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An Introduction To Isaiah

Daniel Tan

We are about to embark on a journey to explore the Book of Isaiah, one of the more difficult books in the Bible to read. In the process, we will discover multiple histories that intertwine with accounts in the Books of the Kings and the Chronicles. However, as is right before any journey, we must first ensure that our gear is prepared properly and that we have a good idea of the route before us as well as the potential dangers that lurk in the shadows. Let's begin with the authorship of Isaiah, which is something that seems contentious or might at the very least be surprising. A good majority of the scholarship hypothesises that Isaiah may not have been written by a single individual, but rather by three different individuals. The first triad would have been written by the prophet Isaiah himself, the second perhaps a disciple of some sort. The reason for this being that Isaiah is very clearly split into two and perhaps three different writing styles, with their own set of key themes. First Isaiah (the prophet) is hypothesised to have written Chapters 1-39, while Second Isaiah (the second writer) to have written Chapters 40-55 and finally Third Isaiah (the third writer) Chapters 56-66. Some argue that splitting Isaiah into three takes from its veracity and integrity as a book. Personally, I feel that if the three parts of Isaiah were different enough to be split yet were similar enough to be composed into a single book, it is simply more evidence that God's word is what linked the three together.

Whatever your beliefs however, it is clear that Isaiah is at least split into two distinct segments. Chapters 1-39 speak of Judgment and Punishment, for both foreign nations and Israel because of their respective wrongdoings and sins. Chapters 40-66 speak of redemption of Israel and the salvation that will come for them. Speaking of First Isaiah first, let's talk about where and when this was written. Isaiah was a contemporary of Jeremiah and the son of Amoz. This same Amoz is thought to have been related to Uzziah, one of Israel's kings. In that sense, Isaiah was blood kin to the royal household, which would explain why he was able to walk so freely amongst the royal court and act as adviser to generations of kings.

Isaiah was a prophet, but the word has been misappropriated in modern times to refer to some sort of future-seeing fortune teller of sorts. Seeing the future was merely a symbol of proof that a prophet was acting on behalf of God. The job scope of a prophet rather, was to deliver a message from the Lord to his people. Isaiah delivers his message to multiple generations. Isaiah 1:1 mentions that the accounts spread from the reign of Uzziah to Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah up to even the exile to Babylon in Second Isaiah. In fact, the Books of the Kings and the Chronicles all mention Isaiah at some point. His presence is rather pronounced due to the position he writes from and he serves as contemporary to many other prophets, both minor and major.

Of the major prophets, Isaiah is one of the most prominent and his writing one of the most refined in terms of poetic style and prose. This is not surprising given his background. As a child aligned with the royal bloodline it is indubitable that Isaiah received his fair share of education that his contemporaries might not have had. First Isaiah is therefore written while Israel was yet to be captured by Babylon and serves as a warning. Israel has sinned greatly and continues to do so. If they do not repent, they will suffer the consequences. And so they do. Israel's sin causes them to be exiled and captured by Babylon, wherein Second Isaiah delivers a message of redemption that can and will come as long as the people are willing to repent. God's message of repentance stays true regardless of the situation. Because of the poetic style and shifting ways of describing events, Isaiah is a remarkably difficult book to truly delve into. I have found scarce resources into the study of the book and therefore have decided to dedicate time to getting into the verses and prying at their meanings and their references.

There will be many cross-references, both to other books in the Tanakh (Old Testament) as well as times when Jesus quoted whether through his words or actions, the writings of Isaiah. Those will be our tools in this journey through these many chapters. And on that note, we have set the stage proper to begin our dive into the works of Isaiah. We shall adjourn for now, but we will return at the rendezvous point: Isaiah 1.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.

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