Isaiah 1:1 Isaiah’s Vision
Isaiah 1:1 “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
Verse 1 of Isaiah introduces the entire book as a unified whole as he gives the historical scope and setting by linking his vision with the reigns of 4 kings of Judah. There are certainly different ways of approaching the unity of Isaiah’s book. Many scholars believe that Isaiah wrote chapters 1-39 that deal with matters before the Fall of Jerusalem, while a disciple of Isaiah’s wrote 40-66 after the fall. Some even think that Deutero-Isaiah only wrote ch.40-55 after the fall of Jerusalem and a third Isaiah wrote 56-66 in the post-exilic world. With three different authors the unity comes in a common purpose, themes and God’s overall providence.
While I understand that these three parts of the book of Isaiah have different vocabularies and writing styles, and speak of Jerusalem and God’s people in different time periods, and have a unity of purpose, I am not convinced that it took three Isaiahs, a whole school of Isaiahs, to write the book. I know that a few times in the New Testament authors would give a quote from the Old Testament that would combine two quotes or even an idea and a quote from two different Old Testament authors, yet attribute the quote to only one author, and therefore it may not be heretical to have the idea of Isaiah being composed by 2 or 3 different men; but, I think the simplest and most textually based explanation for the authorship remains the one Isaiah- “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz”
I do not fear the liberal-critical scholarship that points to 3 Isaiah’s, but I think their work may be wrong in some of their conclusions, yet useful. Clearly there are 3 significant parts to the book of Isaiah that have some distinctions. Yet the overall message is, as the first verse proclaims, one vision. It seems to me that some scholars discount the miraculous and deny the prophetic nature of, well, prophecy. Prophecy is certainly much more than foreseeing future events, but it does include that. There is something unmistakably mysterious and miraculous involved. God has the right to intervene in his creation, and he does it through his prophets.
Therefore, as I begin this study of Isaiah, I assume that this is God’s word, divinely revealed to Isaiah the son of Amoz and that this word is inerrant, infallible, authoritative, inspired and sufficient, practical for Christians today. This is the Word of God, yet written by men in a particular place and time, influenced by their culture at that time, yet always inspired by the Holy Spirit. As the Word of God it is timeless while remaining historical in nature and relevant for us.
1:1- The vision- this includes everything from the theophany in ch.6 to the quiet inspiration of the Spirit leading him to write some of the best poetry of the Old Testament. But ultimately, Isaiah’s vision is God’s vision and it is all encompassing. Certainly the book of Isaiah is large, but so is the vision itself. Verse 2 speaks of heaven and earth, verse 3 of Israel, verses 21ff speak of Zion as the unfaithful city. The idea of involving the heavens and earth, begun here in ch.1 is consummated in ch. 66:22 with the new heaven and new earth. Talk about unity! Ch.1 deals with the unfaithful Zion, but ch.65 witha beautiful, joy filled Jerusalem in which God takes delight:
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
Isaiah’s vision deals with the issues and people of the 7th century BC all the way to our day and points forward to the end of days, when history shall be no more.
Notice that the Vision is singular, it is one vision. No doubt God revealed himself to Isaiah in many times and ways, but there is a unity to the Vision. It is not a mere patchwork, it is a whole. Though it has many different themes and historical references throughout, it is unified.
The Vision is focused on what God is doing and will do. Ultimately this points us to Jesus, the suffering servant who appears in 40-53.
of Isaiah the son of Amoz- We know very little of the man himself, but Jewish tradition says he was in the royal family. The kings under whom he prophesied reigned from 792-687 BC, but Isaiah received his call in the year that King Uzziah died (740BC) and was martyred under Mannasseh soon after Hezekiah died, giving him a ministry of perhaps 50+ years. We know he was married to the “prophetess” (8:3) and had 2 children (8:18) and lived in Jerusalem (7:1-3). Jewish tradition says that he was sawn in two and this may be what the author of Hebrews was referring to in 11:37.
concerning Judah and Jerusalem-The vision was given to Isaiah to preach to the kings and the people of Jerusalem and Judah- real people in real world situations. The time periods covered include times of peace and decadence, political intrigue and doubt, and fearful times of war, pestilence and famine. The LORD has strong words for his sinful people that will confront us still today. And there are words of hope. There is much of God’s amazing grace in Isaiah as well as judgment. God is both holy and loving.
In the days of Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah-
Dates of the Reigns of the Kings of Judah During Isaiah’s Prophetic Ministry:
One of the problems with dating the reigns of the kings is that not only are some of the dates not clearly known, but the reigns also overlap. Sons would have a co-regency with their fathers for a few years so their reigns are frequently longer or shorter depending how long that co-regency was. Usually then, when Chronicles gives a duration for the king, they are only counting the amount of time he reigned by himself after his father died.
Uzziah, also known as Azariah, became king at the young age of 16. The son of Amaziah, he was Judah’s 11th king. (2Kings 14:21). With a long reign of about 52 years he led many military campaigns and was generally a good king until his last days. 2Kings 15:3-4 says, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away.” He is infamous for entering the Temple to perform a priestly function (notice separation of church and state) and was stricken with leprosy from the Lord for his hubris (2Chron. 26:16-21). Because of his leprosy he had to live separately and it was in the year of his death that Isaiah 6, the call of Isaiah, occurs, about 740BC. This was a time of success and prosperity for Judah.
When Uzziah/Azariah was smitten with Leprosy, his son Jothan began to reign as co-regent, perhaps as early as 750BC. 2Chron.27:1 says that Jothan reigned for 16 years, but the ways of determining the reigns of the kings is complex because the sons were co-regents with the fathers for a number of years. Jothan was another fairly successful king of Judah, reigning from about 750-735BC with military success over the Ammonites and prosperous times.
Ahaz the son of Jothan began his reign in 735BC and reigned til 715BC, for 16 yrs according to 2Chron.28:1. This king did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He was co-regent with his father Jothan from about 735BC and reigned til his death in 715BC. It was in his reign that Rezin, king of Damascus and Pekah, king of Israel, formed an alliance and attacked Judah. Times of prosperity were over and a time of troubles was coming. Over 100,000 men of Judah were slain in the battle and 200,000 people of Judah were taken as captives. This so weakened Judah that the Edomites raided Judah from the East and the Philistines from the Southwest. Ahaz, rather than trusting in the Lord that Isaiah was proclaiming to him, sought an unholy alliance with Tiglath-pilesar, king of the vicious Assyrians. 2Chron.28:20 tells us that Tiglath-pilesar “came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.” Ahaz was a religious apostate, not only refusing the wise and godly counsel of Isaiah, but sacrificing his own son to an idol in 2Kings16:3,4. He closed down Temple worship and established high places all over Jerusalem, making himself one of the worst kings in Judah’s history. After his death he was not even allowed to be buried with the other kings because he was so wicked (2Chron.28:27).
Hezekiah son of Ahaz was 25 years old when his reign started, and he reigned for 29 years during the years 715-686BC. His story is told in 2Kings 18-20; 2Chron.29-32 and Isaiah 36-39. This good king of Judah restored Temple worship and celebrated the first Passover in a long time (2Chron.30). Hezekiah boastfully showed off his wealth to a Babylonian embassy and this eventually led to Babylon’s interest in conquering Judah.
Doctrine to believe from this text: God is a God who reveals himself; scripture is the inspired Word of God. God is sovereign over all history, all nations, all people, and all time.
Ethical/Moral Instruction/application: Isaiah was called to prophesy to kings, we should be bold today and willing to proclaim the truths of God’s Word to those in high government positions.
Christ is Lord of History!
My reason for studying Isaiah at this point in my life: while I am actively teaching an indepth study of Genesis in Sunday School (after a year and a half we have finished chapters 1-12) I really feel the need and desire to expand into another area of the Old Testament, even though I will likely never teach on Isaiah. The source for this desire is not just a hunger for God’s Word, but a hunger for what God’s Word says about living in difficult times. Isaiah lived through interesting times and his prophecies covered even more interesting, difficult, times for Israel. I am convinced that America, indeed the world, is in for difficult times. Soon. Therefore, I want a fresh word from the Lord that will speak to our day, and Isaiah may be just the right mixture of judgment and hope, Law and Gospel.
The Apologetics Study Bible, edited by Ted Cabal. Broadman&Holman: Nashville, TN 2007 (Introduction to Isaiah, pp.991-993)
Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul. Ligonier Ministries: Orlando, FL 2005.
The Bible Speaks Today commentary series, The Message of Isaiah by Barry G. Webb. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 1996 (pp.24-29, 41).
The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, edited by Merrill C. Tenney. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1967.
The Bible Almanac, edited by J.I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, William White, Jr. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN 1980.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol.6, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, “Isaiah” by Geoffrey W. Grogan. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1986 (pp.3-354).