Get the CD Now!


Discuss this text or ask a question on the official Early Writings forum. Anyone can post.

Online Text for Isaiah

Online Resources for Isaiah

Offline Resources for Isaiah

Information on Isaiah

Gerald T. Sheppard writes: "Scholars have, for many years, observed that the latter half of the book addresses the conditions of people in the Babylonian exile; in the times of Isaiah, Assyria alone was a threat and Babylon was viewed as a friendly, historically minor nation (see Isa. 39). Furthermore, on its own terms, the prophet's message in Isaiah 40-55 describes social circumstances in which the audience is positioned in a time after 'former things' have been fulfilled. This fulfillment could have occurred only during the time of the Babylonian exile (see Isa. 40:21; 41:4, 27; 42:9), a fulfillment that provides the basis for the prophet's argument that trustworthy 'new things' can be announced. Among these 'new things,' the prophet states that Cyrus will expedite the restoration of the nation of Israel and its return to the promised land. The logic of the prophet's argument turns on a recognition that the historical setting is the Babylonian exile and that previous oracles have been fulfilled in that time. For that reason, the prophet can mock other prophets who pretend to promise things without similar proof, namely, that they actually have come to pass (see Isa. 41:21-24). This prophet to the Babylonian exiles could not be identified with the historical Isaiah without either violating the logic of the argument or introducing a strange understanding of prophecy, one at odds with even a traditional view of how prophets performed and what they foresaw. Still, a modern admission of underlying similarities in theme and subject matter between the two parts of the books inspired critics to call this later unknown prophet Second Isaiah. One could speculate, without explicit biblical support, that this later prophet must have been a gifted disciple of the eighth-century 'First Isaiah.'" (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 543)

John Scullion writes: "The reasons for separating chaps. 40-66 from chaps. 1-39 are always the same and convincing: 1) historical background: destruction, exile and suffering are presumed; there is familiariarity with the history of the 6th century, above all with Cyrus, and firsthand experience of Babylonian religion; and a prophet speaks both out of and into the situation of his contemporaries. 2) themes: there are the themes of comfort and salvation, a new salvation under a new covenant; God is presented as creator and maker, and his action in history as redeemer and saviour is rooted in his action as creator. 3) style and vocabulary: chaps. 40-66 are more prolix; there is constant repetition and doubling of words; there is familiarity with the style of the psalms of descriptive praise with their heaping up of present participles; Jerusalem and objects are personified." (Isaiah 40-66, p. 17)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "As has been mentioned several times already, in 1892 B. Duhm suggested in his commentary that Isa. 56-66 should be separated from Deutero-Isaiah. From this time onwards, the independence of Trito-Isaiah from the texts which precede it has been generally accepted, outside conservative theological circles. The difference between chs. 56-66 and those which precede them is too great for the former to be considered as in any way the continuation of the latter. Throughout the greater part of Trito-Isaiah we continually find ourselves in the community of the restoration: there is mention of the temple and of rebuilding it, of sacrifices, of the observance of the sabbath and the regulations of the Torah, and htis observance is considered to be an essential qualification for membership of the community. None of these arguments appears even once in Deutero-Isaiah, and since the setting of Deutero-Isaiah is Babylon, it is difficult to see how that would be possible. However, in a number of places there are notable analogies between Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah: we have similar hope for the imminence of the kingdom of God in 61.1-3, and in 42.1-4 (the latter is a servant passage) we have an almost identical concept of the work of the spirit of God in man. There are also notable affinities of style. The general setting for Trtio-Isaiah is Jerusalem and the community described by Haggai and Zechariah, that is, about twenty years after the latest part of Deutero-Isaiah and perhaps even later; in 60.13 the temple has been built and it is only necessary to adorn it. However, the situation in the country has certainly not improved; it remains critical because of the high incidence of crime in some areas and of incompetence in others, the immediate result of which is that the righteous suffer (56.9ff.). For this reason god shows his judgment by continually postponing the fulfilment of his promises (cf. also chs. 59-62), though he will not delay to intervene personally and to achieve justice for the elect. Another figure serves Yahweh in place of Cyrus (63.1-6); foreign nations will not be the object of the divine judgment, which will fall instead on the people of God because of their unfaithfulness (65.11). The walls have still not been rebuilt (60.10), so that if Trito-Isaiah is a little after the time of Haggai and Zechariah, we still have not reached that of Ezra and Nehemiah . . . Finally, according to Duhm, 66.1f. would refer to Samaritans who were building their own temple. However, this theory seems improbable, seeing that, quite apart from the fact that we konw little or nothing about the final separation of the two communities, it is reasonably certain that the break did not come about before the fourth century BC: it seems better to think of criticism directed against the hopes of Haggai and Zechariah, which were perhaps considered in some circles to be rather exaggerated. Duhm also tried to argue for the unity of the book, but hardly anyone has taken up his approach. Trito-Isaiah is a book of a composite kind if ever there was one. The majority of scholars in fact regard it as an anthology containing about twelve passages which are all different in date or in purpose. Pfeiffer, Introduction, 480, seeks to explain the differences between Trito- and Deutero-Isaiah as the result of attempts to apply to the situation of the restoration the great promises formulated by Deutero-Isaiah, which apparently had not been fulfilled. This theory is well worth considering, as it would explain both the analogies and the obvious differences between the two works. It would remain to be seen whether the work were purely redactional or whether Deutero-Isaiah himself, whoever he may have been, continued his activity down to the last decades of the sixth century BC. Here, too, we have a solution proposed by the Scandinavian school: as in the case of Deutero-Isaiah, Trito-Isaiah will have been the product of the 'school of Isaiah' mentioned above, which will have continued its work over the centuries." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 335-336)

Frederick L. Moriarty writes of Isaiah: "His career may be divided into three periods, within each of which we can locate with confidence a number of the Prophet's oracles. The first period, extending through the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, is represented by the material in chs. 1-12. The highlight of this phase was Isaiah's clash with the national policy of Ahaz in the crisis of 735-733 when Syria and Israel formed a coalition and attempted to coerce Judah into armed rebellion against Assyria. The second period brings us to the reign of Hezekiah, who was severely pressured by both Egyptians and Philistines to join in revolt against Sargon of Assyria. Few oracles can be assigned with certainty to this earlier part of Hezekiah's reign when all Palestine lived under the threatening shadow of Sargon the Great. Chapter 20 certainly belongs here and, with the help of the Assyrian annals, can be safely dated to the years 714-711 when Ashdod and other city-states joined in an uprising against the powerful Assyrian. The position taken by Isaiah is clear from ch. 20. Walking about the streets of Jerusalem barefoot and clad only in a loincloth, the Prophet dramatically underlined the folly of trusting in Egypt and her allies. His policy appears to have prevailed on this occasion, for Judah escaped punishment when Sargon crushed the revolt. The last period coincides with the Palestinian campaigns of Sennacherib, who succeeded Sargon on the throne of Assyria in 705. The prose material in the historical appendix (chs. 36-39) provides important information for these trying days that eventually saw the vindication of Isaiah's prophetic word. The military activity of Sennacherib in Palestine remains an historical problem; the two-campaign theory, which appears to satisfy the historical evidence better than other alternatives, will be taken up in the commentary. To this latter part of Isaiah's career belong the oracles assembled in 28:7-33:24. For at least forty long and testing years Isaiah performed his task as Yahweh's spokesman. A late and unverified tradition reports that he was put to death under the impious King Manasseh, who thoroughly repudiated the reforms of his father, Hezekiah." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 265-266)

James King West writes: "Not all of chapters 1-39 come from the original Isaiah. Three sections in particular are later additions. (1) Chapters 24-27, 'the Isaiah Apocalypse,' represents a fully developed apocalyptic style which did not appear until the exile and later. It should be noted, however, that Isaiah's own oracles are marked by certain features which the later apocalyptic school found compatible with its point of view, such as the dualistic contrast between light and darkness (cf. 9:1-7) and the prophet's quiet trust that God is sure to act on behalf of his people (cf. 7:30). (2) Chapters 33-35 bear an exilic coloration; 34 and 35 are in the style of Deutero-Isaiah. (3) Chapters 36-39 are historical narratives nearly identical with II Kings 18:13-20:19, having been taken from the same source utilized by the Deuteronomist. Obviously they were attached to the Isaiah collection due to their accounts of the prophet's involvement in the crisis of the Hezekiah period." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 269-270)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Curiously, the happiest, most lyrical, most optimistic passages in the Tanak have found their way into the Book of Isaiah. The beating of swords into plowshares (2:4) and the lying down of the wolf and the lamb (11:6) are both from this book. In the view of many traditional intepreters, Isaiah emerges as a man of happy expectations for the future. These joyful passages, however, are not from Isaiah, the eighth-century prophet. The recognition that these parts are late insertions reveals Isaiah as even more of a prophet of doom than Amos and Hosea. In all three, but especially in Isaiah, the early Hebrew religion expresses a basic hopelessness. Israel's doom, synonymous with mankind's doom, was regarded as inevitable. Isaiah proffered his age a gripping, stirring faith but man's inability to achieve that faith or abide in it spelled only disaster." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 96)

Jay G. Williams writes: "As a Judean, Isaiah seems to have placed great faith in the Davidic kingship as a source of hope. At the same time, he was quite critical of the particular kings who sat on the throne of Judah during his day. His messages say little about Uzziah and Jotham, but concerning Ahaz he is less than laudatory. Hezekiah receives somewhat more favorable treatment, but he too is attacked when he seeks to secure himself through political alliances. On the whole, however, Isaiah spends less time talking about the present kings than about the future king who will restore the glory of Israel. Although he does not use the term Messiah (the anointed one), the prophecies of Chapters 9 and 11 are thoroughly Messianic. There is much disagreement among scholars as to whether these passages are original with him, but to this author there seems to be no compelling reason to think they are not. If they are, Isaiah looked forward to a son of David who would again lead Israel to greatness, not through the power of the sword but through the strength of holiness. There are some indications that Isaiah actually expected the fulfillment of these dreams during his life-time, but such was not to be the case. In fact, after Hezekiah, the evil Manasseh came to the throne and adopted a thoroughly pro-Assyrian policy and many pagan religious practices. Tradition has it that in his old age Isaiah was killed by Manasseh who could not countenance his pronouncements. There is no way to confirm or deny this belief, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Isaiah eventually met a martyr's death." (Understanding the Old Testament, pp. 197-198)

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Jewish Writings is copyright © 2001-2013 Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. Early Jewish Writings. <>.