Who was Isaiah in the Old Testament?

Isaiah

Isaiah was an 8th century BC Israelite prophet and the author of the Hebrew Bible book that bears his name. The Hebrew word for his name means “the Lord is help.” The prophet was the son of Amoz and a shoot of the royal line. He was married and had two sons, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Is. 7:3; 8:3).

He was called to the prophetic office in his early years, toward the close of the reign of King Uzziah (Azariah, 790–739 BC). His ministry lasted about 60 years (Is. 1:1). It is possible that he was a priest, because God called him when he was in the temple (Is. 6:4). And for his calling, the Lord anointed him with His Spirit (verse 7).

God’s prophet served the nation during the rule of the kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Is. 1:1). According to chronology Uzziah died about the year 739 and Hezekiah died in 686, succeeded by his son Manasseh. The kings of Assyria during this period were: Tiglath-pileser III (745–727), Shalmaneser V (727–722), Sargon II (722–705), Sennacherib (705–681), and Esarhaddon (681–669). These monarchs were the most influential kings, who aimed at the expansion of the Assyrian empire. Thus, Isaiah’s ministry was carried on during the height of the Assyrian supremacy.

Ministry

Jerusalem was the main center of Isaiah’s main prophetic ministry for he was the court preacher and maintained a significant influence there. For many years, he was both the political and religious counselor to the leaders. His task was to hold the kingdom of Judah firm to God as the northern kingdom disappeared into Assyrian captivity due to its apostasy. It was God’s plan that Judah and Jerusalem should benefit from the sad destiny of the northern kingdom and repent from their wicked ways.

Isaiah, Micah, and King Hezekiah defended the nation against their enemies and led Judah into a great revival (2 Kg. 19:32-36; 2 Chr. 32:20-23). However, Manasseh Hezekiah’s son did that which is evil like his grandfather Ahaz, annulled the reforms of his father, and killed the people that encouraged the worship of God.

In one occasion, the Lord used Isaiah to tell King Hezekiah, who had prayed for healing from a deadly sickness, that he will live. And the Lord miraculously caused the shadow of the sun to go backward ten degrees as a sign to the king that He would heal him and extend his life 15 more years (2 Kg. 20:8-11; 2 Chr. 32:24).

In response to these miracles, the king of Babylon sent an envoy to congratulate Hezekiah for his healing. But instead of using this opportunity to tell the Babylonians of the God of Israel and His goodness, Hezekiah showed them all of his treasures. So the Lord, sent Isaiah with the message that this unwise act would cause the Babylonians to invade Judah and carry all of its treasures and also the king’s sons to their land (2 Kg. 20:12-19).

Israel was not left without hope, the prophet gave a message of hope as he prophesied that a “remnant shall return” (Is. 10:21).  If the Israelites would have been faithful to the Lord, the greatest powers of earth would not have conquered them. But Israel failed to do that. So, God allowed these trying experiences to come upon them in order to draw them back to the right path (Is. 10:13).

Messianic Prophecies

The book of Isaiah is most known for its messianic prophecies (Is. 7:14; 9:1-7, 11:2-4; 53:4-7, 9, 12). The ultimate message Isaiah gave to Israel was the hope of Immanuel – the Savior. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” who is “God with us” (Is. 7:14; 8:8; Matt. 1:22-23).

Also, the prophet foretold of the nature of the Savior: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name 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, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Is. 9:6-7).

In addition, God’s prophet predicted the Savior’s infinite love, His sufferings, and His vicarious death in chapters 52:13 to 53:12. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:4-6).

In these passages, there is the most amazing hope, the greatest “good tidings” (Is. 52:7), of time and eternity. Because of Christ’s sacrifice and His death, many would live; because of His sufferings many would find peace and joy eternal (Heb. 12:2). The result would fully justify the sacrifice. And “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied” (Is. 53:11).

The Book of Isaiah

Some claim that because the content and literary style of the chapters of the book 1- 39 vary considerably from those of chapters 40–66, this means that two different authors wrote it. But this is not a correct supposition because there is one main theme that runs through both parts—that of deliverance from political and spiritual foes. And the similarities of style and language between the first and second parts far exceeds its supposed diversities.

Christ Himself and the apostles accepted the book of Isaiah as a single book written by the same prophet. For the Lord referred to Is. 6:9, 10; 53:1 as cited in Jn. 12:38–41. And He acclaimed the prophet as author of both parts. Also, the apostle Paul did the same in Rom. 9:27, 29, 33; 10:15, 16, 20, 21.

The Gospels quoted more from the book of Isaiah than from any other book of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ quoted Isaiah’s prophecy in the parables (Is. 6:9; Matt. 13:14-15). He also fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah in chapters 61:1-2 as recorded in Lu. 4:16-21 and Matt. 4:13-16. In addition, Matthew quoted Isaiah when talking about John the Baptist (Matt. 3:3; Is. 40:3). And Paul made a reference to him in his preaching (Ac. 28:26-27).

Is should be noted that the book the “Ascension of Isaiah” was not written by the prophet Isaiah. Many scholars believe it to be a collection of different texts completed by an unknown Christian scribe who claimed to be the Prophet Isaiah. This book is a pseudepigraphical Jude-Christian text. Scholars date the Ascension of Isaiah from 70 AD to 175 AD.

Death

The time and manner of Isaiah’s death are not mentioned in the Bible or other primary sources. According to the Babylonian Talmud tradition, the prophet suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two under the orders of King Manasseh. The Scriptures affirm in the words of Heb. 11:37, that some were “sawn asunder,” describing the fate of God’s faithful prophet.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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