Pulpit Commentary - Isaiah

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Pulpit Commentary - Isaiah

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Isaiah's name. The name borne by this great prophet was really Yesha'-yahu, which signifies "the Salvation of Jehovah." The name was not an uncommon one. It was borne by one of the heads of the singers in the time of David (1 Chronicles 25:3, 15), by a Levite of the same period (1 Chronicles 26:25), by one of the chief men who returned to Jerusalem with Ezra (Ezra 8:7), by a Benjamite mentioned in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:7), and others. The form may be compared with that of Khizki-yahu, or Hezekiah, which meant "the Strength of Jehovah, "and Tsidki-yahu, or Zedekiah, which meant "the Righteousness of Jehovah." It was one of singular appropriateness in the case of the great prophet, since "the salvation of Jehovah" was the subject which Isaiah was especially commissioned to set forth.

His parentage and family. Isaiah was, as he tells us repeatedly (Isaiah 1:1; 2:1; 13:1, etc.), "the son of Amoz." This name must not be confounded with that of the Prophet Amos, from which it differs both in its initial and in its final letter. Amoz, according to a Jewish tradition, was a brother of King Amaziah; but this tradition can scarcely be authentic, since it would make Isaiah too old. Amoz was probably not a man of any high distinction, since he is never mentioned excepting as Isaiah's father. Isaiah was married, and his wife was known as "the prophetess" (Isaiah 8:3), which, however, does not necessarily imply that the prophetic gift had been bestowed upon her. It may have been, as it was upon Deborah (Judges 4:4) and upon Huldah (2 Kings 22:14 -20); or she may have been called "the prophetess" simply as being the wife of "the prophet" (Isaiah 38:1). Isaiah tells us that he had two sons, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, whose names are connected with his prophetical office. Shear-jashub was the elder of the two by many years.

His date. The prophet tells us that he "saw a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah" (Isaiah 1:1). It would follow from this, that, even if he began his prophetic career as early as the twentieth year of his age, he must have been born twenty years before Uzziah's death, or in B.C. 779. He certainly lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, or B.C. 715, and probably outlived that monarch, who died in B.C. 699-8. It is not unlikely that he was even contemporary for some years with Manasseh, Hezekiah's son; so that we may, perhaps, assign him, conjecturally, the space between B.C. 780 and B.C. 690, which would give him a lifetime of ninety years.

His position. That Isaiah was a Jew of good position, dwelling at Jerusalem, and admitted to familiar intercourse with the Jewish monarchs, Ahaz and Hezekiah, is sufficiently apparent (Isaiah 7:3-16; 37:21-35; 38:1-22; 39:3-8). Whether or no he was brought up in the "schools of the prophets" is uncertain; but he must have received his call at a very early age, probably when he was about twenty. That he was historiographer at the Hebrew court during the reign of Jotham, and again during the reign of Hezekiah, appears from the Second Book of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 26:22; 32:32). In this capacity he wrote an account of the reign of Uzziah, and also one of the reign of Hezekiah for the "Book of the Kings." He may also have written accounts of the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, but this is not stated. His main office was that of prophet, or preacher to both king and people; and the composition of his numerous and elaborate prophecies, which are poems of a high order, must have furnished him with continual occupation. It is not certain that we possess all his prophecies; for the book, as it has come down to us, has a fragmentary character, and appears to be a compilation.

His call. Isaiah relates, in his sixth chapter, a very solemn call which he received from God "in the year that King Uzziah died." It is thought by some that this was his original call to the prophetical office. But the majority of commentators are of a different opinion. They note that the original call of a prophet, where recorded, naturally occupies the first place in his work, and that there is no conceivable reason for Isaiah's having postponed to his sixth chapter an account of an event which ex hypothesi preceded his first. It would follow that the original call of the prophet is unrecorded, as is the case with most prophets; e.g. Daniel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

His prophetic career. The career of Isaiah as a prophet commenced, as he tells us, in the reign of King Uzziah, or Azariah. It is a reasonable supposition that it began late in that monarch's reign, but still a year or two before its close. Uzziah was at that time a leper, and "dwelt in a several house," Jotham his son being regent and having the direction of affairs (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 27:21). Isaiah's early prophecies (Isaiah 1-5.) were probably written at this time. "In the year that King Uzziah died" (Isaiah 6:1) — probably, but not certainly, before his death — Isaiah saw the vision recorded in Isaiah 6, and received thus a fresh designation to his office under circumstances of the deepest solemnity. It is remarkable, however, that we cannot assign any of his extant writings, except Isaiah 6, to the next period of sixteen years. Apparently, during the reign of Jotham he was silent. But with the accession of Jotham's sea Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, commenced a period of prophetic activity. The prophecies from Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 10:4 have a structural connection and a unity of purpose which unite them into a single body, and belong manifestly to the portion of the reign of Ahaz when he was engaged in the Syro-Ephraimite war. A prophecy in Isaiah 14. (vers. 28-32) is assigned by the writer to the last year of the same king. Hitherto the prophetic energy of Isaiah had, seemingly, been fitful and spasmodic, but from henceforth it proceeded to flow in a steady continuous stream. There are sufficient grounds for assigning to the reign of Hezekiah the entire series of prophecies following upon Isaiah 10:5, with the single exception of the short "Burden of Palestine, "dated in Ahaz's last year. The contents of these prophecies tend to spread them over the different periods of Hezekiah's reign, and show us the prophet constantly active throughout its entire duration. Whether Isaiah's prophetic career lasted still longer, extending into the earlier part of the reign of Manasseh, is doubtful. A portion of the prophecies contained in his book are thought by some to belong to Manasseh's time, and Jewish tradition places his death under Manasseh. Our conjectural estimate of his lifetime, as falling between B.C. 780 and B.C. 690, would make him contemporary with Manasseh for the space of nine years.

His death. The tradition of the rabbis concerning Isaiah's death placed it in the reign of Manasseh, and declared it to have been a most horrible and painful martyrdom. Isaiah, having resisted some of Hanasseh's idolatrous acts and ordinances, was seized by his orders, and, having been fastened between two planks, was killed by being "sawn asunder." The mention of this mode of punishment in the Epistle to the Hebrews is thought by many to be an allusion to Isaiah's fate (Hebrews 11:37).

His character. Isaiah's temper is one of great earnestness and boldness. He lives under five kings, of whom one only is of a religious and God- fearing disposition; yet he maintains towards all of them an uncompromising attitude of firmness with respect to all that bears upon religion. He conceals nothing, keeps nothing back, out of a desire for court favor. "Is it a small thing for you to weary men?" he says to one king; "but must ye weary my God also?" (Isaiah 7:13). "Set thine house in order, "he says to another; "for thou shalt die, and not live" (Isaiah 38:1). Yet more bold is he in his addresses to the nobles and the powerful official class, which in his day had the chief direction of affairs, and was most unscrupulous in its treatment of adversaries (2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Isaiah 1:15, 21, etc.). He denounces in the strongest terms their injustice, their oppression, their grasping covetousness, their sensuality, their pride and haughtiness (Isaiah 1:10-23; 2:11-17; 3:9-15; 5:7-25; 28:7-15, etc.). Nor does he seek to curry favor with the people. It is "the faithful city" itself which has "become an harlot" (Isaiah 1:21). The nation is "a sinful nation" (Isaiah 1:4), the people are "laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4). They "draw near to God with their mouth, and with their lips do honor him, but have removed their hearts far from him" (Isaiah 29:13). They are "a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the Law of the Lord" (Isaiah 30:9). But this boldness and severity for God, and uncompromising sternness where his honor is concerned, are counterbalanced by a remarkable tenderness and compassion towards the individuals who fall under notice as having provoked God's anger. Not only does he "weep bitterly, "and refuse to be comforted, "because of the spoiling of the daughter of his people" (Isaiah 22:4), but even the woes of a foreign nation, like Moab, draw forth his compassion, and make his "bowels" thrill with sorrow (Isaiah 15:5; 16:9-11). He detests sin, but he mourns over the fate of sinners. For Babylon itself his "loins are filled with pain: pangs take bold upon him, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: he is bowed down at the hearing; he is dismayed at the seeing; his heart pants; fearfulness affrights him: the night of his pleasure is turned into fear for him" (Isaiah 21:3, 4). And as he sympathizes in the calamities and sufferings of all nations, so has he a heart wide enough, and a spirit comprehensive enough, to delight in their prosperity, their exaltation, their admission to the final kingdom of the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2; 11:10-12; 18:7; 19:23-25; 40:5; 42:1-4; 54:3, etc.). No narrow views of race-privilege, or even of covenant-advantage, hem him in, and cramp his sympathies and affections. Yet still he is not so cosmopolite as to be devoid of patriotism, or to view with unconcern anything which affects the welfare of his country, his city, his countrymen. Whether it be Syria and Ephraim that plot against Judah, or Sennacherib that seeks to come in and crash her with an overwhelming flood of invasion, be is equally indignant, equally contemptuous (Isaiah 7:5; 37:22). Against Babylon, as the fated destroyer of the holy city and ravager of the Holy Land, he nourishes a deep-seated hostility, which shows itself in almost every section of the book (Isaiah 13:1-22; 14:4-23; 21:1-10; 45:1-3; 46:1-11; 47:1-15; 48:14, etc.). Again, upon the enemies of God he lets loose, not only a storm of indignation and fierce anger, but also the keen arrows of his sarcasm and irony. A delicate vein of satire runs through the description of female luxury in Isaiah 3. (vers. 16-24). A bitter sarcasm points the description of Pekah and Rezin — "the two tails of these smoking firebrands" (Isaiah 7:4). Against idolaters a somewhat coarser rhetoric is employed: "The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an oak, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god" (Isaiah 44:12-17; comp. Jeremiah 10:3-16; Baruch 6:12-49). While the prophet reserves sarcasm for certain rare occasions, he shows himself a thorough master of it, and pours a stream of scorn on those who provoke his scorn, which effectually disposes of their pretensions.

Two other qualities must be noted in Isaiah — his spirituality and his tone of deep reverence. The formal, the outward, the manifest in religion, are with him absolutely of no account; nothing is of importance but the inward, the spiritual, the "hidden man of the heart." Temples are worthless (Isaiah 66:1); sacrifices are worthless (Isaiah 1:11-13; 66:3); the observance of days is worthless (Isaiah 1:14); attendance at assemblies is worthless (Isaiah 1:13); nothing has any value with God but real purity of life and heart — obedience (Isaiah 1:19), righteousness, "a poor and contrite spirit" (Isaiah 66:2). The imagery which he of necessity employs in describing spiritual conditions is drawn from material things, from the circumstances of our earthly environment. But it is plainly not intended in any literal sense. The abundance and variety of the imagery, sometimes the incongruity of one feature with another (Isaiah 66:24), show that it is imagery — a mere shadowing out of spiritual things by means of trope and figure. And Isaiah's reverence is profound. His most usual title for God is "the Holy One of Israel;" sometimes, still more emphatically, "the Holy One;" once with special elaboration, "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity" (Isaiah 57:15). God is primarily with him an object of reverent fear and awe. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, "he exclaims; "and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:13); and again, "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty" (Isaiah 2:10). It is as if the memory of his "vision of God" never quitted him — as if he felt himself ever standing before the throne, where he "saw the Lord sitting, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he 'covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is fall of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." And the prophet cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in t, he midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:1-5).


Isaiah grew to manhood as a subject of the Judaean kingdom, during the period of the two kingdoms known respectively as those of Israel and Judah. Israel, the schismatical kingdom established by Jeroboam on the death of Solomon, was approaching to its fall. After existing for two centuries under eighteen monarchs of eight different families, and with some difficulty maintaining its independence against the attacks of its northern neighbor, Syria of Damascus, the Israelitish kingdom was on the point of succumbing to a far greater power, the well-known Assyrian empire. When Isaiah was about ten or twelve years of age, an Assyrian monarch, whom the Hebrews called Pul, "came against the land," and his enmity had to be bought off by the payment of a thousand talents of silver (2 Kings 15:19). A far greater monarch, Tiglath-Pileser II., ascended the Assyrian throne about twenty years later, when Isaiah may have been thirty or thirty-five, and began at once a career of conquest, which spread alarm over all the neighboring nations. In Syria it was felt that the new enemy could only be resisted by a general confederacy of the petty monarchs who divided among them the Syro-Palestinian region; and accordingly an effort was made to unite them all under the presidency of Rezin of Damascus. Ahaz, however, the king of Judah at the time, declined to make common cause with the other petty princes. Taking a narrow view of the situation, he thought that his own interests would be best promoted by the crippling of Syria and Israel, powers generally hostile to Judah, and close upon his borders. The immediate consequence of his refusal to join the league was an attempt to coerce him, or to depose him and place upon his throne a prince who would adopt the Syrian policy. Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Samaria attacked him in different quarters, and inflicted on him severe defeats (2 Chronicles 28:5, 6). They then conjointly marched into the heart of his kingdom, and besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 16:5). Under these circumstances, Ahaz placed himself under the protection of the Assyrian monarch, declared himself his "servant," and humbly besought his aid. Tiglath-Pileser readily complied, and, having marched a great army into Syria, conquered Damascus, slew Rezin, defeated Pekah, and carried a large portion of the Israelite nation into captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26). Ahaz personally appeared before him at Damascus, and did homage for his crown, thenceforth reigning as a vassal and tributary monarch.

The crushing blow dealt to the kingdom of Israel by Tiglath-Pileser was shortly followed by a still severer calamity. In B.C. 724, when Isaiah was about fifty-five years of age, Shalmaneser IV., Tiglath-Pileser's successor, determined to destroy the last vestige of Israelite independence, and, marching an army into the country, laid siege to Samaria. The city was one of great strength, and for three years resisted every assault. Finally, however, in B.C. 722, it fell, just about the time that Shalmaneser was dispossessed of his throne by the usurping Sargon. Sargon claims the glory of having captured the place, and of having carried off from it 27, 280 prisoners.

Judaea now stood stripped of independent neighbors, manifestly the next country on which the weight of the Assyrian arms would fall. The submission of Ahaz, and his subserviency to Assyria throughout his whole reign (2 Kings 16:10-18), had helped to defer the evil day; in addition to which Assyria had been much occupied by revolts of conquered countries and by' internal dissensions. But with the accession of Hezekiah a bolder line of policy had been adopted by the Jewish state. Hezekiah "rebelled against the King of Assyria, and served him not" (2 Kings 18:7). In this rebellion he had probably the countenance and support of Isaiah, who always exhorted his countrymen not to be aft-aid of the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:24; 37:6). Isaiah's counsel was that no foreign alliance should be sought, but that entire dependence should be placed on Jehovah, who would protect his own people, and discomfit the Assyrians, should they venture on making an attack. Hezekiah, however, had other advisers also, men of a different stamp, politicians such as Shebna and Eliakim, to whom the simple faith of the prophet appeared fanaticism and folly. The dictates of worldly wisdom seemed to them to require that the alliance of some powerful nation should be courted, and a treaty made whereby Judaea might secure the assistance of a strong body of auxiliaries, should her independence be menaced. The political horizon presented at the time one only power of this kind — one only possible rival to Assyria — viz. Egypt. Egypt was, like Assyria, an organized monarchy, with a considerable population, long trained to arms, and especially strong where Judaea was most defective — that is, in homes and chariots. Behind Egypt, closely allied with her, and exercising a species of suzerainty over her, was Ethiopia, with resources from which, in ease of need, Egypt might draw. It is uncertain at what date the Assyrian monarch began to threaten Hezekiah with his vengeance. Sargon certainly made several expeditions into Syria, and even into Philistia, and in one place he calls himself "the conqueror of the land of Judah; "but there is no sufficient evidence of his having really made any serious attempt to reduce Judaea to subjection. Apparently it was not until after Sennacherib had ascended the Assyrian throne that the conquest of the rebellious Jews was actually taken in hand by the great monarch. But the danger had impended during the whole of Hezekiah's reign; and, as it became more imminent, the counsels of the anti-religious party prevailed. Ambassadors were sent into Egypt (Isaiah 30:2-4), and an alliance appears to have been concluded, whereby the reigning Pharaoh, Shabatok, and his Ethiopian suzerain, Tirhakah, undertook to furnish an army for the defense of Judaea, if it were attacked by the Assyrians. In the fifth year of Sennacherib the attack came. Sennacherib in person conducted his army into Palestine, spread his troops over the whole country, took all the smaller fortified towns — forty-six in number, according to his own account — and, concentrating his forces about Jerusalem, formally laid siege to the city (Isaiah 22:1-14). Hezekiah endured the siege for a time, but, despairing of being able to resist for long, and receiving no aid from Egypt, felt himself after a while forced to come to terms, and buy off his adversary. On the receipt of a large sum in gold and silver, derived chiefly from the temple treasures (2 Kings 18:14-16), Sennacherib retired, Hezekiah submitting himself, and professedly resuming the position of a tributary.

But this position of things satisfied neither party. Sennacherib distrusted Hezekiah, and Hezekiah no sooner saw the Assyrian hosts retire than he resumed his intrigues with Egypt. After a very brief interval — to be counted, perhaps, by months — war once more broke out. Sennacherib with his main forces occupied the Shefeleh and Philistia, keeping watch on Egypt; while at the same time he sent a detachment under a general to threaten, and, should opportunity offer, seize Jerusalem. Of the proceedings of this detachment Isaiah gives a detailed account (Isaiah 36:2-22; 37:8). He was himself present in Jerusalem, and encouraged Hezekiah to defy his foes (Isaiah 37:1-7). Hezekiah acted on his advice; and Sennacherib was provoked to write a letter containing still more violent threats against the holy city. This Hezekiah "spread before the Lord" (Isaiah 37:14); and then the fiat went forth for the destruction of his host. The place of the slaughter is uncertain; but there can be no manner of doubt that s tremendous disaster befell his army, producing complete panic and a hasty retreat. Nor were the consequences merely temporary. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either Southern Palestine or Egypt."

Judaea was now for a considerable space of time completely relieved from all threat of attack or invasion. The closing years of Hezekiah's life were peaceful and prosperous (2 Chronicles 32:23, 27-29). Manasseh, during his early reign, was untroubled by any foreign foe, and was too young to introduce innovations in religion. If Isaiah's sunset ultimately in blood-red clouds, he must still have enjoyed an interval of peace and rest between the final withdrawal of the Assyrians and the commencement of Manasseh's persecution. The interval may have sufficed for the composition of the "Book of Consolation."


The Book of Isaiah, as it has come down to us, presents a certain composite character. To the critical and the uncritical it is equally apparent that it divides itself into three main parts, each with characteristics of its own. The first thirty-five chapters are wholly, or almost wholly, prophetic — that is to say, they are didactic, admonitory, hortatory, containing next to no narrative — a declaration to the Israelites of the "word of the Lord," or of the will of God with respect to them. These thirty-five prophetical chapters are followed by four historical ones (Isaiah 36.-39.), which contain a plain and simple narrative of certain events in the reign of Hezekiah. The work concludes with a third part, which is, like the first, prophetical, and which extends to twenty-seven chapters (from Isaiah 40. to Isaiah 66.).

There is a marked contrast of subject-matter, and of certain features in the composition, between Part I. and Part III. The main enemy of Israel in Part I. is Assyria; in Part III., Babylon. Part I. deals with the times of Hezekiah and Isaiah; Part III., with the time of the Babylonian captivity. Part I. contains numerous headings and dates, which very palpably divide it into portions (Isaiah 1:1; 2:1; 6:1; 7:1; 13:1; 14:28; 15:1; 17:1, etc.); Part III. has no such subdivisions, but seems to flow on continuously. Part I. is chiefly denunciatory; Part III. chiefly consolatory. Part I. embraces all the known world; Part III. touches only Babylon, Persia, and Palestine. Both parts are Messianic; but Part I. presents Messiah as a mighty King and Ruler; Part III. reveals him as a suffering Victim, a meek and lowly Redeemer. Further, when Parts I. and III. are carefully examined, they are found to resemble compilations rather than continuous and connected compositions. Part I. manifestly divides itself into a number of sections, each of which is complete in itself, and but slightly connected with what precedes or follows. Part III. has less appearance of discontinuity, but really contains so many and such abrupt transitions, that it is almost impossible to regard it as a continuous whole. The entire book thus presents the characteristics of a collection or compilation — an artificial gathering into one of prophecies, uttered at various times and on various occasions, each of which was complete in itself, and originally intended to stand by itself, without proem or sequel.

The general arrangement of the book, by whomsoever it was compiled, which will be considered later, seems to be chronological. All the notes of time contained in Part I. are in their proper order, and all are anterior to the period considered in Part II., which again belongs probably to an earlier date than the composition of Part III. It is not clear, however, that chronological order has always been observed in the arrangement of the sections whereof Parts I. and III. are composed. The prophecies were apparently delivered orally at the first, and reduced to writing subsequently, sometimes at a considerable interval. In their earliest written form they were thus a number of separate documents. From time to time collections seem to have been made, and in some of these an order other than the chronological may have been followed. For instance, in the "Book of Burdens," extending from Isaiah 13. to Isaiah 23, the opening burden, that of Babylon, is not likely to have been composed nearly so early as several of the others; and the fifth burden, that of Egypt, contains indications of still later authorship. The compiler would seem to have thrown together prophecies that were similar in character, whatever might have been the date of their composition.

To enter a little more into detail, Part I. seems to contain eleven sections —

Section I., which is Isaiah 1. in the Hebrew text, is a sort of general introduction, reproachful and minatory.

Section II., which forms Isaiah 2.-5, opens with an announcement of Christ's kingdom, and then contains a series of denunciations of the various sins of God's people.

Section III., which corresponds to Isaiah 6, records a vision vouchsafed to Isaiah, and a special mission given to him.

Section IV., which extends from Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 10:4, contains a series of prophecies, largely Messianic, delivered in connection with the Syro-Israelite war.

Section V., which begins with Isaiah 10:5 and extends to the close of Isaiah 23, has been called the "Book of Burdens, "and consists of a series of denunciations of woe upon different nations, chiefly upon the enemies of Israel.

Section VI., which comprises Isaiah 24.- 27, consists of denunciations of woe upon the world at large, relieved by promises of the salvation of a remnant.

Section VII., which extends from Isaiah 28. to Isaiah 31, consists of renewed denunciations of woe upon Israel and Judah.

Section VIII., which is limited to the first eight verses of Isaiah 32, is a prophecy of Messiah's kingdom.

Section IX., which forms the remainder of Isaiah 32, is a renewal of denunciations of woe upon Israel, joined with promises.

Section X., which coincides with Isaiah 33, is a prophecy of judgment on Assyria.

Section XI., which comprises Isaiah 34. and 35, declares the Divine judgment upon the world, and the glory of the Church consequent upon it.

Part II. consists of two sections —

Section I. is formed of Isaiah 36. and 37, and contains an account of the threatening embassy of Rabshakeh, the letter of Sennacherib to Hezekiah, and the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's army. (It corresponds closely with ch. 18. and 19. of 2 Kings.)

Section II. is formed of Isaiah 38. and 39. It contains an account of Hezekiah's illness and recovery, of the embassy of Merodach-Baladan, and of Isaiah's prediction of the ultimate conquest of Jadaea by Babylon. (It corresponds with Isaiah 20. of 2 Kings.)

Part III. appears at first sight to be divided into three equal sections, each composed of nine chapters —

(1) Isaiah 40.-48.;

(2) Isaiah 49.-58.;

(3) Isaiah 58.- 66.;

the same refrain ("There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked") terminating both the first and the second portions; and it is almost certain that whoever made the present arrangement into chapters must have intended this division. But such a division of Part III. would be one according to form, and not according to substance. Considered in respect of its subject-matter, the "Part" divides, like Part I., not into three, but into a much larger number of sections. No doubt different arrangements might be made; but the following seems to us the most free from objection: —

Section I. coincides with Isaiah 40, and is an address of consolation to the people of God in some deep affliction — presumably the Babylonian captivity.

Section II. extends from Isaiah 41. to Isaiah 48, and is a prophecy of the recovery of the people of God from their sin, and from their bondage in Babylon.

Section III. extends from Isaiah 49. to Isaiah 53, and is an account of the mission of a great Deliverer who is called the "Servant of Jehovah."

Section IV. extends from Isaiah 54. to Isaiah 56:8, and consists of promises to Israel, combined with exhortations.

Section V. begins with ver. 9 of Isaiah 56, and extends to the close of Isaiah 57. It is an address of warning to the wicked.

Section VI. consists of Isaiah 58. and 59, and contains practical instructions and warnings, followed by a confession and a promise.

Section VII. coincides with Isaiah 60, and consists of a description of the glories of the restored Jerusalem.

Section VIII. comprises Isaiah 61. and 62, and is a soliloquy of the "Servant of Jehovah," who promises peace and prosperity to the restored Jerusalem. Section IX. contains the first six verses only of Isaiah 63, and gives a picture of God's judgment upon his enemies.

Section X. extends from ver. 7 of Isaiah 63, to the close of Isaiah 64, and is an address of the Jewish Church in Babylonia to God, including thanksgiving, confession of sin, and prayer.

Section XI. coincides with Isaiah 65, and contains God's answer to his exiled Church's prayer.

Section XII. coincides with Isaiah 66, and consists of very solemn final threatenings and promises.



It is generally allowed that Isaiah, as a writer, transcends all the other Hebrew prophets. "In Isaiah," says Ewald, "we see prophetic authorship reaching its culminating point. Everything conspired to raise him to an elevation to which no prophet, either before or after, could as writer attain. Among the other prophets, each of the more important ones is distinguished by some one particular excellence, and some one peculiar talent; in Isaiah, all kinds of talent and all beauties of prophetic discourse meet together, so as mutually to temper and qualify each other; it is not so much any single feature that distinguishes him, as the symmetry and perfection of the whole."

A lofty and majestic calmness, a grandeur and dignity of expression, is perhaps his first, most patent characteristic. However strong the feelings that move him, however exciting the circumstances under which he writes, he always succeeds in maintaining a perfect self-control, and a command over his language which prevents it from ever becoming extravagant or inappropriate. While the strain rises and falls in accordance with the variety of the subject-matter, and the language at times becomes, highly poetic, figurative, and out of the common, there seems always to preside over the composition a calm spirit of self-restraint, which checks hyperbole, bridles passion, and renders the progress and development of the discourse majestic, and, in a certain sense, equable. As Ewald observes, "we note in him an overflowing, swelling fullness of thought, which might readily lose itself in the vast and indefinite, but which always at the right time, with tight rein, collects and tempers its exuberance, to the bottom exhausting the thought and completing the utterance, and yet never too diffuse. This severe self-control is the most admirably seen in those shorter utterances, which, by briefly sketched images and thoughts, give us the vague apprehension of something infinite, while nevertheless they stand before us complete in themselves and clearly delineated."

Next to this lofty and majestic calmness, the energy and liveliness of Isaiah's style seem to demand notice. This energy and liveliness are produced, primarily, by the profuse employment of striking images; secondly, by dramatic representation; thirdly, by the large employment of pointed antithesis; fourthly, by frequent play upon words; fifthly, by the strength of the expressions used; sixthly, by vivid descriptions; and seventhly, by the amplification and elaboration of occasional points.

1. The profuse employment of striking images must be evident to every reader. Not a paragraph, scarcely a verse, is without some simile or metaphor, which gives a poetical turn to the form of expression, and elevates the language above that of ordinary life. And the variety and force of the metaphors are most remarkable. Assyria is a swarm of bees (Isaiah 7:18), a raging stream (Isaiah 8:7, 8), a razor (Isaiah 7:20), a lion (Isaiah 5:29), a rod (Isaiah 10:5), an axe (Isaiah 10:15), etc. Jehovah is a petter (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9, etc.), a shepherd (Isaiah 40:11), a man of war (Isaiah 42:15), a stone of stumbling and rock of offence (Isaiah 8:14), a gin and a snare (Isaiah 8:15), a purger of metals (Isaiah 1:25), a lion (Isaiah 31:4), birds flying (Isaiah 31:5), a strong fortress guarded by moats and streams (Isaiah 33:21), a rock (Isaiah 17:10), a shadow (Isaiah 25:4), a crown of glory (Isaiah 28:5). Zion is a cottage in a vineyard (Isaiah 1:8), a lodge in a garden of cucumbers (Isaiah 1:8), the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:3), a captive sitting in the dust (Isaiah lit. 2), a woman in travail (Isaiah 66:8). Israel generally is a diseased body (Isaiah 1:5, 6), an oak whose leaf fadeth (Isaiah 1:30), an unproductive vineyard (Isaiah 5:7), a bulging wall that is about to burst (Isaiah 30:13). Messiah is "a root of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:10), "a rod" (Isaiah 11:1), "a branch" (Isaiah 11:1), "a tender plant" (Isaiah 53:2), "a servant" (Isaiah 42:1), "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3), "a lamb brought to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7), "a sheep dumb before her shearers" (Isaiah 53:7). The degenerate are described as those "whose silver has become dross, whose wine is mixed with water" (Isaiah 1:22); the persistently wicked as those who "draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart-rope" (Isaiah 5:18). Boasters "conceive chaff, and bring forth stubble" (Isaiah 33:11); nations are in God's sight "as a drop from a bucket, and as small dust upon a balance" (Isaiah 40:15); humanity in general is as "grass that withereth, "and as "the flower that fadeth." Among specially beautiful metaphors may be cited: "His heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind" (Isaiah 7:2); "The people which walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2); "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9); "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3); "A man shall be... as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (Isaiah 32:2). To do full justice, however, to this branch of the subject, we should have to quote from every chapter, almost from every paragraph, since the beauty of which we are speaking pervades the entire composition, even entering into the historical chapters (Isaiah 37:3, 22, 25, 27, 29; 38:12, 14, 18, etc.), where it was scarcely to be expected.

2. Dramatic representation is, comparatively speaking, infrequent, but still occurs sufficiently often to be characteristic, and to have an appreciable effect upon the liveliness of the composition. The most remarkable instance of it is the dialogue at the beginning of Isaiah 63. —

"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?"

"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save."

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?"

"I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was no man with me," etc.

But there are also numerous other passages, where, for a verse or two at a time, words are put into the mouth of speakers other than the author, with a lively and stirring, effect (see Isaiah 3:6, 7; 4:1; 5:19; 7:12; 8:19; 9:10; 10:8-11, 13, 14; 14:10, 13, 14, 16, 17; 19:11; 21:8, 11, 12; 22:13; 28:15; 29:11, 12, 15; 30:10, 11, 16; 40:3, 6, 27; 41:6; 42:17; 44:16-20; 45:9, 10, 14; 47:7, 10; 49:14, 20, 21; 52:7; 56:3, 12; 58:3; 65:5; 66:5).

3. Antithesis is, no doubt, a characteristic of Hebrew poetry generally, but in the other sacred writers it is often rather verbal than real, while in Isaiah it is almost always true, pointed, and telling. The following may suffice as instances: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as while as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18); "It shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell [spice] there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girdle of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:24); "He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry" (Isaiah 5:7); "Ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer [or, 'a homer of seed'] shall, yield an ephah" (Isaiah 5:10); "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, rod sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20); "Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit" (Isaiah 65:13, 14).

4. "Play upon words" is also a common feature in Hebrew literature; but only a few of the sacred writers use it so frequently, or give it such prominence, as Isaiah. Knobel gives, as instances, Isaiah 1:23; 5:7; 7:9; 17:1, 2; 22:5, 6; 28:10, et seqq.; 29:1, 2, 9; 30:16; 32:7, 17, 19; to which may be added Isaiah 34:14; 62:4; and 65:10. As, however, this ornament, depending generally upon the assonance of the Hebrew words, is necessarily lost in translation, and can only be appreciated by a Hebrew scholar, we do not propose further to dwell upon it.

5. The "strength" of Isaiah's expressions will be recognized by all who have studied his work, and may be seen to a certain extent even through the yell of a translation. Such phrases as the following arrest attention, and lodge themselves in the memory, from their intensity and inherent force: "There is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores" (Isaiah 1:6); "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" (Isaiah 1:21); "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust" (Isaiah 2:10); "What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?" (Isaiah 3:15); "Hell hath enlarged her desire, and opened her mouth without measure" (Isaiah 5:14); "Their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind" (Isaiah 5:28); "The two tails of these smoking firebrands" (Isaiah 7:4); "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6); "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4); "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard" (Isaiah 24:20); "God will swallow up death in victory" (Isaiah 25:8); "The Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing [swift] serpent" (Isaiah 27:1); "The people shall be as the burnings of lime" (Isaiah 33:12); "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31); "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench" (Isaiah 42:3); "I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering" (Isaiah 1:3); "His visage was so marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14); "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isaiah 57:20); "The Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury and his rebuke with flames of fire" (Isaiah 66:15); "Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh" (Isaiah 66:24).

6. The power of vivid description is remarkably shown:

(1) In the pictures of desolation which are so frequent, especially in those of Isaiah 13, 14, and 34. "Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees, excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls [or, 'ostriches' shall dwell there, and satyrs (?) shall dance there. And jackals shall cry in their castles, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (Isaiah 13:19-22). "I will make it [equivalent to 'Babylon'] a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the bosom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 14:23). "The pelican and the bittern shall possess it [equivalent to 'Edom']; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and one shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, a court for owls [or, 'ostriches']. And the wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wild beasts of the island [equivalent to 'jackals'], and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the night-monster also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the arrow-snake make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow; there, verily, shall the vultures assemble, every one with her mate" (Isaiah 34:11-15).

(2) In the idyllic passages, Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:1-10; 40:11; and 65:25, of which we will quote one only: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the furling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain."

(3) In the account of woman's finery (Isaiah 3:16-24).

(4) In the imitative description of rushing water, in Isaiah 17.: "Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters. The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters" (Isaiah 17:12, 13).

(5) In the graphic portraiture of an army marching on Jerusalem: "He is come to Aiath, he is passed through Migron; at Mich-mash he hath laid up his baggage: they are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; llama is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: Hearken, O Laisha! O thou poor Anathoth! Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. That very day shall he halt at Nob; he shall shake his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem" (Isaiah 10:28-32).

7. The seventh and last point, giving energy and force to Isaiah's style, is the effective use of rhetorical amplification. By a repetition of the same idea in different words, which is sometimes twofold, sometimes threefold, often fourfold, occasionally as much as fivefold, a deep impression is produced — an impression at once of the earnestness of the writer and of the vast importance of the points on which he insists with so much reiteration. "Ah sinful nation, "he says, "a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that deal corruptly: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward" (Isaiah 1:4). And again, "Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall" (Isaiah 25:4). And, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hilts in a balance?" (Isaiah 40:12). And, "With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?" (Isaiah 40:14). And, "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.... He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4, 5). Another form of rhetorical amplification may be noted in Isaiah 2:13-16; 3:2, 3, 18-23; 5:12; 22:12, 13; 41:19; 47:13, etc.

A further characteristic of Isaiah's style is its wonderful variety. Sometimes smooth and gently flowing (Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:5-10; 55:10-13), at other times abrupt and harsh (Isaiah 21:11, 12; 56:9-12), now and then simple and prosaic (Isaiah 7:1-3; 8:1-4), anon soaring into the highest flights of poetic imagery (Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:1-9; 14:4-23, etc.), it includes every kind of artificial ornament known at the time — parable (Isaiah 5:1-7), vision (Isaiah 6:1-13), symbolic action (Isaiah 20:2), dram, tic dialogue (Isaiah 21:8, 9; 29:11, 12; 40:6-8; 63:1-6), lyric bursts of song (Isaiah 12:1-6; 26:1-18), refrains (Isaiah 2:11, 17; 5:25; 9:12, 17, 20; 10:4; 48:22; 57:21, etc.), assonance (Isaiah 5:7; 7:9, etc.); and uses all, as occasion arises, with equal point and appositeness. Isaiah's style has thus no single peculiar coloring. As Ewald remarks, "He is neither the specially logical, nor the specially elegiacal, nor the specially oratorical, nor the specially admonitory prophet, as perhaps Joel, or Hosed, or Micah, in whom a particular coloring more predominates. Isaiah is capable of adapting his style to the most different subjects, and in this consists his greatness and his most distinguished excellence."

The diction of the book is that of the purest and best times of Hebrew literature. It is remarkably free from archaisms. A certain number of "Aramaisms" or "Chaldaisms" have been pointed out, more especially in the later prophecies; but these are not sufficiently numerous to disturb the general conclusion (which is that of Dr. S. Davidson and of Mr. Cheyne, as well as of other critics) that the vocabulary, on the whole, may be pronounced "pure and free from Chaldaisms." The number of words not occurring elsewhere in the Bible ( ἁ ì παξ εγο ì μενα) is large, and the vocabulary is ampler than perhaps that of any other book of Scripture.


A theory was started, towards the close of the eighteenth century, by a German writer named Koppe, in his translation-of Bishop Lowth's 'Isaiah,' to the effect that Isaiah was not the real author of the prophecies contained in Isaiah 40.-66, of the work ascribed to him. The work of an entirely different prophet, living towards the close of the Captivity, had, he conjectured, been attached by some accident to the genuine prophecies of the son of Amoz, and had thenceforth passed by his name. The theory thus started was welcomed by other Germans of the rationalistic school, and could shortly boast among its supporters the names of Doderlin, Eichhorn, Paulus, Bauer, Rosenmuller, De Wette, Justi, and the great Hebraist Gesenius. It based itself mainly on two grounds:

(1) that the author of Isaiah 40.-66, takes for his standpoint the time of the Babylonian captivity, and, speaking as if that were present, from thence looks forward into the subsequent future;

(2) that he has a knowledge of the name and career of Cyrus, which a prophet living two centuries before could not possibly have had. The theory was subsequently further supported by alleged differences between the style and diction of Isaiah 1-39, and Isaiah 40-66, which were declared to necessitate different authors, and to mark Isaiah 40.-66, as the production of a later age.

The simple theory thus started of two Isaiahs, an earlier and a later, one contemporary with Hezekiah, the other with the later Captivity, whose works had been accidentally thrown together, has, since its original promulgation, been elaborated and expanded, chiefly by the labors of Ewald, in a wonderful way. Ewald traces in the Book of Isaiah, as it has come down to us, the work of at least seven hands. To Isaiah, the contemporary of Hezekiah, the son of Amoz, he ascribes thirty chapters only out of the sixty-six, together with parts of two others. To a second great prophet, whom he calls "the Great Unnamed, "and whom he places towards the close of the Captivity, he assigns eighteen chapters, with parts of four others. A third prophet, who lived in the reign of Manasseh, wrote one whole chapter (the priceless fifty-third) and portions of four or five others. A fourth, belonging to the time of Ezekiel, wrote almost the whole of four chapters. Another, perhaps Jeremiah, wrote two chapters; and two others wrote portions of chapters — one of them the prophecy in Isaiah 21:1-10; and the other that beginning Isaiah 13:2 and terminating Isaiah 14:23. The Book of Isaiah, as it has come down to us, is thus a patchwork of an extraordinary kind. Ewald's theory may be thus exhibited in a tabular form —

AUTHOR. DATE, B.C. Isaiah 1-12 Isaiah himself 759-713 Isaiah 13. - 14:23 Unknown author (No. 1) 570-560 Isaiah 14:24- Isaiah 20 Isaiah himself 727-710 Isaiah 21:1-10 Unknown author (No. 2) 570-560 Isaiah 21:11 - Isaiah 33 Isaiah himself 715-700 Isaiah 34 and 35 Jeremiah (?) 540-538 Isaiah 36.-39. Not assigned Isaiah 40.-52:12 The Great Unnamed 550-540 Isaiah 52:13-54:12 Unknown author (No. 3) 690-640 Isaiah 54:13 - 56:8 The Great Unnamed 550-540 Isaiah 56:9 - 57:11 Unknown author (No. 3) 690-640 Isaiah 57:12-21 The Great Unnamed 550-540 Isaiah 58:1 - 59:20 Unknown author (No. 4) 595-575 Isaiah 59:21 - Isaiah 62. The Great Unnamed 550-540 Isaiah 63. and 64. Unknown author (No. 4) 595-575 Isaiah 65. and 66. The Great Unnamed 550-540 Nor does 16 at all appear that with Ewald's theory of a sevenfold authorship of "Isaiah" we have reached the final outcome of the separatist hypothesis started by Koppe. The latest English writer is of opinion that "Ewald's treatment of the latter part of the Book of Isaiah cannot, "at any rate, "be complained of on the score of excessive analysis." He declares that "it is becoming more and more certain (?) that the present form of the prophetic Scriptures is due to a literary class (the so-called Sopherim, 'scribes,' or 'Scripturists'), whose principal function was collecting and supplementing the scattered records of prophetic revelation. This function they performed with rare self-abnegation. Of a regard on their part for personal distinction there is not a trace; self-consciousness is swallowed up in the sense of belonging, if only in a secondary degree, to the company of inspired men. They wrote, they recast, they edited, in the same spirit in which a gifted artist of our own day devoted himself to the glory of modern painters." The result is that the Book of Isaiah, as it has come down to us, is a "mosaic," or patchwork, the production of no one knows how many authors, brought gradually into its present condition.

Nothing is more certain than that these theories did not originate in any marked differences of style between the portions of the Book of Isaiah which are assigned to different authors. They arose entirely from the subject-matter of the prophecies. "The really decisive arguments against the unity of authorship are derived, "we are told,"

(1) from the historical circumstances implied in the disputed chapters, and

(2) from the originality of the ideas, or of the forms in which the ideas are expressed." Under the former head, the sole ground urged is the standpoint occupied by the writer of the later chapters, which is that of an exile in Babylon, writing when Jerusalem and the temple have long lain in ruins, and the Jews are becoming dispirited at the apparent refusal of God to interpose in their behalf; under the latter come the sarcastic descriptions of idolatry, the appeals to the victories of Cyrus, the references to the influence of the angelic powers (Isaiah 24:21), the resurrection of the body (Isaiah 26:19), the everlasting punishment of the wicked (Isaiah 1:11; 66:24), and the idea of vicarious atonement (Isaiah 53.). It was only after Isaiah had been split up into fragments upon the ground of the contents of the different portions, that the argument from differences in the style of different parts occurred to the critics, and was brought forward as subsidiary. Even now no great stress is laid upon it. It is admitted that questions concerning style are very much matters of taste, and that no unanimity can be expected on them. It is allowed that "the Great Unnamed, "if a different writer from Isaiah, often imitated his style, and knew his prophecies by heart. It is not even pretended that seven styles can be made out, corresponding to the seven Isaianic authors of Ewald's list. The most that has been attempted is to prove two styles — an earlier and a later; but even here the success of the efforts made is not great. In Germany the unity of the style has been maintained, in spite of them, by Jahn, Hengstenberg, Kleinert, Havernick, Stier, Keil, Delitzsch, and F. Windischmann; in England, by Henderson, Huxtable, Kay, Urwick, Dean Payne Smith, Professor Birks, and Professor Stanley Leathes. A recent advocate of the separatist theory seems almost to concede the point, when he sets himself to argue that unity of style does not necessarily imply unity of authorship, and so that "Isaiah" may be a work by several hands, even though the style be uniform.


The question whether "Isaiah" be the work of one writer or more, is to be regarded rather as one of literary interest than of theological importance. Nobody doubts but that the "book" existed in the form in which we have it during the time of our Lord and his apostles; and it is thus our present book which has their sanction as a portion of the inspired Word of God. This it is equally, whether it is the work of one prophet, or of seven, or of seventy. The controversy may therefore be conducted without heat or asperity, being one as purely literary as that of the unity of the 'Odyssey' or the 'Iliad.' The arguments in favor of the unity may be divided into the external and the internal. Of external arguments, the first and most important is that of the versions, especially the Septuagint, which is a distinct evidence that, as early as about B.C. 250, the entire contents of the "book" were ascribed to Isaiah the son of Amoz. It is said that the Psalms were similarly ascribed to David, though many were not of his composition; but this is not the fact. The Septuagint translators headed the Book of Psalms with the simple word "Psalms;" and in their headings to particular psalms assigned several to authors other than David, as Moses, Jeremiah, Asapb, Ethan, Haggai, and Zechariah.

The next external testimony is that of Jesus the son of Sirach, the author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus. The writer is supposed to have lived about B.C. 180. He distinctly ascribes to the Isaiah who was contemporary with Hezekiah the portion of the work (Isaiah 40-66.) which the separatists of all shades assign to an author, or authors, of a later date (Ecclus. 48:18-24). Now the prologue to the son of Sirach's work declares him to have been "a man of great diligence and wisdom among the Hebrews, "and "no less famous for great learning, "so that he may be assumed to deliver the judgment of the most learned among the Jews of his time.

Isaiah's authorship of the later (disputed) chapters was further, most clearly, accepted by the writers of the New Testament and their contemporaries by St. Matthew (Matthew 3:3, etc.); St. Mark (Mark 1:2, Revised Version), St. Luke (Luke 3:4-6); St. John (John 12:38); St. Paul (Romans 10:16-21, etc.); St. John the Baptist (John 1:28); the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:28-34); the elders of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-20); Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:1), etc. If the greater part of these were unlearned and uncritical men, yet St. Paul, at any rate, who was "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3), had been fully instructed in the Scriptures, and "must have known," as Mr. Urwick says, "if the learned Jews of his day recognized two Isaiahs, or the absorption of the prophecies of a very great yet unnamed exile into those of the first Isaiah." Josephus was also a man of considerable reading and research; yet he unhesitatingly ascribes to Isaiah the composition of the prophecies respecting Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28, etc.). It may be confidently laid down that there was no Jewish tradition which taught that the "Book of Isaiah" was a composite work — a congeries of prophecies of various dates, and from the hands of various authors.

Aben Ezra, who wrote in the twelfth century after our era, was the first critic who ventured on the suggestion that the prophecies of Isaiah 40.-66. might not be the actual work of Isaiah. Previously to his time, and again from his date until the close of the eighteenth century, not a breath of suspicion was uttered, not a whisper on the subject was heard. The Book of Psalms was known to be composite; the Book of Proverbs bore on its face that it consisted of four collections (Proverbs 1:1; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1); but Isaiah was universally accepted as the continuous work of one and the same author. The internal evidence of unity divides itself under five heads:

1. Identity in respect of the greatness, and the quality, of the genius exhibited by the writer.