Overview of the Book of Isaiah[1]
For explanation see discussion of the structure of Isaiah, esp. on “connecting the redactional chunks” in Reading Notes on Isaiah

I   1-5, 6 (the case against Judah and Jerusalem, the call of the prophet)
A   Introductions (1:1-6:13)
chaps. 1-5 These are general judgments which are specifically against the chosen people. Note that while the readers/listeners are referred to as “Judah,” “Jerusalem,” and “Israel” the enemies, etc. are called “strangers.”
1   Superscription of book (1:1)
2   General introduction to book (1:2-31)
1:2 The reference to the “heavens and earth” use the cosmological perspective of Genesis 1 in a similar way to the covenant of Deuteronomy (see esp. 30:19) and the opening of the song of Moses (Dt. 31:28; 32:1). In Isa. 1, the heavens and earth are called to witness the judgment of the listeners/ readers. 1:2-31 Several items in the opening and closing of Isaiah serve to frame the entire book. Compare “heavens and earth” in 1:2 with “new heavens and earth in 65:17; 66:22-24; clean/dirty in 1:16 with 64:6; “oak” in 1:30; 6:13; 64:6; Zion redeemed with others burned in 1:27-31 with new heavens and earth yet unending burning in 66:22-24. 1:10-15, etc. The frequent use of listen, hear, ear, etc. imagery as figures for submission/ obedience complements the binding nature of the “word” of the Lord. Hence, when “the Lord says ...” world are called into existence and people are held accountable for obedience. In 1:10-15 because the people ignored the word of the Lord (1:10) the Lord will not listen to the people (for a similar reciprocal listen/not listen in Proverbs between the reader/son and Woman Wisdom see 1:24-28 and notes).
3   Specific introduction to the book (2:1-5:30)
4   The calling of Isaiah (6:1-13)
6:1-13 Note the proximity of the prophet Isaiah in the presence of the King in his temple––compare Melchizedek the priest-king in Ps 110. Also, see Jn 12:40-41; Mt 13:13-15. 6:1 It is interesting that this vision is set in year that king Uzziah died. A comparison of the accounts of Uzziah (a.k.a. Azariah) in Kings (2 Kgs 14:21; 15:1-7, 13, 30, 32, 34) and Chronicles (2 Chron 26:1-23; 27:2) reveals that the Chronicler expanded his narrative of Uzziah by using a story about Uzziah written by Isaiah (2 Chron 26:27). Chronicles narrates the death of Uzziah after he received leprosy when he angrily entered the temple and was exiled from the temple for life (2 Chron 26:19-23). 6:8 On the use of the plural pronoun relative to God compare Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:7. 6:8-12 The image of the hardening of the heart in 6:8-12; 8:17; 29:9-14; 30:8-14 complements the hardening of heart and God’s judgment esp. in Exod 9:16-17; 11:10; 14:4, 17; 1 Sam 16:14.[2]

II   7, 8-12 (omens against Ahaz, oracles concerning the Syria-Ephraim debacle)
B   Oracles against the Syria-Ephraim coalition (7-12)
1   The sign of Immanuel (7:1-16)
Sons named as signs: Shear-Jashub/a remnant will return (7:3); Immanuel/God with us (7:14; 8:8, 10); Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz/quick to the plunder, swift  the spoil (8:1, 3).
   Are Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz and Immanuel one and the same? On this and other related issues see discussion on 7:14.
2   The sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1-22)
3   The sign of Messiah (9:1-7)[3]
4   The judgment by Messiah (9:8-10:34)
5   The kingdom of Messiah (11:1-12:6)
a   The prince of the kingdom (11:1-5)
b   The peace of the kingdom (11:6-9)
c   The people of the kingdom (11:10-16)
d   The song of the kingdom (12:1-6)
III   13-23, 24-27 (oracles against the nations, Isaiah's apocalypse) 
“Oracle concerning …” 9X (13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 21:11; 21:13; 22:1; 23:1)
C   [oracle one] against Babylon (13:1-14:23)
13:1-14:23 Babylon is first of the nations who are judged (cf. its lead in oracles of chap. 21 and following also). Compare to Babel in Gen 11 and Babylon in Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21.
D   against Assyria (14:24-27)
E   against Philistines (14:28-32)
F   [oracle two] against Moab (15:1-16:14)
G   [oracle three] against Damascus (Aram) and Israel (17:1-14)
H   against Cush (18:1-7)
I   [oracle four] against Egypt (19:1-25)
J   against Egypt and Cush (20:1-6)
20:1-6 Isaiah’s symbolic act of nakedness for three years is attached to Sargon’s attack of Ashdod (711 bce), but it is sign-act against Egypt and Ethiopia.[4]
K   [oracle five] against Babylon (21:1-10)
L   [oracle six] against Dumah (Edom) (21:11-12)
M   [oracle seven] against Arabia (21:13-17)
N   [oracle eight] against the Valley of Vision (Jerusalem) (22:1-14)
message concerning Shebna and Eliakim (22:15-25)
O   [oracle nine] against Tyre (23:1-18)
P   Against the whole earth––Isaiah’s apocalypse (24:1-27:13)
1   Universal judgment (24:1-23)
2   Universal blessing (25:1-12)
3   Universal singing in Judah (26:1-21)
4   Universal establishment of God’s kingdom (27:1-13)
IV   28-35, 36-37 (woe oracles, the Assyrian threat against Jerusalem)  
Q   The “volume of woes” on the unfaithful (28:1-33:24)
1   Woe on Samaria and Jerusalem for scoffing (28:1-29)
28:1; 29:1; 29:15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1 Each woe oracle is introduced by “woe” hy.
2   Woe on Jerusalem for religious hypocrisy (29:1-14)
3   Woe on those who make secret agreements (29:15-24)
4   Woe on those who make alliance with Egypt (30:1-33)
5   Woe on those that rely on military strength rather than the Lord (31:1-32:20)
6   Woe on the Assyrians (33:1-24)
R   General summation of judgment and hope (34:1-35:10)
1   Judgment (34:1-17)
a   Judgment on all the earth (34:1-4)
b   Judgment on Edom (34:5-15)
c   Yahweh’s word on it (34:16-17)
2   Blessing (35:1-10)

36:1-39:8 Except for 38:9-20 the whole narrative is parallel to 2 Kgs 18-20. What is interesting relative to the literary structure is that the events of 36-37 and 38-39 likely happened in reverse chronological order than their arrangement in Isaiah. It seems that the Assyrian invasion occurred after Hezekiah’s illness. This arrangement connects the two halves of Isaiah.[5]

S   The enemy at the gates (36:1-22)
T   God delivers Hezekiah and Jerusalem from Sennacherib and the Assyrians (37:1-38)

V   38-39, 40-55, 56-66 (Hezekiah’s fall, the promise of return from exile, the enthronement of God above his new creation, Jerusalem)
U   Hezekiah’s illness (38:1-22)
V   Envoys from Babylon (39:1-8)
Consolation for the exiles in Babylon (40-55)

chaps. 40-48 The judgment of God’s people leads to hope for salvation. The basis of this hope is the power of Yahweh’s word, which is here polemically contrasted against the false gods. The gods are mocked when contrasted to Yahweh, the Creator of the world and his people. Moreover, the word of Yahweh establishes what is to come.
W   The Coming of God (40:1-31)
1   Isaiah summoned to the presence of God and commissioned to a ministry of comfort (40:1-11)
40:9 Compare with 52:7; Nah. 1:15.
2   The power of God (40:12-26)
3   God’s compassion on the weak and weary (40:27-31)
X   The Lord of history (41:1-29)
41:2 “The one from the east” may be Cyrus who is mentioned by name in 44:28 and 45:1.
Y   The Servant––first Servant Song (42:1-25)
Z   Forgiveness, Gathering, and Renewal of Israel (43:1-44:5)
43:16-21 This passage seems to draw on themes from the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15). The Masorah Parva (Mp) notes that Isa. 43:21 used the letter gimel (= the number 3) to indicate that ‘am z is found twice more in the Hebrew Bible (Exod 15:13, 16). The parallel between the exodus from Egypt and the exodus from Babylon can also be seen in 11:15-16.[6]
AA   The Only God (44:6-45:25)
1   Who is like God? (44:6-23)
2   The Creator (44:24-28)
3   God installs Cyrus as his anointed (45:1-25)
45:1 Cyrus is here referred to as his “messiah,” that is, Yahweh’s messiah. On the importance of Cyrus compare 2 Chron 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; these two passages are explicitly connected to the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s oracles.
BB   The end of Babylon (46:1-47:15)
1   The impotence of Babylon’s idols (46:1-13)
2   The fall of Babylon (47:1-15)
CC   The Lord calls his people to listen (48:1-22)
DD   The call and mission of the Servant––second Servant Song (49:1-13)
EE   The restoration of Israel from their captivity (49:14-26)
FF   Israel’s sin and the Servant’s obedience––third Servant Song (50:1-11)
GG   Israel comforted because of the promise of deliverance (51:1-52:12)
1   Listen and ... (a) ... look back (51:1-3); (b) ... look up (51:4-6); (c) ... do not fear (51:7-8)
2   Awake and ... (a) ... be strong (51:9-16); (b) ... stand up (51:17-23); (c) ... prepare to return from exile (52:1-12)
52:7 Compare with 40:9; Nah. 1:15. See note on Nah. 1:15.
HH   The suffering and glories of the Servant––fourth Servant Song (52:13-53:12)
II   Sing for the glory of Zion (54:1-17)
JJ   Invitation for salvation and blessing (55:1-13)
hope for the remnant returned from exile (56-66)
KK   Invitation to watch the punishment of the sinful (56:1-57:21)
LL   False and true religion (58:1-14)
MM   The repentance and redemption of Zion (59:1-21)
NN   The coming of peace and prosperity to Zion (60:1-22)
OO   The coming of Messiah and glory to Zion (61:1-11)
PP   The restoration and glory of Zion (62:1-63:6)
QQ   Prayer for deliverance (63:7-64:12)
RR   God’s answer (65:1-66:24)
1   Judgment and Grace (65:1-25)
2   Restoration and Judgment (66:1-24)

[1] Outline based on my own reading and parts indebted to Childs, Introduction; Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1—39, AB; Moyer, Isaiah, esp. 30-32; Brian Toews, unpublished lectures, PBU (1998).
[2] On the use of Isa 6:9-10 in the New Testament see Childs, Struggle, 6-8. On 6:10 see 15-16.
[3] On “mighty God” see Ps 45; on “father” see 2 Kgs 16:7; cf. Boling, Judges, AB, 16.
[4] On the challenges of the referents and significance of 20:1-6, see Childs, Isaiah, 145.
[5] See Ryken/Longman, Literary, 318.
[6] See Barrera, Jewish Bible, 276.

Copyright 2011