Introduction to Isaiah
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah. We are not going to read a passage of Scripture to begin with because the purpose of this lesson will be to acquaint ourselves with the book of Isaiah so that we will know where we are going in the next several weeks as the Lord may direct.

When we come to the study of the prophecy of Isaiah, we do so with the realization that it is a tremendous undertaking. Usually a book such as this is reserved for study in a Bible class, and we are told by so-called teachers of preachers that this book does not lend itself very readily to preaching. But we believe that it should demand our attention because of the importance of it in the Word of God.

That is not to say that all of God's Word is not important, but it is to say that the Spirit of God emphasizes the Word of God in some sections more than He does in others. For example, this book is quoted more in the New Testament than any other book, with the possible exception of the book of Psalms. Of course, we think of the book of Psalms as a series of books more than we do of one complete unit or one complete whole. For example, the book of Isaiah is referred to fifty-eight times in the New Testament in eleven different books, and the book which is referred to in the New Testament is written by a man who is referred to as the Apostle Paul of the Old Testament . He is often referred to as the fifth evangelist . Of course the four evangelists, you know, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth evangelist because the theme of this entire book is salvation by faith, and the name Isaiah means “salvation is of the LORD.”

Someone might say, “I thought this was a book of prophecy.” It is, but running throughout the whole prophecy is the theme, “Jesus Saves.” Of course, that is the basic message of our entire ministry anyway.

The Author of the Book

I would like for us to begin our consideration of the book by a consideration of the author, a consideration of the authenticity of the book, and a consideration of a very brief analysis of the book. What we have to say about the author will not be a great deal because not a great deal is known of the author save that which is mentioned in the book of Isaiah itself. If you will glance down to the first verse of the first chapter, you will read:

Isaiah 1

1The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

You will recognize in the reading of that verse that Isaiah was the son of Amoz. That is not Amos the prophet. If you took the time to pursue the genealogy which is given in the Word of God, you would discover that he is the brother of King Ahaziah, and Isaiah himself was the cousin of King Uzziah, who is mentioned in the first verse of this chapter. So the thing that we would like to emphasize today is that Isaiah was not an illiterate. He was a member of the royal family—a cousin of the then reigning king—and he had the ability to come and go in the court of Jerusalem as it pleased him to do. That was not by accident. He had a real message to proclaim, and God saw to it that the servant who proclaimed the message had an open door through which he could go without interruption.

If you were to turn to chapter 8 of the book of Isaiah and notice the second verse, you would find that Isaiah was a married man, and you would find that he was married to a prophetess. You would also discover that he had two children, and you would discover that the entire family was dedicated to the service of the LORD. So much so that when the two children of Isaiah were born, he gave them names which gave testimony to the thing that he believed in relation to the future. This was not the case of a man who was trying to tell other people what to do while his own family was not in subjection to him. His entire family was dedicated to the cause which he served.

If you will glance there at the first verse of the first chapter again, you will recognize that Isaiah ministered the Word of God during the reign of four kings. They are named there: Uzziah, Joatham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Subsequent reading in the book of Isaiah will reveal that he ministered the Word through the seventeenth year of the reign of Hezekiah, making a total of at least forty-nine years of public ministry of the Word of the living God.

It might be well for us to remember, if we are to rightly associate the events which we will be thinking about in this book, that Isaiah was an eighth century B.C. prophet. He was prophesying eight hundred years before the Lord Jesus Christ was born. He was prophesying at a time when the nation of Israel had lost all of its glory and had been divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was often referred to as the kingdom of Israel , the kingdom of Samaria , or the kingdom of Ephriam , because those names were all used interchangeably. The southern kingdom was known as the kingdom of Judah .

If you are familiar with the history of these kingdoms, as they are recorded in the first and second book of Kings and the first and second book of Chronicles, we would suggest that you read of the reigns of these kings in those books while we are studying the book of Isaiah. If you are familiar with the reigns of these kings, you will realize that the kingdom of Israel was a terribly wicked kingdom, and it was sent into captivity a long time before the kingdom of Judah was.

Isaiah prophesied during the last thirty years of the nation of Israel as a kingdom, and he continued on, of course, ministering to the kingdom of Judah, because the kingdom of Judah continued as a representative of God long after the kingdom of Israel went into captivity. It would be wise for us to remember that Isaiah was a prophet for the kingdom of Judah, especially to the city of Jerusalem, while his cohorts were prophets to Israel. His partners in prophecy were Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

It would be important for us to remember, too, that although Isaiah was a prophet to Judah and Jerusalem, he could not prophesy to Judah and Jerusalem without taking into consideration the other nations who were marching across the stage of the world at that particular time. We are going to find in the book of Isaiah messages related to Egypt, to Babylonia, to Amman, to Moab, and to Assyria, the dominant power of the world in Isaiah's day.

Some of you are more familiar with secular history than sacred history, and you might like to pinpoint the day of which we speak in relation to the history of the rest of the world. So it would be important for us to remember that Egypt was being ruled by the twenty-third dynasty. Romulus and Remus were just beginning to found the city of Rome. The Mycenaean age was coming to an end in Greece. The kingdom of Macedon was being swarmed—which kingdom, you will remember was a springboard for Alexander the Great to make his conquest of the world.

The reason that I make mention of that is that some critics of the book of Isaiah, or the entire Word of God for that matter, are quick to suggest the Bible could not be the inspired Word of God because the Bible deals with nations that were more or less insignificant, such as the nation of Israel, the nation of Amman, and the nation of Moab. But we need to be reminded that the Bible lends itself to the discussion of only those nations which were related to the nation of Israel, God's chosen people, and it does not ignore because it does not know that other nations existed; it ignores because it has no particular reason to mention those other nations.

You are interested, I suppose, in what happened to Isaiah after his public ministry came to an end. He lived on into the reign of Manasseh, who was the son of Hezekiah. The Bible does not say what happened to Isaiah, but the Jewish Talmud says that Isaiah was executed by Manasseh because Isaiah claimed to have seen God and Moses said that anybody who saw God should die.

In chapter 6 of Isaiah, we will realize that Isaiah did have a vision of the LORD, high and lifted up. So, Manasseh wanted an excuse to kill him, and the Jewish Talmud said that was the reason that he did. The only thing in the Word of God that might be construed as referring to that is found in chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, verse 37. You will remember there is the honor-roll, so called, in which the great worthies of the Old Testament are mentioned by name, and a great host of them not mentioned by name, because the sacred writer says that he does not have time to mention all of them. He said that some of them died by fire, some of them were sawn asunder. Most people believe that this is a reference to the manner in which Isaiah died when Manasseh laid him upon the block and sawed him asunder with a wooden saw, if you can imagine how terrible that might have been. This thing was believed by all of the Jews as late as the second century after the death of Christ.

The Authenticity of the Book

For whatever it is worth, that is the kind of man who is writing the book. We will have more to say about his intelligence and his ability when we think about the book itself, but I do want to give a little time in this introductory lesson to a presentation of the authenticity of the book of Isaiah.

Ordinarily, those of you who have sat under my ministry will remember that I do not have much to say about the authenticity of the Word of God in its various portions, because I accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and I couldn't care less what people say about it relative to its authenticity. I take the time to consider the subject in relation to the book of Isaiah, even though I believe that it is the inspired Word of God from the beginning to the end, because it has been attacked perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, unless it is the book of Deuteronomy. It grieves me tremendously to hear preachers refer to the book of Isaiah as though it is not the inspired Word of God.

About 1750, the German rationalists invaded our theological schools and dealt them a blow from which they have never recovered. Rationalism infiltrated our theological seminaries and began to cast doubts on the inspiration of the Word of God. One of their biggest battlegrounds, one of their greatest trampling schools, was what they had to say about the book of Isaiah. They came along with the brilliant idea that the book of Isaiah could not possibly be inspired for reasons which we shall see in a few moments.

By the end of the nineteenth century, men were speaking of Isaiah as Isaiah and deutero Isaiah , and some of them even said, tritero Isaiah , and some of them even said, “Let's not settle for three; let's speak of an unknown number.” They were not willing to believe that one man had written the book of Isaiah under the inspiration of the Word of God. Most of them believed that two men had written the book of Isaiah.

If you do very much reading of religious literature, you will find often the phrase, deutero Isaiah , and you may not know what it means. All that it means is that the first Isaiah wrote the first thirty-nine chapters of the book of Isaiah, and the second Isaiah wrote the last twenty-seven chapters of the book. Of course, you understand that that is what higher criticism maintains. We reject that idea completely. Someone may say, “Well, does it make any real difference?” As a matter of fact, I heard a conservative preacher, one who is noted for his conservative interpretation of theology say, “It does not really matter whether more than one Isaiah wrote the book or not. After all, it contains God's message.”

May I suggest to you, that it does matter, for I do not believe that one can do exegetical justice to the book of Isaiah unless he is willing to treat the book of Isaiah as a whole, unless he is willing to treat the book of Isaiah as one complete unit. You will never be able to see the book of Isaiah as the prophetic book that it is unless you are willing to treat the book as one complete unit written by one man.

Isaiah's Inspired Prophecy

In addition to this, and perhaps more important, if we do not consider the book of Isaiah as one complete whole, written by one man, we will find ourselves aligning ourselves with those who deny the inspiration of the Word of God. The main reason that the so-called higher critics refuse to accept the book of Isaiah as one complete unit is centered in one passage of Scripture at which I would like you to look. Turn with me, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 44. We are not going to have an exposition of this passage. That will be reserved for the time that we come to it in our chronological study of the Word of God, but we call your attention to it now because this passage of Scripture is the reason that men who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God say that more than one Isaiah must have written the book. Notice verse 24:

Isaiah 44

24Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
25That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
26That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:

We will stop there for a moment and realize what we are reading. Before ever the kingdom of Judah had gone into captivity, before ever the city of Jerusalem was laid waste, God said through Isaiah the prophet, “I believe in you. I have great things in store for you. I am going to restore the city of Jerusalem. I am going to gather together from all of the places where they are scattered”—the people who are living as members of the nation of Israel at that particular time. Notice in verse 26 again:

Isaiah 44

26That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; [how] that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
27That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
28[Notice this verse carefully] That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

Isaiah 45

1Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
2I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
4For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

What have we been reading? Try to grasp it. Isaiah was prophesying, mind you, in the eighth century before Christ, and he said to the Israelites, “God is going to raise up a man who will lay waste the Assyrian empire and will make it possible for you to go back to the city of Jerusalem and rebuild it after it has been completely destroyed.” Isaiah said, “What's more than that, I'll tell you what his name is. His name is Cyrus.” Two hundred years after Isaiah made this prophecy Cyrus marched into the city of Babylon, laid it waste, and later gave permission and help for the Jews to restore the city of Jerusalem after it had been laid waste by Nebuchadnezzar.

If you do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, whereby God is able to open the eyes of a man and cause him to see something that is going to happen two hundred years hence, you have no alternative but to believe, as do the so-called critics, that Isaiah wrote the first thirty-nine chapters, and then two hundred or more years later along came a fellow who wrote all about Cyrus and what he did to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and tacked it on to the book of Isaiah. That is the reason men say, Isaiah and deutero Isaiah , because they say, “Isaiah could not possibly have seen what was going to happen two hundred years after he had left this earth's scene of activity.”

We heartily agree that Isaiah couldn't, but we do not agree that he didn't write it. We believe that God is able to reveal to his servant those things which must surely come to pass, and we believe that He revealed it to Isaiah.

Isaiah Quoted By Jesus

If you refuse to accept the book of Isaiah as a complete unit, if you align yourself with those who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God, you even cast aspersions on the integrity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament, as we have it in our Bibles today, was compiled by the prophet Ezra, and it was in exactly this same form in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is thrilling to think that the Lord Jesus Christ read the very same Old Testament that we read today.

The Lord Jesus Christ, in His ministry, quoted from the book of Isaiah, but He combined a quotation from the first part of the book of Isaiah, and a quotation from the last part of the book of Isaiah, and He put it together, and said Isaiah was the author of it. If you are not willing to accept that, then, I repeat, you cast aspersions on the integrity of the Son of God.

Let me illustrate for you what I mean. Turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John and notice chapter 12. John is recording the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and the miracles that He performed and the fact that these miracles seemed to have very little effect on the populace. John records the explanation which the Lord Jesus Christ gave for the people not being impressed by the miracles. We begin reading in John, chapter 12, verse 37:

John 12

37But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
38That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
39Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
40He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Two quotations from the book of Isaiah. The one in verse 38 is a quotation from Isaiah, chapter 53, and the one in verse 40, is a quotation from chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ recognized that both of them were written by one man, Isaiah the prophet.

I say to you, if you permit yourself to be swayed by these things that the so-called higher critics say, you will very definitely be aligning yourselves with those who cast aspersions upon the integrity of the Son of God.

I would like to say this for your encouragement. Sometimes when so-called higher critics and men of extra intelligence make a statement, everybody trembles and says, “What are we going to do now? Here they are saying the Bible isn't true. Here is another attack on the Word of God.” But, God has a way of protecting the Word. He has a way of thoroughly answering the doubts which are raised by the critics.

The Holy One of Israel

I want to suggest, by way of example, two answers which God gives for the critics for the book of Isaiah. One of them will be an internal answer, and another one will be an external answer. All students of the book of Isaiah, whether they are higher critics, or conservative Bible scholars, agree that one of the chief characteristics of the book of Isaiah is the name which Isaiah gives to God, and they are quick to remind you that it is used twenty-five times in the book of Isaiah, and only six other places in the Bible. They are also quick to remind you that Isaiah was responsible for giving this name to God. They say it is the characteristic of the book of Isaiah.

It is an interesting thing to me to notice that the man who used the name in the first chapter is still using it in chapter 54. It is an interesting thing for me to notice that in the first half of the book of Isaiah this name is used twelve times, and in the last half it is used thirteen times. You might be interested to know what that name is so you can be on the lookout for it as you look through the Word of God, so please notice Isaiah, chapter 1, verse 4, where Isaiah says:

Isaiah 1

4Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, [notice] they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

Did you notice the name? The Holy One of Israel . It is peculiar to the book of Isaiah, being used only in six other places in the Bible, and that, after Isaiah instituted the name. Look at Isaiah, chapter 54, verse 5:

Isaiah 54

5For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

You see, even critics who accuse the Word of God of contradicting itself, fall into the same habit and contradict themselves quite often. There are many other internal truths that the book of Isaiah is one complete unit, but we will be noticing them as we go along in our study.

Evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Notice this one external proof that Isaiah is one complete whole. When we refer to an external proof of the Word of God, we refer to something that is outside of the Word of God. I suggested to you that back in 1750, men advanced the idea that became a fixed tenet of theology by the end of the nineteenth century. This idea was that Isaiah was written by many more than one man—at least two besides the one. In 1947 one of the most interesting discoveries related to the Word of God was made—the discovery of what you know as the Dead Sea Scrolls . The Dead Sea Scrolls are so called because they were found in a cave at the north end of the Dead Sea, about seven miles from the city of Jericho. Archaeological specialists tell us that the Dead Sea Scrolls are probably of the vintage of the first century B.C., or even older. That makes them quite old. You will keep in mind that they came some seven centuries after Isaiah wrote the book that we are thinking about.

When men first uncovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, before they could be deciphered, before even their age could be determined, people trembled and said, “What will this do to the Word of God?” And others said, “This will fix the position that we have always had. It will prove that the Word of God is not reliable.” But God had His hand in this discovery, and do you know what they discovered? If you have read anything about it, you know this already, but may we stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance? Do you know what they discovered? The book of Isaiah, complete from the first chapter to chapter sixty-six, complete and perfect in Hebrew. Not one deviation of any kind, and when it was translated, the translation was so much like the translation that we have in our King James version that an unenlightened person would not have been able to notice the difference—that much alike. When was it that it was found? Some seven-hundred years after Isaiah actually lived.

What has that to do with the unity of the book of Isaiah? You know of course that the book of Isaiah, as the other books of the Bible when they were written, did not have the chapter divisions that we have in our Bibles today. What would you find if you read what was in the Dead Sea Scrolls? You would find the last line of the last verse of chapter thirty-nine. And if the higher critics, so called, are true, you would find an entirely different section of the book being formed. What about it? In the Dead Sea Scrolls, on the very last line of the last sentence of the last verse of chapter thirty-nine, began the first word of the first verse of chapter forty, indicating that it was one complete whole, so that no person could possibly deny it. God watches over His Word to perform it.

The Sure Performance of the Word

We do not have time for an analysis of the book in this lesson, but I would like for you to turn to chapter 55 of the book of Isaiah and notice what God says about His Word, and He has certainly proved it in relation to this book. You will notice in verse 8:

Isaiah 55

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10[Notice now] For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

When God gave the Word to Isaiah, He watched over it down through all these centuries, and we can believe it will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent forth.


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