MAJOR PROPHETS: Isaiah
This, rather is the fasting that I wish…
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
Sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
What does the name mean, and where does it come from?
Isaiah means “salvation of God” in Hebrew. It is named after a prophet born in Jerusalem around 760 B.C., possibly martyred around 700 B.C.
Where is it in the Bible?
Isaiah is the first book of the Major Prophets, following the seven Wisdom Books. It is the longest prophetic work in the Bible and is divided into three sections: the first 39 chapters are devoted to be the actual prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55 are about another prophet cleverly known as Deutero- (Second) Isaiah, and 56-66 are from yet another guy called Trito- (Third) Isaiah.
What is the purpose of the book?
Like many of the prophets, Isaiah (#1) warns the people of Israel about their corruption, and attempts to draw them back to a faithful relationship with Yahweh. Isaiah hammers on the moral corruption of the kings of Judah, who seek alliances with other nations to cover their butts rather than rely on God. Isaiah also describes God’s plan for the whole world, and speaks of a future king— a messiah— who would obey Yahweh and restore peace and God’s blessing to the land. Prophet #2, Deutero-Isaiah prophesies during the exile in Babylon, giving the people hope of imminent deliverance from bondage. He was right—a few years later they went home. Trito, prophet #3, was likely an apprentice of #2 who prophesied after the exile as the Temple was being rebuilt. Times were hard, paganism was making a comeback— Isaiah promised further deliverance from God but punishment for those who turned to other gods.
How did the book end up in its present form?
It was compiled over several centuries. First Isaiah came together in the 8th century B.C., when the Assyrians were huffing and puffing at the door. The material in this section is believed to represent the actual words of Isaiah. Part two was written 150 years later by an anonymous prophet. The last was a decade later and most likely put together by a disciple of said anonymous prophet. The editing to what we have probably happened around 180 B.C. In 1947, two 1st or 2nd century B.C. copies of almost the entire book of Isaiah (pretty identical to what we have) were found in caves above the Dead Sea.
The real Isaiah’s ministry occurs during the reign of three kings: Jotham (742-735 B.C), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-687 B.C.). After Jotham’s death, Isaiah becomes the advisor to the new king, Ahaz, telling him to have faith in Yahweh in the face of attacks from the northern kingdom of Israel. But instead of depending on God for protection, Ahaz gets Assyria to help (bad move, Ahaz!). When Ahaz goes, Hezekiah succeeds his father and enacts many reforms in Judah. But he hangs on with Assyria, despite all Isaiah’s warnings. Ultimately, he becomes a puppet of the Assyrians, and much of Judah is destroyed. He also dreams of a day when the two kingdoms (see Judah and Israel) are reunited into a “holy remnant.”
Interesting factoid: The name of one of Isaiah’s sons, Maher-shalal-hashbaz which means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastes” in Hebrew, is the longest name in the Bible.