From the Editor’s Notebook: Major Prophets, Isaiah

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of the Major Prophets

Isaiah: The Book of Judgment and Peace

Key Word: Salvation.

Message: “The Unquenchable Love of God” (Eric W. Hayden).1

Key Verse: Isaiah 53:5 — “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.”


The name Isaiah means “Jehovah is salvation” or “salvation of Jehovah.” This is the theme of the book, the word “salvation” occurring more times than anywhere else in the Bible except for the Psalms. Isaiah is an illustration of 1 Peter 1:10-12, himself having been called “The Fifth Evangelist,” “The Prophet of Redemption,” “The Evangelical Prophet,” and “The Messianic Prophet.” His prophecy has been referred to as “The Gospel According to Isaiah,” since he presents such a clear view of the grace of God.

Isaiah was the son of Amoz (1:1). It may be that he was a royal prophet, the best tradition contending that his father was King Joash and his brother King Amaziah. There is still another tradition that the reference in Hebrews 11:37 — “they were sawn asunder” — refers to Isaiah’s death, and that it was King Manasseh who had God’s noble prophet put to death in this horrible fashion. One thing is certain, the so-called higher critics have “sawn asunder” Isaiah on the issue of his being the human author of this great prophecy. They have fabricated the theory that there were several Isaiahs, putting forth the idea that the book was produced by “ghost writers” whom they have called “Deutero-Isaiah” and “Trito-Isaiah.” However, the New Testament will not allow such treatment, for in it the book of Isaiah is quoted from all sections, giving credit to only one Isaiah. Furthermore, additional weight has been given to the case for a single authorship in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. One of the scrolls is the book of Isaiah, this particular manuscript being a thousand years older than any other known manuscript of any Hebrew Old Testament book. In this scroll there is no break between the end of chapter 39 and the beginning of chapter 40. In fact, chapter 40 begins on the last line of the page, indicating that the copyist found no break in the manuscript, or change of author at this point.

Except for chapters 36-39, Isaiah’s prophecy is all poetry, being one of the most beautiful and sublime of all the prophetical writings. Isaiah has been called the greatest of the prophets, both he and Job being poets of superlative greatness. The book abounds in metaphors (e.g., 2:19 —”caves of the rocks … holes of the earth”; 24:20 — “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a booth”).

The man Isaiah possessed a strong personality, had great influence, became a stateman, married one who shared the prophetic gift, had two sons (7:3; 8:3, 18), served for 60 years, and at 120 years of age probably died a martyr’s death.

Isaiah received his call in the last year of Uzziah’s reign (756 B.C.), and he continued until the time of Hezekiah, a period of not less than 40 years. His contemporaries were Hosea and Micah. The scene of Isaiah’s labors was chiefly Jerusalem. He prophesied under the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. The first period of his ministry was in the reigns of Uzziah (783-738 B.C.) and Jotham (750-738 B.C. as regent, and 738-735 B.C. as sole ruler), in which he preached repentance but without any response from his hearers. Consequently, he had to proclaim judgment and banishment. The second period extended from the beginning of Ahaz’s reign (735-719 B.C.) to the reign of Hezekiah, while the third period began with the accession of Hezekiah (719-705 B.C.) to the fifteenth year of his reign. After this Isaiah took no further part in public affairs, although he lived to the commencement of Manasseh’s reign. This was in the 687 B.C. and, traditionally, it was at this time that Manasseh had Isaiah “sawn asunder.”

In his ministry Isaiah stressed the spiritual and the social. He struck hard at the root of the nation’s trouble — namely, apostasy and idolatry, and he sought to save Judah from its moral, political and social corruption. However, he failed to turn the nation back to the Lord, his divine commission having carried the warning that this would be the case (6:9-12). Thereupon he boldly predicted the fall of Judah and the preservation of a small godly remnant (6:13). Through this small remnant he prophesied that worldwide redemption would be available through the promised Messiah at His first Advent(9:2, 6; 53:1-12; etc.). At Messiah’s Second Advent, Isaiah predicted that national salvation and restoration for Israel would result (2:1-5; 9:7; 11:1-6; 35:1-10; 54:11-17). Thus throughout his great book there are radiant gleams of confident hope.


1. The Prophetic Condemnation (1-35)

2. The Historic Confiscation (36-39)

3. The Messianic Consolation (40-66)

Notable Notes

Augustine asked Ambrose which of the sacred books was the best to be studied after his conversion, and the latter’s answer was, “Isaiah.”

With its 66 chapters, Isaiah is a sort of miniature Bible with its 66 books. Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament more than any other prophet, and in fact he is quoted nearly as often as all the other prophets put together.

For nearly 1,900 years no one ever questioned or doubted that Isaiah was the sole author of his prophecy, there being definitely a similarity of style throughout the entire book.

The expression, “the Holy One of Israel,” is peculiarly Isaiah’s, being found only a few times elsewhere in the Bible (Psa. 71; 78; 79; Jer. 50; 51; and 2 Kings 19:22, where Isaiah is the speaker).

Isaiah stands midway between Moses and Christ, and he commences to prophecy 217 years after the division of the United Kingdom of Israel, his ministry including the last years of the Northern Kingdom.

It is important and instructive to thoughtfully contemplate such things as: Isaiah’s hint of the Trinity (6:8); the marginal rendering of 26:4 and 59:15; the prophecy concerning the end of war (2:4; 11:9; 14:7); the book’s three “Blesseds” (30:18; 32:20; 56:2); the Lord as King of Israel (6:5; 44:6; 43:15); and the remnant of Israel to be saved (1:25-27; 2:2-3; 6:13; 11:11; 18:7; 27:12-13; etc.).

The topical method of study reaps rich rewards in the book of Isaiah. For example, there are seven everlasting things: salvation (45:17) ; light (60:19) ; joy (35:10) ; strength (26:4); kindness (54:8); covenant (55:3); and judgment (33:14). Also, the Lord Jesus Christ’s life can be traced from its pages: His birth (7:14; 9:6); His family (11:1); His anointing (11:2); His character (11:3-4); His simplicity of life (7:15); His gentleness (42:1-4) ; His death (52:13 - 53:12) ; His resurrection (25:8; 53:10); and His glorious reign (11:3-16; 53). In addition, consider Isaiah’s teaching about the Holy Spirit (10:27; 11:2; 32:15; 40:7, 13; 42:1; 44:3; 59:19, 21; 61:1; 63:10), and his teaching regarding comfort (40:1; 51:3, 12; 56:13; 61:2, 3, 12; 63:9; see also 43:1-2; 50:10).

Isaiah 40-66 has been called “one of the finest poems existing in any language.”

F. B. Meyer has discerningly observed that the prophet’s aim in chapters 40-66 is to engage the Israelites in their exile by showing that the Lord is sovereign and, as a result, no obstacle will be able to prevent the ultimate restoration of Israel and the overthrow of their enemies. In accomplishing His will, God uses the following agents:

1. Cyrus, “one from the East” (41:2), who is called “my shepherd”(44:28) and Jehovah’s “anointed” (45:1), and who became God’s instrument in overthrowing Babylon and delivering Israel from exile.

2. The “Servant of Jehovah.” In several passages the nation of Israel is referred to as the “Servant of Jehovah” (41:8; 44:1-2, 21), but in many others the personal, suffering “Servant of Jehovah” is beautifully portrayed as God’s instrument in the redemption of Israel and in the in-gathering of the Gentiles. Through Christ, the Messiah, God will fulfill His promise to Abraham, culminating in an endless kingdom of peace and righteousness.2

Special Note

On the evening of February 1st, 1985, several of the “Food for the Flock” committee brethren met together in the home of Bill and Joan Hamilton (our treasurer and business manager, respectively) at Mississauga, Ontario. At our previous Annual Meeting last October 27th in Toronto, serious consideration had been given to ceasing publication of the magazine at the close of 1985. It was then suggested that we table any definite decision for three months and during that time prayerfully spread the matter before the Lord. During those months, He has been pleased to encourage our hearts in a number of ways. Thus under our Lord’s good and guiding hand, and with a sense of renewed commitment, it is our united decision to continue to publish the magazine.

In faith having made this decision, it does not mean that we are without problems. Financially, we fluctuate in and out of the red, this being indicative of the narrowness of our yearly budget. Perhaps our reader friends, many of whom decried the possible demise of “Food for the Flock,” would take it upon themselves to introduce the magazine to others. Also, if local assemblies would take a bulk subscription of 5, 10 or 25 copies (as some do) to distribute among those in fellowship, this is still another way of furthering the magazine and at the same time encouraging those of us who are responsible for its continued publication.

Please include “Food for the Flock” and its editor in your prayers as we seek through this written avenue of ministry to exalt our Lord Jesus Christ and to edify His saints. In advance we sincerely thank you for your helpful support.

—The Editor

1 Eric W. Hayden, Preaching through the Bible, p. 105.

2 F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day, IV, p. 46.