Isaiah 1 - Outline of Isaiah (MENU page)
The Book of the prophet Isaiah

1:1. The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz,
which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem
in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Isaiah - means "salvation of Jehovah"
Isaiah is called "the son of Amoz" 13x. But we know nothing about his father. Amoz means "strong."
Concerning Judah and Jerusalem - The subject and recipients of God's message
through Isaiah are clearly identified. The prophecies and promises are directed to Israel, not to the church.
in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah kings of Judah.-
Isaiah began his ministry near the end of the reign of Uzziah (Azariah). Uzziah and Jotham were good kings, but Ahaz was wicked and promoted idol worship. During his reign, the Temple in Jerusalem fell into disuse. King Hezekiah led a great revival, eliminated idol worship, repaired the Temple and restored Levitical worship there. However, his son Manasseh was very wicked and quickly reversed all that Hezekiah had done. According to jewish tradition, Manasseh rid himself of Isaiah's opposition by having him sawn in half (to which Heb 11:37 may refer). Isaiah's ministry closed about a hundred years before Jerusalem fell in 586 BC. (See the chart of Israel's Kings.)

Outline (see the Outline of Isaiah) and authorship-
The book may be divided into three logical sections:
  1. Judgment, ch. 1-35 (written in poetry)
  2. Historical Interlude, ch. 36-39 (written in prose)
  3. Salvation, ch. 44-66 (written in poetry)

Because of variations in writing style between the main sections of the book of Isaiah, and to provide natural explanation for the amazing accuracy of prophetically foretold events, critics have suggested that there must have been two or three different authors, who wrote at widely separated times. However, this theory is without biblical support. The variations in style can be explained easily by the variations in subject matter. For example, the first portion of the book is in a somber tone because the theme is judgment and impending captivity, whereas the last section is more joyful because it focuses on redemption and the coming King. The NT quotes 10x from the first section and 11x from the last. John 12:38-41 quotes from Isaiah 53:1 and also 6:9, attributing both passages to one Isaiah. For the believer, this is enough, for the Holy Spirit has shown us that Isaiah is the author.

However, internal evidence in the book, and elsewhere in the OT, are also ample. Some critics claim that the last section was written in Babylon, by one of the captives following the fall of Jerusalem. However, there is nothing in the text to support this idea, but much that contradicts it. For example, the writer shows no familiarity with the geography or foliage of Babylon, but makes reference to trees which are native to the land of Israel but unknown in Babylon (see 44:14; 41:19). The sending of a message to Babylon (Isa 43:14) indicates that the perspective cannot be from there.

Many themes, prominant in the first section, remain so in the final section. Eg., hypocrisy (cp. 29:13; 58:2-4), bloodshed and violence (1:15; 59:3-9); falsehood, injustice, oppression (10:1,2; 59:3-9). Isaiah 59:1-9 could well describe conditions prevalent during Manasseh's reign (cp. 2Kin 21:16). Likewise, in the final section, the prophet continues to speak against the prevailing idolatry of the nation (Isa 57:4,5; 65:2,3; 66:17), whereas the Babylonian captivity seems to mark the end of idolatry for Judah, since it is not mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah or Malachi.

Isaiah refers to God as "the Holy One of Israel" 12x in ch. 1-39 and 14x in ch. 40-66. This title for God occurs only 5x elsewhere in the OT. This and several other recurring phrases and figures of speech (cp. 35:10 with 51:11; 11:9 with 65:25; 1:11,14 with 43:24), indicate a common authorship for the entire book.
2. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken,
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib:
[but] Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity,
a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters:
they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
These verses are in dark contrast to the preceding book.
There, love was vibrant (eg. Song 8:4,14). Here it laments.
Hear, O heavens... earth...- The same witnesses who were called to observe God's charge
to His people when he placed them in the land of promise (Deu 30:19,20), are called to observe His charges against them.
The LORD hath spoken- Jehovah the God of the covenant.
the ox... the ass...- Even creatures regarded as "dumb" recognise the hand that feeds them,
but "my people" have no understanding. They lack discernment.
his master's crib {ie., feeding trough, manger}- cp. Luk 2:7,12,16
a people laden {ie., burdened down} with iniquity...- who would find rest,
if only they would turn to Him (Isa 30:15; Mat 11:28).
provoked the Holy One of Israel - The covenant people were to be a holy nation,
separated unto the Lord, but their sinful living was contemptable to Him. (Ex 19:5-8; Lev 20:7).
gone away backwards - They had fallen away from Him into apostasy.
5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more:
the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head [there is] no soundness in it;
[but] wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores:
they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
Why should ye be stricken more?...- They were already feeling the heat of God's anger (v.4).
They had not responded to His chastening thus far. What good would further chastening do?
the whole head is sick...- Their sinfulness is so pervasive, that their condition appears to be beyond cure.
7 Your country [is] desolate, your cities [are] burned with fire:
your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and [it is] desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard,
as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,
we should have been as Sodom, [and] we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
your country is desolate...- A description of the effect of chastening, so far.
The country, suffering from repeated raids of powerful neighbors, was being wasted before their eyes. cp. Deu 28:51,52
as a cottage... a lodge in a garden- ie., temporary, isolated shelters. Their existence was tenuous, their position indefensible.
as Sodom and Gomorrah...- cities which the Lord utterly destroyed because of their sin (Gen 19:13,24,25).
Judah was worthy of such judgment. Yet, God, in His grace, preserves a remnant of true believers in Israel (cp. Rom 9:29).
Graciously, the Lord explains his primary charge against the nation...
10. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom;
give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose [is] the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD:
I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts;
and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me;
the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with;
[it is] iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth:
they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear [them].
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:
yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
who hath required this at your hand...?- The LORD Himself had prescribed the order
of Temple worship, in the Law of Moses. But their hearts were far from Him (Isa 29:13; Mat 15:8,9). Their "worship" was mere ritual, a thin covering for gross error. They had a form of godliness, but it didn't mean a thing to them (2Tim 3:5). They were faithful in attending all the meetings and keeping up appearances before men, but God, who looks on the heart, could not accept their prayers (cp. Isa 59:2; 66:3).
This book and these charges are addressed to Judah, not to the church. But how does the Lord view you and me? Are we, too, just going through the motions? (Joh 4:23,24; Heb 4:13; Rev 1:14,15)
16. Wash you, make you clean;
put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well;
seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Come now, and let us reason together...- The charges against them (and sinners everywhere)
are irrefutable and demand harsh judgment. Yet, the Lord, in grace, offers to settle out of court! (cp. Mat 5:25) 'Let's sit down and discuss my case against you, in order to determine the truth. Then, you would understand how deeply sin has stained you. Then, you would seek the One who is able to cleanse.' (cp. Isa 43:24-26; Psa 51:7)
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
if you be willing {ie., consenting} and obedient {HB= shama, hearing, listening, in agreement}-
Compare the sense of these two HB words in Lev 26:21 ('will not hearken') and Isa 28:12 ('would not hear'). 'Shama' is usually translated 'hear' (eg., Deu 5:1; 6:3,4). As used here, 'obedience' refers to the 'obedience of faith' (cp. Rom 16:25,26) rather than to perfect compliance with the Law. It involves agreeing with God's Word which condemns me as a guilty sinner, and trusting in Him, who alone is able to cleanse the sinner and make him righteous. 1Joh 1:7-10
but if ye refuse and rebel...-
the good of the land... devoured with the sword...- The consequences of accepting or rejecting
His offer are clear. Each of us should hear these verses, in regard to personal salvation (see Heb 2:3; Joh 3:17,18). However, in context, the consequences of good and evil are applied on a national level, in the remainder of the chapter. Judah and Jerusalem, indeed the whole world is under judgment. Yet, Jerusalem and God's people are chosen, elect of God by His grace and for His glory (cp. Zech 3:2). The tension between these two themes (judgment versus salvation) is prominent throughout the book of Isaiah.
21. How is the faithful city become an harlot!
it was full of judgment
{ie., justice}; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
23 Thy princes [are] rebellious, and companions of thieves:
every one loveth gifts
{ie., bribes}, and followeth after rewards:
they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
24 Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel,
Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:
an harlot... murderers...- Spiritual adultery (apostasy and idolatry) produce
moral and spiritual death. cp. Jer 2:20,21; 3:1; Lam 1:8,9
The Holy One of Israel (v.4) is also the Mighty One of Israel.
He is able to purge out the corrupt leaders who, like impure silver and watered down wine, are worthless for the role committed to them. In the next verse (v.25), dross and tin (ie., alloy), refer to these leaders, whom the Lord will replace with just and righteous leaders.
25 And I will turn my hand upon thee {ie., taking severe, but beneficial action, cp. Zech 13:7-9},
and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning:
afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts
{lit., 'they that return'} with righteousness.
This looks forward to the Millenial Kingdom, as does the next chapter.
Yet, the closing verses of this chapter return to the trouble which will increasingly overtake the nation, until judgment is complete, and those who remain have totally forsaken idolatry.
28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners [shall be] together,
and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired,
and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
31 And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark,
and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench [them].
the oaks... the gardens...- The centers of idolatrous worship,
often referred to as 'groves' (cp. Hos 4:13; Isa 65:3; 66:17). Eventually, through the troubles that would befall them, Israel would realize the error of seeking lifeless false gods (v.30) and return to the living God whom they had forsaken (cp. Hos 14:8). But as Isaiah spoke, the fires of judgment were about to explode because of the nation's spiritual condition.
the strong shall be as tow... the maker of it as a spark...- tow refers to fine dry strands of flax
(lit., that which falls off with shaking). The nation and its leaders... the strong (ie., those with the resources) and the makers (ie., 'the doers' of the work, the perpetrators of the process) by which the people had turned away from the LORD... were like a pile of fine dry kindling ready for ignition. Their rebellion would soon spark (provoke) the judgment that would consume them. For they had forsaken the LORD, the everliving One and the Giver of life.

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