Analysis of Isaiah
Dr. Joe Temple


In our introduction to the study of the book of Isaiah, we presented to you some information about the author and some information about the authenticity of the book. In this lesson, we want to present a general analysis of the book of Isaiah and a detailed analysis of the first part of the book of Isaiah. We believe it is a very foolhardy thing to try to study the Word of God without some direction in relation to that particular portion which we study. It is like traveling in a foreign country without a map. We would make a number of needless detours that would add nothing to the journey.

Every book in the Bible has an outline, if we may call it that. Every book in the Bible has an analysis that is placed there by the Holy Spirit, and it would behoove a sincere student of the Word of God to find what that analysis is.

You will notice from what we said in our last lesson about the authenticity of the book of Isaiah that the book of Isaiah falls very naturally, generally speaking, into two divisions. These divisions, we pointed out to you, are so different that the critics have said that they must have been written by two individuals. But we pointed out to you numerous reasons why that could not be true.

You will remember also we said that the name Isaiah means “Jehovah Saves.” The one general theme of the book of Isaiah is salvation by faith. We suggest that to you because that brings to mind that the book of Isaiah is, as many people have indicated, a miniature Bible. If we do look upon the book of Isaiah as a miniature Bible, it will be an aid to our memory to keep in mind that there is a comparison in the analysis of the book of Isaiah with the Word of God.

For example, our Bible has sixty-six books. The book of Isaiah has sixty-six chapters. Our Old Testament has thirty-nine books, and our New Testament has three times nine, or twenty-seven books. So, in the book of Isaiah, the first division is comprised of thirty-nine chapters, and the second division is comprised of twenty-seven chapters.

If you are familiar with your Bibles, you know that the Old Testament makes veiled references to the Messiah, Jesus, the Savior of the world, and the New Testament removes the veil and presents Him in all of His full-orbed beauty. Likewise, in the first thirty-nine chapters of the book of Isaiah, we have veiled references to the Lord Jesus Christ in His first coming, such as this one found in chapter 7 of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14:

Isaiah 7

14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

In chapter 9, verse 6, we read:

Isaiah 9

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

As we continue to compare the book of Isaiah with the Bible, we recognize that as the New Testament reveals the Lord Jesus Christ in His full-orbed beauty in relation to both His first and His second coming, so the second part of the book of Isaiah, the last twenty-seven chapters, reveals the Lord Jesus in such a full-orbed picture related to His first coming, as is found in the fifty-third chapter. No one could read chapter 53 of Isaiah from the first verse to the last without realizing that he was beholding a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ that could not possibly come from the brush of an artist—a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to His first coming.

If you will turn over a few pages to chapter 63 of the book of Isaiah, you will see a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ as He will be when He comes to earth the second time. This passage of Scripture is not as familiar as Isaiah, chapter 53, so it might be wise for us to notice the first verse, that you might fix it in your minds. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 63

1Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? [the answer comes] this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? [the answer comes from the Lord Jesus Christ] I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
2[The question from Isaiah] Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
3[The answer from the Lord Jesus Christ] I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
4For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.

Let us go back to the beginning of the book now, as I suggest to you a detailed analysis of the first section of the book of Isaiah, because we will be spending some time in it before we get to the second section of the book. It will be sufficient, I think, to present a detailed analysis of the first section for our present discussion.

The Chronology of Isaiah

There are any number of ways that we might analyze the first section of the book of Isaiah. One of the ways that I would like to present to you first is suggested by the first verse of the first chapter:

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.

This verse suggests a chronological analysis of the book, and it suggests that Isaiah prophesied in the reigns of the kings whose names are mentioned in this first verse. It also suggests to us the possibility that we will find other dates scattered throughout the book that will help us to determine an analysis.

Look with me at Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 1, to realize the first point of chronology in the analysis of this book, for there we read:

Isaiah 6

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

We are told that Isaiah began to prophesy in the days of Uzziah. We read that King Uzziah died. Therefore, we are of the opinion, and rightfully so, that the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah represent prophecies which were delivered in the day of Uzziah—listen carefully to what I am going to say, in the interest of accuracy—and possibly in the days of Jotham.

If you are familiar with the Word of God, you will remember that King Uzziah dared to enter into the temple and offer incense before the Lord. This was not the right of kings. It was the right of priests. The priests in the temple withstood Uzziah, but Uzziah determined to do it whether they liked it or not; and while he had the incense burner in his hand, leprosy broke out upon his forehead. In fear he ran from the temple and was segregated from the rest of the nation until the day of his death.

Jotham ascended the throne, and reigned as regent under Uzziah, so we can safely say that there is a possibility that some of the prophecies in these first five chapters were uttered in the reign of Uzziah, as well as in the reign of Jotham.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to chapter 7, as I suggest to you the reason that it is of more than interest to know when these prophecies were uttered. It is to understand them better if we know the historical background related to each one.

The second time-gate given to us in the book of Isaiah is presented in verse 1 of chapter 7. We read:

Isaiah 7

1And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.

This verse of Scripture suggests that the prophecies which begin in chapter 7 and continue on down to chapter 14 were uttered during the reign of Ahaz, the son of Jotham.

In Isaiah, chapter 14, verse 28, you find the third time-gate in these words:

Isaiah 14

28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

So, we discover that the prophecies that began in verse 29 of chapter 14 and continue through the remaining twenty-four chapters were prophecies and historical records that occurred in the reign of King Hezekiah.

This portion of the Word, with twenty-four chapters yet remaining in this first section, is divided into three sections of five chapters—fifteen chapters—and four chapters, on the basis of dates. If you will look at chapter 20, and notice verse 1:

Isaiah 20

1In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;
2At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked [with the exception of his loincloth] and barefoot.
3And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder [as a living object lesson to people living in Hezekiah's day] upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;

We will glance at chapter 36, verse 1, and we will find the third and last time-gate in the book of Isaiah, dividing this last section of twenty-four chapters. We read:

Isaiah 36

1Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.

From here through chapter 39, we have an historical record of the events in the life of Hezekiah, that bring the first section of the book of Isaiah to a close. This is not a particularly interesting way to analyze the book, but it is a safe way, if you are interested in rightly relating the prophecy to the conditions of the people of Israel as they also foretell God's prophecy concerning Israel and the rest of the world.

An Analysis of Key Words

Another way of analyzing the book—and this is of somewhat more interest—is to recognize that the book falls naturally into divisions in which certain words are the key words of those particular divisions.

For example, the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah are regarded as general discourses, because there is no specific word, no specific sentence, that characterizes them. On the other hand, chapters 7-12 are characterized by the repeated use of the word Immanuel. Those chapters present to us Him whose name is Immanuel.

Chapters 13-23 are characterized by the word burden . Nearly every chapter is introduced with that word. For example, in chapter 13, verse 1:

Isaiah 13

1The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

Get used to that word burden , because as I say, you will find it in nearly every chapter in that section. In chapter 14, it is the burden of Moab . In chapter 17, the burden of Damascus , etc. The word burden is used in these chapters to indicate a prophecy of judgment that is about to fall from the lips of the prophet. It is a burden to him to have to deliver the prophecy, and it will indeed be a heavy burden upon the shoulders of those who are the object of it.

If you will glance at chapter 24, you will see another section characterized by a phrase which is peculiar to that particular section. That phrase is in that day . It is found in every chapter in the section.

For example, in verse 21, of chapter 24:

Isaiah 24

21And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

In chapter 25, verse 9:

Isaiah 25

9And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Get familiar with that phrase, “in that day.” It is a phrase that describes a time that was future as far as Isaiah was concerned, and it describes a time in the future as far as we are concerned. So it represents prophecy concerning the last days which are to come upon the earth.

Glance at chapter 28, for another section, characterized by another word. This time it is a very simple word. It is the word woe , and it is found in every chapter from chapters 28-33. It is found in the fashion that it is found in verse 1, of chapter 28, where we read:

Isaiah 28

1Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

You need to get used to that word, because whenever Isaiah introduces one of his prophecies with the word woe , it is not only a prophecy concerning judgment, it is a prophecy that concerns judgment that will result in utter destruction.

Chapters 34 and 35 are a section all by themselves, characterized by the phrase, “the indignation of the Lord.” This phrase, “the indignation of the Lord,” is a prophetic phrase which indicates judgment in the future, even as far as we are concerned.

Chapters 36-39 represent a section of its own, characterized by the phrase, “now it came to pass in the days of Hezekiah.” This portion of the Word represents the historical events that occur in the life of this man, Hezekiah, which take up a major portion of the book.

Analysis Related to Arrangement

The third way, and even more interesting than these two when analyzing the book, is related to the arrangement and the style of the book itself for the arrangement and the style of the book is by design and by inspiration. For example, as you go through the first section of the book of Isaiah, you will find that there will be prophecies related to judgment. If you enter into the feeling of those prophecies, you are overwhelmed with a sense of doom. When you feel that you can stand no more, the Holy Spirit of God interjects some prophecies of blessing. For example, glance at chapter 1. This is a prophecy concerning the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, when Isaiah said:

Isaiah 1

2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.

The entire chapter describes the disappointment that Israel was to God and the judgment that was forthcoming, but look at the relief that is provided in the second chapter, where we read:

Isaiah 2

1The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

When we have time to look at this chapter in detail, we will discover that this is a prophecy of a day that is coming when all the nations of the world will make annual pilgrimages to the city of Jerusalem for the purpose of worship. In the first chapter, one nation had disappointed the heart of God. In the second chapter, all the nations of the world bow at His feet.

I would suggest, if you are interested in pursuing this kind of analysis in relation to arrangement, that you watch for these things throughout the book of Isaiah, and your heart will be thrilled thereby.

The Style of Isaiah's Writing

An analysis of the book of Isaiah would not be complete without some reference to the style that Isaiah used in the writing of the book, for he was a most eloquent and intellectual individual. Critics of the Word of God would have you think that the writers of the Bible were ignorant men who saw visions and dreams and were fit subjects for an insane asylum. I challenge anyone who knows anything about language, who knows anything about writing, to level such an accusation at Isaiah.

For example, the book of Isaiah abounds in metaphors. One of the most interesting metaphors is found right here in the first chapter. We will be running across others as we go through the book, but this is an illustration of what we can expect to find. I challenge you to find any metaphors in any literature in the world that is any more striking than this that is found in verse 3 of chapter 1:

Isaiah 1

3The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

In a few words Isaiah preaches a sermon on gratitude and emphasizes that the ox of the fields and the ass of the barn have more innate gratitude than God's people. That is striking within itself.

Songs of Isaiah

Some of the most beautiful songs that have ever been written are found in the book of Isaiah. Usually we think of the book of Psalms as being the songbook of the Bible, but Isaiah must not be left out. Turn to chapter 5 and notice an example of a song which Isaiah wrote and which he sang in relation to the nation of Israel. He said:

Isaiah 5

1Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

This pathetic song Isaiah wrote concerning Israel's relationship to God and God's relationship to her in the song of the vineyard. Now, there is no question, according to verse 7, but what this very definitely applies to the nation of Israel.

Keep in mind that the beneficial part of studying the Word of God is to keep in mind that every passage of Scripture has one interpretation and then as many applications as is consistent with the rest of the Word of God. May this song speak to our own hearts. I never read it without being touched by verse 4. God in His goodness and in His mercy has dealt well with most of us, and we have disappointed Him. We hear Him saying in all the pathos of His soul:

Isaiah 5

4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

It seems to me that God would address us so: “I have done so much for you. I have given you every opportunity. I have provided every means for fulfilling it. Why then, have you not done so?”

Oratory of Isaiah

Turn, please, to chapter 12 of the book of Isaiah for an illustration of the finest eloquent oratory that could be found anywhere in any literature. Isaiah, carried away with the thought of God's eventual blessing, rises to the heights of eloquence when he says:

Isaiah 12

1And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
2Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
3Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
4And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
5Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
6Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

And as there is an opportunity in this passage of Scripture to draw with joy water out of the wells of salvation, we will have the opportunity of drawing, I trust with joy, many blessings out of the wells of salvation contained in the book of Isaiah.

The last thing that I would like to leave with you as far as an analysis of the book of Isaiah is concerned, related to arrangement and style, is found in chapter 28. Isaiah does not only use metaphors freely, he does not only sing songs and rise to the heights of oratory, he fills this book with parables which convey lessons that are of everlasting benefit.

Parables of Isaiah

You understand, I trust, what a parable is. A parable is one truth that is laid down along side another truth for the purposes of illustration. I have always been intrigued with the parable found in chapter 28 of the book of Isaiah. These things that I have been suggesting to you I have been doing so rather selfishly, because these are the things that have impressed me; and as we study the book of Isaiah, you will find many things of like nature that will impress you. Perhaps you would even want to enter into discussion as to which metaphor, which song, which oratory, which parable exceeds the suggestions I have made.

Notice verse 23, of Isaiah, chapter 28:

Isaiah 28

23Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
24Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
25When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
26For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
27For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
28Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
29This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

This lesson from nature comes from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. Oh, that we could have the same wisdom and discretion suggested in this parable, for this is a parable which instructs us how we might prepare the ground before we sow the seed. How often we sow the seed without any attempt to prepare the ground.

This parable also reminds us that there are certain kinds of seed that will do well in certain kinds of ground, and if we violate that which we know, then we are wasting the seed.

This parable also reminds us that all seed is not planted in the same way, and when the harvest time comes, all seed is not harvested in the same way. But we blunder on in our selfish way and end up by bruising some of the seed and curtailing the harvest.

Isaiah said, “The farmer, though he had learned certain things by experience, also knew certain things by the discretion and the wisdom that God gave,” and He expects us to have that same kind of wisdom and that same kind of discretion.

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