Overview of the Book of Isaiah
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 “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 () 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 -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 ; 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; ; 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.
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 (; 8:8, 10); Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz/quick to the plunder, swift the spoil (8:1, 3).2 The sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1-22)
Are Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz and Immanuel one and the same? On this and other related issues see discussion on 7:14.
3 The sign of Messiah (9:1-7)
4 The judgment by Messiah (9:8-10:34)
a The prince of the kingdom (11:1-5)
b The peace of the kingdom (11:6-9)
c The people of the kingdom (-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
D againstF [oracle two] against
E against Philistines (-32)
G [oracle three] against
H againstI [oracle four] against
20:1-6 Isaiah’s symbolic act of nakedness for three years is attached to Sargon’s attack ofK [oracle five] against
L [oracle six] against Dumah (
M [oracle seven] against
N [oracle eight] against the
message concerning Shebna and Eliakim (22:15-25)O [oracle nine] against
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
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 onR General summation of judgment and hope (34:1-35:10)
28:1; 29:1; 29:15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1 Each woe oracle is introduced by “woe” hôy.2 Woe on
3 Woe on those who make secret agreements (29:15-24)
4 Woe on those who make alliance with
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)
1 Judgment (34:1-17)
a Judgment on all the earth (34:1-4)2 Blessing (35:1-10)
b Judgment on
c Yahweh’s word on it (34:16-17)
S The enemy at the gates (36:1-22)
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.
T God delivers Hezekiah and
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
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)X The Lord of history (41:1-29)
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)
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
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 zô is found twice more in the Hebrew Bible (Exod , 16). The parallel between the exodus fromAA The Only God (44:6-45:25)
1 Who is like God? (44:6-23)BB The end of
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.
1 The impotence ofCC The Lord calls his people to listen (48:1-22)
2 The fall of
DD The call and mission of the Servant––second Servant Song (49:1-13)
EE The restoration of
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)HH The suffering and glories of the Servant––fourth Servant Song (52:13-53:12)
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.
II Sing for the glory of
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
NN The coming of peace and prosperity to
OO The coming of Messiah and glory to
PP The restoration and glory of
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)
 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).
 On the use of Isa 6:9-10 in the New Testament see Childs, Struggle, 6-8. On see 15-16.
 On “mighty God” see Ps 45; on “father” see 2 Kgs 16:7; cf. Boling, Judges, AB, 16.
 On the challenges of the referents and significance of 20:1-6, see Childs, Isaiah, 145.
 See Ryken/Longman, Literary, 318.
 See Barrera, Jewish Bible, 276.
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