “And the Lord said to a certain person,” is employed even when this person was informed of a certain thing through a prophet. E.g., “And she went to inquire of the Lord” (Genesis 25:22); that is, according to the explanation of our Sages, who went to the college of Eber, and the latter gave her the answer; and this is expressed by the words, “And the Lord said unto her” (Genesis 25:23).
These words have also been explained thus, God spoke to her through an angel; and by “angel” Eber is meant here, for a prophet is sometimes called “angel,” or the angel that appeared is merely to express that wherever God is introduced as directly speaking to a person, i.e. to any of the ordinary prophets, He speaks through an angel.
According to Moses Maimonides, the times in the Scripture that God appeared to man, was in a vision and not in reality. (Moses Maimonides the guide for the perplexed. P. 235-236)
|2nd Rule:||Question:||By what manner does the Old Testament Prophet speak to us?|
The prophets sometimes prophesy in allegories; they use a term allegorically, and in the same prophecy the meaning of the allegory is given.
|Zechariah||(Zech. 4:1-2)||In Zechariah it is stated, “And the angel
that talked with me came again and waked me as a man that is awakened from
And he said unto me, ‘What dost thou see?’
|(Zech. 4:6)||And then the allegory is explained|
|Daniel||(Daniel 7:1)||The whole allegory is then given, and Daniel is described as sighing that he did not know its interpretation.|
|(Daniel 7:16)||He asks the angel for an explanation, and he received it in a prophetic vision. He relates as follows: “I came near unto one of those that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things”|
The whole scene is called in the Hebrew hazon (vision), although it was stated
that Daniel had a dream, because an angel explained the dream to him in the same
manner as is mentioned in reference to a prophetic dream.
This is clear, for:
| hazon (vision) is derived from
There are other prophetic allegories whose meaning is not given in a prophetic
The prophet learns it when he awakes from his sleep. Take, for example, the staves that Zechariah took in a prophetic vision.
You must further know that the prophets see things shown to them allegorically, such as
|(Zech. 4:2; 6:1-7)||The candlesticks, horses, and mountains of Zechariah|
|(Ezek. 2:9)||The scroll of Ezekiel|
|(Amos 7:7)||The wall made by a plumb-line which Amos saw|
|(Daniel 7 and 8)||The animals of Daniel|
|(Jeremiah 1:13)||The seething pot of Jeremiah|
The prophets, however, are also shown things that do not illustrate the object
of the vision, but indicate it by their name through its etymology or homonymity
(A relationship to other better-known words).
Thus the imaginative faculty forms the image of a thing, the name of which has two meanings, one of which denotes something different [from the image]. This is likewise a kind of allegory.
Compare Makkal shaked, “almond staff,” of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:11-12).
It was intended to indicate by the second meaning of shaked the prophecy, “For I will watch” (shoked), etc., which has no relation whatever to the staff or to almonds.
The same is the case with the kelub kayiz, “a basket of summer fruit,” seen by Amos, by which the completion of a certain period was indicated, “the end (ha-kez) having come” (Amos 8:2).
Still more strange is the following manner of calling the prophet’s attention to
a certain object.
He is shown a different object, the name of which has neither etymologically nor homonymous any relation to the first object, but the names of both contain the same letters, though in a different order.
Take, for example, the allegories of Zechariah (Zech. 11:7).
|He takes in a prophetic vision staves to
lead the flock;
he calls the one No’am (pleasure), the other hobelim.
He indicates thereby that the nation was at first in favor with God, and found happiness in it, while God was pleased with them, and loved them, as it is said, “Thou hast avouched the Lord thy God,” and “the Lord hath avouched thee,” (Deuteronomy 26:17,18).
They were guided and directed by Moses and the prophets that followed him. But
later a change took place.
They rejected the love of God, and God rejected them, appointing destroyers like Jeroboam and Manasseh as their rulers. Accordingly, the word hobelim has the same meaning [destroying] as the Hebrew root habal
has in Mehabbelim keramim, “destroying vineyards” (Song of Solomon 2:15).
But the prophet found also in this name Hobelim the indication that the people
despised God, and that God despised them. This is, however, not expressed by the
word habal, but by a transposition of the letters Het,
Bet, and Lamed, the
meaning of despising and rejecting is obtained.
Compare “My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me” [bahalah] (Zechariah 11:8).
The prophet had therefore to change the order of the letters in habal into that of Bahal.
(Moses Maimonides P. 238-240)
|3rd Rule:||Question:||What does a prophet see from the Lord?|
We say now that when a prophet is inspired with a prophecy:
|He may see an allegory, as we have shown,|
|Or he may in a prophetic vision perceive that God
speaks to him, as is said in Isaiah 6:8,
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
|Or he hears an angel addressing him, and sees him also.|
This is very frequent:
|(Genesis 31:11)||“And the angel of God spoke unto me”|
|(Zechariah 4:5)||“And the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me”|
|(Daniel 8:13)||“And I heard one holy speaking”|
Instances of this are innumerable. The prophet sometimes sees a man that speaks to him.
|(Ezekiel 40:3,4)||“And behold there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, and the man said to me,” although the passage begins, “The hand of the Lord was upon me” (Ezek. 40:1)|
In some cases the prophet sees no figure at all, only hears in the prophetic vision the words addressed to him; him.
|(Daniel 8:16)||“And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai”|
|(Job 4:16)||“There was silence, and I heard a voice” (in the speech of Eliphaz)|
|(Ezekiel 1:28)||“And I heard a voice of one that spoke to me”|
The prophet may also hear the prophecy in ordinary common speech, without
Take the account of the prophet Samuel. When he was called in a prophetic vision, he believed that the priest Eli called him; and this happened three times consecutively. The text then explains the cause of it, saying that Samuel naturally believed that Eli had called him, because at that time he did not yet know that God addressed the prophet in this form, nor had that secret as yet been revealed to him.
|4th Rule:||Question:||What happened to the prophet - was it vision or was it reality?|
The ordinary reader believes that the acts, journeys, questions, and answers of the prophets really took place, and were perceived by the senses, and did not merely form part of a prophetic vision.
|(Ezekiel 8:1,3)||“I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me ... and a spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem;”|
|(Ezekiel 3:2,3)||“Thus I arose and went into the plain”|
|(Genesis 15:5)||“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them”|
|(Ezekiel 37:1)||“And set me down in the midst of the valley.”|
|(Ezekiel 8:7-8)||“And when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall; and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door”|
It was thus in a vision that Ezekiel was commanded to dig in the wall, to enter and to see what people were doing there, and it was in the same vision that he dug, entered through the hole, and saw certain things, as is related.
Just as all this forms part of a vision, the same may be said of the following passages:
|(Ezekiel chapters 4 and 5)||“And thou take unto thee a tile”
“And lie thou also on thy left side”
“Take thou also wheat and barley”
“and cause it to pass over thine head and upon thy heard”
God forbid assuming that God would make his prophets appear an object of ridicule and sport in the eyes of the ignorant, and order them to perform foolish acts. We must also bear in mind that the command given to Ezekiel implied disobedience to the Law, for he, being a priest, would, in causing the razor to pass over every corner of the beard and of the head, have been guilty of transgressing two prohibitions in each case. But it was only done in a prophetic vision.
Again, when it is said, “As my servant Isaiah went naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:3), the prophet did so in a prophetic vision.
As Ezekiel was commanded to dig in a wall at Jerusalem on the Temple mount
although he was in Babylon, and relates how he obeyed the command, for he says, “And I
dug in the wall.”
But it is distinctly stated that all this took place in a vision.
Also the command given to Jeremiah, to conceal the girdle
in the Euphrates, and the statement that he concealed it, examined it after a
long time, and found it rotten and spoiled (Jeremiah 13:4-7).
All this was allegorically shown in a vision; Jeremiah did not go from Palestine to Babylon, and did not actually see the Euphrates in the natural realm.
|5th Rule:||Figures, hyperboles, and exaggerations that occur in Scripture|
It is undoubtedly clear and evident that most prophecies are given in images,
for this is the characteristic of the imaginative faculty, the organ of
We find it also necessary to say a few words on the figures, hyperboles, and exaggerations that occur in Scripture.
They would create strange ideas if we were to take them literally without noticing the exaggeration that they contain, or if we were to understand them in accordance with the original meaning of the terms, ignoring the fact that these are used figuratively.
The Jewish Sages say distinctly Scripture uses hyperbolic or exaggerated language; and quote as an instance,
|(Deuteronomy 1:28)||“Cities walled and fortified, rising up to heaven”|
As a hyperbole the Sages quote,
|(Eccles. 10:20)||“For the bird of heaven carries the voice”|
|(Amos 2:9)||“Whose height is like that of cedar trees”|
Instances of this kind are frequent in the language of all prophets; what they say is frequently hyperbolic or exaggerated, and not precise or exact.
We must further discuss the figurative language employed in Scripture.
In some cases this is clear and evident, and doubted by no person;
|(Isaiah 55:12)||“The mountain and hills shall break forth in song before you, and all the trees of the wood clap their hands”|
|(Isaiah 14:8)||“The fir-trees rejoice at thee”|
And these figures are very frequent in the books of the prophets.
The ordinary reader easily recognizes some as figures, others with some difficulty.
Thus nobody doubts that the blessing, “May the Lord open to thee his good treasure, the heavens,” must be taken figuratively; for God has no treasure in which He keeps the rain.
The same is the case with the following passage - “He opened the doors of heaven, he rained upon them manna to eat” (Psalm 78:23,24).
What you have just read is taken from the Jewish sage Moses Maimonides and his understanding of Prophetic Scripture.
Now I may disagree
about some of his interpretations, but I see why he has come to some of his
Paul the Learner
Before I continue on with the introduction to Isaiah, I want to state that I do not believe that every occurrence of God or an Angel appearing to man is a vision or a dream. See my reason below:
|1.||Adam and Eve hid from someone in the garden.|
|2.||Abraham prepared a meal for thee men, this was not a vision but reality.|
|3.||Joshua and the man with the sword.|
|Isaiah - the Evidences For One Authorship|
The hypothesis of modern critics is that Isaiah is not the sole author of the
prophecy bearing his name, but that he only wrote chapters 1-39
(called by them “the former portion”) -
And that an unknown author or authors (for there are now alleged to have been three, or more) are responsible for chapters 40 to the end (called by them “the latter portion”).
Thus, they would treat this prophecy much as Isaiah himself is said to have been treated, who, as tradition tells us, was “sawn asunder.”
These “latter portion” also modern critics would relegate to a later date: toward the close of the seventy years’ exile.
This is a very modern theory; for, both Jews and Christians have held the one authorship of this prophecy without question for over 2,000 years.
|1.||The use of his name in the New Testament|
Holy Scripture itself affords a sufficient and conclusive answer to this matter,
in the fact that Isaiah is twenty-one times mentioned by name in the New
Testament as the author of this prophecy.
Eleven of these passages attribute to him words occurring in the latter portion of the book, and ten of them words occurring in the former portion:
|The Ten Passages Naming Isaiah as the Author of the
|The Eleven Passages Naming Isaiah as the Author of
the “Latter” Portion
|The above twenty-one passages are distributed over six
books of the New Testament:
|And the prophet is named by seven different speakers or
writers in the New Testament:
|2.||The employment of certain words|
A further evidence of the unity of Isaiah is furnished by the Structure of the book itself: which, as the student of Scripture will readily perceive, does not lend itself in any degree to the arbitrary ending suggested at chapter 39.
A “pillar” of the theory that Isaiah was not the only
author of the book is found in the supposed occurrence of certain words
in the “former” portion of the prophecy of Isaiah, which are not found in the
“latter” portion, and vice versa.
An examination of a few such words that are cited by modern critics will show the palpable inaccuracy characterizing their assertions.
It is asserted that the following are found only in the “latter” portion of Isaiah (chapters 40 to the end):
|Found in the "Latter Portion" (chap 40-66)||Also found in the "Former Portion" (chap 1-39)|
|The titles Creator, Redeemer, Savior||Isaiah 1:27; 12:1,2; 14:1; 17:10; 25:9; 27:11; 29:22; 30:18; 33:22; 35:10|
|The thought of Jehovah as “Father.”||Isaiah 1:2|
|The word bachar (to choose)||Isaiah 1:20; 7:15,16; 14:1|
|The word halal (to praise)||Isaiah 13:10; 38:18|
|The word paer (to glorify)||Isaiah 10:15|
|The word patsach (to break forth into joy)||Isaiah 14:7|
|The word tsemach (to spring forth)||Isaiah 4:2|
|The word zero (the arm [of Jehovah])||Isaiah 9:20; 17:5; 30:30; 33:2|
There are more than 300 words and expressions that are common to both the alleged “former” and “latter” portions of Isaiah’s prophecy; and that do not occur at all in the later prophecies of Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
|The Book of the Prophet Isaiah in Structure Form|
|REFERENCE MATERIALS THAT WILL BE USED|
1. The Jewish Bible called TANAKH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
|The TANAKH is an entirely original translation of the Holy Scriptures into
contemporary English, based on the Masoretic text.
It is the culmination of three decades of collaboration by academic scholars and rabbis representing the three largest branches of organized Judaism in America.
Not since the third century BCE (Before the Common Era), when 72 elders of the tribes of Israel created the Greek translation of Scriptures known as the Septuagint, has such a broad-based committee of Jewish scholars produced a major Bible translation.
In executing this monumental task, the translators made use of the entire range
of biblical interpretation, ancient and modern, Jewish and non-Jewish. They drew
upon the latest finding in linguistics and archaeology as well as the work of
early rabbinic and medieval commentators, grammarians, and theologians.
|Bible translation began about 2,200 years ago, in the third century BCE, as the large Jewish population of Alexandria, Egypt,
came under the influence of Hellenism*. When the Greek language replaced Hebrew
and Aramaic as their vernacular, and the Torah in its Hebrew original was no
longer commonly understood, a translation into Greek was made for the Jewish
community of Alexandria. This translation came to be known as the Septuagint
(LXX), Latin for “seventy,” because of the legend that the committee of
translators numbered seventy-two, six elders from each of the twelve tribes of
* Hellenism is a body of humanistic and classical ideals associated
with ancient Greece and including reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the
arts, moderation, civic responsibility, and bodily development.
|The Targum of Isaiah forms part of the Targum of the Prophets assigned by
Jonathan ben Uzziel, the disciple of Hillel (Ref. Talmud Bab. Meg. 3a).
The needs for a translation into Aramaic must have arisen in the period between the Return from exile and the first century A.D., when Hebrew ceased to be the spoken language of the Jews, and was gradually superseded by Aramaic.
With the gradual decay of Hebrew as the spoken language, the common people soon ceased to understand the readings from the Law and the Prophets in the synagogue service, and it became necessary to employ a Meturgeman, or interpreter, in order to render these lections intelligible to the unlearned. It probably started in the time of the Maccabees. This would be called a loose interpretation of the Hebrew Text. They had restrictions that limited their interpretation of some words in the text, so they paraphrased certain words, but this gives a fair representation of the original text.
When Jerome made his translation called the Vulgate, He took these same books that we use (except the modern translation of the Hebrew Cannon). And from these translations from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek came his study of the book of Isaiah in the Latin, and from that translation many centuries ago, we have our King James. N.I.V. and other modern translations.
What I have done is to go back to those ancient translations and do our study in
the book of Isaiah. You can compare your translation with these. I am not saying
that one is any better than the other, only that from these different
interpretations we come to some understanding of just what Yahweh is speaking
about through Isaiah.
This is a study of History and Prophecy and it helps those who like to examine the Word of God more closely to enjoy this study. But for me there is only one thing that I find that is important in the study of Scripture, and that is to see Jesus Christ throughout the Bible, for He and He alone is our only hope for the future.
I will attempt to give to you the best study of Isaiah that I can, in hopes that it will help you to love the Word of God like I do and to find the answer to problems that we all face in life. If by this study of Isaiah you have a deeper understanding and greater love of the Scriptures, then I have been successful in my endeavor.
Paul the Learner
(End of the Introduction)