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An Introduction to Isaiah

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I. AUTHOR:

A. There is debate as to whether there was one or two (three or four) author’s of the book because there does not seem to be any reason for eighth century Isaiah to discuss events lying 200 years in the future for Hezekiah’s generation. It is assumed that chapters 40-66 were written by a Second Isaiah at the end of the exile to deported and defeated fellow-countrymen. This broad generalization is not a necessary conclusion.

B. He is identified as Isaiah ben Amoz (1:1)

C. He was born into an influential, upper class family and thus knew royalty and gave advice concerning foreign affairs of the nation (7:3,4; 8:2 30:1-7; 36:1--38:8, 21f cf. 2 Kings 18:3--20:19)

D. He was married to a prophetess (8:1) and had at least two children: Shear jashub ( bwvy rav ) “a remnant will return”) Mahershalalhashbaz ( zB Vj llV rhm ) “hurry spoil, hasten booty”

E. He attacked social problems which were symptomatic of the Judah’s covenant relationship (1:3-9; 38:6-10)

F. He lived most of his life in Judah and was sawn in two inside of a hollow log (according to tradition: Assumption of Isaiah) during the reign of Manasseh (696-642). See Hebrews 11:37

G. Tradition states that Isaiah was a cousin of Uzziah or a nephew of Amaziah (Talmud Meg. 10b)

H. He was probably a scribe or keeper of the official chronicle of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22).

II. DATE:

A. The basic dates are from 740-700 B.C. The Northern Kingdom is in captivity and there are 150 years left in the Southern Kingdom

B. Isaiah’s Judean ministry extended for at least 40 years (740-701):

1. Uzziah’s death 740 B.C. (6:1)

2. Through the reign of Jotham (750-731)

3. Through the reign of Ahaz (735-715)

4. Through the reign of Hezekiah (certainly 701)

5. Possibly through some of the reign of Manasseh [if it was he who assassinated him] (696-642)

C. If Isaiah recorded Sennacherib’s death (Isa. 37:38 as he probably did), than he court life and prophetic ministry extended from 745 to about 680 (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:22 where he may have been active in Uzziah’s court before the king’s death)

D. Assyrian kings:

1. Tiglath-pileser III (745-727)

2. Shalmaneser V (727-722)

3. Sargon II (722-705)

4. Sennacherib (705-681)

III. HISTORICAL SETTING:

A. Isaiah was a contemporary with Amos, Hosea and Micah for at least part of his ministry

B. Tiglath-pileser had conquered all of northern Syria by 740 (the date of Uzziah’s death)

1. He conquered the Aramean city-state of Hamath

2. He forced all small kingdoms, including Israel under Menahem to pay tribute (2 Kings 15:19f) and Judah under “Azariah” (Uzziah)1

3. He entered Palestine in 734 B.C., set up a base of operations at the River of Egypt. Many small states rebelled against him including Israel in the Syro-Ephraimite war (733 B.C.).

4. Judah would not participate in the Syro-Ephraimite coalition. The coalition attempted to overthrow the Davidic dynasty to appoint a king who would join the coalition (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5; Isa. 7:1)

5. Isaiah exhorted Ahaz to trust in the YHWH; he refused and turned to Assyria (Isa. 7; 2 Kings 16:7-9)

6. Tiglath-pileser invaded Israel and almost came to Judah’s boarders (Isa. 15:29)

a. Israel’s king--Hoshea paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser (732)

b. Tiglath-pileser died (727) and Hosea (who overtook Pikah in Israel) refused (in alliance with So of Egypt) to pay tribute to Shalmaneser V as he had to Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 17:4).

C. Assyria (Shalmaneser or his successor Sargon II) moved against Israel and after a three year siege, took the capital of Samaria (722/1) and carried the people into captivity

D. Assyria expanded unto the northern boundary of Judah. Judah was also left alone when many of the city states of Palestine and Syria along with Egypt rebelled against Assyria and were put down in 720 B.C.

E. Judah (under Hezekiah) joined an uprising along with Egypt, Edom, and Moab against Assyria (713-711)

F. Sargon (of Assyria) took Ashdod and Gath leaving Judah vulnerable

G. Sargon died in 705 leading to revolt by many including Judah under Hezekiah along with Babylon (2 kings 20:12-19; Isa. 39:1-4)

H. Sennacherib (of Assyria) retaliated in 701 defeating Sidon, receiving tribute from Ashdod, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, subjugating Ashkelon and Ekron, and surrounding Hezekiah2 and forcing him to pay tribute to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13-16)

IV. THE BOOK’S DESIGN: To exhort people (and especially Israel) to place their trust in YHWH for their deliverance by predicting and historically demonstrating the judgment which falls on those who do not trust in YHWH and the blessing which comes to those who do trust in Him


1 LaSor, et al, p. 367--cannot find this in ANET, p. 283f.

2 Cf. ANET, p. 288.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines