Son of Amos and was called by God when he was in the temple 6:6. Some sources say he was a priest but there is no clear evidence in the chapter. He prophesied in Judah during the time of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
He received his call when he was still a young man. He was married 8:3 and was a father of 2 sons who had symbolic names 7:3, 8:3.
His ministry was centered in Jerusalem city though he also prophesied to the surrounding nations.
The book is divided into 3 principle parts as illustrated below;
Chapter 1-39 (1 Isaiah / Isaiah of Jerusalem / Pre-exilic period)
This comes from a time when Judah (Southern part) was threatened by a powerful neighbor (Assyria). According to Isaiah, the real threat, the life of Judah was not simply the mighty of Assyria but the nation`s own sin and disobedience to God. Isaiah called upon the people and their leaders to a life of righteousness and justice. Failure to listen would bring doom and destruction. Isaiah also hoped for a time of worldwide peace and coming of a descendant of David who would be the idol King.
Chapter 40-55 (2 Isaiah / Deutral Isaiah /Exilic period)
These come from a time when many people of Judah were in exile in Babylon crushed and without hope. He proclaimed that God would set his people free and take them home to Jerusalem to begin a new life. God is Lord of history and his plan for his include there mission to all nations who would be blessed through Israel.
Chapter 56-66 (Post-Exilic)
These were addressed to people who were back in Jerusalem and who needed re-assurance that God was going to fulfill his promises to the nation. Concern is expected for righteousness and justice. He also emphasized Sabbath observances, sacrifice and prayer.
THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD 5:1-FF
A parable is a symbolic story which teaches a moral or religious lesson. People are supposed to reflect on the parable and discover the hidden truth. The song of the Vineyard is Isaiah`s prophecy was used as symbolism but in it had deeper theological interpretation based on God`s judgment with the chosen people. Israel is the vineyard of the Lord and the people are the vines he planted.
The parable compares the people of Israel and Judah to a vine that had been given great care but produced sour grapes. According to the story, the gardener planted the finest vines, constructed a tower to guard them and waited for the vines to ripen but every grape was sour.
In the same way, God cared for his people by saving them from their slave drivers, gave them laws to regulate their social and religious life, gave them Kings, priests and prophets to guide them but they continued to sin (produced sour grapes).
The gardener was so technical in that he requested the people who live in Jerusalem and Judah to pass judgment to them. This implied that God was a fair judge.
The sour grapes were used to warn both the people and their leaders to change their ways. They rewarded the gardener with syncretism, apostasy, corruption etc.
He also warned the leaders to avoid allying with foreign nations and instead trust God for their security.
The parable also warned people to avoid evil and do good (produce better fruits by embracing the covenant faith)
Isaiah used a vine because they were familiar with it and could easily comprehend what he was talking about.
It gave Jesus a basis to develop his teaching about the parable of tenants.
It prophesized the protection of good people
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PARABLE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
It gave background to Jesus` teachings about people ‘sins.
It warned people about the consequences of their sinful nature. The tenants were to face God`s wrath for killing God`s servants and finally his only son.
Jesus compared the vine and the tenants to the sinful people who would not listen to God`s messengers (prophets).
People who frustrated those with God`s messages were to face God`s wrath.
Eventually those who killed the Lord`s son where to be shocked on hearing that the storm which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all. (God`s son, son of the owner of the garden).
In John 15:1-6. Jesus said that he was the true Vine, source of eternal life to the believers.
Jesus left behind his disciples to act as the true branches.
Jesus expected true fruits (sweet fruits to be in form of good behavior) i.e. expected people to show love to each other, be kind, patient and faithful. All believers were expected to bare good fruits.
THE CALL OF ISAIAH
Isaiah received his call in the year that King Uzziah died while he was in the temple.
He saw the Lord sitting on his throne high and exalted. He also filled the whole temple. This portrayed that the Lord`s presence was felt everywhere.
There were flaming creatures around the Lord. Each creature covered its face with 2 wings, its body with 2 and they used the other 2 for flying. These were heavenly messenger.
The creatures were calling out to each other “Holy, Holy, Holy. The Lord Almighty is Holy. His glory fills the world.” This portrayed God`s power and Holiness.
The sound of their voices made the foundation of the temple shake and the temple was filled with smoke. This manifested God`s power.
Isaiah confessed that he was doomed because he believed that every word that passed through his lips was sinful and even he was living among people whose every word was sinful. Isaiah was over whelmed with the realization of terrifying purity and holiness of God. The revelation opened his eyes to the evil and lack of faith of the people among-st whom he lived with and who claimed to be true worshipers of God.
One of the creatures flew down to him carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. It touched his lips with a burning Coal and said “This has touched your lips and now your guilt is gone and your sins are forgiven.” This portrayed that Isaiah was forgiven and salvation was to be extended to those who repented.
Then Isaiah heard the Lord say “who shall I send?” Isaiah positively responded by saying that “ I will go, send me.”
Isaiah was to talk to people who wouldn’t listen understand and see. This portrayed that his mission was likely to be a difficult one because the people were in a state of inner rebellion against God.
The Lord was to destroy all even if one person put of 10 remained in the land he was to be destroyed. He was to be like a stump of an Oak tree that had been cut down. This referred to the remnant of the people that will survive after judgment and from whom a new beginning will be established.
ISAIAH AND KING AHAZ
Isaiah`s mission was to keep Judah`s King and leaders out of Assyrian alliance in preference to Yahweh. He desired to pressure a theocratic covenant.
A number of things unveiled during Ahaz`s term of office, Ahaz succeeded King Jotham and he ruled Judah from 735 BC and &716 BC.
His mission was within the royal circles and this enabled him to discover many mistakes which are illustrated below.
KING AHAZ (2 Kings; 16:1-19)
The King of Syria and Israel wanted Ahaz to join them in order to resist the Assyrian army.
They also proposed that if he fails to comply they were to replace him with a compliant King. As a result Ahaz became weak and frightened.
According to Isaiah, Ahaz was to have no fear instead he was to put his trust in the Lord. The spirit of fear made him fail as illustrated below;
According to 2 King; 16;1-FF, Ahaz failed to follow the good example of his ancestor King David.
He sacrificed his son as a burnt offering to idols, in this way he was trying to imitate the disgusting practice of the people whom the Lord had driven out of their land as the Israelites advanced. All this portrayed pagan influence.
Ahaz offered sacrifices at pagan places of worship on hills and under shady trees.
Ahaz also decided to abandon theocracy in favour of foreign alliances. He tried to seek for help from the Emperor of Assyria as he was being threatened by the King of Syria and Israel. Isaiah strongly condemned foreign alliance because he knew that Assyrians were used as instrument of Judgment by God but out of the judgment a remnant would return and be used by God for his purposes.
Ahaz paid tribute to Assyria for protection. He took silver, Gold from the temple and palace treasury. He sent it as a present to the emperor. The gifts enabled the King of Assyria to gain control over Judah without an effort of attacking the country.
After the fall of Damascus, Ahaz went to Assyria, he saw an altar, sent the exact design to Uriah and instructed him to install it in the temple. It was installed and superseded the bronze altar dedicated to Yahweh. The altar was for the worship of foreign gods who had proved to be more powerful. Uriah`s involvement meant that he was syncretic combining Assyrian worship with Jewish traditions. This meant that they were defiling the temple and contaminating the people.
Ahaz worked hand in hand with an evil priest. Uriah was guilty of carrying out the order of the King about the new form of worship.
Ahaz lacked faith in God i.e. he strongly believed that faith alone would not be enough to help him go through the situation.
ISAIAH`S RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION (788)
The prophet condemned syncretism and called upon the King to embrace monotheism in Judah.
On the issue of political alliances Isaiah noted that alliances were a miscalculation. He called up on Ahaz to be calm and not frightened.
There was a change in the course of events, Hezekiah deviated from his religious doctrines as attempted to join political alliances i.e. alliances with Egypt in order to overcome Assyrian threat 2 Kings 18;13-16
The above event inevitably made him conflict with the Lord`s servant as illustrated below;
Isaiah objected Judah`s alliance in an attempt to overcome Assyrian threat.
According to Isaiah it portrayed lack of confidence, trust, faith and obedience to Yahweh like his father.
Isaiah was aware that God was intending to use Assyrians as instrument of judgment, if his people continued to rely on foreign help.
The prophet also noted that the King and the people lacked religious sincerity, they claimed to have close relationships with God but they were hypocrites.
The people and the King were to suffer because of lack of proper vision and even failure to respect the Lord`s prophet.
Hezekiah also displayed his wealth to foreign visitors and because of this, the Babylonians were to take away everything that Judah treasured and some of the people were to be made Eunuchs who were to serve in the King`s palace. 2 Kings: 20; 12-19
Hezekiah also paid tribute to Assyrian King which left Jerusalem totally with nothing in an attempt to survive.
THE SIGN OF A NAKED PROPHET CHAPTER 20
The Lord commanded Isaiah to take off his sandals and sack cloth he was wearing. Isaiah responded positively. This was a sign of what was to happen to Egypt and Ethiopia. The Emperor of Assyria was to lead away naked the prisoners he captured from the 2 countries. They were to walk barefoot and naked with their buttocks exposed bringing shame on Egypt. The sign was instrumental in discouraging Hezekiah from allying with Egypt against Assyria.
Isaiah`s humiliation and discomfort were a price of his people`s safety. Being God`s spokesman involves a lot, at times one may be required to ignore public opinion.
God wanted Hezekiah to put his trust in him in order to promote security.
THE LORD`S SERVANT CHAPTER 42:1-9
This is a messianic prophecy foretelling the coming of the Messiah and what was expected from him. God was to use him to bless Israel and other nations. The servant possessed the following characteristics;
The servant was chosen by the Lord, strengthened and the lord was pleased with him.
The servant was to be filled with the Lord`s spirit, this meant that he had a prophetic role and required special powers.
The servant was to bring Justice to all and every nation. This was a challenge to the leaders who mistreated the disadvantaged people.
The servant was not to shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He was to be gentle.
The servant was not to break off a bent reed or put out a flicuring lump.
The Messiah was not to lose hope or courage.
Distant lambs would eagerly wait for his teachings.
God was to make a new covenant through him with his people.
God was to bring light to the nations through him. He was to open the eyes of the Blind and set free those who sit in dark prisons. The light would set people free.
The servant would be ready to suffer for other people`s burdens. He will face difficult situations but he will endure.
The servant would redeem and bring salvation in Israel. Through him the prophecies of the past would be fulfilled.
SUFFERING SERVANT (CHAPTER 52:13-53:12)
- Through him the Lord was trying to reconcile with his people, the setting of the theme is said to have been at the end of the Jewish exile. In Jewish understanding, the servant represented the suffering Israel. It was also a pointer to the coming of the Messiah and he was supposed to go through.
- According to Isaiah, the servant would succeed in his task and would be highly honored.
- His successes would astonish many who saw him when he was disfigured and the way he suffered.
- Nations and Kings would be astonished when they come to understand the true character of the servant.
- They were to despise, reject and ignore the servant when they come into contact with him.
- It was the will of the Lord that the servant would grow like a plant taking root in a dry ground.
- The servant was to be harshly treated, arrested and sentenced to death.
- His body was to be buried with bodies of evil men.
- He was to endure all the pain that should have been for other people because of their sinful nature.
- The people were to be saved by the punishment he suffered. His death was to be a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. The people were to be made holy by the blows he was to receive.
- After suffering, the servant was to be given a place of honor, a place among great and powerful men.
THE SINS THAT ISAIAH CONDEMNED
- The Sabbath and religious gatherings were corrupted by their sins.
- Their leaders were rebels and friends of thieves; they always accepted gifts and bribes. They never defended orphans and the widows.
- Some people used to fill their mansions with things taken from the poor.
- The women of Israel were very proud walking with their noses in the Lord was to shave their heads.
- People used to ask for messages from the spirits and consulted the dead on behalf of the living but the Lord confessed that what they tell them will do them no good.
- The prophets used to get drunk. They drunk so much wine that they used to stumble in confusion. 28:7-8
- The priests over drunk and failed to decide cases that were brought to them.
- Religious leaders used to undermine Isaiah and his message. They thought it was only good for babies because they wanted the prophet to tell them what they wanted to here.
- They used to murder innocent people
- People used to worship idols i.e. the trees, they used to plant sacred gardens.
- They made unjust laws which in most cases oppressed the poor.
- They used to believe in foreign alliances i.e. King Hezekiah paid tribute to the Emperor of Assyria in an effort to please him.
- The Kings failed to act as role models i.e. King Ahaz promoted idol worship by offering sacrifices and burning incense at pagan places of worship.
God was about to use a foreign nation (Assyria) to punish his people. Assyria was used as God`s instrument of judgment.
There will be wailing and weeping. The whole city will be like an altar covered with blood.
Jerusalem will be like a Ghost struggling to speak under the ground.
Those who are wise in their community will turn out to be fools and all their wisdom will be useless.
The sinful people will be like a clay pot so badly broken that there is no piece big enough to pick up pot coal.
The Lord was determined to destroy all the sinful people even if one person out of 10 remained in the hand.
Their leaders will starve to death and the common people will die of thirst.
Everyone be disgraced and all who are proud will be humbled.
The name “Shaar Jashub” (the remnant shall return). It portrayed that after judgment a few remnants (the faithful and repentant people) would return and implement God`s will.
The name “Immanuel” meant God is with us. It signified that God was his people therefore he intended to castigate Judah`s unnecessary political alliances.
All the foreigners who attack God`s city will be blown away like dust and their terrifying armies will fly away.
Nations threatening city will be like a starving person who dreams his eating and wakes up hungry.
The poor and humble people will once again find the happiness which the Lord the Holy God of Israel gives.
The Lord will take care of his people like a shepherd. He will gather them together and carry them in his arms.
Through the Lord`s servant the Lord will make a covenant with them. The servant will bring light to the nations etc.
The Lord promised to pour out his spirit on their children and even bless them.
RELEVANCE OF THE BOOK
Through the parable of the Vineyard, the prophet portrayed that he was not happy with the way the Israelites betrayed their God therefore Christians today are compelled to lead righteous lives.
Christians are supposed to think before they respond to God`s questions. In the parable God used the people to evaluate their behavior.
God used signs and symbolic names to show the people the dangers of foreign alliances therefore Christians today are supposed to trust only one God.
Through the call, the creatures were calling out “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord almighty is Holy.” This portrayed God`s holiness and might therefore Christians today should respect God.
Christians today seek for God`s power, the sound of the creatures made the foundation of the temple shake.
Christians are supposed to respect God`s servants and what they say because they are there to put them right with God.
Christians and political leaders are encouraged to have faith in God.
Leaders are supposed to destroy all the things that contaminate God`s people i.e. King Hezekiah destroyed pagan places of worship.
Christians are supposed to treat each other fairly even the disadvantaged members of their community. The Messiah was to bring universal peace.
Christians are supposed to love God. Through the servant of the Lord God portrayed that he was willing to forgive his people and even blessed them.
STORY OF ISAIAH