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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

- Isaiah

by Editor - Joseph Exell






The English name Isaiah is an approximate transliteration of the abbreviated form Yeshayah, which appears as the title of the prophet’s book in the Hebrew canon, and occurs besides as the name of several individuals in post-exilic writings (Ezra 8:7; Ezra 8:19; Nehemiah 11:7; 1 Chronicles 3:21). The full and older form is Yeshaʼyahu (Gr., Ησαιας; Lat., Esaias and Isaias), by which the prophet himself is always called in the text of his book, and in the historical writings of the Old Testament (2 Kings 19:2, etc.; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:20; 2 Chronicles 32:32); also other Jews (1 Chronicles 25:3; 1 Chronicles 25:15; 1 Chronicles 26:25). It means “Jehovah is salvation,” and is therefore synonymous with the frequent Joshua or Jeshua (Jesus), and Hosea (cf the Hebrews Elisha, “God is,” or “God of salvation”; Elishua, Ishi, etc.)

(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

His original name may have been Meshullam

(See Prof. Margoliouth’s view, p. 22.)

II. HIS PERSONAL HISTORY.--The exact limits which we are led to assign to Isaiah’s career depend on the conclusions we reach with regard to several disputed portions of his book. Generally speaking, however, we may say that he prophesied from the year in which King Uzziah died (740 or 736 B.C.) to the year of the sudden deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib (701), and possibly some years after this. Isaiah was, therefore, born about 760, was a child when Amos appeared at Bethel (c. 756 or 750), and a youth when Hosea began to prophesy in N. Israel. Micah was his younger contemporary. The chief political events of his life were the ascent of the great soldier Tiglath-pileser III to the throne of Assyria in 745, with a new policy of conquest; the league of Aram and N. Israel in 735, and their invasion of Judah, which moved Ahaz to call Assyria to his help; Tiglath-pileser’s capture of Damascus, and the captivity of Gilead and Galilee in 734; the invasion of N. Palestine by Salmanassar IV in 725, with the long siege of Samaria which fell to his successor Sargon in or about 721; Sargon’s defeat of Egypt on her border at Raphia in 719; Sargon’s invasion of Palestine in 711, with the reduction of Ashdod, and his defeat of Merodach-baladan and capture of Babylon in 709; Sennacherib’s succession in 705, and invasion of Palestine in 701; his encounter with Egypt at Eltekeh on the borders of Philistia and Judah; his capture of Ekron and siege of Jerusalem, with the pestilence that overtook him between Palestine and Egypt; and his retreat from Palestine, with the consequent relief of Jerusalem--all in 701. About 695 (some say about 690 or even 685) Hezekiah was succeeded by Manasseh. Whether Isaiah lived into the reign of the latter is very doubtful. We have no prophecies from him later than Hezekiah’s reign, perhaps none after 701. The Mishna says that he was slain by Manasseh. The apocryphal work “The Ascension of Isaiah,” which was written in the beginning of the second Christian century, affirms that Isaiah’s martyrdom consisted in being sawn asunder, which Justin Martyr repeats. Whether this be true, and whether it is alluded Hebrews 11:37, we cannot tell. Isaiah is called the son of Amos Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1), who must not be confounded, as he has been by various Christian fathers, with the prophet Amos. A Jewish tradition makes Isaiah nephew of King Amaziah; and his royal descent has been inferred from his familiarity with successive monarchs of Judah, and his general political influence. A stronger reason than these might be drawn from the presence in his name of Jehovah, which appears to have been confined at the earlier periods of Israel’s history to proper names of the royal houses. But even this is not conclusive, and one really knows nothing of either Isaiah’s forefathers or his upbringing. He was married, his wife is called “the prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3), and he had two sons to whom he gave names symbolic of those aspects of the nation’s history which he enforced in his prophecies: Sheʼar-yashub, “A remnant shall return,” who was old enough in 736-735 to be taken by his father when he went to face King Isaiah 7:3), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “Spoil-speeds-booty-hastes,” who was born about a year later (Isaiah 8:1-4). The legend that Isaiah was twice married has been deduced from the false inference that “the young woman of marriageable age” (Isaiah 7:14) was his wife. By this expression the prophet probably did not mean a definite individual. The most certain and significant fact about Isaiah is that he was a citizen, if not a native, of Jerusalem, and had constant access to the court and presence of the king. Jerusalem is Isaiah’s immediate and ultimate regard, the centre and return of all his thoughts, the hinge of the history of his time, the summit of those brilliant hopes with which he fills the future. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)


A prophet

The work of a prophet was the vocation of his life, to which every energy was devoted; even his wife is called the prophetess (Isaiah 8:3); his sons bore prophetic names, not enigmatic like those given by Hosea to Gomer’s children, but expressing in plain language two fundamental themes of his doctrine The truths which he proclaimed he sought to make immediately practical in the circle of disciples whom he gathered round him (Isaiah 8:16), and through them to prepare the way for national reformation. And in this work he was aided by personal relations within the highest circles of the capital. Uriah, the chief priest of the temple, was his friend, and appears associated with him as witness to a solemn act by which he attested a weighty prophecy at a time when king and people had not yet learned to give credence to his word’s (Isaiah 8:2). His own life seems to have been constantly spent in the capital; but he was not without support in the provinces. (W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)

Relation to the unseen and the seen

Never, perhaps, has there been another prophet like Isaiah, who stood with his head in the clouds and his feet on the solid earth, with his heart in the things of eternity and with mouth and hand in the things of time, with his spirit in the eternal counsel of God and his body in a very definite moment of history. (Valeton.)


The whole subsequent history of the Hebrew people bears the impress of Isaiah’s activity

It was through him that the word of prophecy, despised and rejected when it was spoken by Amos and Hosea, became a practical power not only in the State, but in the whole life of the nation. We can readily understand that so great a work could not have been affected by an isolated mission like that of Amos, or by a man like Hosea, who stood apart from all the leaders of his nation, and had neither friend nor disciple to espouse his cause. Isaiah won his commanding position, not by a single stroke, but by long-sustained and patient effort . . . The countryman Micah, who prophesied in the low country on the Philistine border near the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign, was unquestionably influenced by his great contemporary, and, though his conceptions are shaped with the individual freedom characteristic of the true prophet, and by no means fit mechanically into the details of Isaiah’s picture of Jehovah’s approaching dealings, the essence of his teaching went all to further Isaiah’s aims. Thus Isaiah ultimately became the acknowledged head of a great religious movement. It is too little to say that in his later years he was the first man in Judah, practically guiding the helm of the State, and encouraging Jerusalem to hold out against the Assyrian when all besides had lost courage. Even to the political historian, Isaiah is the most notable figure after David in the whole history of Israel. He was the man of a supreme crisis, and he proved himself worthy by guiding his nation through the crisis with no other strength than the prophetic word. (W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)

A comparison with Elisha

His commanding influence on the history of his nation naturally suggests comparison with Elisha, the author of the revolution of Jehu, and the soul of the great struggle with Syria. The comparison illustrates the extraordinary change which little more than a century had wrought in the character and aims of prophecy. Elisha effected his first object--the downfall of the house of Ahab--by entering into the sphere of ordinary political intrigue; Isaiah stood aloof from all political combinations, and his influence was simply that of his commanding character, and of the imperial word of Jehovah preached in season and out of season with unwavering constancy. Elisha in his later years was the inspiring spirit of a heroic conflict, encouraging his people to fight for freedom, and resist the invader by armed force. Isaiah well knew that Judah had no martial strength that could avail for a moment against the power of Assyria. He did not aim at national independence; and, rising above the dreams of vulgar patriotism, he was content to accept the inevitable, and mark out for Judah a course of patient submission to the foreign yoke, in order that the nation might concentrate itself on the task of internal reformation, till Jehovah Himself should remove the scourge appointed for His people’s sin. In this conception he seized and united in one practical aim ideas which had appeared separately in the teaching of his predecessors, Amos and Hosea . . . In the supreme crisis of the Assyrian wars, Isaiah was not less truly the bulwark of his nation than Elisha had been during the Syrian wars. But his heroism was that of patience and faith, and the deliverance came as he had foretold, not by political wisdom or warlike prowess, but by the direct intervention of Jehovah. (W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)

The period of Isaiah’s ministry falls into three parts:--

(1) The time previous to the Syro-Ephraitic war, when Judah enjoyed external peace and apparent prosperity.

(2) The troubles under the reign of Ahaz, when the land was invaded by Pekah and Rezin, and the Judaean monarch became a vassal of Assyria to obtain the help of Tiglath-pileser.

(3) The time of Assyrian suzerainty, when Judah’s growing impatience of the yoke at length led the nation to intrigue with Egypt, and exposed it to the vengeance of Sennacherib. The last section of the prophet’s life culminates in the great invasion and marvellous deliverance of the year 701 B.C. (W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)


Foremost book in prophetical literature

The book that bears [Isaiah’s] name, in the variety, beauty, and force of its style, and in the sublimity of its contents, takes the foremost place in the prophetical literature. (Prof. James Robertson, D. D.)

The greatest classic of Israel

With Isaiah sank into the grave the greatest classic of Israel. (Carl Heinrich Cornill.)

Isaiah a poet

If poetry is “the eloquence of excited emotion, whose chief end is to unite beauty with truth,” then there can be no doubt of the justice of Isaiah’s claim to be classed among poets. (F. Sessions.)

Isaiah a psalmist

It has been said of Burke that he would have been a great poet if he had not been a great orator. It might be said of Isaiah that, if he had not been the chief of the prophets of Israel, he would have been the chief of its psalmists. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

Chaps. 28-38 are unexampled for grandeur, music, and the softness of idyllic peace. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Literary characteristics of the acknowledged prophecies of Isaiah

The thing of chief importance is, that we are wholly unable to name a special peculiarity and favourite manner of style in the case of Isaiah. He is not the specially lyric, or the specially elegiac, or the specially rhetorical and monitory prophet, as, e.g., Joel, Hosea, Micah, in whose writings a special manner is predominant; but every kind of style and every variation of exposition is at his command to meet the requirements of his subject; and this it is which in respect of style constitutes his greatness, as well as generally one of his most prominent excellences. His fundamental peculiarity is only the exalted majestic repose of style, proceeding from the full and sure command of his subject. This response by no means requires that the language should never be more violently agitated, and not blaze up where the subject demands it; but even the most extreme agitation is bridled by this repose in the background, and does not pass beyond Its proper limits, and soon returns with higher self-mastery to it’s regular flow, not again to leave it (Isaiah 2:9-22; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 28:11-23; Isaiah 29:9-14). (H. Ewald, D. D.)

Isaiah’s style

It would hardly be possible to characterise the style of Isaiah better than by the four notes under which Matthew Arnold has summed up the distinctive qualities of Homer’s genius: Plainness of thought, plainness of style, nobleness, and rapidity. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)


Reformer, statesman, theologian

In the parts [of the book] which are indubitably his, we can watch him, and, as it were, walk by his side, through all the varied and eventful phases of his forty years’ ministry. We can observe him as a reformer, denouncing social abuses, sparing neither high nor low in his fearless and incisive censure. We can follow him u a statesman, devoted patriotically to his country’s interests, and advising her political leaders in times of difficulty and danger. We can see him as a theologian, emphasising old truths, developing new ones, bringing fresh ideas to light Which were destined to exercise an important influence in the generations which followed. Throughout the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah he is the central figure in Jerusalem, and the position which he there took--his motives, principles, policy, the character of his teaching, the natureand extent of his influence--are all reflected in the collection of his prophecies which we possess. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

The evangelical prophet

Isaiah has received from the Christian Church the title of the evangelical prophet. This was given mainly in the belief that chaps. 40-46, were also by him. But even in the prophecies which criticism has left to him, we find the elements of the doctrines of grace. God forgives sin, the most heinous and defiling (Isaiah 1:18). Though He has passed sentence of death upon His people (Isaiah 22:14), their penitence procures for them His pardon and deliverance (Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38). Necessarily severe as His judgment is, cruelly as His providence bears upon sin and folly, His love and pity towards His own never fail (Isaiah 14:32). He is their well-beloved, and has constantly cared for them Isaiah 5:1, etc.). He longs to be gracious, and to have mercy even when His people are mint given to their own destructive courses; and He waits eagerly for their prayers to Him (Isaiah 30:18, etc.). (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

.--The canonicity of Isaiah was never questioned by the Jewish Church in later times. There is, however, a curious divergence of tradition with regard to its place amongst the prophetic Scriptures. The order of the E.V., where the book stands first among the “Later Prophets” (the strictly prophetic writings)

, is that of all printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, as well as of the Masora and the best MSS. in the LXX it stands first amongst the Major Prophets, but is preceded by the so called Minor Prophets. A still more peculiar arrangement is given by the Talmudic treatise Baba bathra (fol. 14 b), where the order is: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the Twelve (Minor) Prophets. It has been thought by some that this arrangement betrays a dim consciousness of the late authorship of the second part of the book, which is possible, although the Jewish authorities know nothing of it, and explain the traditional order by reasoning of a somewhat nebulous kind. (See. Ryle, “Canon of the Old Testament,” pp. 273 ff., 281 f.) (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)


The view of Hengstenberg

That the prophecies of Isaiah are arranged chronologically, though not without justification, fails to satisfy the requirements of historical interpretation. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

The chronological arrangement in 1-39

Has been disturbed by throwing the prophecies against foreign nations (Isaiah 15-23) together, as in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, with which an oracle against Babylon (Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; cf. Isaiah 21:1-10) and a great prophecy of the general judgment on the world (Isaiah 24-57) have been connected, though probably due to later prophets. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Suggested explanations of the uncertain chronology

It is plain that the book, as it stands, is in a somewhat disordered state. Presumably Isaiah himself issued no collected edition of all his prophecies, but only put forth from time to time individual oracles or minor collections, which were gathered together at a later date, and on no plan which we can follow. Some of the prophecies bear a date, or even have brief notes of historical explanation; others begin without any such preface, and their date and occasion can only be inferred from the allusions they contain. We cannot even tell when or by whom the collection was made. The collection of all remains of ancient prophecy, digested into the four books named from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets, was not formed till after the time of Ezra, two hundred and fifty years, at least, after the death of Isaiah. In one of these four books every known fragment of ancient prophecy had to take its place, and no one who knows anything of the collection and transmission of ancient books will think it reasonable to expect that the writings of each separate prophet were carefully gathered out and arranged together in such a way as to preclude all ambiguity as to their authorship. If every prophecy had had a title from the first, the task of the editor would have been simple; or, if he did not aim at an exact arrangement, we could easily have rearranged the series for ourselves. But there are some prophecies, such as those which occupy the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah, which have no title at all and in some other cases there is conclusive evidence that the titles are not original, because, in point of fact, they are incorrect. In the absence of precise titles giving names and dates to each separate prophecy, an editor labouring after the time of Ezra would he quite as much at a less as a modern critic, if he made it his task to give what is now called a critical edition of the remains that lay before him. But ancient editors did not feel the need of an edition digested according to the rules of modern literary workmanship. Their main object was to get together everything that they could find, and arrange their material in volumes convenient for private study or use in the synagogue. In those days one could not plan the number of volumes, the number of letters in a page, and the size and form of the pages, with the freedom to which the printing press has accustomed us; the cumbrous and costly materials of ancient books limited all schemes of editorial disposition. In ancient books the moot various treatises are often comprised in one volume; the scribe had a certain number of skins, and he wished to fill them. Thus, even in the minor collections that fell into the hands of the editor of the prophets, a prophecy of Isaiah and one from another source might easily occupy the same roll; copies were not so numerous that it was always possible to tell by comparison of many MSS. what pieces had always stood together, and what had only come together by accident; and so, taking all in all, we need not he surprised that the arrangement is imperfect according to our literary lights, but will rather expect to find much more serious faults of order than the lack of a just chronological disposition. If the present Book of Isaiah has itself been made up from several MSS., a conclusion which the lack of chronological order renders almost inevitable, we must deem it probable that at the end of some of these MSS. prophecies not by Isaiah at all may have been written in to save waste of the costly material; and so, when the several small books came to he joined together, prophecies by other hands would get to be embedded in the text of Isaiah, no longer to he distinguished except by internal evidence. That what thus appears as possible or even probable actually took place is the common opinion of modern critics (W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)

V. DIVISION OF THE BOOK--The division of the Book of Isaiah into two parts at the end of chap. 39, although indicated by no superscription, is at once suggested by the intervention of the narrative section, chaps. 36-39, and is fully justified by the character of the last twenty-seven chapters. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)


A rule of criticism

The rules of ordinary criticism require us to accept
Isaiah as the author until it be shown that he cannot have been so. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)

The critical treatment of Isaiah

The critical treatment of Isaiah began in the following manner. The commencement was made with the second part. Koppe first of all expressed doubt regarding the genuineness of chap. 1; then Doderlein expressed his decided suspicion as to the genuineness of the whole; and Justi, followed by Eichhorn, Paulus, and Bertholdt, raised the suspicion into confident assurance of spuriousness. The result thus attained could not possibly remain without reaction on the first part. Rosenmuller, who was always very dependent upon predecessors, was the first to deny the Isaiah origin of the prophecy against Babylon, in chaps. 13-14:23, though this is attested by the heading; Justi and Paulus undertook to find further reasons for the opinion. Greater advance was now made. Along with the prophecy against Babylon in chaps. 13-14:23, the other, in Isaiah 21:1-10, was likewise condemned, and Rosenmuller could not but be astonished when Gesenius let the former fall, but left the latter standing. There still remained the prophecy against Tyre, in chap. 23, which, according as the announced destruction of Tyre was regarded as accomplished by the Assyrians or the Chaldeans, might either be left to Isaiah or attributed to a later prophet unknown. Eichhorn, followed by Rosenmuller, decided that it was spurious; but Gesenius understood the Assyrians as the destroyers, and as the prediction consequently did not extend beyond the horizon of Isaiah, he defended its genuineness. Thus was the Babylonian series of prophecies set aside. The keen eyes of the critics, however, made still further discoveries. In chaps. 24-27, Eichhorn found plays on words that were unworthy of Isaiah, and Gesenius an allegorical announcement of the fall of Babylon: both accordingly condemned these three chapters, and Ewald transposed them to the time of Cambyses. With chaps. 34, 35, on account of their relation to the second part, the procedure was shorter. Rosenmuller at once pronounced them to be “a poem composed during the Babylonian Exile, near its close.” Such is the history of the origin of the criticism of Isaiah, Its first attempts were very juvenile. It was Gesenius, but especially Hitzig and Ewald, who first raised it to the eminence of a science. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Advocates of an exilian date for chaps. 40

Doderlein, in 1775, was the first modern scholar who took up this position. Before then the traditional view does not seem to have been questioned, except by the Jewish commentator, Aben Ezra ( 1167 A.D.), who, in very obscure language, appears to hint that the title of the book does not guarantee the authorship of every part of it, any more than in the case of the books of Samuel, of which Samuel himself could only have written the first twenty-four chapters (his death being recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1). Doderlein has been followed, among others, by Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, Knobel, Umbreit, de Wette, Bleek, Bunsen, Cheyne, Kuenen, Reuss, Duhm, Oehler, A.B. Davidson, Orelli, Konig, Driver, G.A. Smith, Kirkpatrick, Delitzsch (in the 4 th edition of his Commentary, 1890), etc. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Defenders of the Isaianic authorship

Amongst these the best-known names are those of Hengstenberg, Havernick, Drechsler, Delitzsch (down to about 1880), Stier, Rutgers, Kay, Nagelsbach, Douglas, etc. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

General view of the question of authorship

Part Second (Isaiah 11-66)

is broadly distinguished from Part First both in literary form and in subject matter. It has the appearance of being one sustained composition, rather than a number of spoken addresses; and whereas the situation in the First Part was the Assyrian period in which Isaiah lived, the stand, point here is the time of the Exile, and the tone is mainly that of consolation in the near prospect of deliverance,--the name of Cyrus, who gave the edict permitting the return (536 B.C.), being expressly mentioned (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1). We cannot doubt that the deportation of the Ten Tribes, and the ominous threatening of a similar fate for Judah, had accustomed Isaiah to the thought of the Captivity and its ultimate issues. So that, if these chapters are from his hand, we must assume that, in spirit, he placed himself in the Exile, and from that, as a prophetic standpoint, depicted the restoration and the final glory. Moot modem critics, however, think that these chapters are an anonymous production of the Exile, which was united to the prophecies of Isaiah. (Prof. J. Robertson, D. D.)

The doubtful portions

The question relates to Isaiah 14:1-23; Isaiah 14:1-23; Isaiah 24-27; Isaiah 34:0; Isaiah 35:0; Isaiah 40-66 (Isaiah 21:1-10 must henceforth be excluded, on objective, historical grounds, from the list of doubtful prophecies). (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

Isaiah of Jerusalem capable of producing the entire book

Such a man as Isaiah of Jerusalem is universally acknowledged to have been, with such an unique call as he claims to have received, was at least capable of seeing in open vision the glories of the coming Messianic kingdom, as clearly, as he saw the impending ruin of nations laden with iniquity. That he should have written both portions of the great series of prophecies bearing his name is prima facie as probable as that John Milton wrote “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained” long after having given to the politicians of the Republic his dry polemic “In Defence of the People”; or that “Sartor Resartus,” pantheistic and expressed in Carlylese, was the offspring of the same genius that penned the chaste and simple English of the “Life of Sterling”; or that Dr. Johnson was both the compiler of a dictionary and the author of such a romance as “Rasselas.” (F. Sessions.)

The language of Isaiah

If Prof. Margoliouth is working on a right line, and if the results which he anticipates are established, the conclusion, so far as language is concerned, will be that the whole of Isaiah being written in classical Hebrew, not in what he calls the Middle-Hebrew of the Prophets of the Exile, still less in the New Hebrew, which was the classical language of Jerusalem in the days of Ben-Sira, 200 B.C., belongs to the age of the historic Isaiah of the days of Hezekiah. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

If a composite work collected the several parts?

It is becoming more and more certain that the present form, especially of the prophetic Scriptures, is due to a literary class [the Sopherim, Scribes or Scripturists], whom principal function was collecting and supplementing the scattered records of prophetic revelation. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

Prof. Cheyne’s idea of the work done by the Sopherim editors is utterly baseless. The known writings of respired prophets were guarded as by a wall of fire. And all classes, whatever their practical unfaithfulness, stood in awe of them then, as they do until this day. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

The later authors Isaian

Isaiah had left his sublime deliverances to fructify in the minds of his disciples. One disciple, separated by three or four generations from the master, but living constantly with his prophecies and nourished upon his spirit, produced at the crisis of Babylon’s fall a prophecy of Israel’s restoration as immortal as Isaiah’s own. This disciple named not himself. Whether he intended the work to become joined with Isaiah’s, and to pass among men with the authority of that great name, we cannot know. But his contemporaries joined the disciple’s work with the master’s, and by Ezra’s time the conjunction was established. (Matthew Arnold.)

These later prophets so closely resemble Isaiah in prophetic vision, that posterity might on that account well identify them with him. They belong, more or less nearly, to those pupils of his to whom he refers (chap. 8:16). We know of no other prophet belonging to the kingdom of Judah like Isaiah, who was surrounded by a band of younger prophets, and, so to speak, formed a school. Viewed in this light, the Book of Isaiah is the work of his creative spirit and the band of followers. These later prophets are Isaian,--they are Isaiah’s disciples; it is his spirit that continues to operate in them, like the spirit of Elijah in Elisha,--nay, we may say, like the spirit of Jesus in the apostles; for the words of Isaiah (8:18), “Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me,” are employed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 2:13) as typical of Jesus Christ. In view of this fact, the whole book rightly bears the name of Isaiah, inasmuch as he is, directly and indirectly, the author of all these prophetic discourses; his name is the correct common denominator for this collection of prophecies, which, with all their diversity, yet form a unity; and the second half particularly (chaps. 40-66) is the work of a pupil who surpasses the master, though he owes the master everything. Such may possibly be the ease. It seems to me even probable, and almost certain, that this may be so; but indubitably certain it is not, in my opinion, and I shall die without getting over this hesitancy. For very many difficulties arise. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Why should important portions of the book be anonymous?

It will always remain a mystery how the name of the great prophet of the Exile, who stood far nearer to the return from Exile than Ezekiel, has fallen into oblivion, and it is a question among how ninny prophets the Deutero-Isaianic passages should be divided. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)


(“Commentary on Isaiah”) thinks there are reasons for ascribing the book (chaps. 40-66) to an exilian author, but says: “Its incorporation with the Book of Isaiah remains a riddle.” “One thing remains utterly unexplained--the anonymity of so glorious a book carefully arranged by the author himself. It has been said that he could not mention his name from regard to the Chaldeans; but what prevented him from coming forward after the victory of Cyprus over Babylon? In a time when Haggai and Zechariah so carefully dated their prophecies, how could the name be lost of the seer who had unquestionably done most towards the revival of the theocratic spirit and the home coming of the faithful ones? The question might be answered if the author appeared pseudonymously under Isaiah’s name; but no trace of such intention is found anywhere. Whereas in Isaiah I, the person of the prophet comes out in different ways, here in Isaiah II, all name, even all heading, is wanting. Criticism should honestly confess that the special reason of this anonymity remains in utter obscurity.”

Explanation of the supposed plural authorship

How came the works of five unknown prophets in Babylon to be ascribed to Isaiah, or at any rate inserted in the Book of Isaiah?. . .These chapters were evidently added at a later period, and most probably, as Eichhorn suggested, with the object of producing a conveniently large volume, nearly equal in size to those of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. In taking this course the editor might invoke a precedent already familiar to his contemporaries, the Twelve Minor Prophets having been combined into a single “volume” at some unknown period previous to the composition of Ecclesiasticus. (See Sir 49:10.) (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

The explanation regarded as inadequate

We can easily see a reason why these minor prophets--minor in bulk--should be engrossed on one roll for convenience sake. But they are still twelve, not one. More than this. To each of them is carefully prefixed the name of its author, even when, as in the ease of Obadiah, his prophecy consists of but a single chapter. Had this “precedent” been followed by the hypothetic editor who added chaps. 40-66, to chaps. 1-39, he would have inscribed on each part the name of its author. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Providential guidance in the form and contents of the book

The boldest advocates of even the most “advanced” critical hypothesis will be still obliged to confess that it must have been a wise instinct, to say nothing of Divine inspiration and guidance, that induced the “compilers” of the Book of Isaiah to present it to the world in its existing form. The denunciations of sin by the prophets held to be responsible for the earlier chapters are incomplete and gloomy, with “a darkness that may be felt,” without the addition of the glorious Evangel proclaimed by those who wrote the later ones. The overthrow of the kingdom of Satan is not good enough for the world without the simultaneous establishment of the kingdom of God. A sinner without hope is a sinner lost,--a nation with its golden age behind it, and none before it, is a nation God-forsaken and outcast, given over to despair and reckless of the end. The preaching of the law and its terrors, apart from the proclamation of the Gospel with its regenerative force, never has been, and never can be, accordant with the mind of the All-just and All-merciful Creator. (F. Sessions.)

The Book of Isaiah comes to us from poet-exilic times; on this point there can be no doubt among educated students. It was brought into its present form, not by a committee of lovers of ancient literature, but by men whose great preoccupation was the building up of a righteous, God fearing people. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

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Critical difficulties no barrier to an understanding of the prophecy

Many persons who would wish to study the second half of Isaiah are discouraged from making the attempt by a feeling that an insurmountable barrier of critical difficulties lies between them and any comprehension of the prophecy. That is, in great measure, a delusion. In spite of the fact that large critical questions rise in connection with these prophecies, there is, perhaps, no part of Scripture to the understanding of which criticism contributes so little. Like the Book of Job, the piece is almost purely theological, and occupied with ideas. It is a structure based upon and built out of the Monotheistic conception, the idea that Jehovah, God of Israel, is the true and only God. It need not be supposed that the author consciously started from this principle and logically deduced his other conclusions from it. This is not the method of Old Testament writers. Nevertheless, to us who read his work now, the effect is the same as if he had done so; and obviously the question at what time or in what circumstances such a theological structure was reared is only of secondary importance; so far as understanding the work itself is concerned. It may be that many of the details of the structure point to a definite historical period; to many minds, indeed, the theological character of the work will be conclusive evidence that it cannot belong to a time anterior to the Exile; but such methods of reasoning show that the meaning of the passage may he learned from itself independently of external aids, and that this meaning may be found to lead to critical conclusions rather than to receive light from them. (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)

The primary critical question--what is it?

The great critical question agitated in regard to these twenty-seven chapters is, whether the author was a contemporary of the Exile, or was an older prophet, enabled by an extraordinary gift of foresight to transport himself into its circumstances and realise its conditions. The way in which such a question has to be put indicates how far scholars of all opinions are in agreement. It is admitted on all hands that, at whatever time the prophet actually lived and wrote, the Exile is the stage on which his personages move, and on which the great drama which he exhibits is transacted. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

A secondary question

Another critical question of less magnitude is, How far the prophet of these twenty-seven chapters has adopted fragments from other prophecies, or omer writers, into his own work! It is admitted that the bulk of the chapters forms a unity, and is from the hand of one author. But certain passages are thought to betray a different hand; while others, unlike the bulk of the prophecy, seem written from a point of view anterior to the time of the Exile. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

A third question

Another question lees strictly critical, but partly exegetical and of a more internal kind, is the inquiry whether these twenty-seven chapters, admittedly in the main a unity and the work of one hand, have been composed all at one gush, or whether there are not distinct divisions in the composition, points at which the author paused, having rounded off his previous work, and from which he again started in order to give his conceptions a more perfect development. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

A three-fold division

The great prophecy of Israel’s restoration falls naturally into three divisions.

1. Chapters 40-46 deal mainly with the deliverance of the Jews by Cyrus.

2. Chapters 49-57 with the future of Israel, and the work of

Jehovah’s ideal Servant.

3. Chapters 58-66, with the glories of the restored Zion, and the difficulties caused by the nation’s sin. (Edward Grubb, M. A.)

The prophecy may be conveniently divided into three nearly equal sections.

Chaps. 40-48. The Restoration of Israel through the instrumentality of Cyrus.

Chaps. 49-55. The work of Jehovah’s Servant, and the glorification of Zion.

Chaps. 56-66. The future blessedness of the true Israel contrasted with the doom of the apostates. The third section of the book is less homogeneous in its composition than the two others. In passing from chap. 55 to chap. 56, the reader is at once sensible of a change of manner and circumstance, which becomes still more manifest as he proceeds. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

The contents

It begins with a prophecy putting into the mouth of John the Baptist the theme of his preaching; it concludes with the prophecy of the creation of a new heaven and new earth, beyond which even the last page of the New Testament Apocalypse cannot soar; and in the middle Isaiah 52:13 -chap. 53), the suffering and exaltation of the Servant of

God are announced as plainly as if the prophet had stood beneath the Cross and seen the Risen One. Placing himself at the beginning of New
Testament days, he begins like the New Testament Gospels; he describes further the death and new life of God’s Servant as completed facts with the clearness of Pauline teaching; he cleaves at last to the higher, heavenly world, like the Johannine apocalpyse;--and all this without exceeding the
Old Testament limits; but within these he is evangelist, apostle, and apocalyptist in one person. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The author’s wide range

The standpoint of the prophet may be the
Exile, but his vision ranges from Abraham to Christ. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

Problem before the writer two fold

In order to effect some general arrangement and division of Isaiah 40-66, it is necessary to keep in view that the immediate problem which the prophet had before him was two fold. It was political, and it was spiritual. There was, first of all, the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, according to the ancient promises of

Jehovah; to this were attached such questions as Jehovah’s omnipotence, faithfulness, and grace; the meaning of Cyrus; the condition of the
Babylonian Empire. But after their political deliverance from Babylon was assured, there remained the really larger problem of Israel’s spiritual readiness for the freedom and the destiny to which God was to lead them, through the opened gates of their prison house: to this were attached such questions as the original calling and mission of Israel; the mixed and paradoxical character of the people; their need of a Servant from the Lord, since they themselves had failed to be His servant; the coming of this Servant, His methods and results. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

Our Lord’s favourite book

If it can be said of any prophetic book that it was certainly the favourite book of our Lord, it is this book of the second Isaiah, in which what God’s Elect One was to be and do was outlined with studied ideality. Here the ideal stood before Him, the realising of which was His life task. When He read in this book, the person of the Coming One and the Manifested One met together, the former found its body and the latter its soul. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The author’s theological conceptions

He is the first prophet who discerns in the signs of the times a Divine purpose which is from the first a purpose of grace towards Israel. His predecessors had all looked on the world power as the instrument of Jehovah’s chastisement of His people, and had anticipated a happy issue only as a second step, after the earthly instrument had been broken and thrown away. But the writer of these chapters has the word “comfort” constantly on his lips; the whole burden of his message is one of consolation and good tidings; and he views Cyrus as the chosen agent of Jehovah, not merely in crushing obstacles to the execution of His purpose, but as lending active support in the establishment of His kingdom. Like other prophets, too, he sees in the events of the time the immediate precursors of Jehovah’s everlasting kingdom of righteousness. The final consummation of God’s purposes with humanity lies in germ in the appearance of Cyrus; in the writer’s own graphic phrase, it already “sprouts” before men’s eyes (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19). The prophet is aware, however, that his hearers are not in a mood to be easily cheered. References to their state of mind are numerous, and nowhere do we find any indication of an enthusiastic response to the prophet’s joyful proclamation. The prevalent mood was one of utter weariness and despondency (Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:14). To counteract this despairing mood, something more was needed than a bare announcement of deliverance. The first requisite was to revive their consciousness of God, to impress them with a sense of His infinite power and resources, and the immutability of His Word; and also to impart to them a new and inspiring view of their own mission and destiny as a nation.

1. The prophet’s doctrine of God is, accordingly, the fundamental element of his teaching.

2. Remarkable as is the prophet’s contribution to the Biblical doctrine of God, it is surpassed in importance and originality by his teaching with regard to the mission of Israel. The very grandeur and universality of his conception of Jehovah appears to necessitate a profounder interpretation of Israel’s place in history than any previous prophet had explicitly taught. This view of Israel’s position among the nations is expressed in the title “Servant of Jehovah,” which is applied to the People in passages too numerous to quote. In most, there is no room for doubt as to the subject which the writer has in his mind. It is the historic nation of Israel, represented in the present chiefly by the community of the exiles, but conceived throughout as a moral individual whose life and consciousness are those of the nation. But there is another class of passages where this application of the title “Servant of Jehovah” to the actual Israel does not suffice (Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12). What makes it impossible to suppose that the Servant means Israel simply is not so much the intense personification of the ideal (although that is very remarkable, and weighs with many minds); it is rather the character attributed to the Servant, and the fact that he is distinguished from Israel by having a work to do on behalf of the nation.

(1) A large number of expositors hold that the term “Servant of Jehovah” always, in some sense, denotes Israel.

(2) Other writers think that the Servant of Jehovah must, in some eases, be an individual yet to arise, who shall embody in himself all the characteristics that belong to the Divine idea of Israel. The value of the conception as a prophetic delineation of the character and work of our Lord is in no way affected by the view we may be led to adopt regarding its inception in the mind of the prophet. All Christian interpreters agree that the ideal has been fulfilled but once in history, in the person of Jesus Christ, in whom all the features of the Divine ideal impressed on Israel have received adequate and final expression. Perhaps we may go further, and say that to us it is clear that the ideal could only be realised in a personal life at once human and Divine; only, we have no right to say that this must have been equally evident to the prophet in his day. The significance of his teaching does not lie in any direct statement that in some future age an individual should arise bearing this image,--a statement which he never makes; it consists in the marvellous degree in which he has been enabled to foreshadow the essential truths concerning the life and mission of the Redeemer. This is a fact which nothing can obscure, and which is attested for us, if it needed attestation, by the application of these passages to Christ in the New Testament.

(3) The state of things which follows the redemption of Israel is an age of universal salvation in which all nations share in the blessings that flow from a knowledge of the true God. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

The author as an evangelist

The author has been called the evangelist of the Old Testament. All the prophets are evangelists, in the sense that they teach that salvation belongeth unto the Lord, that by grace are we saved through faith, not of ourselves,--it is the gift of God. And in this the prophet of these chapters agrees with his brethren. But while other prophets content themselves with this general doctrine of grace, moving exclusively in the region of Divine efficiency and operation, and suggesting no solution or principle of this operation beyond this, that God pardons sin of His mercy, having by the severe dispensations of His providence brought the sense of sin home to the people’s heart, and thus fitted them to receive His mercy, this prophet, in his profound doctrine of the suffering Servant of the Lord, makes an extraordinary movement towards a solution, teaching that the sins of the people as a whole were laid by God upon the innocent Servant, and were atoned by His sufferings, and that thus the people were redeemed. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

The Messiah and His kingdom

It is only when chaps. 40-66, are viewed in the light of a great Messianic development--a series of predictions respecting the Person, the work, and the kingdom of Christ--that the earnestness, the protracted length, the fulness, the deep feeling, the holy enthusiasm, the glowing metaphors and similes, and the rich and varied exhibitions of peace and prosperity, can well be accounted for. The writer, in taking such a standpoint, uses the Exile and the return from it as the basis of his comparisons and analogies. It was a rich and deeply interesting source from which to draw them. Any other solution of the whole phenomena is, to my mind, at least, meagre and unsatisfactory; on no other ground can I account for it that Isaiah, so long beforehand, should have dwelt on an Exile and a return from it which were more than a century distant from him and his contemporaries. (Moses Stuart.)

“Two Isaiahs”

That the Isaiah who composed chaps. 40-66, in comparison with the Isaiah of the time of Uzziah till Hezekiah, is one raised far above that time and at a higher stage of insight into God’s work in the future, is certain, whether the two Isaiahs are one person or two persons. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

Were there two Isaiahs?

The author of chaps. 40-66 is in any case a prophet of the Isaianic type, but of an Isaianic type peculiarly developed. It is scarcely conceivable, although not quite inconceivable, that in a final stage of Isaiah’s life reaching into the days of Manasseh, his style of thought and speech may have undergone a modification in breadth and depth which carried it beyond itself. And yet we ask for this ultro citoque the credit of a pure love of truth, conscious of freedom from apologetic prepossession--yet the distinction between an Assyrian and a Babylonian Isaiah involves us in all sorts of difficulties, when we take into view the reciprocal relations of the Isaianic collection of prophecies with the other Old Testament literature known to us. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

The traditional view of the authorship

The existence of a tradition in the last three centuries B.C. as to the authorship of any book is (to those acquainted with the habits of thought of that age)

of but little critical moment;--the Sopherim, or students of Scripture in those times, were simply anxious for the authority of the Scriptures, not for the ascertainment of their precise historical, origin.. It was of the utmost importance to declare that (especially) Isaiah 40-66, was a prophetic work of the highest order; this was reason sufficient (the Sopherim may have had other reasons, such as phraseological affinities in 40-66, but this was sufficient) for ascribing them to the royal prophet Isaiah. When the view had once obtained currency, it would naturally become a tradition The question of the Isaianic or non-Isaianic origin of the disputed prophecies (especially 40-66) must be decided on grounds of exegesis alone. There are indications among critics, bred in different schools, of a growing perception of this truth. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)


The evidence internal

Critical writers generally assign them to an anonymous prophet living in the latter part of the Babylonian Exile. The grounds on which this conclusion rests will be found to be all of the nature of what is called internal evidence, being drawn from indications furnished by the book itself of the circumstances in which it was composed. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

The true method of procedure in investigating the evidence

The proper course obviously is, first of all, to gain as clear an idea as possible of the prophecy itself, and then to consider what light is thereby thrown on its origin. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Summary of evidence

1. The historical background.

2. The phraseology and style.

3. The character of the theology. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Spoken appeals, not “chamber prophecy”

If any prophet in the Old Testament gives evidence that he speaks in public, and that his desire is to stir and move those whom he addresses, it is the author of these chapters. What meaning have appeals and protestations, each as those in Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 40:28; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 48:8; Isaiah 50:10 f., Isaiah 51:6; Isaiah 51:12 f., Isaiah 58:3 ff., except as spoken in the very presence of those whose assent the prophet seeks to win! The author’s warm and impassioned rhetoric, the personal appeals with which his prophecies abound, show conclusively that he is not writing a literary essay in the retirement of his chamber, but, like a true prophet of his nation, is exerting himself in all earnestness to produce an impression by the force of own personality upon the hearts of those who hear him. The very first words of the prophecy, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,” mark a rhetorical peculiarity of the author. The emphatic duplication of a word, significant of the passion and fervour of the speaker, is a characteristic feature of the entire prophecy; in the prophets generally it is rare; in Isaiah the only examples--and those but partly parallel--are Isaiah 8:9 b, Isaiah 21:9, Isaiah 29:1. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

The historical background

1. The allusions to Cyrus in the prophecy make it perfectly certain that the time to which it refers lies between 549 and 538. Cyrus is mentioned as one already well known as a conqueror, and one whose brilliant victories have sent a thrill of excitement through the world. On the other hand, the capture of Babylon is still in the future. The standpoint of the prophecy, therefore, is certainly intermediate between 549 and 538, and most probably about 540 B.C.

2. In perfect harmony with these references to Cyrus are those to the circumstances of Israel. The nation is in exile, but on the eve of deliverance. The oppressing power is Babylon, the imperial city, still called “the mistress of kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5)

. It is from Babylon that the exiles are summoned to make good their escape (Isaiah 48:20; cf. Isaiah 52:11, etc.). Meanwhile, Palestine is a waste and ruined land (Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 49:19; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 52:9). No such calamity as these accumulated allusions imply had ever befallen Israel except in the half-century that followed the destruction of the State by the Chaldeans (586 B.C.).

3. One other fact may be noticed as showing how completely the prophet’s point of view is identified with the age of the Exile. Amongst the arguments most frequently adduced for the deity of Jehovah and against idolatry is the appeal to prophecies fulfilled by the appearance of Cyrus Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:8-10; Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 46:10). What prophecies are referred to is a question of some difficulty. Whatever they are, the argument has no force except as addressed to persons for whom the fulfilment was a matter of experience. To the men of an earlier age such an appeal could only appear as confusing and fallacious, being an attempt to illustrate ignotum per ignotius; hence, we must conclude that the prophecy was directly intended for the generation of the Exile, and could produce its full effect only on them. It must be observed that neither the appearance of Cyrus nor the captivity of Israel is ever predicted in this prophecy; they are everywhere assumed as facts known to the readers. Predictions do occur of the most definite kind, but they are of events subsequent to those mentioned and lying in advance of the standpoint which the prophet occupies. A distinction is often made by the writer between “former things,” which have already come to pass, and “new things” or “coming things” (Isaiah 41:22; Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 43:18, etc., Isaiah 44:7; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 48:3-8), and in some cases it seems clear that by “former things” he means the fulfilment of earlier prophecies concerning Cyrus, while the “new things,” now first announced, are such events as the triumph of Cyrus, the salvation of Israel, and the conversion of the world to the worship of Jehovah. Even on the supposition that the chapters were written by Isaiah, 150 years before any of these occurrences, it still remains true that he does not formally predict the rise of Cyrus, but addresses himself to those who have witnessed it and only require to be told what developments will result from it in the unfolding of Jehovah’s purpose. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

The evidence of language and style

When the biblical writings are examined care, fully, individualities of style appear as one of their most prominent features . . . Now, when the prophecies in the Book of Isaiah possessing an evident reference to the events of Isaiah’s lifetime are compared with those relating to the restoration of Israel from Babylon, and especially with chaps. 40-66, many remarkable differences, both of phraseology and conception, disclose themselves The terms and expressions which, in the former series of prophecies Isaiah uses, and uses repeatedly, are absent in chaps. 40-66; conversely, new terms and expressions appear in chaps. 40-66, which are without parallel in the first part of the book. Sometimes the expressions used in one part of the book occur never in the other; in other cases, they occur once or twice only in one part of the book, while in the other part they occur frequently, and often with a peculiar nuance or shade of meaning. No doubt, if the subject matter of the two parts varied greatly, it would be natural that to a certain extent different terms should be employed, even though both were by the same author; but, as will be seen, the variations between the two parts of the Book of Isaiah are not to be explained by the difference of subject matter; they extend, in many instances, to points, such as the form and construction of sentences, which stand in no appreciable relation to the subject treated. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Theology and thought

Of course, the fundamental principles of the Israelitish religion are common to both parts of the Book of Isaiah, as they are to the prophets generally; when we look for features that are distinctive, we at once find that they are different. Isaiah depicts the majesty of Jehovah; the author of chaps. 40-66, His infinity. This is a real difference. It would be difficult to establish from Isaiah--not the greatness merely, but--the infinitude of the Divine attributes; the author of chaps. 40-66, exhausts the Hebrew language in the endeavour, if possible, to represent it. Jehovah is the Creator, the Sustainer of the universe, the Lifegiver, the Author of history, the First and the Last, the Incomparable One. Where does Isaiah teach such truths as these? Yet it cannot be maintained that opportunities for such assertions of Jehovah’s power and Godhead would not have naturally presented themselves to Isaiah whilst he was engaged in defying the armies of Assyria. But the truth is, the prophet of the Exile moves in a different region of thought from Isaiah. The doctrine of the preservation from judgment of a worthy remnant is characteristic of Isaiah; it appears alike in his first prophecy Isaiah 6:13) and in his last (Isaiah 37:31 f.); in chaps. 40-66, if it appears once or twice by implication (Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 65:8 f.), it is not a distinctive element in the author’s teaching; it is not expressed in Isaiah’s phraseology, and is not more prominent than it is in the writings of many other prophets. Where, in Isaiah, is the destiny of Israel, and the purpose of its call, developed--or even noticed allusively--as it is developed in chaps. 40-66? In these chapters, again, the figure of the Messianic king is absent; another figure, intimately connected with the view of Israel’s destiny that has just been mentioned--a figure singularly striking and original in its conception--holds a corresponding position. To say that the figure of Jehovah’s ideal Servant is an advance upon that of the Messianic king is not correct; it starts from a different origin altogether; it is parallel to it, not a continuation of it. The mission of Israel to the nations is developed in new directions; the Divine purposes in relation to them are exhibited upon a wider and more comprehensive scale. The prophet moves along lines of thought different from those followed by Isaiah; he apprehends and dwells upon different aspects of truth . . . Thus, even where there is a point of contact between the two parts of the book, or where the same terms are employed, the ideas attached to them have, in chaps. 40-66, a wider and fuller import. But this is exactly what would be expected from a later writer expanding and developing, in virtue of the fuller measure of inspiration vouchsafed to him, elements due, perhaps, originally to a predecessor. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

The idea of “righteousness” in the two parts of the book

This difference between the two parts of the book is summed up in their respective uses of the word “righteousness.” In Isaiah 1-39, or at least in such of these chapters as refer to Isaiah’s own day, righteousness is man’s moral and religious duty, in its contents of piety, purity, justice, and social service. In Isaiah 40-66, righteousness (except in a few cases)

is something which the people expect from God,--their historical vindication by His restoral and reinstatement of them as His people. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)


1. The title of the whole book (Isaiah 1:1)

. In the general title of the book, as it has existed from a period centuries before Christ, the claim is made by the book itself for the authorship of the later as well as of the earlier chapters. And the anonymity of the part which contains the later chapters, if not written by Isaiah, is unparalleled in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament.

2. Historical evidence.

(1) The Jews of our Lord’s time, with Christ Himself and His apostles, believed the whole book which bore the name of Isaiah to be the work of Isaiah.

(2) The LXX, begun somewhere about 280 B.C., and made from Hebrew MSS. of that period, contains the whole book as the Book of Isaiah.

(3) There is another book, dating from the same period, which contains a distinct assertion of the unity of the authorship of Isaiah. The author of

Ecclesiasticus says: “He (Esaias) saw by an excellent spirit what should come to pass at the last, and he comforted them that mourn in Zion; he showed what should come to pass forever, and secret things or ever they came.” According to Prof. Margoliouth, the date of the book cannot be later than 200 B.C.

(4) The second part of the book is not known historically to have ever existed in a separate form. And on the hypothesis of its having had a separate existence, dating from the Exile, no rational explanation can be given of its addition to the first part. So far as it can be traced, it always appeared as a part of “The Book of the Prophet Isaiah.” In the only translations that have come down to us it thus appears.

(5) If ever separate, those who joined the parts believed in their Isaiah authorship. Who was he? or who were they? For answer, we naturally search the history of the period which intervened between the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, on the authority of the decree of Cyrus, and the close of the canon by the prophecy of Malachi. The only person known to this history who can be at all supposed to have vouched the sacred books of the prophets is Ezra. It will not be pretended that Ezra could be mistaken in regard to the authorship of the second part of the Book of Isaiah. If it was written by a contemporary, or by a prophet of the immediately preceding age, he must have known. And if he either put the two parts together, or, finding them already together, adopted the book as he found it, it must have been because he believed that both parts rightly bore the name of Isaiah. If for the personal action of Ezra we substitute that of the traditional “Great Synagogue,” the conclusion must be the same.

(6) A second Isaiah is unknown to history. The prophets “were not obscure and unknown individuals, but public and official characters, whose credentials had been tested and approved as genuine by the community in which they lived, as well as by those more immediately called upon to judge of such matters.” How comes it, then, that no trace can be discovered of this prophet of wonderful personality, of earnest and persistent ministry among the exiles in Babylonia? We are told of Daniel and Ezekiel, of Zechariah and Haggai, of the exile period, but nowhere do we find a trace of this greater than they. We have a history of the return of the exiles to their own land, and of the restoration of their worship and temple, and we know their leaders, Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. But we search in vain for any mention of the unknown prophet to whom the nation owed so much. We have even e long list of the names of those who accompanied Zerubbabel, but not one hint that any of them was a prophet. More than that, the first words of the history of the return are these: “Now, in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the month of Jeremiah might be fulfilled,” etc. (Ezra 1:1). Seventy years had gone since Jeremiah foretold the deliverance from Babylon. But only two years had gone, according to Driver, since the unknown prophet who wrote chaps. 44 and 45 of the book which bears the name of Isaiah not only foretold the deliverance, but named Cyrus as its author. And yet there is no reference to him!

3. Similarity of religious idea and expression.

(1) The prophet’s almost uniform designation of God, “the Holy One of Israel.” It occurs twenty-three times, ten of these being in the first part of the book, and thirteen in the second. This designation belongs almost exclusively to the Book of Isaiah. It occurs elsewhere designation belongs in Psalms 71:1-24; Psalms 78:1-72; Psalms 89:1-52; Jeremiah 50:1-46; Jeremiah 51:1-64. In 2 Kings 19:22, Isaiah is the speaker. We find the explanation in the remarkable vision in Which he received his prophetic commission (chap. 6). The experience of this vision was never forgotten. It gave colour to his every thought of God. If the later portion of the book was not written by the prophet who heard the seraphim chanting their great song, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” we can find no explanation of his habitual and exclusive use of the designation which that prophet owed to that vision, and which no other prophet--not forgetting the slight exception in the case of Jeremiah--used before or after. To call the second hypothetic Isaiah a copyist of the first would be to call the greater a copyist of the less.

(2) The catholicity of the Divine purpose of grace towards the world. This was no new idea in the days of Isaiah. It may be found implicitly in the first Gospel promise; it is found explicitly in the promise to the father of the Jewish nation--“In thy seed shalt all the nations of the earth he blessed.” But, comparing prophet with prophet, we find prominence given to it in Isaiah which we find nowhere else, and in both parts of the book alike. The passages are not isolated texts which might be cut out without causing any sense of want or incompleteness in what remains. They represent the spirit of the book. This becomes significantly obvious if we accept Delitzsch’s interpretation of the words of the seraphim, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” These words he regards as prophetic. Looking at the ministry which was actually exercised by Isaiah, and which had to do so largely, prophetically, with the recovery of the world to God, through a Divine Servant who was to come in the last days, the most probable explanation of the words is that which finds in them an anticipation of the fulfilment of the Divine purpose. Thus understood, the song of the seraphim is the prelude to the entire ministry of Isaiah, as the song of the angels over the plains of Bethlehem is the prelude to the entire work of Christ in this world. We have found in it a key to the prophet’s chosen designation of the God of Israel as “the Holy One,” and we now find in it a key to the prominence which he gives to the worldwide purpose of the Divine grace, with the “wonderful” Person, Divine and human (chap. 9), by whom, and the means by which, the purpose is to be accomplished. This unifying idea of the book of “the prophet Esdras” is confirmed by the statement of the apostle (John 12:41), that it was the glory of the Christ who was to come, although that coming was 800 years distant, that Isaiah saw in vision.

(3) The personality of the Divine Spirit. Among “the characteristic religious peculiarities of the disputed as opposed to the acknowledged prophecies” of Isaiah, Prof. Cheyne finds the “personality of the Spirit of Jehovah.” But we think we may find here, as in former oases, materials for an argument in support of the unity of the book. It is true that there are seven instances in which the personality of the Spirit is indicated or implied in the second part of the book. But it is true likewise that there are two instances in which it is indicated or implied with equal clearness in the first part of the book (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 32:15). The doctrine is not peculiar to Isaiah (see Psalms 51:11; Micah 2:7; Micah 3:8; Zechariah 4:6). What is special in Isaiah is the more frequent mention and the greater prominence of the work of the Holy Spirit. But there is one point in reference to which this book differs from all the other prophetic books, and It is common to both parts of the book,--it is the endowment of the Messiah by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1, etc.). We do not argue that this alone proves a common authorship, but it is strikingly corroborative of other evidence to that effect.

(4) The Divinity of the Coming Christ. “Both parts of Isaiah give us to understand clearly that the agent of Jehovah in the work of government and redemption is Himself Divine” (Cheyne). The absence of a direct assertion of the Divinity of the Messiah in the second part of the book, such as we find in the first (chap. 9), instead of being a reason for ascribing the second to a different author, seems to me to he the very reverse. Such an assertion would seem to be much more natural if the author were another than the author of the first. But on the assumption of one author, we see a significant continuity running through the whole. The first part casts its light forward on the entire book. The Messiah,. once explicitly declared in the first part to be Divine, has functions ascribed to Him in the second part which only a Divine person could fulfil. There is a marked likeness, which should not be overlooked between the two portions of the book in the way in which Messianic prediction occurs in both. It starts up from the even surface of the prophetic page with an abruptness which there is nothing in the page to account for. Hence the glorious “surprises” of which Dr. Cheyne is conscious u he reads the book. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Scientific grounds for believing in the unity of Isaiah

1. The external evidence, so far as it can be traced, is unanimously in favour of it; and, since the second part of Isaiah has enjoyed exceptional popularity, it is improbable that the name of the author would have been forgotten within 200 years of the time when he wrote, and his work merged in that of a writer of a few scraps of 150 years before.

2. The theory which bisects Isaiah leads, by a logical necessity, to further and further dissection and so to results which are absurd.

3. The geography of chaps. 40-66, is earlier than the geography of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, ann a geographical notice in the last chapter of Isaiah was mistaken by Jeremiah.

4. The idolatrous practices rebuked by the “second Isaiah” are pre-exilian rites, such as we cannot, without anachronism, attribute to the Israelites either during or after.the Exile. They can only be explained as relics of a very primitive fetish-worship connected with particular localities.

5. Other crimes rebuked by the “second Isaiah” are identical with crimes rebuked by the “first Isaiah,” and are of a sort which imply the existence of an independent community long established on the soil.

6. The “second Isaiah” gives us some personal details which enable us to identify him with the prophet of chap. 6, and, what is most important, tells us the, name borne by the prophet before he took the name Isaiah.

7. The “second Isaiah” employs words only known otherwise to the “first Isaiah,” of which the meaning was lost by Jeremiah’s time.

8. The “second Isaiah” shows himself otherwise possessed of a scientific and technical vocabulary which the “first Isaiah” only shares with him. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

A touchstone

In the case of prophecy we have to deal with a class of literature unrepresented anywhere but in Israel. Therefore, the only analogies that can guide us must he got from Hebrew literature. And, happily, we have one that is amply sufficient to serve as a touchstone for the twenty Isaiah theory. By the side of the lengthy roll of Isaiah is the less lengthy roll of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Few of these prophets figure in history; and the judgment of mankind on their merits places none of them in the first class. They neither thrill as Isaiah thrills, nor have they influenced mankind as Isaiah has influenced it. How comes it, then, if it was really the fashion of the Israelites to lump the oracles of different prophets together, that the works of the whole series are not ascribed to the first? Why are not the prophecies of Haggai ascribed to Hosea! Some of the Minor Prophets have produced one chapter or thereabouts; but the tradition has not forgotten their names. How then comes it that the brilliant authors of the Isaianic oracles are for the most part utterly forgotten and neglected! (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The analogy of Ezra and Nehemiah

That two authors of stupendous merit might accidentally get bound up together and so the works of the second get attributed to the first, is exceedingly unlikely, but not so unlikely as to be impossible; in the case of Isaiah, however, not only is the analogy of the Minor Prophets decidedly against it, but that of Ezra and Nehemiah still more so. Owing to the similarity of the subject of which these authors treat, they appear in several canons under the single head of Ezra; but the Jews, though they probably often bound them up together, never confused them. Still, if the division of Isaiah between two authors gave satisfaction, and further dissection did not immediately follow, this solution would not go so far outside the bounds of experience as to be called uncritical But the fact that this first dissection leads to innumerable others renders it useless. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The Cyrus predictions

The mention by [the author] of the name of Isaiah 45:4-6) is declared to be a tremendous miracle wrought in order that the whole world from East to West might know that Jehovah was the only God. If the fact was that the prophet of an unimportant and oppressed community mentioned, in the name of his god, a conqueror whose fame was filling the world, what miracle was there in this? The world might as well ring with the fact that Virgil mentioned Augustus. Yet the “second Isaiah” claims foreknowledge so constantly and so emphatically that he has left himself no loophole (Isaiah 41:23; Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:9-10; Isaiah 44:7-8; Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 48:5). These are not all the passages in which this writer insists on the fact that he, as God’s spokesman, has foretold events with certainty, whereas the representatives of other gods have been unable to predict. The author therefore speaks like a man of science, who is aware that the truth can submit itself to tests . . . If we regard Isaiah 40-66, as the continuation of the first half of Isaiah, the references to the former events which had come about as the prophet had predicted are intelligible; the failure of the invasion of Sennacherib, which his lying annals conceal, is attested by the Greek historian; and we are justified in ascribing that failure to providential interference. That was, doubtless, the most striking of Isaiah’s predictions, but in other cases he took the wise precaution of having his oracles properly attested (Isaiah 8:2; Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 30:8). Either, then, we are to suppose that the “second Isaiah” had foretold events successfully, but that his predictions attracted so little attention as to be lost; or, we are to suppose that this profession of his is a piece of imposture; or thirdly, there remains the old and traditional theory that the oracles on the fulfilment of which the “second Isaiah” bases his claim to credibility are the oracles of the “first Isaiah.” Rejecting the first proposition as absurd, and the second on the ground that a claim so forcibly put forward would certainly have been challenged unless substantiated, we are driven to the third alternative; the “former events” to which the passages quoted allude must be events predicted by the “first Isaiah,” and duly realised Either, then, the first Isaiah wrote the work ascribed to the second, or the second Isaiah” wrote the work ascribed to the first; for the idea that the “second Isaiah” claimed falsely to have produced the oracles which were really by the “first Isaiah” may be excluded. Either the “first Isaiah” was gifted with astounding knowledge of the future, or a false prophet of the time of Cyrus forged a whole series of oracles, some of which corresponded well with past history, in order to attach to them an appendix of oracles referring to events in the then future. This latter supposition may be refuted when any serious writer maintains it. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The author knew but little of Babylon

Out of the oracles of the “first Isaiah” it seems impossible to banish certain leading ideas which perpetually recur. “A remnant shall return” (Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 27:12-13). If, then, the true and genuine message of Isaiah is that a remnant shall return, and yet that remnant is not to return from Assyria, whence is it to return? Chiefly from Babylon, as the historically attested oracle in chap. 39, implies; and what is clear is, that the “second Isaiah,” like the first, knows little of Babylon but the names Babel and Chasdees; and that, except the name Cyrus, the second possesses no detailed foreknowledge Of later events that is not also at the command of the first. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Geographical considerations

There is some geography in these chapters, and there is also some in Jeremiah and in Ezekiel. If the “second Isaiah” wrote in the time of Cyrus, he must have had the works of these two prophets before him, and can scarcely have been less familiar than Ezekiel with the geography of the countries that entered into Babylonian politics. But it is the fact that the “second Isaiah” is ignorant of what was commonplace to Ezekiel The races Meshech and Tubal, to the Assyrians Muski and Tabali, to the Greeks Moschi and Tibareni, formed a natural couple, like Holland and Belgium, or Norway and Sweden. Ezekiel mentions them together five times (Isaiah 27:13; Isa 32:26; Isaiah 38:2-3; Isaiah 39:1), and they are named together in the genealogical tables, which couple Javan (the Oriental name for Greece) with them. To Ezekiel, therefore, it was well known that Moshech (as Meshech should be corrected) was a proper name, belonging to a nation or country. But Isaiah thought it a Hebrew word meaning “drawer,” and he interprets it drawers of the bow. Thus the Isaiah 66:19 reads: “I will send refugees of them to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, drawers of the bow, Tubal and Javan.” But the Hebrew for drawers is Mosh’che. If we compare the lists in Ezekiel and in the genealogical tables, it will seem clear that “drawers of the bow” is not an epithet of Lud, but the name of a race, namely, Moshech. Jeremiah had this passage of Isaiah before him, and stumbled over It curiously. In enumerating some warlike tribes (Isaiah 46:9) he mentions Cush and Put, bearers of shields, and “Ludim, bearers treaders of the bow.” This variation is highly interesting. The verb mashach is so rarely used of “the bow” that the prophet might well doubt whether Isaiah’s phrase meant “draggers” of the bow or “pullers” of it; i.e., whether it referred to the carrying of the bow, or to the employment of it in actual warfare. The alternate suggestions, curiously enough, remain side by side in the text; but the reason of the association of the bow with the Lydian lancers is lost. Jeremiah is, however, one step further than Isaiah in that he has the correct form “Put” for the incorrect “Pul.” The name Pul is probably due to a reminiscence of the name of an Assyrian king. We see from this passage in the last chapter of the second Isaiah” a proof of priority to Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (For further develepments of the geographical argument, see “Expositor,” sixth series, vol. 1, pp. 254-261.) (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Argument from idolatrous practices

The abominations described in chapter 57 include (verse 5) the worship of elim under green trees; the only other place in which this technical term appears is Isaiah 1:29 (“Men shall be ashamed of the elim which ye have desired”). The ceremonies rebuked in chapter 65 include sacrifices in gannoth (Isaiah 65:3), and the same technical term figures in chapter 66 (Isaiah 66:17); the only other place in which it is found is also Isaiah 1:29 (“Ye shall be ashamed of the gannoth which ye have chosen”). That gannoth here does not mean ordinary gardens, but is a technical term, appears from the threat in Isaiah 1:30,where the votaries of these gannoth are told that they shall become like a garden that has no water. For this threat evidently derives its suitability from a play on words . . . If the word gannoth were not technical, the play on the words would be pointless; and we may observe that the threat of Isaiah 1:30 is matched by the promise of Isaiah 58:11 : “Thou shaltbe like a well-watered garden,” where (owing to the absence of any other allusion) the ordinary form of the word for “garden” is used. The worship with which these terms gannoth, and elim are connected was exceedingly elaborate, and therefore characteristic of a period. We learn, therefore, that the authors of Isaiah 1:1-31 and of Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 were contemporaries. That the first chapter of a great classic could be attributed to anyone but its right author is too wild a surmise to deserve consideration. We start, then, with the remarkable fact that the “first Isaiah” uses two technical terms with which the “second Isaiah” and no other Hebrew author is familiar. And the “second Isaiah” acts as interpreter to the “first Isaiah,” by enabling us to locate, and to some extent comprehend, the nature of the cults to which these technical terms belonged. And from this observation a very easy step leads to the identification of the two authors. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Ceremonies alluded to in chapters 57, 65, and 66

The source of these practices in Palestine must have been ancient and undisturbed custom; they had been brought by the Canaanites with them from Arabia, and the Israelites had learned them from the Canaanites. They were kept alive by attachment to particular mountains and particular rivers, and in part were based on the system which connected and even identified the gods with particular localities. The cultivation of them involved an insult to the temple (Isaiah 65:11)

, which, therefore, must have been standing at the time of the rebuke. These passages are in consequence so clearly pre-exilian, that even some of those who were in favour of the dissecting theory have been unable to place them any later. While, then, the “first Isaiah” is supposed to be interpolated with post-exilian matter, the “second Isaiah” is supposed to be interpolated with pre-exilian matter. Naturally, a theory that involves so much complication can make little claim to probablility. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Anachronisms involved in the supposition of a “second Isaiah”

The author of Isaiah 65:8-9 takes the same view of the purpose of the Exile which is taken throughout the book, and, indeed, throughout the Bible. Attachment to these savage and primitive rites could only be dissolved by removing the worshippers from the soil on which they were practised; hence, the Exile was not only a punishment but also a corrective. From it there returned those whose progenitors had not bowed the knee to Baal, while those whose interests were far removed from the objects which Israel was destined to accomplish lost their nationality. Those who came back were cured, or rather purified, from this particular form of evil. That they were not faultless we know from the prophets of the Return; but, to attribute to them fetish worship of a primitive sort is a gross anachronism. One might as well accuse the English of the nineteenth century of burning heretics or using ordeals as evidence . . . Next after the idolatrous rites rebuked by the “second Isaiah,” we may consider some other crimes which he condemns. One of the most serious impeachments is to be found in Isaiah 59:2-9. The prophet there states that the sins of his countrymenhave been a bar between them and God; they have caused God to hide His face, and prevented Him from hearing. This is the same message as that in Isaiah 1:14-15, with a slight difference in the tense and the expression. He then proceeds: “for your hands are polluted with blood.” This also is identical with the accusation in Isaiah 1:15, “your hands are full of blood”; or, perhaps, “tainted with blood.” Now, this is as grave an accusation as can be made; to what it precisely refers our slight knowledge of Israelitish history does not enable us to say: the prophet may have in mind either judicial murders (such as that in old times of Naboth), or recklessness of human life among loose livers, or . . . infanticide . . . Whichever of these it be--supposing it does not refer, as many have thought, to a judicial murder in the distant future--the two “remonstrances” must clearly belong to the same period. And that period can only be pre-exilic; the mere notion of such a remonstrance being addressed to the returned exiles seems to involve anachronism. Indeed, the prophet’s idea is clearly that the Exile was a sort of sea in which these offences were to be washed out. The terrible impeachment of his contemporaries which follows strongly resembles that contained in chaps. 1 and 5. It is illustrated by similes taken from natural history, in which words otherwise only used by the “first Isaiah” are employed. Verses 9 and 11 contain a free paraphrase Isaiah 5:7; but the play on the words in the earlier chapter isintentionally altered. An imitator would probably have reproduced it. In Isaiah 56:10-12 the impeachment is confined to the rulers; they are accused of drunkenness, corruption, and incompetence, just as they are in Isaiah 5:22-23; Isaiah 3:12, and Isaiah 9:15. That the same impeachment could be made with justice at such different periods as the time of the “first Isaiah” and the close of the Exile or commencement of the Return seems unthinkable; but to deny the authenticity of the early chapters of the book is uncritical How could such a forgery have remained undetected? In chap. 38, the people are accused of lip service; they ask why their punctilious performance of ceremonies is unproductive of results, and are told that it is owing to the fact that their service is not accompanied by a correspending reform in their conduct. The same is the burden of chap. 1 and of Isaiah 29:13. Surely the remonstrances addressed to the Jews before and after the great crisis in their national existence cannot have been so similar. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The “second Isaiah” identical with the prophet of chap. 6.

Let us see whether the second half of Isaiah tells us anything about the prophet’s person. Ewald seems to have rightly interpreted Isaiah 8:18 : “Verily, Iand the children which the Lord has given me are for signs and tokens in Israel,” of the names Isaiah, Shear-yashub, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Clearly, the names, “A remnant shall return,” and “Hasten the spoil, hurry the plunder,” were too full of meaning to escape notice; therefore the prophet’s own name, “The salvation of the Lord,” must also have been of notable significance; and, indeed, that theme, “the salvation of the Lord,” pervades the whole book. But it follows that the prophet must have taken this name himself. Thus only would its significance be forced on the minds of his contemporaries . . . What, then, was his original name? This appears to be given in Isaiah 42:18-21. The way to translate these verses seems to me the following: “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, so as to see. Who was blind but My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who was blind as Meshullam, and blind as the servant of the Lord! Seeing much without noticing; open-eared without hearing. The Lord was pleased of His grace to make a great and notable example.” The name Meshullam is by no means uncommon it belongs to a root which gives a great number of proper names both in Hebrew and Arabic; they all mean “safe and sound,” and are names of good omen . . . The “great and notable example,” then, lay in the fact that he, Meshullam, had been enabled to see; why, then, should not others? Let us compare this with the most autobiographical chapter in Isaiah--chap. 6. In the first place, the vision there justifies the description of himself in the above passage as “My messenger whom I send” Isaiah 6:8-9). He was told to go and say to the people, “Hear, but understand not; see, and know not”--the very condition wherein, according to Isaiah 42:20, the messenger himself had been. Then, we see that in Isaiah 42:5 he identifies his condition with that of his countrymen until the live coal had touched his lips. The immediate result of that was to be the removal of sin; but assuredly the image is meant to suggest “the scholar’s tongue,” which in Isaiah 50:4, he says, was given him by the Lord, to utter the words which (as Ben-Sira says) blaze like a fire, and, indeed, however inadequately they are translated, thrill the reader and hearer more, probably, than any other form of utterance. Hence it would seem that the verses Isaiah 13:18-21 give us a very needful supplement to the biographical notice of chap.6. But is the supposition that Meshullam is a proper name a wild conjecture, or an observation that is likely sooner or later to be generally accepted? I trust the latter, because modem scholars see the necessity of correcting the text, owing to the fact that, taken as a substantive, the word gives no satisfactory meaning. It is only in rare cases that [the correction of the text] is dictated by the canons of science. On the other hand, I can imagine no reason, grammatical or other, which stands in the way of the interpretation given above. And seeing how deeply this prophet is imbued with the feeling that a new condition calls for a new name (cf. Isaiah 62:2), the conjecture of Ewald, that the name Isaiah was meant to mark the prophet’s new condition, seems highly probable . . . We learn, then, from chap. 6 that the mission undertaken by the prophet was without hope of brilliant success; it was only when Jerusalem was reduced to a ruin that it was to begin to be heard. In Isaiah 50:6-10 we hear the prophet complain of its ineffectual character; the reception of his message was lust what had been promised: it was greeted with contempt and ridicule, with blows and buffets. The consolation that he had was the same as that which nerves all those who are defending the cause of science against tremendous odds, namely, that the truth is permanent, and must slowly approve itself, whereas the opposite is transitory. Naturally, it might be said that this was too often the fate of those who interpreted the purposes or work of God aright for the first time to serve for scientific identification; but then, it must be observed that we have no other justification save this passage for the oracle of chap. 6. The valuable notice Isaiah 42:19 of the author’s former name, Meshullam, seems intelligible only on the hypothesis stated above. Had it not been known that the author of that chapter bore the name Isaiah, the chapter (and the collection in which it occurred) would be, of course, attributed to Meshullam. Anyone who has ever catalogued MSS. is aware that the first expedient adopted for finding out the name of an author is to search through his book for some proper name that may, from the context, be his. To those with whom classical Hebrew was a living language, a proper name would be as easily distinguishable as to us in reading English; in such a sentence as “who is so pathetic as gray,” the absence of the capital would confuse no intelligent reader; and hence, had not the readers of these oracles from the time they were first issued in a roll been convinced that the author’s name was Isaiah, it would never have occurred to them to render Meshullam as “perfect,” or “requited,” or “devoted.” But since the fact of the prophet having changed his name was only recorded in the allusion of Isaiah 8:18, his former name was forgotten. That “who so blind as Meshullam?” meant “who so blind as Isaiah before his mission?” was not perceived by those who only knew of Isaiah. Even in this country where a change of name is usually preceded by the most important work in a man’s life, the name by which a peer was known before his elevation is constantly forgotten by the majority of the public. But where the change is preceded by no important work, the original name is likely to be lost altogether. How many educated persons could say offhand what was the original name of Voltaire or Neander or Lagarde? (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Argument from words common to the “first” and “second Isaiah”

A scientific argument can be drawn from the use of words only when they can be dated before or after. By the latter method of dating I mean the case in which we can show that by a certain date the sense of a word had been entirely forgotten in a community; for then, whoever is found using it in the old sense will almost certainly he earlier than that data The discovery of this scientific principle is the service rendered the world by the Greek critic Aristarchus; let us see whether it will help us to determine the date of the “second Isaiah.”
There is a word nashath, used by Isaiah once in the first half of the book Isaiah 19:5), and once in the second (Isaiah 41:17). In both those passages it clearly means “to be dry”; “the waters shall dry up from the Nile,” and “their tongue is dry with thirst.” It is well to know me etymology of a word before we base any argument upon it; and here the surest source of Hebrew etymology, classical Arabic, does not fail us. The word nashifa has, from time immemorial, been used by the Arabs precisely as Isaiah uses this . . . What, therefore, appears is that the authors of both parts of Isaiah are acquainted with a verb nashath or nasath, meaning “to be dry,” and in all probability identical with a very familiar Arabic verb meaning the same Now let us examine two passages of Jeremiah. The first Jeremiah 51:30. The champions of Babylon nave ceased to fight; they sit in their fortresses; their manhood is nashath; they have become women” (nashim). The second clause is here evidently in explanation of the first; it tells us what nashath means, namely, “to become effeminate.” The author regards it as a denominative from nashim, “women,” probably through an abstract nashuth, “womanhood.” Hence, between the time when Isaiah II wrote, and the time of the composition of Jeremiah 51:30, the meaning of the word nashath must have been forgotten. Therefore, the author of Isaiah 41:1-29 is earlier than the author of Jeremiah 51:1-64 by some generations. That this observation is correct is shown by Jeremiah 18:14 : “Can the cool flowing water be destroyed” (nathash)? That men do not speak of water being destroyed or plucked up is evident; the author must mean, “Can they dry up?” The phrase, then, is modelled on Isaiah 19:5; but the later prophet, being no longer familiar with the old verb nashath, “to dry up,” substitutes by conjecture the more familiar nathash. By the time 51:30 is written he has remembered that Isaiah used not nathash, but nashath, in connection with waters drying; hence he gives it a special application, adding an etymological explanation. The process is very similar to that which was traced in reference to “the Lydians, drawers of the bow.” Just as Isaiah utilised the lost Book of Wisdom, so Jeremiah utilises the language of the existing classic, Isaiah. In the case of obsolete phrases, he makes guesses, which, as philology is not the purpose of Holy Scripture, by the fact that they are unfortunate, give us valuable clues of date. Isaiah 10:18 there occurs a difficult phrase, rendered in ourAuthorised Version, “as when a standard bearer fainteth.” The meaning of this expression is probably lost; but it must have been known to the author Isaiah 59:19, “the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” For the same word (noses) is here used, but in an entirely different context. There can, therefore, be no question of imitation; the prophet must have known the meaning of the word, though we do not know it; and the argument is unaffected by the question of the meaning which should be assigned it. These words would appear to be of real importance, because the argument drawn from them is of a sort that science recognises. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The technical vocabulary of Isaiah 11:1-16 shared by Isaiah 1:1-31

Agriculture and natural history seem clearly to interest the author (or authors) of these oracles very much; and allusions to these subjects lead to the employment of a considerable number of technicalities. Whether a member of the exiled community would have had the opportunity of becoming so familiar with these subjects seems doubtful; but documents illustrating the life of the exiles may some day be discovered, which will enable us to speak positively on this matter. There are some facts about the use of these terms in the two parts of the book which seem to me scarcely explicable on the hypothesis of divided authorship. In the parable of the Vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-6) there occurs a word for “to hoe” (ʽadar, Isaiah 1:6), and also a word for “to stone,” meaning “to remove stones” (sikkel, Isaiah 1:2). Both these verbs have other meanings, which are more familiar; but in the case of the vineyard there could be no mistaking their import, whence they are used without any explanation. However, in Isaiah 7:25 the prophet has occasion to use the word for “to hoe” in a less technical context, so this time he adds “with the hoe,” that there may be no error. The author of Isaiah 62:10 has occasion to use the word for “to stone” of a road,where it would be ambiguous; for “to stone a road” might mean to put stones on it or to remove them from it. Hence he adds “from stones,” that there may be no error. Now, either there never was an Isaiah, or the oracles of chaps. 5 and 7 are Isaianic. Therefore chap. 62 is also Isaianic. For it must be remembered that these words, in their technical sense, only occur in these two places. The theory that another author felt the same scruple about the second as Isaiah had felt about the first scarcely commends itself; a later imitator would have thought Isaiah’s authority sufficient to justify him in using “to stone” for “to remove stones.” In Isaiah 34:15, and twice in Isaiah 59:5, a verb (meaning literally “to split”) is used of hatching serpents’ eggs; it does not occur elsewhere in this sense. In Isaiah 34:15 a special verb is used for “to be delivered of,” “produce,”which only occurs in Isaiah 66:7 besides. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:11) is apparently acquainted with part of this scientific vocabulary, but not with the word for “produce.” Now, the author of Isaiah 34:1-17, seems on other grounds identical with the “second Isaiah”; the reference to Edom and Bozrah in verse 6 cannot with any probability be separated from that in Isaiah 63:1,and the address to the “nations and peoples” in Isaiah 34:1 is evidently in the style of the author of Isaiah 12:1. The threat in Isaiah 34:3 closely resembles that with which the Book of Isaiah closes. Chap. 35 also cannot, with any probability, be separated from chaps. 40-66; both the thought and the language are closely akin to, and in part identical with, those of the “second Isaiah.” On the other hand, it is by no means easy to separate Isaiah 35:1-10 from what precedes; Isaiah 35:5 takes us back to Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:4 to Isaiah 32:4. Now, this fact hits the splitting theory veryhard. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

Is the standpoint Babylonian?

The Babylonian standpoint must at least be doubtful, when so great and free a critic as Ewald not only failed to see it, but, while maintaining the exilic date of these chapters, found an entirely different standpoint or historic background in them--an Egyptian. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Professor Cheyne not only admits that there is “a paucity of allusions in these chapters to the special circumstances of Babylon,” but admits likewise that there is not a little of Palestinian colouring in them. “Some passages,” he says, “of ‘second Isaiah’ are in variable degrees really favourable to the theory of a Palestinian origin. Thus in Isaiah 57:6 thereferee nee to torrent beds is altogether inapplicable to the alluvial plains of Babylonia; and equally so is that to subterranean holes in Isaiah 13:22. And though, no doubt, Babylonia was more wooded in ancient times than it is at present, it is certain that the trees mentioned in Isaiah 41:19 were not, for the most part, natives of that country; while the date palm, the commonest of all the Babylonian trees, is not once referred to.” He admits, at the same time, that there are allusions in the later chapters “which unmistakably point away from the period of the Exile.” “They are most numerous,” he says, “and striking in chaps. 56; 57; 65; 66. Let us read them by themselves, and I think we shall hardly doubt that the descriptions refer to some period or periods other than the Exile.” Isaiah, he further admits, might have learned in Palestine almost as much about Babylon as is mentioned in the second portion of the book, either from travelling merchants or from the ambassadors of Merodach Baladan. “The only possible allusion of this kind (if we may press the letter of the prophecy) distinctly in favour of an exilic date is that of Isaiah 46:1 tothe worship of Bel-Merodach Nebo, which specially characterised the later Babylonian empire. This paucity of Babylonian references would be less surprising (for prophets and apostles were not curious observers) were it not for the very specific allusions to Palestinian circumstances in some of the later chapters”: on which the remark is obvious, that with “very specific allusions to Palestinian circumstances,” and only “one possible allusion” to what is distinctly Babylonian, we may assume that, so far as local environment is indicated, the standpoint of the author is not Babylonian, but Palestinian. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Rev. G.A. Smith says: “While the bulk of chaps. 11-66 were composed in Babylonia during the Exile of the Jews, there are considerable portions which date from before the Exile and betray a Palestinian origin; and one or two smaller pieces that seem--rather less evidently, however--to take for granted the return after the Exile.” As to chaps. 11-48, Mr. Smith holds very positively that they are to be dated in Babylonia, and that they form a unity, being the work of one author. As to chaps. 49 to 66, the evidence he regards as less conclusive. In chaps. 54; 55, he thinks we are still in exile. “A number of short prophecies now follow till the end of chap. 59 is reached.” These, he thinks, make it extremely difficult to believe in the original unity of “second Isaiah.” Some of them are undoubtedly of earlier date. Such is Isaiah 56:9-12, which regards the Exile as still to come; while others of these short prophecies are, he says, in the opinion of some critics, post-exilic. Chap. 59, Mr. Smith says, is perhaps the most difficult portion of all; chaps. 61 and 62 he holds to be certainly exilic; Isaiah 63:7 to Isaiah 64:1-12 implies a ruined temple (Isaiah 64:11), but bears no traces of the writer being in exile; chap. 65 has been assigned by some to the same date; chap. 66 betrays more evidence of being written after the Return. Mr. Smith considers himself “justified in coming to the provisional conclusion that ‘second Isaiah’ is not a unity, in so far as it consists of a number of pieces by different men whom God raised up at various times before, during, and after the Exile, to comfort and exhort amid the shifting circumstances and tempers of the people; but that it is a unity in so far as these pieces have been gathered together by an editor, very soon after the return from exile, in an order as regular both in point of time and subject as the somewhat mixed material would permit.” So that “it is rather an editorial than an original unity which is apparent.” I submit that in the face of these differences as to what chapters in “second Isaiah” do or do not manifest a Babylonian standpoint, it is impossible to rely on the assumption of such a standpoint as an argument against the authorship of the historic Isaiah. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

The value of the arguments from language and style

The assumption that we can locate disjointed fragments of Hebrew is to be summarily rejected. (Prof. D. S. Margoliouth, M. A.)

The diction of the second part of Isaiah is tolerably pure and free from Chaldaisms. (Samuel Davidson, D. D.)

There cannot be a more false canon of criticism than that a man who has written one work will, when writing a second, introduce no ideas and make use of no modes of expression that are not to be found in the first. On the contrary, a writer may be pronounced very barren indeed if he exhausts all his ideas and expends all his vocabulary on one production. (G. Salmon, D. D.)

My own opinion is that the peculiar expressions of the latter prophecies are, on the whole, not such as to necessitate a different linguistic stage from the historical Isaiah; and that, consequently, the decision of the critical question will mainly depend on other than purely linguistic considerations. (Prof. T. K. Cheyne, D. D.)

On the authority of “great Hebraists,” with scarcely an exception, there is no linguistic necessity for the theory of a dual or plural authorship. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

A supplementary consideration

It is admitted that the man who wrote the second part of the Book of Isaiah, or, at least, the greater part of it, was himself intellectually and morally as great as, or greater than, the historic Isaiah. Our ideal of the prophet Isaiah, on which so much eloquence has been expended, is the ideal rather of the man who wrote the second part than of the man who wrote the first. It is in chaps. 40 to 48, especially that we find the origin of our conception of Isaiah as the greatest of the Hebrew poets. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

The prophecies respecting Cyrus

Josephus ascribes the decree of Cyrus Ezra 1:1-2)

to his having read the Book of Isaiah, or portions of it. Quoting part of the passage in which Cyrus is named, Josephus says: “This was foretold by Isaiah 140 years before the temple was destroyed. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem and the temple of God” (Antiq. 11.1). From which we gather, at the least, that Josephus had not discovered the grand secret of the Higher Criticism, that the prophecy concerning Cyrus was only two years old when he read it, if ever he did read it at all. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

The knowledge of the name by the historic Isaiah would, according to Cheyne, “involve the necessity of assuming a suspension of the laws of psychology.” But a priori objections of this sort must give way before the evidence of facts. What, after all, is meant by a suspension of the laws of psychology? In this ease it can only mean that the discovery of the name of Cyrus was something above the operation of the natural laws of the human mind. And this is only saying, in other words, that it was supernatural;--the very thing we maintain concerning this and every other bona fide prediction. Suppose we had the prophecy in all respects as it is, but without the name. Instead of Cyrus, let it be only “a king” that shall arise to “perform Jehovah’s pleasure.” Would all else in the prophecy be discoverable by the human mind! Is there nothing supernatural in it but the name? Or, will it be said that the other contents of the prophecy, though not discoverable by any natural operation of the human mind, would be intelligible when made known? Then we ask, What is there that is unintelligible in the addition of the name? The prophet must have known that it was not of himself that he foresaw the deliverance of his nation by the Persian monarch. The authoritative preface, “Thus saith the Lord,” intimates the source of his knowledge. But how the Lord said it to him he does not say,--probably could not say. And the revealing the name of the deliverer to his mind would scarcely be a greater wonder to him than the revealing of the deliverance itself, and of the circumstances in which it should take place. The mention of the name of Cyrus is not without a parallel in an older record (1 Kings 13:2). To suppose that “Josiah by name” is an interpolation or gloss that has slipped into the text from the record of its accomplishment (2 Kings 23:16; 2 Kings 23:16) is an arbitrary assumption. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Did Isaiah form prophetic school?

As to this suggestion of a band of younger prophets who formed the school of Isaiah, it is based on a very uncertain foundation, the words in Isaiah 8:16, “Bind up thetestimony,” etc. Commentators differ in their interpretation of this text, some holding that the words are the Lord’s, some that they are Isaiah’s. Even if we accept them as Isaiah’s, there is no evidence that Isaiah was at the head of a school of the prophets, such as we have in the case of Samuel, and in the story of Elijah and Elisha. And if there were, it would be impossible to connect that school with the origination of a book which was written during the Exile. We should have to suppose that the school of Isaiah survived through the idolatrous and disastrous reigns that followed, going into exile with other captives, and still existing during the Exile period, and having a succession of heads or masters all that time. Such a continuous existence would be a very remarkable phenomenon. And very remarkable, too, is the absence of all historic reference to it. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

Did Isaiah lean his prophecies in a fixed form?

In the Book of Jeremiah we are told that all the words of the prophet were written in a roll, and that when the king cut the roll in pieces the word of the Lord came to the prophet commanding him to have his prophecies rewritten on a new roll or in a new book. And it was done (Isaiah 36:4; Isa 36:23; Isa 36:28; Isa 36:32). But as we find no intimation of this sort in Isaiah, we are asked to suppose that his prophecies were not left by him in a fixed form. If this be a correct inference, it follows that no prophet but Jeremiah left his writings in a fixed form, i.e., on a roll or in a book! For in none of them are we told that he did. The true inference from the incident in Jeremiah is, that all the prophets were instructed of the Lord carefully to write in a book such communications as the Divine Inspirer willed to be preserved for permanent use. It is not credible--

(1) That Isaiah should take no trouble to certify his own prophecies; and

(2) that for 300 years these prophecies should still be uncollected into the unity of a book, thus “not precluding the addition” of writings which were certainly not his. (J. Kennedy, D. D.)

.--An historical section, differing (except by the addition of the Song of Hezekiah, 38:9-20) only verbally 2Ki 18:13; 2 Kings 18:17-37; 2 Kings 20:1-19, and narrating certain important events in which Isaiah was concerned. The original place of these narratives was not the Book of Isaiah, but the Book of Kings, whence they were excerpted (with slight abridgments) by the compiler of the Book of Isaiah (as Jeremiah 52:1-34 was excerpted from 2 Kings 24:18 ff by the compiler of the Book of Jeremiah), on account, no doubt, of the particulars contained in them respecting Isaiah’s prophetical work, and the fulfilment of some of his most remarkable prophecies, the Song of Hezekiah being added by him from an independent source. (With Isaiah 37:36 f.compare not only Isaiah 37:7; Isaiah 37:22; Isaiah 37:29, but also Isaiah 10:33 f., Isaiah 14:26, Isaiah 17:13 f., Isaiah 18:5 f., Isaiah 29:6 f., Isaiah 30:27 ff., Isaiah 31:8 f., Isaiah 33:3; Isaiah 33:10-12). (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)


First recall some of the general rules given by Thomas a Kempis (Book 1, chap. 5). Speaking as one who accepts good many of the results of modern criticism as most probably true, I should say that the Book of Isaiah remains as helpful to devotion as it ever was. We are now concerned with the contents of the book. These lay before our Lord in the form in which we read them today; from these St. Philip preached Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch; in these St. Paul found some of his most fruitful spiritual thoughts. In our devotional reading we will put aside such questions as whether many authors or one wrote the great prophetical book. I do not say that every passage of Isaiah is suitable for devotional use, and when a verse is really obscure in meaning I do not think it is right to give it a fanciful explanation, even if by so doing a devotional use may be made of the verse. Such a proceeding is not quite honest, and, be it remembered, devotion is nothing if it be not honest. Even a cursory reading of Isaiah will bring to our knowledge many passages which are, in the truest sense, helps to devotion. Let me take three such passages as examples--

1. The first (Isaiah 11:1-9) may be called a vision of the kingdom of God. Here we have an ideal picture of the future; how will such a picture help us? By guiding and quickening our devotion. Devotion (in the fullest sense of the word) means giving ourselves to God for one of God’s great ends. Our own devotion, like St. Paul’s (Acts 22:10), needs to catch some glimpse of God’s great ends, in order that it may not spend itself in aimless feeling. We have been taught to pray, “Thy kingdom come”; but it is of no avail to use that petition if we have no notion of that for which we pray. Here Isaiah’s vision comes in to help us.

2. I would call the second passage (Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12) a study of Christ’s Passion. No one can gainsay the fact that we find here, in a passage written centuries before Christ’s coming, the very principles laid down which governed Christ’s atoning work on earth. The passage teaches us--

(1) To look upon the Passion of our Lord with wonder. The whole is a fathomless mystery of love.

(2) To meditate on the Passion with thankfulness and with confession of our sin.

(3) The lesson of self-restraint under injury (Isaiah 53:7). The very injuries inflicted upon us become helps, if they lead us to humble ourselves in silence before God.

(4) To gather satisfaction and even joy from the story of Christ’s death. We learn that, however slow Christ’s kingdom may appear to us in its coming, the coming itself is certain (Isaiah 53:11).

3. The third passage (Isaiah 63:7-19; Isaiah 64:1-12) may be called a model prayer for one in trouble. It contains the pleading of one (the Israelite nation is meant) who has had a rich experience of God’s goodness in the past, and is now face to face with crushing affliction. It is a pattern of devotion to us for four reasons--

(1) It begins with recognising the past goodness of God, the sun now behind the cloud (Isaiah 63:9). If we keep God’s past goodness fresh in mind we have something solid to meet present trial with.

(2) This passage does not merely glance at this goodness, but realises it by tracing it step by step (Isaiah 63:9-14). So we should not merely confess God’s guidance in our past lives in general terms; the true spirit of devotion will say, here and there, and here and there again, in such a year and on such an occasion, God helped me.

(3) The prophet gives us an example of steadfastness in devotion. He has not one eye on God and the other on earthly help. God fills his thoughtsIsaiah 63:16; Isaiah 63:16).

(4) This passage shows us man’s part in the day of affliction, namely, to wait and to work (Isaiah 64:4-5). Few books of the Bible offer such variety of devotional help as Isaiah. In it speaks the evangelist, the spiritual guide, the spiritual comforter, in almost every tone of the language of the spiritual life. (W. Emery Barnes, D. D.)

The Sermons by Rev. C.H. Spurgeon in this volume are used by permission of Messrs. Passmore & Alabaster..

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