Isaiah prophesied to the Jews in Judea concerning Judah and Jerusalem during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and
Hezekiah of Judah, around 740 to 700 B.C. He is spoken of as the Messianic prophet because of the number of times his
prophecies refer to the coming Messiah.
Messages of rebuke and promise
Judah is God’s people, but they are riddled with physical and spiritual sin; corruption and sin have become a way of life to
them. Sacrifices and prayers are now meaningless to the extent that God has come to hate them, but continues to
encourage repentance. There will come a time of restoration when all will again look to God. When the Day of the Lord
comes there will be a judgement of Jerusalem and Judah. Disaster will come upon the wicked, but it will be well with the
righteous and that day will be beautiful and glorious for the remnant in Zion. Isaiah sings a song of a vineyard that was
nurtured with love, but yielded only sour grapes. The owner of the vineyard is God, and the vineyard is Israel. This song is
followed by woes against all the wrongs committed by the ‘sour grapes’ who will eventually go into exile.
Isaiah is having a vision of the throne of God when he is called to be His prophet to the people, to encourage them to
return to God and to warn them of the consequences of not doing so.
Prophecies occasioned by the Syrian and Israelite threat against Judah
King Ahaz of Judah defies God and is attacked by Syria and Israel. Isaiah is sent to Ahaz with a message from God not to
fear the threat against Judah by the alliance. Ahaz is invited to ask for anything he would consider to be a sign to show the
message really is from God, but he refuses. Nevertheless, he is given a sign, which is the prophecy: Behold, a virgin shall
conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. However, instead of relying on God, Ahaz turns to Assyria.
Isaiah’s baby sons’ names form part of the prophecy that tells of Assyria dealing with the north, then advancing into Judah
until Jerusalem herself is surrounded. The prophecy now sweeps us into the future and the birth of the Messiah, then
switches back to the present with Israel condemned for her arrogance and rebellion. Assyria is used as God’s instrument of
judgement and the invasion begins in the north. Many Israelites are taken captive, but Assyria herself will in time be
judged. Yet the prophecy tells of a remnant who will return to their land. We read of the future again and the coming king
from David’s family who will establish the perfect kingdom on a God-centred earth. In that day there will be songs of joy
for the people’s deliverance.
Judgement on the nations
God warns the surrounding nations that judgement is also in store for them. Included in this prophecy of judgement are
Babylon (here we read an account of Satan’s fall), Assyria, Philistia, Maob, Aram, Cush (Ethiopia), Egypt, Edom and Tyre.
Jerusalem’s destruction is also prophesied.
Final judgement and victory
The time will come when the whole world and everyone in it will be judged, but there will be deliverance and blessing for
the faithful. Praise will be given for the Lord’s sovereign care; Israel’s enemies will have been punished and her remnant
Six woes are now pronounced, five on the unfaithful in Israel and one on Assyria: to Samaria (Ephraim) and to Judah’s
leaders who mislead the people; to Jerusalem who will be besieged, then reprieved; to those who foolishly rely on a foreign
alliance; to an obstinate nation; to those who turn to Egypt instead of God; and to Assyria. Yet all the while there is hope
for those trusting in God.
More prophecies of judgement and promise
Destruction will come to all the nations, avenging God’s people to whom blessings will be restored.
An historical transition from the Assyrian threat to the Babylonian exile
We now return to contemporary events. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, besieges Jerusalem, but Isaiah encourages
Hezekiah not to surrender. The angel of the Lord intervenes and saves Jerusalem, killing 185,000 soldiers in one night.
Sennacherib withdraws the next day and returns to Nineva. Hezekiah becomes ill and is near to death when he calls out to
God in prayer, to which God responds by extending his life by fifteen years. When Merodachbaladan, son of Baladan and
king of Babylon, hears that Hezekiah had been sick and recovered, he sends gifts celebrating his recovery. In an act of
pride, Hezekiah foolishly shows the messengers all the treasures in his palace and storehouses. Isaiah is told of this, then
in response predicts the Jews’ exile to Babylon.
The book of comfort
The second part of Isaiah’s book, chapters 40 to 66, begins Comfort, comfort my people and is sometimes referred to as
‘The book of comfort’.
The deliverance and restoration of Israel
Isaiah has a message of comfort for the people now in captivity in Babylon: God will come as promised; He is the
sovereign Lord who never stops caring for His people; He is forthright in dealing with the nations, but always loving and
caring to His own, and they should not be afraid; He will bring salvation to all mankind through Israel.
A song of praise is now offered. However, Israel has not been the servant God intended her to be and she is blind and deaf
to the signs and messages given her. Despite this, and the punishment the people must suffer, He will always be with
them, is eager to forgive all their sins and will restore them. Cyrus will be God’s instrument to begin this process. He will
defeat Babylon and will give Israel their first opportunity to return to Jerusalem. The restoration of the remnant will then
follow in two phases.
God’s servant and the redemption of God’s people
We are now given a prophecy of Jesus Christ, called as the servant of the Lord, rejected by the Jews and to be a light to
the Gentiles. Despite this rejection, God’s people will be preserved and gathered again, though God declares Israel’s
problems were solely due to her own iniquities. (At this point we are given some details of Jesus’ suffering under
interrogation by the Romans (50:6).) The remnant of Israel are to take comfort from their distant history, for they have the
glorious prospect of being restored, and the cup of the Lord’s wrath they had tasted will be tasted by their enemies. A
prophecy is given of Jesus’ suffering, his rejection, crucifixion and resurrection to glory as intercessor for us all. Then God’s
people will be able to forget the shame of their past when, with compassion, He brings about the future glory of Zion. All
people of all nations will be invited to call on the Lord, while He is still near and can still be found, to share in His
everlasting covenant. None will be excluded from the love of God and salvation if they follow and obey Him.
The remaining chapters speak of Israel’s shame and her glory, but the first few verses of chapter 56, vs 1 to 8, seem best
attached to the end of chapter 55: God’s salvation will be available to all who hold fast to the covenant, even those
considered by others to be least worthy.
The wicked of Israel are condemned
[56:9 to 57:21]
God’s condemnation is specific and disturbing, yet interlaced with love and compassion. The nation has embraced pagan
gods and their rituals, including child sacrifice; their observance of fasting is a mockery to God; they are riddled with sin
and their very lifestyle is sinful.
Israel’s fasting has become superficial and has lost sight of its true purpose. If they return to fasting as it should be, and
take a delight in the Sabbath, then once again they will find joy in the Lord.
Israel’s shame; Israel’s glory
Israel’s iniquities are great and separate her from God. Only confession can pave the way for redemption. Redemption will
be available to all through the Redeemer in time to come, when there will be a new and everlasting covenant.
We now have a vision of Israel’s glory and rich splendour when God delivers her from her lowly state. The year of the
Lord’s favour (quoted by Jesus when handed a scroll of Isaiah to read in the synagogue) and the day of vengeance will
come; then Israel will be called ‘priests of the Lord’.
A vision of the avenger and Isaiah’s prayer
A vision of Christ as the avenger is described, followed by a prayer offered by Isaiah, recalling God’s love for Israel through
the ages and crying out for their divine deliverance.
Finally, we have God’s response: Judgement and salvation and a new heaven and a new earth, not just for Israel, but for