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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
Isaiah, Book of
ISAIAH, BOOK OF . The Book of Isaiah is one of the four great collections of Hebrew prophecies. Like the book of ‘The Twelve Prophets’ another of these great collections (see Micah [Book of]) it was formed by incorporating with one another smaller and earlier collections, and contains prophecies of many prophets living at different periods; with the exception of Isaiah’s, the prophecies contained in the collection are anonymous, the term ‘Deutero-Isaiah,’ applied to the author of chs. 40 66 (or 40 55), being of course nothing more than a modern symbol for one of these anonymous writers.
1. Composition and literary history of the present book . The Book of Isaiah, substantially as we now have it, probably dates, like the ‘Book of the Twelve Prophets,’ from towards the end of the 3rd cent. b.c. But the external evidence is scanty and some of it ambiguous; and the internal evidence of certain sections is differently interpreted; if, as the interpretation of Duhm and Marti would require us to infer, ch. 33 and ch. 34f. were not written till towards the middle of the 2nd cent., and chs. 24 27 not until after b.c. 128, it is obvious that the collection which contains these sections did not attain its present form and size till some (possibly considerable) time later than b.c. 128.
The most important piece of external evidence is contained in Sir 48:22-24 . In this passage the author, writing about b.c. 180, refers to Isaiah as one of the godly men of Israel, worthy of praise, and, as afterwards (Isaiah 49:6-8 ) In the case of Ezekiel and of Jeremiah, he cites, or alludes to, certain sections which now stand in the book that bears the prophet’s name. Thus he says: Isaiah 49:22 ‘For Hezekiah did that which was pleasing to the Lord, and was strong in the ways of David his father, which Isaiah the prophet commanded, who was great and faithful in his vision’; Isaiah 49:23 ‘In his days the sun went backward; and he added life to the king’; Isaiah 49:24 ‘By a spirit of might be saw the end, and comforted the mourners in Sion’; Isaiah 49:25 ‘For ever he declared the things that should be, and hidden things before they came.’ Possibly the last clause of Isaiah 49:22 refers to the title ‘The vision of Isaiah’ ( Isaiah 1:1 ); certainly Isaiah 1:23 refers to the narrative of Isaiah 38 (= 2 Kings 20:1-21 ), and Isaiah 1:24 f. shows familiarity with the recurrent arguments from prophecy in Is 44 48 (see e.g. Isaiah 41:21-24 , Isaiah 43:9 , Isaiah 46:9 , Isaiah 48:4 ff.), while 48:24b is somewhat clearly reminiscent of the actual phraseology of Isaiah 40:1 , Isaiah 61:2-3 . Though it would be possible to invent somewhat different explanations of these facts, much the most probable inference is that, by the beginning of the 2nd cent. b.c., some (if not all) of the prophecies in chs. 1 35 had already been brought into a book, and to these had been appended, not necessarily or even probably at the same time, ( a ) chs. 36 39, ( b ) chs. 40 66 (or the most part thereof), and that the whole book at this time was attributed to Isaiah. Actual citations from the Book of Isaiah by name , which would help to prove the extent of the book at given periods, are not numerous before the 1st cent. a.d., when we find several in the NT: Isaiah 1:9 is cited in Romans 9:29; Isaiah 6:9 f. in Matthew 13:14 f., John 12:40 , Acts 28:25 f.; Isaiah 9:1 f. in Matthew 4:14 ff; Matthew 10:22 f. in isa 9:27 f.; Romans 11:10 in isa 15:12; Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6 f.; Isaiah 40:3-5 in ( Mark 1:3 ) Matthew 3:3; 42:1 4 in Matthew 12:17-21; 53:1, 4, 7f. in Romans 10:16 , Matthew 8:17 , Acts 8:30; Acts 8:32 f.; Isaiah 61:1 f. in Luke 4:17-19; Isaiah 65:1 f. in Romans 10:20 f. There are also some twenty-five unnamed citations in NT (Swete, Introd. to OT in Greek , 385 f.), some of which, like the unnamed citations from the Greek text of Isaiah 3:10; Isaiah 44:20 in Wis 2:12; Wis 15:10 (about b.c. 50), are, taken in conjunction with the named citations, not without significance. Still, rigorous proof that the Book of Isaiah contained all that it now contains much before the final close of the Canon (see Canon of OT), is wanting. The general considerations which, taken in conjunction with the proof afforded by Sir 48:17-25 that (most or all of) chs. 40 66 ranked as Isaiah’s as early as b.c. 180, make it wisest, failing strong evidence to the contrary, to reckon with the probability that by about that time the book was substantially of the same extent as at present, are ( a ) the history of the formation of the Canon (see Canon of OT), and ( b ) the probability, created by the allusions in the prologue (about b.c. 132) to Sirach to translations of prophecies, that our present Greek version dates from before 132. This version appears to proceed from a single age or hand, and yet it is, apart from brief glosses, of the same extent as the present Hebrew text of the book.
If we may adopt the most natural inference from 2 Chronicles 36:22 f. = Ezra 1:1 f., external evidence would go far to prove that chs. 40 66 were not included in the Book of Isaiah much before the close of the 3rd cent. b.c. For the Chronicler here attributes the prophecy of Cyrus, which forms so conspicuous a feature of Is 40 48 (see Isaiah 41:1 f., Isaiah 43:24 to Isaiah 45:7 , and esp. compare 2 Chronicles 36:23 with Isaiah 43:28 ), not to Isaiah but to Jeremiah, which he would scarcely have done if in his time (not earlier than b.c. 300) these anonymous chapters were already incorporated in a book entitled Isaiah. If we reject this inference, we are thrown back entirely on the evidence of the Book of Isaiah itself for the determination of the earliest date at which it can have been compiled.
Turning then to the internal evidence, we note first the structure of the book: ( a ) chs. 1 35 prophecies, some of which are attributed to Isaiah ( Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1 etc.), interspersed with narratives by or about Isaiah (chs. 6, 7, 8, 20); ( b ) chs. 36 39 historical narratives of the life and times of Isaiah, identical in the main with 2 Kings 18:1-37; 2 Kings 19:1-37; 2 Kings 20:1-21; ( c ) chs. 40 66 anonymous prophecies. Comparison with the Book of Jeremiah, which concludes with a chapter (52) about the times of Jeremiah derived from 2 Kings 24:18 ff., suggests that our present book has resulted from the union of a prophetic volume, consisting (in the main) of prophecies by or attributed to Isaiah, with an historical appendix and a book of anonymous prophecies. This union, as we have seen above, took place before b.c. 180: if any parts of chs. 1 39 are later than this, their presence in the book is due to subsequent interpolation.
If it were possible to write a full history of the literary process which culminated in the Book of Isaiah as we now have it, it would be necessary to trace in detail first the growth of chs. 1 39, then that of chs. 40 66, and lastly the causes which led to the union of the two. But this is not possible; in particular, we do not know whether chs. 40 66 were added to chs. 1 39 owing to the triumph of an Isaianic theory over the Jeremianic theory or tradition of the origin of these chapters (2 Chronicles 36:22 f.; see above), or whether, as some have supposed, they were added to make the Book of Isaiah more nearly equal in size to the other prophetic collections Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the Twelve with the result that as early as b.c. 180 these chapters came to be attributed to Isaiah; or whether something else, which we cannot conjecture, was the real cause of this union. But, apart from internal evidence pointing to the different periods in which different sections originated, certain indications of the complexity of the literary process do exist, particularly in the case of chs. 1 39; these we may consider. (1) The matter is not arranged chronologically: the call (cf. Ezekiel 1:1-28 , Jeremiah 1:1-19 ) of Isaiah, which naturally preceded any of his prophecies, is recorded not in ch. 1, but in ch. 6. Similarly, in the Koran the record of Mohammed’s call does not occur till Sura 96; in this case the reason is that the editors of the Koran followed the rather mechanical principle of arranging the suras according to their size. The cause of the order in the case of the Book of Isaiah may in part be found in the fact that (2) the occurrence of several titles and indications of different principles of editorial arrangement points to the fact that chs. 1 35 (39) is a collection of material, some of which had previously acquired a fixed arrangement; in other words, chs. 1 35 is a book formed not entirely, or perhaps even mainly, by the collection and free re-arrangement of prophetic pieces, but rather by the incorporation whole of earlier and smaller books. Following these clues, we may first divide these chapters thus: (1) ch. 1 with title ( Isaiah 5:1 ), probably intended to cover the larger collection; (2) chs. 2 12 with title Isaiah 2:1; (3) chs. 13 23 with title Isaiah 13:1 naming Isaiah, and corresponding sub-titles not mentioning Isaiah, in Isaiah 15:1 , Isaiah 17:1 , Isaiah 19:1 , Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 21:13 , Isaiah 22:1 , Isaiah 23:1 (cf. elsewhere Isaiah 30:6 ); (4) chs. 24 27, distinguished from the preceding sections by the absence of titles, and from the following by the absence of the opening interjection; (5) chs. 28 31 (33) a group of woes; see Isaiah 28:1 , Isaiah 29:1 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘Ho’ represents the same Hebrew word that is translated ‘Woe’ in Isaiah 28:1 etc.) Isaiah 30:1 , Isaiah 31:1 , Isaiah 33:1; (6) chs. 34, 35, which, like chs. 24 27, are without title. Some even of these sections seem to have arisen from the union of still smaller and earlier booklets. Thus it is reasonable to suppose that ch. 6 once formed the commencement of a booklet; again, chs. 2 4 are prophecies of judgment enclosed between Messianic prophecies Isaiah 2:2-7 and Isaiah 4:2-6; ch. 5 contains a brief group of ‘Woes’ (Isa 4:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22).
It is impossible to enter into details here as to the dates when these several booklets first appeared, or as to the various processes of union or re-arrangement or interpolation or other modifications. Merely to state theories which have been put forward, without adducing proof or offering criticism, would require more space than is available. And from the nature of the case it would be impossible to offer any complete theory that would not be in many respects uncertain. It is more important to appreciate the general fact, which is clear, that the Book of Isaiah is the result of a long and complex literary history, than to be ready to subscribe to any particular theory of this history. But two points may be briefly touched on. (1) Much of the literary process just referred to lies after the Exile. As will he shown below, chs. 40 55 were not written till the last years of the Exile; chs. 56 66 are certainly of no earlier, and probably of later, origin. The union of chs. 1 39 and 40 66 cannot therefore fall before the close of the Exile, and, as shown above, it need not, so far as the external evidence is concerned, fall much before b.c. 180. But even 1 39 was not a volume of pre-exilic origin; for the appendix 36 39 is derived from Kings, which was not completed till, at the earliest, b.c. 561 (cf. 2 Kings 25:27 ), or even in what may be regarded as its first edition (cf. Driver, LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 6, 189) before about b.c. 600. On this ground alone, then, the completion of chs. 1 39, by the inclusion of the appendix 36 39, cannot be placed earlier than the Exile, and should probably be placed later. It must indeed be placed later, unless we regard all the sections in chs. 1 35 which are of post-exilic origin (see below) as interpolations rather than as what, in many cases at least, they probably are, original parts of the booklets incorporated in chs. 1 39. Thus chs. 2 12 and 13 23 (apart from subsequent interpolations or amplifications) as they lay before the editor who united them, probably owed their form to post-exilic editors. (2) The earliest stage of this long literary process falls in the lifetime of Isaiah ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 740 701). But even in its earliest stage the literary process was not uniform. In chs. 6 and Isaiah 8:1-8 we have what there is no reason to question are pieces of Isaiah’s autobiography; Isaiah here speaks of himself in the first person. Chs. 7 and 20 may have the same origin, the fact that Isaiah is here referred to in the third person being perhaps in that case due to an editor; or these chapters may be drawn from early biographies of the prophet by a disciple. Thus chs. 1, 2 12, 13 23 and 28 33 consist in large part of prophetic poems or sayings of Isaiah; many of them were (presumably) written as well as spoken by Isaiah himself, others we not improbably owe to the memory of his disciples. There is no reason for believing that the present arrangement of this matter, even within the several booklets, goes back to Isaiah himself; the division into chapters and verses is of course of very much later origin, and in several cases does violence to the original connexion, either by uniting, as in ch. 5, originally quite distinct pieces, or dividing, as in the case of Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4 , what formed an undivided whole. Justice can he done to the prophetic literature only when the brevity of the several pieces is recognized, instead of being obscured by treating several distinct pieces as a single discourse. Unfortunately, we have not for the teaching of Isaiah, as for that of Jesus, a triple tradition. But the analogy of the diverse treatment of the same sayings in the different Gospels may well warn us that sayings which lie side by side (as e.g. in Isaiah 5:8-24 ) in the Book of Isaiah were not necessarily spoken in immediate succession.
But how far, if not in the order in which he spoke or wrote them, have the words of Isaiah reached us substantially as he spoke them. The question is not altogether easy to answer, particularly in one respect. Isaiah was pre-eminently a prophet of judgment; but intermingled with his warnings are many passages of promise: see e.g. Isaiah 2:2-4 and Isaiah 4:2-6 , enclosing Isaiah 2:7 to Isaiah 4:1 , Isaiah 9:1-6 concluding the warnings of ch. 8, and the constant interchange of warning and promise in chs. 28 31. Are these passages of promise Isaiah’s, or the work of some later writers with which later editors sought to comfort as well as to exhort their readers? These questions in general, and in detail with reference to each particular passage, are still far from settled. The general question of Messianic prophecy in Isaiah is briefly referred to in preceding art.; for details see Cheyne’s Introd. to the Book of Isaiah , or commentaries such as those of Duhm and Marti, or, on a smaller scale and in English, of Whitehouse. Here this alone can be said: the period over which and down to which the history of the growth of the Book of Isaiah extends, and the complexity of that growth, would easily allow of these passages being incorporated as suggested by the theory; and we have the presumption created, for example, by the absence of the last clause of ch. 6 from the Greek text, that short consolatory annotations were still being made as late as the 2nd cent. b.c. Once the significance of the complexity of the Book of Isaiah is grasped, this at least should become clear, that the question, is such and such a passage authentic? meaning, Was it written by Isaiah? proceeds from a wrong point of view. The proper question is this: To what period does such and such a passage in this collection of prophecies, made certainly after the Exile and probably not much before the close of the 3rd cent. b.c., belong?
The presence of explanatory annotations is now generally recognized. For example, in Isaiah 7:20 Isaiah speaks figuratively of Jahweh using a razor; an editor added a note, which has intruded into the text, that by ‘razor’ we are to understand the king of Assyria. As to the number of such annotations scholars differ.
2. Summary . The following summary of the Book of Isaiah and of the periods at which its several parts appear, or have been supposed, to have been written, must be used in the light of the foregoing account of the origin of the book. In the clearer cases the evidence of date is briefly indicated; in others one or two theories are mentioned. But for the evidence, such as it is, the reader must turn to larger works; it would require more space than the scope of the article allows, even to summarize it here. Again, in the majority of cases no attempt is made to indicate the smaller annotations of which an example is given in the preced. paragraph. For a synthesis (in part) of those sections of the book which consist of Isaiah’s prophecies, see Isaiah; and in connexion with chs. 40 55, consult art. Servant of the Lord.
Isaiah 1:1 . Title. Probably prefixed by an editor who brought together a considerable collection of Isaiah’s prophecies. ‘The days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah’ describe the entire period of Isaiah’s activity.
Isaiah 1:2-31 . Till comparatively recently this was generally regarded as a single discourse, constituting, as Ewald terms it, the ‘great arraignment.’ But there was no agreement as to the period of Isaiah’s lifetime to which it belonged, some scholars referring it to the period of the Syro-Ephraimitish War (cf. ch. 7), almost at the beginning, others to the time of Sennacherib’s invasion at the close, of Isaiah’s career. If, as is really probable, this is not a single discourse, these differences are in part accounted for. The chapter falls into these sections ( a ) Isaiah 1:2-17 , which may perhaps itself consist of two distinct pieces, Isaiah 1:2-9 and Isaiah 1:10-17; ( b ) Isaiah 1:18-20 , perhaps consisting of distinct sayings, namely, Isaiah 1:18 and Isaiah 1:19-20; ( c ) Isaiah 1:21-26; ( d ) Isaiah 1:27-31 , which again, as some think, are two fragments Isaiah 1:27 f. and Isaiah 1:29-31 . Of these sections ( a ) and ( c ) are distinct prophetic poems of Isaiah complete in themselves, ( a ) dating probably from 701, since the terms of Isaiah 1:6-7 are better accounted for by the Assyrian invasion of that year than by that of the Syro-Ephraimitish army in 735; ( c ) perhaps from about 705. The short sayings of ( b ) and the fragment ( d ) are more difficult to date; ( d ) has been regarded by some as a denunciation of the Northern Kingdom, and therefore delivered before b.c. 722; by others as a post-exilic passage of promise ( Isaiah 1:27 ).
Isaiah 2:1 . Title of a collection of Isaianic prophecies.
Isaiah 2:2 to Isaiah 4:6 . The main body of this section, consisting of a poem announcing the near advent of the ‘day of Jahweh against’ ‘everything proud and lifted up’ ( Isaiah 2:6-21 ), another ( Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 3:15 ) describing the imminent social disintegration of Judah, and tracing its cause to the moral condition of the nation, and a third denouncing the light and luxurious ladies of Jerusalem Isaiah 3:16 to Isaiah 4:1 , the catalogue in prose of Isaiah 3:18-23 being perhaps an interpolation), appears to preserve the earlier teaching of Isaiah. It has been thought that in Isaiah 2:6-21 Isaiah writes with the experience of the great earthquake ( Zechariah 14:5 ) of Uzziah’s time fresh in mind, and that Isaiah 3:12 contains an allusion to Ahaz (died? 728) as the reigning king. The section, like the Book of Amos ( Amos 9:8-15 ), was provided by an editor (cf. Isaiah 4:4 and Isaiah 3:16 ), as many think, rather than by Isaiah himself, with a consolatory conclusion. The opening poem ( Isaiah 2:2-4 ), if not, as some still consider, Isaiah’s, was incorporated by an editor. It is also included in the Book of the Twelve ( Micah 4:1-4; see Micah).
Ch. 5. Of independent origin are Isaiah 5:1-6; Isaiah 5:8-24; Isaiah 5:25-30 .
Isaiah 5:1-7 . The parabolic song of the vineyard pointing to the coming rejection by Jahweh of unworthy and ungrateful Judah. The song is Isaiah’s, but whether composed early or late in his career is disputed. Isaiah 5:8-13 : six, perhaps originally seven, ‘Woes’ some of them fragments. These cannot easily be dated, nor are they necessarily all of the same date; they may owe their present arrangement to an editor rather than to Isaiah 5:25-30 : the refrain of Isaiah 5:25 b connects this with Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4 , of which poem it probably formed the last strophe.
Ch. 6. Isaiah’s own record of his call in the year of Uzziah’s death (b.c. 740Â±), written perhaps some years later.
Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 8:15 . Narratives (in part, and originally perhaps wholly, autobiographical) relating to prophecies delivered during the Syro-Ephraimitish War in b.c. 734. In detail: Isaiah 7:1-16 , Isaiah’s interview with Ahaz; the sign of Immanuel ( Isaiah 7:14 ); Isaiah 7:15 , perhaps interpolated; Isaiah 7:17-25 , somewhat fragmentary, and probably not the immediate continuation of Isaiah 7:1-16; Isaiah 8:1-4 , two signs indicating that Syria and Ephraim will perish before Assyria; Isaiah 8:6-8 , Judah, not having trusted in Jahweh, will also suffer, and ( Isaiah 8:9-10 ) so will the nations that oppose Judah; Isaiah 8:11-15 , Jahweh the only real and true object of fear; Isaiah 8:16-18 , the conclusion his disciples are to preserve and witness to what he has said.
Isaiah 8:19 to Isaiah 9:7 . In spite of the link between Isaiah 8:20 and Isaiah 8:16 , it is very doubtful whether this section was originally attached to the preceding, which seemed to reach a very definite conclusion in Isaiah 8:16-18 . If not, its date is very uncertain. It consists of an obscure fragment or fragments ( Isaiah 8:19-22 ) describing a period of great distress, a statement in prose of an imminent change of fortune ( Isaiah 9:1 ), and a Messianic poem ( Isaiah 9:2-7 ) celebrating the restoration, triumph, and prosperity of the people under their mighty Prince. Those who deny in toto the existence of Messianic passages in Isaiah’s prophecies naturally treat this poem as a later product, some assigning it to about b.c. 500. The positive defence of Isaianic authorship is rendered difficult by its isolation and by the absence (not unnatural in a poem dealing entirely with the ideal future) of direct allusions of Isaiah’s age.
Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4 with Isaiah 5:25-30 . A carefully constructed poem of five strophes of nearly (and perhaps in its original form of exactly) equal length, marked off from one another by the refrain in Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21 , Isaiah 10:4 ( Isaiah 5:25 ). It belongs to Isaiah’s early period (about b.c. 735), and deals with the collapse of the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim, before the Assyrians, who, without being named, are vigorously described in Isaiah 5:26-30 .
Isaiah 10:5-27 . Assyria will be punished for its pride and misunderstanding of the purpose for which Jahweh used it. Date much disputed; probably only in part the work of Isaiah.
Isaiah 10:28-32 . A dramatic idyll portraying an (imaginary) Assyrian descent on Jerusalem. The period in Isaiah’s lifetime to which it could best he referred is 701.
Isaiah 10:33-34 . Appended to the preceding poem, and pointing out that Assyria will perish just outside the city on which it has descended.
Ch. 11. Messianic prophecies: ( a ) Isaiah 10:1-9 , description of the new prince of the house of Jesse (David), and of the ideal conditions that will exist under his reign; ( b ) Isaiah 10:9; ( c ) Isaiah 10:11-16 , the restoration of Jewish exiles. The last section clearly seems to be post-exilic; for it presupposes the exile on an extensive scale not only of Israelites, which might be explained by the events of b.c. 722, but also of Jews, which can be satisfactorily explained only by the captivity of 597 and 586. The first section must also date from after 586, if the figure of the felled tree in Isaiah 10:1 implies that the Davidic monarchy has ceased.
Ch. 12. A psalm of thanksgiving. If most of the psalms in the Psalter (see Psalms) are later in origin than the age of Isaiah, this psalm probably is so likewise.
13 23. The ‘Book of Oracles’ (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘Burdens’). The untitled se ctions, 14:24-26, (14:28-32) , 17:12 14, 18, 20, which deal with Judah, as contrasted with most of the Oracles, which are against the foreign nations, perhaps formed no part of the original book.
Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23 . The fall of Babylon ( Isaiah 13:19 , Isaiah 14:3; Isaiah 14:22 ). The section contains two poems ( Isaiah 13:2-22 and Isaiah 14:4-21 ) in the same rhythm as is used in the elegies of the Book of Lamentations; between the poems, and at the close of the second, are short prose passages ( Isaiah 14:1-4 a, Isaiah 14:22 f.). The section throughout presupposes conditions resembling those presupposed in chs. 40 55, and is, as certainly as that section, to be referred not to Isaiah, but to a writer living after 586, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the ChaldÃ¦ans (cf. Isaiah 13:19 ), whose king was king of Babylon (cf. Isaiah 14:4 ). To the Assyrians, who play so conspicuous a part in Isaiah’s prophecies, there is naturally no allusion; for with the fall of Nineveh about b.c. 606 the Assyrians ceased to count, and Babylon, which in Isaiah’s time was subject to Assyria, here figures as possessed of world-wide dominion. Again, the point of the prophecy in Isaiah 14:1 f. is to be observed: it is restoration from exile; the Exile itself is, for this writer, an existing fact, which of course it was not for Isaiah. From the allusion to the Medes ( Isaiah 13:17 ) only, and not to the Persians or to Cyrus, it has commonly been inferred that this section is somewhat earlier than 40 55, and was written about b.c. 549.
Isaiah 14:24-27 . A short prophecy, perhaps of the year 701, predicting the overthrow of the Assyrian invaders of Judah. Isaiah 14:28-32 , Philistia warned: according to the title, delivered in the year that Ahaz died (? b.c. 728). Neither this date nor even the Isaianic authorship of the passage is universally admitted.
Chs. 15, 16. The fate of Moab. The prophecy is provided with an epilogue, Isaiah 16:13 f., written at a later date (and not claiming to be by the author of the prophecy), explaining that what was predicted long ago will be fulfilled within three years. In style the prophecy is very generally admitted to be singularly unlike that of the better attested prophecies of Isaiah; it is therefore either attributed to an anonymous prophet who was earlier than Isaiah, and, as some think, lived in the reign of Jeroboam ii., the epilogue in this case being regarded as Isaiah’s (though it contains nothing very characteristic of Isaiah), or the prophecy as well as the epilogue is assigned to a writer later than Isaiah. Much of the material of Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12 appears to be worked up from older material, and some of it is in turn used again in Jeremiah 48:5; Jeremiah 48:29-38 .
Isaiah 17:1-11 . The impending fall of Damascus, Syria, and Ephraim (cf. 7:1 8:12): a prophecy of Isaiah’s before the fall of Damascus in b.c. 732.
Isaiah 17:12-14 . The roar of hostile nations (presumably in the Assyrian army) advancing, which are to be suddenly dispersed. Date uncertain.
Ch. 18. A difficult prophetic poem containing much that is exceedingly obscure; it is commonly understood to embody Isaiah’s disapproval of accepting proffered Ethiopian assistance; if this be correct, it may be assigned to some time between 704 701.
Isaiah 19:1-15 . Jahweh’s judgment on Egypt, which will take the form of civil discord ( Isaiah 19:2 ), foreign dominion ( Isaiah 19:4 ), and social distress. Isaiah 19:16-25 , the conversion of Egypt, which, together with Assyria, will worship Jahweh. Date of both sections much disputed; assigned by some to Isaiah and to the time of the defeat of the Egyptians by Sargon (? Isaiah 19:2 ) at Raphia in 720. Many question the Isaianic authorship, especially of Isaiah 19:16-25 , and some see in Isaiah 19:18 an allusion to the temple of Onias in Heliopolis, built about b.c. 170 (Josephus, BJ , VII. x. 2 4). See Ir-ha-heres.
Ch. 20. A narrative and prophecy showing how Isaiah insisted that it was folly to trust in the Mizrites and Cushites (Arabians, according to some, but as commonly interpreted, Egyptians and Ethiopians). The date in Isaiah 19:1 corresponds to b.c. 711.
Isaiah 21:1-10 . A vision of the fall of Babylon ( Isaiah 21:9 ) before Elamites ( i.e. Persians) and Medes ( Isaiah 21:2 ). Like 40 55, this prophecy was written between 549, when Cyrus of Persia conquered Media, and 538, when Babylon fell before him.
Isaiah 21:11 f. and Isaiah 21:13-17 . Brief and obscure oracles on ( a ) Edom; ( b ) some nomad tribes of Arabia.
Isaiah 22:1-14 . Isaiah declares to Jerusalem, once (or, as others interpret it, now) given up to tumultuous revels ( Isaiah 22:2 ), that it has committed unpardonable sin ( Isaiah 22:14 ). Assigned by some to b.c. 711, when Sargon’s troops were at Ashdod (ch. 20); by others to the time of revelry that followed Sennacherib’s retreat in 701.
Isaiah 22:16-25 . Singular among Isaiah’s prophecies in that it is addressed to an individual, namely Shebna the governor of the palace, who is threatened with disgrace, which in 701 had befallen him in so far that he then occupies the lower office of secretary ( Isaiah 36:2 , Isaiah 37:2 ).
Isaiah 23:1-14 . An elegiac poem, closing ( Isaiah 23:14 ) as it begins ( Isaiah 23:1 ). on the approaching fall of PhÅ“nicia: the occasion, according to some, being the siege of Tyre ( Isaiah 23:5; Isaiah 23:8 ) by Shalmaneser, between b.c. 727 and 723: according to others, the destruction of Sidon ( Isaiah 23:2; Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 23:12 ), in b.c. 348. After its fall Tyre will rise again and serve Jahweh ( Isaiah 23:15-18 ); cf. 19.
Chs. 24 27. An apocalyptic vision, in which we see universal catastrophe (Isaiah 24:1-23 ), which extends to the supernatural rulers or patron angels of the nations ( Isaiah 24:21; cf. Isaiah 27:1 ), followed by the reign of Jahweh, who to His coronation feast invites all nations; death is abolished and sorrow banished ( Isaiah 25:6-8 ). The Jews, hidden during the time of judgment ( Isaiah 26:20 to Isaiah 27:1 ), return from their dispersion one and all to Jerusalem ( Isaiah 27:12 f.). Interspersed are songs or hymns ( Isaiah 25:1-5; Isaiah 25:9-12 , Isaiah 26:1-19 , Isaiah 27:2-5 ). Difficult of interpretation as apocalypses are wont to be, and in parts obscured by very serious textual corruption, it is yet clear that this is a post-exilic work (cf. e.g. Isaiah 27:12 f.); and the occurrence of striking ideas, such as those of resurrection ( Isaiah 26:19 ), immortality ( Isaiah 25:8 ), and patron angels, which occur elsewhere in the OT only in its latest parts, suggests a relatively late point even in this period.
Chs. 28 33. A group of prophecies brought together probably by an editor on account of the similar opening of the sections with ‘Woe’ (see above). In this section there is a constant and remarkable alternation between menace and denunciation of Judah, and consolation of her, which at times takes the form or menace to her foes. Looked at from this standpoint, this booklet falls into the following sections, of which the references to the sections of promise are here given in brackets, Isaiah 28:1-4 , ( Isaiah 28:5-6 ), Isaiah 28:7-22 , ( Isaiah 28:23-29 ), Isaiah 29:1-6 (7), ( Isaiah 29:8 , and possibly parts of Isaiah 29:1-7 , according to interpretation), Isaiah 29:9-16 , ( Isaiah 29:17-24 ), Isaiah 30:1-17 , ( Isaiah 30:18-33 ), Isaiah 31:1-4 , ( Isaiah 31:5-9 ), Isaiah 32:1-8 , ( Isaiah 32:9-14 , Isaiah 32:15-20 ), (33). In some cases it will be seen that the promise follows abruptly on the threat, and considerably lessens the force of the latter. The menaces and denunciations seem clearly to be the work of Isaiah, though some question his authorship of Isaiah 32:9-14 (a parallel to Isaiah 3:16 to Isaiah 4:1 ); but of late several scholars have attributed the entire group of promises to later writerse, and a larger number do not consider ch. 33 to be the work of Isaiah. In any case, the section has merely an editorial unity, and is not all of one period: Isaiah 28:1-4 would appear to have been composed before the fall of Samaria in 722; the majority of the remaining menaces, particularly those which denounce the resort to Egypt for help, may best be referred to the period immediately before Sennacherib’s invasion in b.c. 701.
Chs. 34, 35. The future of Edom, on whom vengeance is to be taken (Isaiah 34:8 ) for its treatment of Zion (? in 586), and the future of the Jews contrasted. Not earlier than the Exile, which is presupposed ( Isaiah 35:10 ), and probably depended on, and therefore later than, chs. 40 55.
Chs.36 39. Cf. art. Kings[Books of]. It is now generally agreed that the editor of the Book of Isaiah derived this section from 2Kings. The only section of these chapters not found in Kings is Isaiah 38:9-20 , which the editor apparently derived from a collection of liturgical poems (cf. Isaiah 38:20 ). The ascription of this psalm to Hezekiah ( Isaiah 38:9 ) is much questioned.
Chs. 40 66. Once, perhaps, attributed to Jeremiah, but from the beginning of the 2nd cent. b.c. (see above) to the close of the 18th cent. a.d., these chapters were regarded as the work of Isaiah. Since the close of the 18th cent. the evidence of their later origin, which is remarkably clear, has been increasingly, till it is now generally, admitted. But till within the last 15 years the chapters were commonly regarded as a unity; now it is by many admitted that chs. 40 55 and 56 66 belong to different periods, the former to the end of the Exile, the latter (in the main) to the age of Ezra, while some carry disintegration considerably further. It is impossible to enter further into details here.
( a ) Chs. 40 55. These chapters presuppose that the writer and those whom he addresses lived during the period of the Babylonian Exile; they predict as imminent the close of the Exile, and return of the Jews. In detail observe that Zion lies waste and needs rebuilding ( Isaiah 44:28 , Isaiah 49:14-21 , Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:17-23 , 52: Isaiah 51:7-12 , 54), whereas Babylon is exalted, but is shortly to be brought low (47, Isaiah 46:1 f.). Cyrus himself, mentioned by name in Isaiah 44:28 , Isaiah 45:1 , and quite clearly referred to in Isaiah 41:25 ff., is not the subject of prediction; he is already well known to the prophet and his audience (or readers); his future career is predicted. By observing what part of Cyrus’ career was already over, and what still future to the prophet as he wrote, his book can be dated somewhat precisely. Cyrus appeared shortly before 550 in Persia to the E. of Babylon; in 549 he conquered Media to the N. of Babylon, and in 538 he captured Babylon. Isaiah 41:25 refers to Cyrus as ruling both to the N. and E.; the prophet then writes after the conquest of Media; but he predicts the fall of Babylon, and therefore writes before that event. Between 549 and 538, and probably nearer the latter date, the prophecy was written.
Speaking generally, chs. 40 55 are dominated by one ruling purpose, namely, to rouse the exiles out of their despondency, and to fire them with enthusiasm for what the writer regards as their future destiny, the instruction of the world in Jahweh’s ways and will, in a word, in true religion. For this purpose he emphasizes and illustrates the omnipotence and omniscience of Jahweh, and the futility of the gods of the nations. Again, the passages dealing with the ‘Servant of the Lord’ (wh. see) are but one form in which he develops his main theme; for the Servant is Israel. The only sins of the people on which his purpose allows him to lay stress are those of despondency and unbelief; he is aware, indeed, that there have been other sins in the past, but as to these his message is that they are pardoned (Isaiah 40:2 ). These chapters, then, though the progress of thought in them may be less in a straight line than circular, are closely knit together. But when we turn to
( b ) Chs. 56 66, the contrast is great: this may be seen by a brief summary. Thus (1) Isaiah 56:1-8 describes the terms on which the eunuch and the foreigner may be admitted to the Jewish community, and enforces the observance of the Sabbath; (2) Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:21 describes and denounces an existing state of society in which the watchmen of the people are neglectful, from which the righteous perish, and in which the people generally resort to various illegitimate rites: (3) denunciation of people sedulous in fasting, but given to inhumanity and (cf. Isaiah 56:1-8 ) profanation of the Sabbath; (4) 59, a denunciation similar to the preceding, followed (56:15 21) by a theophany in which Jahweh appears as a man of war (cf. Isaiah 63:1-6 ); (5) chs. 60 62, the future glory of Zion; (6) Isaiah 63:1-6 , Jahweh’s day of vengeance against Edom (cf. ch. 34); (7) Isaiah 63:7-19 , a liturgical confession; (8) the contrasted characters and destinies of the apostates and the loyal; the idolatrous cults (cf. Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:21 ) of the former.
The difference of outlook, subject, and treatment between chs. 40 55 and chs. 56 66 is obvious, and must not be disregarded. In itself such difference need not necessarily imply difference of authorship, though it certainly suggests that we have to do with different works, even if of the same author, written with a different purpose and under different conditions. And there are other facts which confirm this suggestion. Thus a number of passages on the most obvious and natural, if not the only possible, interpretation imply the existence of the Temple and the presence of the speaker and his audience in Jerusalem, and consequently that the Exile is over (or not yet begun); see Isaiah 56:6-7 (cf. Isaiah 44:28 ) Isaiah 60:7 [in chs. 60 62 the walls of Jerusalem require rebuilding ( Isaiah 60:10 , cf. Isaiah 61:4 ), as they still did in the days of Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 1:1-11; Nehemiah 2:1-20; Nehemiah 3:1-32 ), but the Temple is apparently already there] Isaiah 66:7 , Isaiah 61:3 . In Isaiah 57:5-7 it is implied that the persons addressed are living in a country of torrent valleys and lofty hills such as Judah was and Babylon was not. The general social condition implied is more easily and naturally explained of the Jews in Palestine than in Babylon; for example, the tribunals are administered, though unjustly, by Jews ( Isaiah 59:6-9; Isaiah 59:14 ), and there are ‘watchmen’ (prophets) and ‘shepherds’ (rulers).
The presence of such passages as Isaiah 57:5-7 was very naturally and rightly used by those who defended the unity of the Book of Isaiah as proof that the passages in question were not written in the Exile; but, of course, such passages could not annul the even clearer evidence of the exilic origin of chs. 40 55. For a time other scholars saw in those parts of chs. 56 66 which imply residence in Palestine proof of the embodiment in chs. 40 66 of pre-exilic literature. But a clearer view of the history of the Book of Isaiah shows that a theory that such passages are post-exilic is equally legitimate. Whether pre-exilic or post-exilic must be determined by other considerations. The present tendency is to regard the whole of chs. 56 66 as post-exilic, and most of it, if not the whole, as belonging to the age of Ezra and Nehemiah, to which such characteristics as the stress laid on the observance of the Sabbath and the interest in the question of the admission of strangers to the community very naturally point. If this view is correct, we have, for example in 56:1 8, 60 62, the work of broader-minded and less exclusive contemporaries of Ezra and Nehemiah.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that the RV [Note: Revised Version.] does not distinguish the poetical, which are by far the larger, parts of the Book of Isaiah from the prose. But this defect is made good in Cheyne’e translation ( Polychrome Bible ), which must on every ground be recommended as one of the most valuable aids to the study of the book of which the English student can avail himself. Of commentaries in English, Skinner’s (on the AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) and Whitehouse’s (on the RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) are convenient and good. The larger commentary by Cheyne has been to some considerable extent antiquated, particularly by his own edition of the book in the Polychrome Bible, and his invaluable Introduction to the Book of Isaiah . In these works, and in, e.g. , Driver’s Isaiah, his Life and Times , and his LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] , and G. A. Smith’s ‘Isaiah’ ( Expositor’s Bible ), the student will find sufficient guidance to the extensive literature which has gathered round the Book of Isaiah.
G. B. Gray.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Isaiah, Book of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/i/isaiah-book-of.html. 1909.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18