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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32
Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36
Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40
Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44
Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52
Chapter 53 Chapter 54 Chapter 55 Chapter 56
Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59 Chapter 60
Chapter 61 Chapter 62 Chapter 63 Chapter 64
Chapter 65 Chapter 66

Book Overview - Isaiah

Introduction to the Prophetical Books
by A. R. Faussett

This constitutes the second division, the others being the Law and Hagiographa. It included Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, called the former prophets; and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., to Malachi, the latter prophets. Daniel is excluded, because, though highly endowed with prophetic gifts, he had not filled the prophetic office: his book is therefore classed with the Hagiographa. Ezra probably commenced, and others subsequently completed, the arrangement of the canon. The prophets were not mere predictors. Their Hebrew name, nabi, comes from a root “to boil up as a fountain” (Gesenius); hence the fervor of inspiration (2 Peter 1:21). Others interpret it as from an Arabic root (Exodus 4:16, “spokesman” of God, the Holy Ghost supplying him with words); communicated by dreams (Joel 2:28; Job 33:14-17 - no instance of this occurs in Isaiah); or visions, the scene being made to pass before their mind (Isaiah 1:1); or trance, ecstasy (Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16; Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14); not depriving them, however, of free conscious agency (Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 14:32).

These Peculiar Forms of inspiration distinguish prophets, strictly so called, from Moses and others, though inspired (Numbers 12:6-8). Hence their name seers. Hence, too, the poetical cast of their style, though less restricted, owing to their practical tendency, by the outward forms observed in strictly poetical books. Hence, too, the union of music with prophesying (1 Samuel 10:5). This ecstatic state, though exalted, is not the highest: for Jesus Christ was never in it, nor Moses. It was rendered necessary by the frailty of the prophets, and the spiritual obtuseness of the people. It accordingly predominates in the Old Testament, but is subordinate in the New Testament, where the Holy Ghost by the fulness of His ordinary gifts renders the extraordinary less necessary. After the time of the Mosaic economy, the idea of a prophet was regularly connected with the prophetic office - not conferred by men, but by God. In this they differ from mystics whose pretended inspiration is for themselves: prophetism is practical, not dreamy and secluded; the prophet‘s inspiration is theirs only as God‘s messengers to the people. His ordinary servants and regular teachers of the people were the priests; the prophets distinguished from them by inspiration, were designed to rouse and excite. In Israel, however, as distinguished from Judah (as there was no true priesthood) the prophets were the regular and only ministers of God. Prophecy in Israel needed to be supported more powerfully: therefore the “schools” were more established; and more striking prophetic deeds (for example, Elijah‘s and Elisha‘s) are recorded, than in Judah. The law was their basis (Isaiah 8:16, Isaiah 8:20), both its form and spirit (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 13:1-3); at times they looked forward to a day when its ever-living spirit would break its then imperfect form for a freer and more perfect development (Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 31:31); but they altered not a tittle in their own days. Eichorn well calls Moses‘ song (Deuteronomy 32:1-47) the Magna Charta of prophecy. The fulfilment of their predictions was to be the sign of their being real prophets of God (Deuteronomy 18:22); also, their speaking in the name of no other but the true God (Deuteronomy 18:20). Prophecy was the only sanctioned indulgence of the craving after knowledge of future events, which is so prevalent in the East (Deuteronomy 18:10, Deuteronomy 18:11). For a momentary inspiration the mere beginning of spiritual life sufficed, as in Balaam‘s case; but for a continuous mission, the prophet must be converted (Isaiah 6:7). In Samuel‘s days (1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 19:20) begin the prophetic “schools.” These were associations of men, more or less endowed with the Spirit, in which the feebler were helped by those of greater spiritual powers: so at Beth-el and Gilgal (2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:21). Only the leaders stood in immediate communion with God, while the rest were joined to Him through their mediation (1 Kings 19:15; 2 Kings 8:13); the former acted through the latter as their instruments (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:1, 2 Kings 9:2). The bestowal of prophetic gifts was not, however, limited to these schools (Amos 7:14, Amos 7:15).

As to Symbolic Actions, many of them are not actual but only parts of the prophetic visions, internal not external facts, being impossible or indecent (Jeremiah 13:1-10; Jeremiah 25:12-38; Hosea 1:2-11). Still the internal actions, when possible and proper, were often expressed externally (1 Kings 22:11). Those purely internal express the subject more strikingly than a naked statement could.

Other Criteria of a true prophet, besides the two above, were, the accordance of his addresses with the law; his not promising prosperity without repentance; his own assurance of his divine mission (sometimes received reluctantly, Jeremiah 20:8, Jeremiah 20:9; Jeremiah 26:12), producing that inward assurance of the truth in others, which is to them a stronger proof from the Spirit of God, than even outward miracles and arguments: his pious life, fortitude in suffering, and freedom from fanaticism, confirm these criteria. Miracles, though proofs, are not to be trusted without the negative criteria (Deuteronomy 13:2). Predictions fulfilled in the prophet‘s lifetime established his authority thenceforth (1 Samuel 3:19; Jeremiah 22:11-12; Ezekiel 12:12, Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 24:1-27).

As to their Promulgation, it was usually oral, before the assembled people, and afterwards revised in writing. The second part of Isaiah and Ezekiel 40-48 were probably not given orally, but in writing. Before Isaiah‘s and his contemporaries‘ time, prophecies were not written, as not being intended for universal use. But now a larger field was opened. To the worldly power of heathen nations which threatened to destroy the theocracy is henceforth opposed the kingdom of God, about to conquer all through Messiah, whose coming concerns all ages. The lesser prophets give the quintessence of the prophecies of their respective authors. An instance of the mode of collecting and publishing prophecies occurs (Jeremiah 36:4-14). Those of the later prophets rest on those of the earlier (Zechariah 1:4; Zechariah 7:7, Zechariah 7:12). Ewald fancies that a great number of prophetic rolls have been lost. But the fact of the prophets often alluding to writings which we have, and never to those which it can be proved we have not, makes it likely that we have all those predictions which were committed to writing; the care bestowed on them as divine, and the exact knowledge of them long after (Jeremiah 26:18, Jeremiah 26:19), confirm this view.

The Arrangement is chronological; but as the twelve lesser prophets are regarded as one work, and the three last of them lived later than Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the former are put after the latter. The lesser prophets are arranged chronologically, except Hosea, who being the largest, is placed first, though some were earlier than he; also Jonah, who seems to have been the earliest of the latter prophets.

As to The Messiah, no single prophet gives a complete view of Him: this is made up of the various aspects of Him in different prophecies combined; just as His life in the Gospels is one under a fourfold aspect. In the first part of Isaiah, addressed to the whole people, the prominent idea is His triumph, as King, the design being there to remove their fears of the surrounding nations; in the second, addressed to the elect remnant, He is exhibited as Prophet and Priest, Himself being the sacrifice.

The Book of the Prophet Isaiah
Commentary by A.R. Faussett


Isaiah, son of Amoz (not Amos); contemporary of Jonah, Amos, Hosea, in Israel, but younger than they; and of Micah, in Judah. His call to a higher degree of the prophetic office (Isaiah 6:1-13) is assigned to the last year of Uzziah, that is, 754 b.c. The first through fifth chapters belong to the closing years of that reign; not, as some think, to Jotham‘s reign: in the reign of the latter he seems to have exercised his office only orally, and not to have left any record of his prophecies because they were not intended for all ages. The first through fifth and sixth chapters are all that was designed for the Church universal of the prophecies of the first twenty years of his office. New historical epochs, such as occurred in the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, when the affairs of Israel became interwoven with those of the Asiatic empires, are marked by prophetic writings. The prophets had now to interpret the judgments of the Lord, so as to make the people conscious of His punitive justice, as also of His mercy. Isaiah 7:1-10:4 belong to the reign of Ahaz. The thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth chapters are historical, reaching to the fifteenth year of Hezekiah; probably the tenth through twelfth chapters and all from the thirteenth through twenty-sixth chapters, inclusive, belong to the same reign; the historical section being appended to facilitate the right understanding of these prophecies; thus we have Isaiah‘s office extending from about 760 to 713 b.c., forty-seven years. Tradition (Talmud) represents him as having been sawn asunder by Manasseh with a wooden saw, for having said that he had seen Jehovah (Exodus 33:20; 2 Kings 21:16; Hebrews 11:37). 2 Chronicles 32:32 seems to imply that Isaiah survived Hezekiah; but “first and last” is not added, as in 2 Chronicles 26:22, which makes it possible that his history of Hezekiah was only carried up to a certain point. The second part, the fortieth through sixty-sixth chapters, containing complaints of gross idolatry, needs not to be restricted to Manasseh‘s reign, but is applicable to previous reigns. At the accession of Manasseh, Isaiah would be eighty-four; and if he prophesied for eight years afterwards, he must have endured martyrdom at ninety-two; so Hosea prophesied for sixty years. And Eastern tradition reports that he lived to one hundred and twenty. The conclusive argument against the tradition is that, according to the inscription, all Isaiah‘s prophecies are included in the time from Uzziah to Hezekiah; and the internal evidence accords with this.

His Wife is called the prophetess [Isaiah 8:3 ], that is, endowed, as Miriam, with a prophetic gift.

His Children were considered by him as not belonging merely to himself; in their names, Shearjashub, “the remnant shall return” [Isaiah 7:3, Margin], and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “speeding to the spoil, he hasteth to the prey” [Isaiah 8:1, Margin], the two chief points of his prophecies are intimated to the people, the judgments of the Lord on the people and the world, and yet His mercy to the elect.

His Garment of sackcloth (Isaiah 20:2), too, was a silent preaching by fact; he appears as the embodiment of that repentance which he taught.

His Historical Works. - History, as written by the prophets, is retroverted prophecy. As the past and future alike proceed from the essence of God, an inspired insight into the past implies an insight into the future, and vice versa. Hence most of the Old Testament histories are written by prophets and are classed with their writings; the Chronicles being not so classed, cannot have been written by them, but are taken from historical monographs of theirs; for example, Isaiah‘s life of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:22; also of Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:32; of these latter all that was important for all ages has been preserved to us, while the rest, which was local and temporary, has been lost.

The Inscription (Isaiah 1:1) applies to the whole book and implies that Isaiah is the author of the second part (the fortieth through sixty-sixth chapters), as well as of the first. Nor do the words, “concerning Judah and Jerusalem” [Isaiah 1:1 ], oppose the idea that the inscription applies to the whole; for whatever he says against other nations, he says on account of their relation to Judah. So the inscription of Amos, “concerning Israel” [Amos 1:1 ], though several prophecies follow against foreign nations. Ewald maintains that the fortieth through sixty-sixth chapters, though spurious, were subjoined to the previous portion, in order to preserve the former. But it is untrue that the first portion is unconnected with those chapters. The former ends with the Babylonian exile (Isaiah 39:6), the latter begins with the coming redemption from it. The portion, the fortieth through forty-sixth chapters, has no heading of its own, a proof that it is closely connected with what precedes, and falls under the general heading in Isaiah 1:1. Josephus (The Antiquities of the Jews, 11. 1, sec. 1, 2) says that Cyrus was induced by the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1, Isaiah 45:13) to aid the Jews in returning and rebuilding the temple Ezra 1:1-11 confirms this; Cyrus in his edict there plainly refers to the prophecies in the second portion, which assign the kingdoms to him from Jehovah, and the duty of rebuilding the temple. Probably he took from them his historical name Cyrus (Coresh). Moreover, subsequent prophets imitate this second portion, which Ewald assigns to later times; for example, compare Jeremiah 50:1-51:64 with Isaiah‘s predictions against Babylon [Isaiah 13:1-14:23]. “The Holy One of Israel,” occurring but three times elsewhere in the Old Testament [2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 78:41; Psalm 89:18; Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:5 ], is a favorite expression in the second, as in the first portion of Isaiah: it expresses God‘s covenant faithfulness in fulfilling the promises therein: Jeremiah borrows the expression from him. Also Ecclesiasticus 48:22-25 (“comforted”), quotes Isaiah 40:1 as Isaiah‘s. Luke 4:17 quotes Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:2 as Isaiah‘s, and as read as such by Jesus Christ in the synagogue.

The Definiteness of the prophecies is striking: As in the second portion of Isaiah, so in Micah 4:8-10, the Babylonian exile, and the deliverance from it, are foretold a hundred fifty years before any hostilities had arisen between Babylon and Judah. On the other hand, all the prophets who foretell the Assyrian invasion coincide in stating, that Judah should be delivered from it, not by Egyptian aid, but directly by the Lord. Again Jeremiah, in the height of the Chaldean prosperity, foretold its conquest by the Medes, who should enter Babylon through the dry bed of the Euphrates on a night of general revelry. No human calculation could have discovered these facts. Eichorn terms these prophecies “veiled historical descriptions,” recognizing in spite of himself that they are more than general poetical fancies. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was certainly written ages before the Messiah, yet it minutely portrays His sufferings: these cannot be Jewish inventions, for the Jews looked for a reigning, not a suffering, Messiah.

Rationalists are so far right that The Prophecies Are on a General Basis whereby they are distinguished from soothsaying. They rest on the essential idea of God. The prophets, penetrated by this inner knowledge of His character, became conscious of the eternal laws by which the world is governed: that sin is man‘s ruin, and must be followed by judgment, but that God‘s covenant mercy to His elect is unchangeable. Without prophetism, the elect remnant would have decreased, and even God‘s judgments would have missed their end, by not being recognized as such: they would have been unmeaning, isolated facts. Babylon was in Isaiah‘s days under Assyria; it had tried a revolt unsuccessfully: but the elements of its subsequent success and greatness were then existing. The Holy Ghost enlightened his natural powers to discern this its rise; and his spiritual faculties, to foresee its fall, the sure consequence, in God‘s eternal law, of the pride which pagan success generates - and also Judah‘s restoration, as the covenant-people, with whom God, according to His essential character, would not be wroth for ever. True conversion is the prophet‘s grand remedy against all evils: in this alone consists his politics. Rebuke, threatening, and promise, regularly succeed one another. The idea at the basis of all is in Isaiah 26:7-9; Leviticus 10:3; Amos 3:2.

The Use of the Present and Preterite in prophecy is no proof that the author is later than Isaiah. For seers view the future as present, and indicate what is ideally past, not really past; seeing things in the light of God, who “calls the things that are not as though they were.” Moreover, as in looking from a height on a landscape, hills seem close together which are really wide apart, so, in events foretold, the order, succession, and grouping are presented, but the intervals of time are overlooked. The time, however, is sometimes marked (Jeremiah 25:12; Daniel 9:26). Thus the deliverance from Babylon, and that effected by Messiah, are in rapid transition grouped together by The Law of Prophetic Suggestion; yet no prophet so confounds the two as to make Messiah the leader of Israel from Babylon. To the prophet there was probably no double sense; but to his spiritual eye the two events, though distinct, lay so near, and were so analogous, that he could not separate them in description without unfaithfulness to the picture presented before him. The more remote and antitypical event, however, namely, Messiah‘s coming, is that to which he always hastens, and which he describes with far more minuteness than he does the nearer type; for example, Cyrus (compare Isaiah 45:1 with Isaiah 53:1-12). In some cases he takes his stand in the midst of events between, for example, the humiliation of Jesus Christ, which he views as past, and His glorification, as yet to come, using the future tense as to the latter (compare Isaiah 53:4-9 with Isaiah 53:10-12). Marks of the time of events are given sparingly in the prophets: yet, as to Messiah, definitely enough to create the general expectation of Him at the time that He was in fact born.

The Chaldaeisms alleged against the genuineness of the second portion of Isaiah, are found more in the first and undoubted portion. They occur in all the Old Testament, especially in the poetical parts, which prefer unusual expressions, and are due to the fact that the patriarchs were surrounded by Chaldee-speaking people; and in Isaiah‘s time a few Chaldee words had crept in from abroad.

His Symbols are few and simple, and his poetical images correct; in the prophets, during and after the exile, the reverse holds good; Haggai and Malachi are not exceptions; for, though void of bold images, their style, unlike Isaiah‘s, rises little above prose: a clear proof that our Isaiah was long before the exile.

Of Visions, strictly so called, he has but one, that in the sixth chapter; even it is more simple than those in later prophets. But he often gives Signs, that is, a present fact as pledge of the more distant future; God condescending to the feebleness of man (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 37:30; Isaiah 38:7).

The Varieties in His Style do not prove spuriousness, but that he varied his style with his subject. The second portion is not so much addressed to his contemporaries, as to the future people of the Lord, the elect remnant, purified by the previous judgments. Hence its tenderness of style, and frequent repetitions (Isaiah 40:1): for comforting exhortation uses many words; so also the many epithets added to the name of God, intended as stays whereon faith may rest for comfort, so as not to despair. In both portions alike there are peculiarities characteristic of Isaiah; for example, “to be called” equivalent to to be: the repetition of the same words, instead of synonyms, in the parallel members of verses; the interspersing of his prophecies with hymns: “the remnant of olive trees,” etc., for the remnant of people who have escaped God‘s judgments. Also compare Isaiah 65:25 with Isaiah 11:6.

The Chronological Arrangement favors the opinion that Isaiah himself collected his prophecies into the volume; not Hezekiah‘s men, as the Talmud guesses from Proverbs 25:1. All the portions, the dates of which can be ascertained, stand in the right place, except a few instances, where prophecies of similar contents are placed together: with the termination of the Assyrian invasion (the thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth chapters) terminated the public life of Isaiah. The second part is his prophetic legacy to the small band of the faithful, analogous to the last speeches of Moses and of Jesus Christ to His chosen disciples.

The Expectation of Messiah is so strong in Isaiah, that Jerome To Paulinus calls his book not a prophecy, but the gospel: “He is not so much a prophet as an evangelist.” Messiah was already shadowed forth in Genesis 49:10, as the Shiloh, or tranquilizer; also in Psalm 2:1-12, Psalm 45:1-17, Psalm 72:1-20, Psalm 110:1-7. Isaiah brings it out more definitely; and, whereas they dwelt on His kingly office, Isaiah develops most His priestly and prophetic office; the hundred tenth Psalm also had set forth His priesthood, but His kingly rather than, as Isaiah, His suffering, priesthood. The latter is especially dwelt on in the second part, addressed to the faithful elect; whereas the first part, addressed to the whole people, dwells on Messiah‘s glory, the antidote to the fears which then filled the people, and the assurance that the kingdom of God, then represented by Judah, would not be overwhelmed by the surrounding nations.

His Style (Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament,) is simple and sublime; in imagery, intermediate between the poverty of Jeremiah and the exuberance of Ezekiel. He shows his command of it in varying it to suit his subject.

The Form is mostly that of Hebrew poetical parallelism, with, however, a freedom unshackled by undue restrictions.

Judah, the less apostate people, rather than Israel, was the subject of his prophecies: his residence was mostly at Jerusalem. On his praises, see Ecclesiasticus 48:22-25. Christ and the apostles quote no prophet so frequently.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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