Notes on Isaiah Ė Part I February 26, 2001


  1. Background

    1. Time of divided kingdoms
      1. Israel in the north, capitol is Samaria (Is 7:9)
      2. Judah in the south, capitol is Jerusalem, about 40 mi south of Samaria

    2. The Assyrian threat: a major power north of Israel
      1. Smaller nations were banding together, Syria (Aram) and Israel (Ephraim) wanted Judah to join with them in order to resist the Assyrian threat (the Syro-Ephramite war). They were willing to do this, even by force. (see II Kings 16-25, esp ch 16)
      2. Text from the ancient near east.
        1. Shalmaneser III (858-824): The Fight Against the Aramean Coalition. There was a unity understood between the king and his gods. The kingís success was the godís success.
        2. Sargon II (721-705): The Fall of Samaria. Again, the kingís success reflects on the greatness of his godís.

  2. Structure of Isaiah

    1. Introduction to entire book: ch 1. Contains elements of all three sections.

    2. First Isaiah: ch 2-39. Deals with the time of the Syro-Ephramite war. The prophet is telling the king not to worry about the armies besieging Jerusalem; the Lord will protect the city (Is 7: 3-9). Still, an alliance with Egypt was contemplated by the king, in contradiction to the prophetís (= the Lordís) instruction. First Isaiah is mainly BAD news. It ends with an uncaring king in power and points to the upcoming rise of the Babylonian empire. It is this empire that ultimately conquers Judah and Jerusalem.
      1. Introduction is in chapters 2-5
      2. Call of Isaiah is in chapter 6
      3. The sign of Emmanuel is in chapters 7-8. The gospel of Matthew identifies this as Jesus (Matt 1:23). This gospel quotes extensively from Isaiah. (In fact, Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament book in the whole of the New Testament.)
      4. Chapters 9-12 contain various Messianic oracles.
      5. Chapters 13-23 contain the oracles against the nations. When reading these, it is particularly important to keep in mind that this text is addressed to Jews and not to the nations mentioned. In other words, one cannot use these texts as a basis for crusades or hatred of the nations mentioned.
      6. Chapters 24-27 constitute an apocalypse. In fact, the oracles against the nations lead up to this section.
      7. Oracles against Ephraim and specifically against Jerusalem form the focus of chapters 28-35. After God has reminded his people that he can get the nations, he lets them know that he can get them. It is effectively a return to the message of Is 2-8.
      8. Finally, this section of Isaiah (ch 36-38) continues the historical narrative with peace and security declared for that time combined with the prophetic announcement of Godís judgment to be enacted by the Babylonians.

    3. Second Isaiah: ch 40-55. You are in Babylon. This section is almost entirely GOOD news. In fact, the term "Gospel" (= good news) is from here. The four servant poems are in this section. More on this in part II.

    4. Third Isaiah: ch 56-66. Written in the time after the (miraculous) return from exile in Babylon. Reflects internal struggle in that community. The need for God to separate out the righteous from the unrighteous within the community leads to a rise of a new form of literature: apocalypticism. More on this in part II.

Isaiah Ch 40-55