Who was Isaiah in the Old Testament?

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Isaiah was God’s prophet and the author of the Bible book that bears his name. 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 (Isaiah 7:3; 8:3).

Calling

Isaiah was called to be a prophet from his youth between 750 and 739 B.C. This took place toward the end of the reign of Uzziah (Azariah, 790–739 B.C.). His ministry lasted for about 60 years (Isaiah 1:1). It is possible that he was a priest, because God called him when he was in the temple (Isaiah 6:4) and for his calling, the Lord anointed him with His Spirit (verse 7).

Background

God’s prophet served the nation during the rule of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isaiah 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 of Assyria. Thus, Isaiah’s prophetic ministry was carried on during the height of the Assyrian supremacy.

Ministry

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

Isaiah, Micah, and King Hezekiah defended the nation against their enemies and led Judah into a great revival (2 Kings 19:32-36; 2 Chronicles 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 strengthened Isaiah’s ministry by answering his prayer and moved the sun back ten steps as a sign to King Hezekiah that God would extend his life 15 years (2 Kings 20:8-11; 2 Chronicles 32:24). And in another time, the Lord called him to lay aside his outer garment for 3 years to display an act of humiliation and shame as a “sign and wonder” against the Egyptians (Isaiah 20:2-4).

The book of Isaiah

It is most known for its messianic prophecies (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7, 11:2-4; 53:4-7, 9, 12). Some claim that because the content and literary style of chapters 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 of his 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 He referred to Isaiah 6:9, 10; 53:1 as cited in John 12:38–41. And He acclaimed the prophet as author of both parts. Also, the apostle Paul did the same in Romans 9:27, 29, 33; 10:15, 16, 20, 21.

NT quotations from the book

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

Death of the prophet

According to the Babylonian Talmud tradition, Isaiah was slain by the wicked King Manasseh. The Scriptures affirm the words of Hebrews 11:37, that some were “sawn asunder,” describing the fate of the prophet Isaiah.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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