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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(prop. Heb. Yeshayah', יְשִׁעְיָה , saved by Jehovah; but this shorter form occurs, with reference to this person, only in the Rabbinic title of the book,: the text always has the name in the paragogic form — Yeshaya'hu, ישִׁעְיָהוּ, Sept., Josephus, and N.T. ῾Ησαϊ v ας, Vulg. Isaias; Auth. Vers. N.T. "Esaias:" but the Heb. name, both in the simple and prolonged forms, occurs of other persons likewise, although differently Anglicized in the Eng. Vers.; (See JESHAIAH); (See JESAIAH) ), one of the most important of "the Greater Prophets," who gave title to one of the books of Scripture.
I. Personal History of the Prophet. — Little is known respecting the circumstances of Isaiah's life. Kimchi (A.D. 1230) says in his commentary on Isaiah 1:1, "We know not.his race, nor of what tribe he was." His father's name was Amoz (Isaiah 1:1), whom the fathers of the Church confound with the prophet Amos, because they were unacquainted with Hebrew, and in Greek the two names are spelled alike (so Clem. Alex.; Jerome, Prce. in Amn.; August. Civ. D. 18, 27). See-Amoz. The opinion of the Rabbins (Gemara, Megilla, 10:2) that Isaiah was the brother of king Amaziah rests also on a mere etymological combination (see Carpzov, De regis Jesuice natalibus, Rost. 1735). Isaiah resided at Jerusalem, not far from the Temple (ch. 6). We learn from ch. 7 and 8 that he was married. Two of his sons are mentioned, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hashbaz. These significant names, which he gave to his sons, prove how much Isaiah lived in his vocation. He did not consider his children as belonging merely to himself, but rendered them living admonitions to the people. In their names were contained the two chief points of his prophetic utterances: one recalled to mind the severe and inevitable judgment wherewith the Lord was about to visit the world, and especially his people; the other, which signifies "The remnant shall return," pointed out the mercy with which the Lord would receive the elect, and with which, in the midst of apparent destruction, he would take care to preserve his people and his kingdom. Isaiah calls his wife a prophetess. This indicates that his marriage-life was not only consistent with his vocation, but that it was intimately interwoven with it. This name cannot mean the wife of. a prophet, but indicates ‘ that the prophetess of Isaiah had a prophetic gift, like Miriam, Deborah' and Huldah. The appellation here given denotes the suitableness as well as genuineness of their conjugal relation.
Even the dress of the prophet was subservient to his vocation. According to Isaiah 20:2, he ‘ Wore a garment of haircloth or sackcloth. This seems also to have been the costume of Elijah, according to 2 Kings 1,.8; and it was the dress of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4). Hairy sackcloth is in the Bible the symbol of repentance (compare Isaiah 22:11-12, and 1 Kings 21:27). This costume of the prophets was a sermo propheticus realis, a prophetic preaching by fact. Before he has opened his lips his external appearance proclaims μετανοεῖτε , repent.
It is held traditionally that Isaiah suffered martyrdom under the wicked Manasseh, by being sawn in two under a memorable tree long said to have stood in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Gemara, Jeban. 4, 13; compare Sanhedr. f. 103 b, and the Targumites, in Assemani, Catalog. Bibl. ‘ Vat. 1, 452; Trypho, p. 349; Jerome, in Jes. 57; Origen, in Psalms 27 in Matthew 23; Tertullian, Patient. 14; Augustine, Civ. Dei, 18, 24; Chronic. Pasch. p. 155). The traditional spot of the martyrdom is a very old mulberry-tree which stands near the Pool of Siloam, on the slopes of Ophel, below the south-east wall of Jerusalem. A similar account of his death is contained in the Ascension of the Prophet Isaiah, an apocryphal work, the Greek original of which was known to the early Church (Epiphan. licer. 40, 2; Jerome, in les. 44, 4, p. 761, etc.), and of which only recently an Ethiopic version has been found and translated by Dr. Laurence, Oxford, 1819 (see Nitzsch, in the Studien und Krit. 1830, 2, 209; Engelhardt, Kirchengesch. Abhandl. 207 sq.). The same fate of Isaiah appears to be alluded to by Josephus (Ant. 10:3, 1).
II. Time of Isaiah. — The heading of this book places the prophet under the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; and an examination of the prophecies themselves, independently of the heading, leads us to the same chronological results. Chapter 6 in which is related the definite call of Isaiah to his prophetic office, is thus headed: "In the year in which king Uzziah died I saw the Lord," etc. The collection of prophecies is, therefore, not chronologically arranged, and-the utterances in-the preceding chapters (1 to 6) belong, for chronological and other reasons to the last year of the reign of Uzziah, although the utterances in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 have been erroneously assigned to the reign of Jotham. As, however, the position of affairs was not materially changed under the reign of Jotham, we may say that the first chapter was uttered during that reign. The continuation of prophetic authorship, or the writing down of uttered prophecies, depended upon the commencement of new historical developments, such as took place under the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. Several prophecies (namely, 7-10:4; 1:2-31; 17) belong to the reign of Ahaz (Isaiah 14:28-32, apparently to the occasion of his death); and most of the subsequent prophecies to the reign of Hezekiah. The prophetic ministry of Isaiah under Hezekiah is also described in a historical section contained in chapters 36-39. The data which are contained in this section come down to the fifteenth year of the reign of Hezekiah: consequently we are in the possession of historical documents proving that the prophetic ministry of Isaiah was in operation during about forty-five years, commencing in the year B.C. 756, and extending to the year B.C. 711. Of this period, at least one year belongs to the reign of Uzziah, sixteen to the reign of Jotham, fourteen to the reign of Ahaz, and fourteen and upwards to the reign of Hezekiah. It has been maintained, however, by Staudlin, Jahn, Bertholdt, Gesenius, and others, that Isaiah lived to a much later period, and that his life extended to the reign of Manasseh, the successor of Hezekiah. For this opinion the following reasons are adduced:
(1.) According to 2 Chronicles 32:32, Isaiah wrote the life of king Hezekiah. It would hence appear that he survived that king; although it must be admitted that in 2 Chronicles 32:32, where Isaiah's biography of Hezekiah is mentioned, the important words "first and last" are omitted; while in 2 Chronicles 26:22, we read, "Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah, the son of Amoz, write."
(2.) We find (as above stated) a tradition current in the Talmud, in the fathers, and in Oriental literature, that Isaiah suffered martyrdom in the reign of Manasseh by being sawn asunder. It is thought that an allusion to this tradition is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews 11:37, in the expression they were sawn asunder (ἐπρίσθησαν ), which seems to harmonize with 2 Kings 21:16, "Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood very much."
(3.) The authenticity of the second portion of the prophecies of Isaiah being admitted (see below), the nature of this portion would seem to confirm the idea that its author had lived under Manasseh. The style of the second portion, it is asserted, is so different from that of the first that both could not well have been composed by the same author, except under the supposition that a considerable time intervened between the composition of the first and second portion. The contents of the latter-such as the complaints respecting gross idolatry, the sacrifice of children to idols, the wickedness of rulers, etc. seem to be applicable neither to the times of the exile, into which the prophet might have transported himself in the spirit, nor to the period of the pious Hezekiah, but are quite applicable to the reign of Manasseh. This last argument, however, is too subjective in its character to be of much weight; the difference of style referred to may be more readily accounted for by the difference in the topics treated of, and it is a gratuitous supposition that the national sins rebuked in the later prophecies had ceased during the reign of Hezekiah. The other arguments may be admitted so far as to allow a survivorship on the part of the prophet beyond the sickness of Hezekiah, and sufficiently into the reign of Manasseh to have suffered: martyrdom at the order of the latter, but it does not appear that he uttered any predictions during the fifteen added years of Hezekiah; at least none are found extant that seem to belong to that period (except ch. 40 to end, which may be assigned to the year ensuing Hezekiah's recovery); his great age and the absence of any special occasion may well account for his silence, and he may naturally be supposed to have occupied the time in writing down his former predictions. Nor will this view, which seems to meet all the requirements in the case, require to be extended a life-time; for if Isaiah, like Jeremiah, was called to the prophetical office in his youth, perhaps at twenty years of age, he would have been but eighty years old at the accession of Manasseh (B.C. 696), an age no greater than that of Hosea, whose prophecies extend over the same period of sixty years (Hosea 1:1).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Isaiah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/isaiah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.