The Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is a major prophetic text of the Old Testament. It is included in the Latter Prophets section of the Nevi’im. Its oldest surviving manuscripts are 2 scrolls that formed a part of Dead Sea Scrolls. The Book of Isaiah text is dated at approximately 100 BC. There is considerable controversy as to who was the writer of the text. Almost all scholars agree on the point that the Book of Isaiah was written by more than one person, as this can be detected by noting the stylistic differences occurring in different part of The Book of Isaiah.
Even though the prime composer of the verses that make up the Book of Isaiah is believed to be written by Isaiah ben Amoz, a prophet who lived in the Kingdom of Judah during 8th century BC, there are enough signs to put forward that much of the text was created during Babylonian exile and the period after that. Throughout most of the period of 20th century, scholars divided the Book of Isaiah text into three separate sections.
The chapters 1 to 39 of the Book of Isaiah was designated as Proto-Isaiah and was assumed to be penned by the prophet himself; the chapters 40 to 55 were labeled as Deutero-Isaiah and were believed to have been produced during the exile by an unknown 6th century author; and the third section (chapters 56 to 66) termed as Trito-Isaiah was written after returning from the exile. Although most scholars still maintain that no single writer can be held responsible for the creation of the entire content, the idea that the Book of Isaiah consisted of three distinct sections went through a major transformation during the later part of the twentieth century. Currently, the primary thread of research focuses on the essential unity of the book by dividing it into two parts.
The Book of Isaiah is presented in the form of verses, prose, oracles and prophecies that deals with the subject of salvation. The book of Isaiah starts by exploring on the themes of divine judgment as well as subsequent restoration for righteous people against a backdrop of socio-political turmoil. By 722 BC, Israel has fallen into captivity, and the people of Jerusalem and Judah has started to live a life of decadence, idolatry and evil. Assyria, which had dominion over the Fertile Crescent, posed as a major threat for both kingdoms.
Babylon was slowly emerging as a powerful kingdom which could ultimately replace Assyria to pose as the major threat. In the midst of such issues, Isaiah asserts that God has a divine plan that will finally come to fulfillment on “Day of Yahweh”. On that day, Jerusalem will be hailed as the seat of His global rule. On that day, people from all of world’s nations will arrive at Zion to receive God’s instructions. However, at first the city needs to purge itself of all evil. Chapters 5 to 12 explore the importance of Assyrian judgment against the kingdom of Israel. A righteous Davidic king will come to power once the Assyrian monarch loses his throne. The chapters 13 to 27 of the Book of Isaiah discuss how the nations should prepare themselves for Yahweh’s global rule. Isaiah further predicts the arrival of a Messiah whose arrival will follow punishment of Jerusalem and defeat of her oppressor.
The second part of the text identifies the oppressor as the Kingdom of Babylon and states that it is on the path of decline. Yahweh will lead all redeemed exiles back to Jerusalem. Chapters 36 to 39 discuss how King Hezekiah faithfully served Yahweh during Assyrian siege. The next few chapters present the argument that Zion is being restored as Yahweh has chosen the Persian monarch Cyrus the Great to be the promised messiah as well as the temple-builder. In chapters 55 to 66, an exhortation is presented to Israel for keeping the covenant. In the end, the righteous nations will make a pilgrimage to Zion and Yahweh’s kingship will be eventually be realized.