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Isaiah—the man and his prophecy
By Dean L Anderson
During this session we will take a closer look at:
 The
historical setting for Isaiah
 The content of Isaiah’s prophecy
 New Testament references to Isaiah
 The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah and its
significance for us today
 Parts of Isaiah from our worship services
The historical setting for Isaiah
The first verse of Isaiah identifies the author
and gives us the place and general time of
his ministry:
“The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem
that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the
reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and
Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
Isaiah’s ministry was limited to Judah and Jerusalem
from about 760 to 680 BC. The prophet Micah
was his contemporary. As God’s messenger to
Judah, his focus was on the affairs of Judah, so he
does not mention the Northern Kings of Israel.
During the early part of Isaiah’s ministry, both the
southern kingdom of Judah and the northern
kingdom of Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity.
Military success brought optimism, confidence,
economic prosperity and luxury. It also led to
disinterest in spiritual matters, formalistic
worship, and a reliance on foreign alliances
instead of the Lord, their God.
Most of Isaiah’s biography is linked to his official
duties in the royal court. We do know, however,
that he was married and had two sons. His wife is
referred to only as “the prophetess” (8:3), and little
likewise is known about Isaiah’s father, Amoz (not
to be confused with the prophet Amos).
However, according to Jewish tradition, Amoz was
the brother of King Amaziah which would make
Isaiah a cousin to King Uzziah. This might explain
why we find Isaiah present in the royal courts of
Ahaz and Hezekiah. He’s even named as court
historian for both Uzziah and Hezekiah in 2
Isaiah’s name means “the Lord is salvation,” and is
certainly fitting given the content of his prophecy
with its many Messianic passages.
Since we do not know many details about Isaiah’s
personal life, “Isaiah the man fades into the
background in order to give the message the Lord
revealed to him center stage.”
The content of Isaiah’s prophecy
Down through the centuries, Christians have
found the message of Isaiah to be filled with
hope and comfort, and have rejoiced in its
many Messianic passages like 7:14: “The
Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin
will give birth to a son and will call him
Isaiah 9:6,7: “For to us a child is born, to us a
son is given, and the government will be on
his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the
increase of his government and peace there
will be no end. He will reign on David’s
throne and over his kingdom, establishing
and upholding it with justice and
righteousness from that time on and
Isaiah 52:7-10 which is often read for mission
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news, who
proclaim peace, who bring good tidings,
who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” . . .
“The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the
sight of all the nations, and all the ends of
the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
And of course, who can forget Isaiah’s
Messianic vision of our suffering Savior in
52:13 through 53, where we hear words like:
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried
our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken
by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he
was pierced for our transgressions, he was
crushed for our iniquities; the punishment
that brought us peace was upon him, and by
his wounds we are healed.”
For us the message of Isaiah is Christ, but for
the people of his day, Isaiah’s message was
given to confirm the Jewish people in their
unbelief and their rejection of the Holy One
of Israel.
When God appears to Isaiah and commissions
him for his ministry (chapter 6), he tells him
in no uncertain terms: “Make the heart of
this people calloused; make their ears dull
and close their eyes.” (verse 10)
Isaiah’s work was to harden the hearts of
God’s impenitent people since they had
rejected the grace of God. Thus the
beautiful promise of Immanuel, born of a
virgin, did nothing at all for wicked King
Ahaz. It only succeeded in making his stony
heart even harder.
Another good example of this can be seen in
chapter 28 where Isaiah describes how the
drunken priests and prophets mocked his
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah proclaim God’s
judgments upon Judah and Jerusalem and the
surrounding nations, ending with the Assyrian
invasion of Judah and Hezekiah’s prayer for
deliverance, which was granted. However God
then foretells the Babylonian captivity of the
Jews from Judah and Jerusalem.
The final section (40-66) is a message of comfort
and consolation for God’s people, lest those
who are still faithful to the Lord loose heart.
We can outline the content of Isaiah as follows:
I. Woes and Judgments (Chapters 1 thru 39)
 Prophecies
concerning Judah and Jerusalem
 Oracles announcing judgments on various
nations (13:1-23:18)
 Prophecies of God’s judgment upon the
earth (24:1-35:10)
 Transition: Isaiah closes the book on
Assyria and introduces Babylon (36:1-39:8)
II. Comfort and Consolation (40:1-66:24)
 The
sovereign Lord will rescue his people
from Babylon (40:1-48:22)
 The
Lord’s Servant will redeem his people
from sin (49:1-57:21)
 The
Lord promises his new Zion
(Jerusalem) eternal glory (58:1-66:24)
“The outline seems to imply that the first part
of the prophet’s message is only law and
little gospel while the second part is gospel
and little law. Yet even a casual reading of
either section reveals that God announces
both law and gospel in both parts of Isaiah.
The division is only one of emphasis.
“When Isaiah writes in the first chapter:
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow” (verse 18), that
is pure sweet gospel.
“Isaiah begins the second portion of his book
with the words, “Comfort, comfort my
people, says your God” (40:1). But again
and again the last portion of the book
announces the Lord’s terrible judgment on
the wicked—a message of harsh and
terrifying law.
The sovereign Lord stands behind both
messages. Again and again, by inspiration
of God, Isaiah says, “This is what the Lord
says.” The prophecies are sure and certain
because the Lord says them.”1
People’s Bible commentary on Isaiah 1-39, pp 13-14.
While chapter and verse divisions are not
inspired, it’s rather interesting to note that
the chapters in Isaiah mirror the books of
the Bible. There are 66 chapters in Isaiah,
like the 66 books of the Bible. The first
section covers 39 chapters, like the 39 Old
Testament books, while the second section
covers 27 chapters, like the 27 New
Testament books.
That being said, we now turn our attention to
the New Testament references to Isaiah.
New Testament references to Isaiah
There are more than 60 New Testament
references to Isaiah. Most of them occur in
the Gospels (especially Matthew) and in
Paul’s letter to the Romans (especially
chapters 9 and 10).
References from chapters 40 and 53 are cited
most frequently, although there are also
many references from 24 other chapters of
Probably the most familiar New Testament
references are the ones we often hear at
Christmas like:
Mt 1:23 reference to Is 7:14: “The virgin will
be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel.” or
The reference from Is 40:3 applied in Mt 3:3
to John the Baptist: “A voice of one calling
in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”
In the Gospel of Matthew
Mt 1:23
Mt 3:3
Mt 4:14-16
Mt 8:17
Mt 12:17-21
Mt 13:13-15
Mt 15:7-9
Mt 21:13
Mt 24:29
Isaiah passage
13:10; 34:4
"the prophet"
"the prophet Isaiah"
"the prophet Isaiah"
"the prophet Isaiah"
"the prophet Isaiah"
"the prophecy of Isaiah"
"Isaiah . . . Prophesied"
"it is written"
no introduction
In the Gospel of Mark
Mk 1:2,3
Mk 4:12
Mk 7:6
Mk 9:48
Mk 11:17
Mk 13:24,25
Mk 15:28
Isaiah passage
13:10; 34:4
"written in Isaiah the prophet"
no introduction
"Isaiah . . . prophesied"
no introduction
"is it not written"
no introduction
"the scripture . . . which says"
In the Gospels of Luke & John
Lk 3:4-6
Lk 4:17-19
Lk 8:10
Lk 19:46
Lk 22:37
Jn 1:43
Jn 6:45
Jn 12:38
Jn 12:39-41
Isaiah passage
"the words of Isaiah the prophet"
"the place where it is written"
no introduction
"it is written"
"it is written"
"the words of Isaiah the prophet"
"written in the Prophets"
"the word of Isaiah the prophet"
"as Isaiah says elsewhere"
In the Book of Acts & Romans
Acts 7:48-50
Acts 8:32,33
Acts 13:34
Acts 13:47
Acts 28:25-27
Ro 2:24
Ro 3:17
Ro 9:20
Ro 9:27,28
Ro 9:29
Ro 9:33
29:16; 45:9
8:14; 28:16
"as the prophet says"
"this passage of Scripture"
"stated in these words"
"what the Lord has commanded"
"Isaiah the prophet"
"as it is written"
"as it is written"
no introduction
"Isaiah cries out"
"just as Isaiah said"
"as it is written"
Romans continued
Ro 10:11
Ro 10:15
Ro 10:16
Ro 10:20
Ro 10:21
Ro 11:8
Ro 11:26,27
Ro 11:34
Ro 14:11
Ro 15:12
Ro 15:21
59:20-21; 27:9
49:18; 45:23
"as the Scriptures says"
"as it is written"
"for Isaiah says"
"Isaiah boldly says"
"he says"
"as it is written"
"as it is written"
no introduction
"it is written"
"Isaiah says"
"as it is written"
Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrew, Peter
1 Co 1:19
1 Co 2:9
1 Co 2:16
1 Co 14:21
1 Co 15:32
1 Co 15:54
2 Co 6:2
2 Co 6:17
Ga 4:27
He 2:13
1 Pe 1:24,25
1 Pe 2:6
1 Pe 2:8
1 Pe 2:22
1 Pe 3:14
"For it is written"
"as it is written"
no introduction
"In the law it is written"
no introduction
"the saying that is written"
"for he (God) says"
"as God has said"
"For it is written"
"He (Jesus) says . . And again"
no introduction
"for in Scripture it says"
no introduction
no introduction
no introduction
You may have noticed that there are no actual
quotes from Revelation, but there are many
allusions to Isaiah throughout St. John’s
vision. For example:
Revelation 19:13, 15b
“He is dressed in a robe
dipped in blood. . . He
treads the winepress of
the wrath of God
Isaiah 63:2-3
“Why are your garments
red, like those treading the
winepress? I have trodden
the winepress alone; from
the nations no one was
with me. I trampled them
in my anger and trod them
down in my wrath; their
blood spattered my
Another example is the reference to the new
heavens and new earth in Revelation 21:
Revelation 21:1
“Then I saw a new
heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and
the first earth had passed
away, and there was no
longer any sea.”
Isaiah 65:17
“Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new
earth. The former things
will not be remembered,
nor will they come to
Another good example occurs in the epistle
lesson for Good Shepherd Sunday from
Revelation 7:9-17.
Revelation 7:16-17
“Never again will they
hunger; never again will
they thirst. The sun will
not beat upon them,nor
any scorching heat. For
the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be
their shepherd; he will
lead them to springs of
living water.”
Isaiah 49:10
“They will neither
hunger nor thirst, nor
will the desert heat or
the sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion
on them will guide them
and lead them beside
springs of water.”
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah
& its significance for us today
“Over the centuries, thousands of scribes were very
careful in preserving the vision of Isaiah, as well
as the words of other holy writers. The Dead Sea
Scrolls testify to the message of Isaiah. Several
copies of Isaiah’s prophecy were included among
the ancient scrolls discovered in the Judean desert.
These Hebrew copies are centuries older than the
copies previously used by scholars. Yet those
copies are remarkably the same as the text of
Isaiah that generations of believers had read
before their discovery.”2
People’s Bible commentary on Isaiah 1-39, page 24.
Almost all modern English translations of the Old
Testament are based on a single manuscript—the
Leningrad Codex, copied in 1008 or 1009 AD.
Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scroll of
Isaiah, it was our earliest complete example of the
traditional Hebrew Bible, or Masoretic Text.
The Masoretes were a group of scholars from the
eighth century onward who maintained traditions
for copying the biblical text (the Masoretic Text)
for scholarly use. Earlier scholars who had
maintained these traditions and were concerned
with preserving the correct form of the Biblical
text were called scribes.
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah is a much earlier
copy of the Biblical text. Most scholars agree
that the scrolls found at Qumran were copied
from about 250 BC to 68 AD, when the Romans
destroyed the community’s settlement as they
swept through Palestine on a campaign that
included the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The text of the Isaiah Scroll is generally in
agreement with the Masoretic text, although it
contains many variants readings and corrections
that are of great interest to scholars.
Most of the variants are relatively minor,
involving scribal copying errors, differences
in spelling, the forms of names, the use of
plural versus singular, and changes in word
order, to name a few.
However some of the major variants have
helped to shed light on various passages from
the Masoretic Text of Isaiah that have been
difficult for us to understand.
For example, in Is 53:11, the Masoretic Text reads:
“He shall see the travail of his soul; he shall be
satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous
servant justify many; for he shall bear their
iniquities.” (KJV)
However, in three of the Dead Sea Scrolls of
Isaiah, there is the additional word light,
shedding light on the meaning of this passage,
which the NIV translates: “After the suffering of
his soul, he will see the light of life and be
satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant
will justify many, and he will bear their
Because of the notable change in tone and subject
matter between Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-66,
“Many biblical scholars doubt that the same
prophet wrote the entire prophecy. Some suggest
that one prophet wrote the first 39 chapters and
another the last 27. Others suggest that two
writers wrote the second 27 chapters—one of
hem writing chapters 40 to 55 and another
writing chapters 56 to 66. The arguments these
scholars marshal in defense of their position are
not very persuasive. We believe that one writer
wrote the entire prophecy.
“The great Isaiah scroll, discovered among the
other Dead Sea Scrolls, does not divide the
scroll as if two authors wrote the text. Chapter
39 ends one line from the bottom of a column.
Chapter 40 begins on the last line of that
column without any indication of a break.
Clearly the religious community that copied
the manuscript did not consider Isaiah to be the
product of two writers but one.”3
People’s Bible commentary on Isaiah 40-66, page 5.
Parts of Isaiah from
our worship services
Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper,
we sing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)
which is based upon the song of the
seraphim in Isaiah 6:3.
In addition, many of our hymns are also based
upon various portions of Isaiah, especially
during Advent and Christmas.
For example:
 Comfort,Comfort All
My People (Hymn
11) is based upon Isaiah 40:1-8.
 Hark
the Glad Sound, the Savior Comes
(Hymn 66) is based upon Isaiah 61:1,2.
 Arise,
Shine in Splendor (Hymn 81)
reflects many of the thoughts and images
from Isaiah 60:1-4.
 The
People that in Darkness Sat (Hymn
90) is based upon Isaiah 9:2, 6.
 Stricken,
Smitten and Afflicted (Hymn
127) is based upon Isaiah 53:4.
 Holy,
Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
(Hymn 195) is based upon Isaiah 6:3.
 Isaiah,
Mighty Seer in Days of Old
(Hymn 267) is based upon Isaiah 6:1-4.
There are also many hymns that allude to
certain words or phrases from Isaiah like:
Hymn 325 (How Blest Are They Who Hear
God’s Word) where one stanza reads:
“They have the oil of gladness to soothe
their pain and sadness”—a direct reference
to the “oil of gladness” that is mentioned in
Isaiah 61:3.
Another beloved hymn that reflects imagery
from Isaiah is On Eagles Wings (Hymn 440).
The refrain “And he will raise you up on
eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of
dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and
hold you in the palm of his hand” is based
upon Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the
Lord will renew their strength. They will
soar on wings like eagles; they will run and
not grow weary, they will walk and not be
“Prepare the way before him, prepare for him
the best. . . Make straight, make plain the
way; the lowly valleys raising, the heights
of pride abasing, his path all even lay.”
from verse two of Arise, O Christian People
(Hymn 14) reflects the imagery of
Isaiah 40:3: “In the desert prepare the way for
the Lord . . . Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low; the
rough ground shall become level, the
rugged places a plain.”
Every hymn where “Immanuel” is mentioned,
especially Oh Come, Oh Come, Immanuel,
likewise brings to mind Isaiah’s words in
7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give
you a sign: The virgin will be with child and
will give birth to a son, and will call him
In conclusion
Isaiah certainly has found a special place in the
hearts of New Testament Christians. Not only
does Matthew quote Isaiah in connection with
the virgin birth of Jesus, but the writers of the
New Testament quote this book more often
than any other single Old Testament book, not
to mention the many allusions to Isaiah in the
Book of Revelation.
What’s more, Isaiah gives us one of the most
detailed descriptions of our Savior’s vicarious
suffering and death in Is 52:13 through 53:12,
which is the standard Old Testament reading
for Good Friday.
As Christians, how can we not thank and praise
the Lord for preserving the rich comfort and
beauty of Isaiah’s message down through the
ages for the strengthening of our faith today.