RESOURCES FOR THIS STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ISAIAH:
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1-39: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19 of the Anchor bible Commentary series edited by W. F Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2000).
______________ Isaiah 40-55: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19A of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W.F. Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2002).
______________ Isaiah 56-66: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19B of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W.F. Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2003).
Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. Part of the Old Testament Library series edited by James Mays, Carol Newsom, and David Petersen. (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2001).
Cook, Stephen L. Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah. Part of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series edited by Frederick Schmidt. (Morehouse Press, Harrisburg, 2008).
Elliott, Mark W. Old Testament XI: Isaiah 40-66. Part of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas C. Oden General Editor. (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2007).
Hanson, Paul D. Isaiah 40-66. Part of the Interpretation series edited by James L Mays and Patrick Miller. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1995).
Hoppe, Leslie J. Isaiah. Volume 13 of the Old Testament Series within the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series edited by Daniel Durken O.S.B. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2012).
McKinion, Steven A. Old Testament X: Isaiah 1-39. Part of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas C. Oden General Editor. (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2004).
Niskanen, Paul V.. Isaiah 56-66. Part of Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry edited by Chris Franke. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014).
Seitz, Christopher. Isaiah 1-39. Part of the Interpretation series edited by James L Mays and Patrick Miller. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1993).
_______________ Book of Isaiah 40-66. Volume VI of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes whose Editorial Board was convened by Leander Keck. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001).
TANACH. Artscroll series, Mesorah publications. The Torah, Prophets, and Writings. Rabbi’s footnotes.
Tucker, Gene M. Book of Isaiah 1-39. Volume VI of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes whose Editorial Board was convened by Leander Keck. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001).
Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 1-12. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1991).
______________. Isaiah 13-27. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1997).
_______________. Isaiah 28-39. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002).
- Welcome Jesus into our midst.
- What are we grateful for today?
- Where do I need help?
- Where do others need help?
Read the text aloud. Each person takes a ‘unit’, those who want to pass say “Pass”.
What strong images, symbols, and beautiful verses did you read / hear?
What insights have you come to in preparation, in hearing and reading?
We watch the video together.
We review additional notes if there is time
THE BOOK OF ISAIAH INTRODUCTION (from NAB)
Isaiah, one of the greatest of the prophets, appeared at a critical moment in Israel’s history. The Northern Kingdom collapsed, under the hammer-like blows of Assyria, in 722/721 B.C., and in 701 Jerusalem itself saw the army of Sennacherib drawn up before its walls. In the year that Uzziah, king of Judah, died (742), Isaiah received his call to the prophetic office in the Temple of Jerusalem. Close attention should be given to chap. 6, where this divine summons to be the ambassador of the Most High is circumstantially described.
The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamps an indelible character on Isaiah’s ministry and provides a key to the understanding of his message. The majesty, holiness and glory of the Lord took possession of his spirit and, at the same time, he gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness. The enormous abyss between God’s sovereign holiness and human sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet. Only the purifying coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance of the call: “Here I am, send me!”
The ministry of Isaiah extended from the death of Uzziah in 742 B.C. to Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C., and it may have continued even longer, until after the death of Hezekiah in 687 B.C. Later legend (the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah) claims that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, executed Isaiah by having him sawed in two; cf. Heb 11:37.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.)
During this long ministry, the prophet returned again and again to the same themes, and there are indications that he may have sometimes re-edited his older prophecies to fit new occasions. There is no evidence that the present arrangement of the oracles in the book reflects a chronological order. Indeed, it appears that there were originally separate smaller collections of oracles (note especially chaps. 6–12), each with its own logic for ordering, that were preserved fairly intact as blocks when the material was finally put together as a single literary work.
Isaiah’s oracles cluster around several key historical events of the late eighth century:
- the Syro-Ephraimite War (735–732 B.C.),
- the accession of Hezekiah (715 B.C.),
- the revolt of Ashdod (714–711 B.C.),
- the death of Sargon (705 B.C.), and
- the revolt against Sennacherib (705–701 B.C.).
… The Syro-Ephraimite War was the original occasion for many of Isaiah’s oracles (cf. chaps. 7–8), in which he tried to reassure Ahaz of God’s protection and dissuade him from seeking protection by an alliance with Assyria. Ahaz refused Isaiah’s message, however.
When Hezekiah came to the throne in 715 B.C., Isaiah appears to have put great hopes in this new scion of David, and he undoubtedly supported the religious reform that Hezekiah undertook. But the old intrigues began again, and the king was sorely tempted to join with neighboring states in an alliance sponsored by Egypt against Assyria. Isaiah succeeded in keeping Hezekiah out of Ashdod’s abortive revolt against Assyria, but when Sargon died in 705 B.C., with both Egypt and Babylon encouraging revolt, Hezekiah was won over to the pro-Egyptian party. Isaiah denounced this “covenant with death” (28:15, 18), and again summoned Judah to faith in the Lord as the only hope. But it was too late; the revolt had already begun. Assyria acted quickly and its army, after ravaging Judah, laid siege to Jerusalem (701). “I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in his cage,” boasts the famous inscription of Sennacherib. The city was spared but at the cost of paying a huge indemnity to Assyria. Isaiah may have lived and prophesied for another dozen years after 701. There is material in the book that may plausibly be associated with Sennacherib’s campaign against Babylon and its Arabian allies in 694–689 B.C.
For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded into insignificance. He constantly called his people back to a reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues. This vision also led him to insist on the ethical behavior that was required of human beings who wished to live in the presence of such a holy God. Isaiah couched this message in oracles of singular poetic beauty and power, oracles in which surprising shifts in syntax, audacious puns, and double- or triple-entendre are a constant feature.
The complete Book of Isaiah is an anthology of poems composed chiefly by the great prophet, but also by disciples, some of whom came many years after Isaiah. In 1–39 most of the oracles come from Isaiah and reflect the situation in eighth-century Judah. Sections such as the Apocalypse of Isaiah (24–27), the oracles against Babylon (13–14), and probably the poems of 34–35 were written by followers deeply influenced by the prophet, in some cases reusing earlier Isaianic material; cf., e.g., 27:2–8 with 5:1–7.
Chapters 40–55 (Second Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah) are generally attributed to an anonymous poet who prophesied toward the end of the Babylonian exile. From this section come the great oracles known as the Servant Songs, which are reflected in the New Testament understanding of the passion and glorification of Christ.
Chapters 56–66 (Third Isaiah, or Trito-Isaiah) contain oracles from the postexilic period and were composed by writers imbued with the spirit of Isaiah who continued his work.
The principal divisions of the Book of Isaiah are the following:
I. Isaiah 1–39
A.Indictment of Israel and Judah (Chapt. 1–5)
B.The Book of Emmanuel (Chapt. 6–12)
C.Oracles against the Foreign Nations (Chapt. 13–23)
D.Apocalypse of Isaiah (Chapt. 24–27) (A fourth component?)
E.The Lord Alone, Israel’s and Judah’s Salvation (Chapt. 28–33)
F.The Lord, Zion’s Avenger (Chapt. 34–35)
G.Historical Appendix (Chapt. 36–39)
II. Isaiah (Chapt. 40–55)
A.The Lord’s Glory in Israel’s Liberation (Chapt. 40–48)
B.Expiation of Sin, Spiritual Liberation of Israel (Chapt. 49–55)
III. Isaiah (Chapt. 56–66)
(NOTE: THE ENTIRE SECTION ABOVE CAME FROM THE NAB, IT IS NOT MY WORK, EXCEPT TO DO SOME ORGANIZING INTO BULLETS ETC.)
VIDEO NOTES FOR INTRODUCTION
It is a misconception to think of a prophet as one who can see into the future and predict what will happen.
The prophets for whom ancient Israel is best known were spokespersons for God, urging a change of heart among leaders of society.
DID warn of future judgements if leaders failed to do so.
“Righteousness before God” always means having concern for and bringing relief to the needs of the poor, the sick, and the elderly.
Idolatry and neglect of the poor were the two major sins. Failure brings calamity. Repentance brings peace, justice …
- longest prophetic work in the bible
- the most quoted of the prophets in the NT
- an intriguing work of literature
- a single prophetic work that exhibits a common prophetic focus on call to be faithful in God’s service. (Israel here both the north and south, though south often referred to as Judah.)
Three periods of history:
First Isaiah or Isaiah of Jerusalem or Isaiah son of Amoz dates from late 8th century BC. Reigns in Judah of:
- Uzziah 783 to 742
- Jotham 742 to 735
- Ahaz 735 to 715
- Hezekiah 715 to 687
- Lessons 1 through 6 will cover Isaiah 1-39 – Isaiah of Jerusalem
- A contentious period as the northern and southern kingdoms struggles with each other on how to respond to the threat that Assyria to the north was posing.
- Israel is sometimes spoken of as Ephraim or Samaria, Judah is sometimes called Israel by some of the prophets. Need to take care as we read.
- At time of Isaiah both Egypt and Assyria on the rise again. Alliances made some sense politically – but Isaiah opposed.
- The historical context clearly shifts with Chapter 40 – Assyria no longer around. Babylon had come and gone (along with the Northern Kingdom). Babylon fell to the Persian king Cyrus in 539BC. (Marduk aka Baal was God of Babylon.) Decree from Cyrus – Israel (and others) can go home. In Isaiah Cyrus is messiah, anointed by God, for the freedom of God’s people.
- Lessons 7 to 10 cover this period, Isaiah 40 to 55
- No information in the text about him.
- Text has “suffering servant” In Isaiah 41 = Israel. We read and interpret as Jesus.
- Call to return to the homeland
Chapter 56 shows the context clearly shifts again. Back in Jerusalem, long after Cyrus. Keeping the Sabbath a problem.
- Lessons 11 and 12 will cover Isaiah 56 to 66.
- Returned to Jerusalem, but needed repentance and change. Need to honor the Sabbath as a day of rest.
While three periods are clearly identified and three (or more) authored portions of it – the work as a whole is quite unified. More unity than a superficial editing would have provided. A school of disciples?
Isaiah calls God’s people:
- To recognize God’s holiness
- To worship God with awe and wonder
- To do works of justice for the poor, the needy, and the marginalized
- Despite their failings – the future is one of unbounded forgiveness, health, joy, and plenty
ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR INTRODUCTION
Hoppe p. 5: the last verse of Isaiah (66:24) is so depressing that when it is read in the synagogue cycle / lectionary they customarily then re-read verse 66:23.
From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath,
All flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me;
For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished;
and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
Hoppe p. 6: “The significance of Jerusalem in the book of Isaiah has helped shaped Judaism’s attitude toward this city. Especially significant is the vision of justice and peace with which the city will be blessed.” It’s not just a place.
Hoppe p. 6: First Isaiah: “He condemned the social, political, and economic system of the kingdom of Judah because it created a two-tiered society made up of the very rich and very poor.” The last 3 chapters of First Isaiah (36-39) are largely taken from 2 Kings 18-20 (describing the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem).
Hoppe p. 6,7 Second Isaiah prophesied about 125 years later than First Isaiah. Key message is “There is a future for Jerusalem beyond the disaster that occurred when Nabuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, captured Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, ended the Judahite monarchy and national state, and led off many leading citizens into exile.”
Hoppe p. 7: Third Isaiah: “Isaiah 56-66 are a collection of poems that reflected the disillusionment of some when the hopes engendered by Isaiah 40-55 did not materialize.
- The temple HAD been rebuilt but:
- The national state was not restored,
- The economy was terrible
- Conflict between the rich and poor escalated
- Still – there is a longing and confidence in God and for the Jerusalem / the people
Hoppe p. 7: Isaiah 24-27 is a fourth component of the book: a coming day of judgment, defeat for evil and vindication of the just etc.
Hoppe p. 7: two pretty complete copies of Isaiah in current form found in Dead Sea Scrolls
Hoppe p. 8: Two main motifs of Isaiah:
- 1. God is the “Holy One of Israel”
- 2. Jerusalem / Zion – in need of holiness, in need of redemption, in need of repentance and reform, in relationship with God
Seitz A p. 3: despite division by scholars into multiple parts written over a long period of time – there are significant linkages between these components:
- Emphasis on Jerusalem / Zion
- God as the “Holy One of Israel”
- Emphasis on sin and forgiveness
- Deafness and recovery of sight
- Word plays on name of “Isaiah” in Hebrew
- Promise of salvation for Israel
- Exodus motifs
- divine council and prophetic commissioning language.
- Zion and its final destiny
Seitz A p. 3 “…the future of Isaiah studies is only gradually becoming clearer, as the quest for unity in the Book of Isaiah – and a proper understanding of the nature of that unity- replaces a narrower historical approach that was concerned to read the book against reconstructed historical backdrops.”
********* Seitz A p. 4: “What is called for now is a reading of the Book of Isaiah that acknowledges and then moves beyond the tension between historical prophet and canonical presentation in order to recover something of the theological coherence available to pre-critical readers.”
Seitz A p. 6: First Isaiah, at some point early in its history, underwent a “Babylonian” editing in which Assyria stood in for Babylon and the sparing of Jerusalem in 701 was seen as just a postponement for the judgement that was to come in 586 and with the exile. An organic development, a careful and thoughtful religious reading and amplification – NOT something artificially imposed on an existing 3 part structure. Same happened throughout.
Seitz A p. 17: “In sum, Isaiah is a book of paradoxical linkages: Isaiah is a prophet of salvation but also of judgment; Zion theology is the guarantor of God’s presence but as much for cleansing judgment as for protection or benefaction; Ahaz’s caution is contrasted with Hezekiah’s bold intercession; the Syro Ephraimite crisis gives way to the 701BC events, in turn giving way to the 587 denouement; Assyria is replaced by Babylon, who is finally defeated by Persia.”
FOR NEXT WEEK
- Read and meditate on the text of Isaiah chapters 1 – 4
- Read the commentary for Lesson 1 pages 5-21.
- Reflect on the questions in the Study Guide pages 8 and 10, make notes on the questions which engage you, the ideas and feelings that get generated.