The theme of the book of Isaiah is simply this, God wants to have fellowship with all of mankind. Isaiah warns the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and the surrounding nations of impending judgment and destruction because of their sins of pride, idolatry, and oppression of the poor.
We have a historical interlude that leads to Judah’s captivity by Babylon and God’s efforts to get the attention of His children so they will return to Him.
We also read a lot about the Messiah and the Good News He will bring. Isaiah prophesied a lot about the Christ, in fact, he prophesied about Christ more than any other Old Testament prophet, and he is quoted in the New Testament more than any other prophet. There are about fifty-four New Testament quotations of Isaiah.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.
Isaiah began to prophecy when it was outwardly rich and prosperous under the rule of Jeroboam II. Inwardly it was very corrupt. It soon went to pieces, however, in 621 B.C., being conquered and carried into captivity by the Assyrians.
During the reigns of Ahaz, Jotham and Uzziah, oppression, wickedness and idolatry existed everywhere. Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria, which finally brought destruction to Israel, but Hezekiah listened to Isaiah and made reforms, and God destroyed the Assyrian army before Jerusalem was destroyed.
Although some people question who the author is and some people think more than one person wrote it. The genuineness of the section Isaiah 40-66 has been keenly opposed by able critics. They assert that it must be the production of a Deutero-Isaiah, who lived toward the close of the Babylonian captivity. This theory was originated by Koppe, a German writer at the close of the last century.
There are other portions of the book also e.g., chapters 13-24 and certain verses in chapters 14 and 21 which they attribute to some other prophet than Isaiah. So they say that some five or seven, or even more, unknown prophets had a hand in the production of this book.
Reasons For Accepting Single Authorship
1. Consistent with New Testament quotes from all sections of the book.
2. For over 2000 years the Jewish nation has held no other view.
3. The opponents of a single authorship cannot agree on the most basic issues. How many writers there are, what chapters are and are not.
4. Isaiah says he wrote it. There is no other hint of anyone else writing it.
5. There are within Isaiah 40-66 acts of idolatry mentioned, this doesn’t occur during or after their captivity.
6. Nobody knows who Deutero-Isaiah is.
7. Isaiah 40-66 reference to a more hilly terrain than the flat land of Babylon.
8. The Septuagint accepts the book as the book of the prophet Isaiah.
9. The documents of Qumran. Isaiah A scroll. There is no division in it is a whole book. There is no textual evidence to suggest there should be a division.
Isaiah’s name means God saves and his father was Amoz, Isaiah 1:1 / Isaiah 2:1, who was apparently a man of humble rank. He was married and his wife was called ‘the prophetess,’ Isaiah 8:3, either because she was gifted with the ability to prophecy, like Deborah, Judges 4:4, and Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14-20, or simply because she was the wife of ‘the prophet’, Isaiah 38:1.
He had two sons, who bore symbolical names, Shear-Jashub means ‘a remnant shall return’, Isaiah 7:3, and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means ‘quick to plunder, swift to the spoil’, Isaiah 8:1-3.
Isaiah was in close contact with the royal family and spoke with them regularly. He exercised the functions of his office during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Isaiah 1:1.
Uzziah reigned fifty-two years, B.C. 810-759, and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah’s death, probably B.C. 762.
He lived until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and in all likelihood outlived that monarch, who died B.C. 698, and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for a long period of at least sixty-four years.
His first call to the prophetical office is not recorded. A second call came to him ‘in the year that King Uzziah died’, Isaiah 6:1. Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was murdered by being sawn in two, Hebrews 11:37.
Most commentators agree that the book was written sometime during the ministry of Isaiah, approximately 740–701 B.C., during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Isaiah was a member of a Royal family and his work lasted around 47 years. Here, here he receives a vision from God. The word ‘vision’ indicates a divine revelation.
Most of what Isaiah wrote in his book came to him through visions from God and since they came from God we can be certain that they are accurate, 1 Samuel 9:9 / 2 Chronicles 32:32.
His vision concerned Judah and Jerusalem, Judah at this time in history refers to the southern kingdom and the name Israel, which is used throughout the book refers to the northern kingdom. We get the date of his vision, 740-700 B.C. by noting those who was reigning at the time.
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty-two years, 2 Chronicles 26:1-15. Jotham began to reign at the age of twenty-five and reigned for sixteen years, 2 Chronicles 27:1-2.
Ahaz began his evil reign at the age of twenty, and reigned for sixteen years, 2 Chronicles 28:1-10. Hezekiah was virtuous and upright and he began his reign at the age of twenty-five years, and reigned twenty-nine, 2 Chronicles 29:1-10.
The chapter begins by introducing us to the people and the prophet Isaiah and we find a picture of a courtroom. God is publicly accusing his people and calls them to account for their behaviour. God is the judge and He is also the one doing the accusing. The heavens and earth are the juries, Romans 8:22.
The people are being drawn to the fact that they will indeed be judged. Heaven and earth are called to witness the apostasy of His people, Deuteronomy 30:19 / Deuteronomy 32:1 / Psalm 50:1-6 / Micah 1:1 / Micah; 6:1-2.
Isaiah records the charges which are set against God’s people. It appears that the corruption of the nation is shown to be the result of separation from God and the cause of the calamities that are coming upon the people.
Notice that God is pictured as their father and He calls them children, His own children but God doesn’t show favouritism to His own children.
God had brought them up, Exodus 4:22, and made them a great nation, Ezekiel 16:1-14, yet they rebelled against the great Creator. They ought to have known better, they should know what God wants.
God loves them and because He loves them, He wants to help them but they had become as stubborn as an ox and as dumb as a donkey. The donkey and the ox know better than Israel. Israel don’t have a clue, they are completely ignorant.
God says although they are these things, they can’t blame their actions on animal instinct. Sin had separated the people from God, they had abandoned God and turned their back on Him but God would never do that to them. He says they are loaded with guilt and He calls them a sinful nation, Deuteronomy 7:6.
The words, ‘the Holy one of Israel’ are used 25 times in this book, 12 times in Isaiah 1-39, and 13 times in Isaiah 40-66, it only appears three times in the Psalms and twice in Jeremiah.
Throughout this book, we find many different phrases in reference to holiness, such as ‘Holy one’, ‘Holy one of Jacob’, ‘His holy’, ‘Your holy’ and ‘Whose name is holy’. The Holiness of God refers to being free from sin and hatred of sin but it is rooted in his love for mankind. Our hatred of sin needs to be oriented by the love of the sinner.
God is smitten with sorrow he is grieving, hence why He asks, why do you want to be beaten even more? Why persist in rebellion? The word beaten refers to suffering and it speaks of the whole body as being sick. From the head to the feet.
The land had become desolate, in other words, the land suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, 2 Chronicles 28:19. Their enemies came and helped themselves, which was evidence of their punishment. This is a picture of how God just left them to it.
Calamity was the result of their sins, they were left like a shelter in a vineyard, in other words, sin reduced them to such privation that what they had left was like a hut in a cucumber field, Numbers 11:5. They were left like a city under siege.
God is hurt by the people’s rebellion. His daughter of Zion, that is, Jerusalem, with open wounds stands oppressed, dusty, abandoned and rotten, no wonder God is grieved.
His people continue in rebellion, God sees their rejection and neglect and their future doesn’t look good. Jerusalem is on its way out. If God didn’t intervene, Jerusalem would be wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah but God spared the lives of some people.
Isaiah tells God’s people they are just like Sodom and Gomorrah, they had forsaken the law of God, James 3:1. It appears that God doesn’t want to destroy them but to shake them up and bring them to the knowledge of the fact that they need to be free from their sin and inequity.
The Israelites were defending themselves, they were saying look at us God, we are still doing the sacrifices, etc. In other words, they thought their religion was ok. God anticipated their defence, their religion and He says, He is not interested in it, He hates it.
They just do these things, to let their attendance known. It’s clear that God is angry, He says, ‘this trampling of my courts’, and so, because He has had enough and He asks them to get themselves right, He is not interested in an outward show.
Their relationship with God is seen in that weren’t worshipping because of their faith in God. Their self-righteousness caused God to refuse to listen or even answer their prayers because their hands were full of blood.
People can lift up holy hands to God in worship, but they need to ensure that their lives are holy, Psalm 24:3-4 / 1 Timothy 2:8. Their iniquity had gone too far, so God would now turn His back on them.
Notice there are eight admonitions, ‘wash and make yourselves clean, take your evil deeds out of my sight and stop doing wrong’, all relate to the removal of evil.
‘Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow’, all relate to the performance of that which is good.
God tells them to do the more important things and learn to do the right, such as encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow, James 1:27. The things that God had given them, mercy, justice and faithfulness, Matthew 23:23, they disregarded them.
The sacrifices were to remind them of God’s mercy, all these things were to remind them of God’s attitude towards them. They made all the sacrifices, etc and made them the important things, Matthew 12:1-14.
God has made it clear time and time again that obedience is better than sacrifice, 1 Samuel 15:22 / Jeremiah 6:20 / Hosea 6:6 / Amos 5:21-24 / Micah 6:6-8 / Matthew 23:23.
God isn’t against sacrifices, after all, He ordained it but He is against it when we replace the importance in those things instead of the heart, Mark 7:1-9. Religion has to do with relationships and people, not things we do, 1 John 4:20.
Here we read of God’s offer of pardon and a challenge for Israel to prove her case. This is the turning point in the chapter because now God’s love is shown, prior to this He had shown His wrath.
Even though they are totally guilty, Revelation 4:6-8, God truly is the great God of mercy, the great forgiver, the comforter. God is appealing to those who have hated Him and despised Him.
He stooping low here, for them to reason with Him. God’s people cause Him grief and God shows says the sins of man will be cleansed as white as snow, Revelation 3:4-5 / Revelation 7:14.
God shares the terms and conditions of forgiveness, they need to be obedient in their heart. God’s mercy is always on the basis of obedience, and so, God gave them a choice, they could accept God’s terms and be rewarded, that is they would get good land or they could reject God’s terms and be punished, that is, they will be destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In other words, they needed to repent, God’s forgiveness was based on their repentance.
Here we find God lamenting over Jerusalem, and Isaiah speaks on God’s behalf to the city and gives them the full status of their being, the true definition of their status and position. He calls them spiritual prostitutes, this reminds us of the story of Hosea and his wife who was a prostitute, Hosea 1:2-4.
Notice the tenses in these verses, they were once good, but now they’re not, and but they will be good again. God wants to give them forgiveness but they don’t want to receive it.
The ‘silver’ represents princes or rulers, they were corrupt in their business practices in that they mixed pure silver with other metals in order to profit from dishonest trade. The ‘wine’ represents the leading men of Jerusalem, their wine was diluted, they were good but turned bad.
Jerusalem was no longer a city of justice, but a place where the rulers accepted bribes. Even the widows and the orphans couldn’t receive justice. Because the poor couldn’t pay the bribes, they received no justice.
Because they had become so corrupt, there was nothing left for God to do except to pass sentence upon His people. God’s holiness and justice will be manifested and action from God would be poured out on Jerusalem and Judah. God would purge or burn the wickedness out for the purpose of making man better.
When the dross was taken from the molten metal, only the pure remained. In other words, God would take His hand of discipline over Jerusalem and remove all the dross of sin and what would be left would be pure, that is, the minority who were faithful.
It appears that God wants to restore His people back to the time before the period of the kings, that is, the time would come when there would be no more kings. Judah will be restored but only after some severe scourging, Hebrews 12:29.
God would be the means by which Zion would be redeemed. Sin had brought them to a spiritual drought, which made them like dry leaves ready to be sparked into a fire.
Judgement on the part of the ‘oaks’ and ‘gardens’ refers to the items and places of idolatrous worship, places where the lustful idolatries were practised and impure ceremonies were conducted. They were an abomination to God.