THOUGHTS ON ISAIAH
THEME: The Holy One of Israel (and His Anointed) in Judgment and Restoration
DATE: 740-680 BC
KEY HISTORICAL EVENTS
734 Pekah/Rezin Alliance (An attempt by Pekah, King of Israel, and Rezin, King of Syria, to destroy Ahaz, King of Judah)
701 Sennacherib’s Invasion (A brutal massacre of Judah during Hezekiah’s reign that destroyed much of Judah but, through divine intervention, stopped short of capturing Jerusalem)
605 Nebuchadnezzar’s Invasion (The subjugation of Judah that inaugurated the 70-year Babylonian Captivity)
538 Cyrus’ Decree (The Edict that freed those exiled in Babylon to return to Judah)
PART ONE (CHS. 1-39)
The sequence of these first 39 chapters is as follows. The book opens (chs. 1-6) with an indictment of Judah and Jerusalem [Sodom and Gomorrah Jr.!] for their wickedness and with a brief prophetic anticipation of what God will do in Millennial Jerusalem; to this portrayal of ongoing, irremediable evil is appended the call of the prophet—the preacher of these wicked parishioners (ch. 6).
Who will transform wicked Jerusalem into Millennial Jerusalem? Meet the Holy One of Israel and His dealings in judgment and restoration! In chapters 7-12, the Pekah-Rezin alliance in the time of Ahaz leads to a prophecy concerning the ultimate triumph of the Davidic dynasty, in the person of Messiah, over the Pekah-Rezin alliance and the more terror-inspiring Assyrian empire. The focus in chs. 7-12 is primarily Judah and Jerusalem; the international import comes to the foreground in chs. 13-27.
What was true for Assyria and Immanuel, becomes true for the nations individually (chs. 13-23) and the world in general (chs. 24-27). These latter chapters (chs. 24-27), often dubbed the “Little Apocalypse,” contain a brilliant panorama of the end-time events that will bring the world to its knees.
In chs. 28-35, the looming Assyrian invasion of Judah and Jerusalem (by Sennacherib in 701 BC) takes center stage. The woes in these chapters point up Judah’s need to heed the lessons learned from the Northern Kingdom and to turn from Egypt to the Lord, who alone can provide the needed deliverance. Assyria’s downfall is also predicted—Assyria will “shave” Judah, as it were, but will not decimate it. The failure of Sennacherib’s invasion—which will feature a “last-minute” deliverance of Jerusalem—so parallels an eschatological day (see Zechariah 12 and 14) that chs. 34 and 35 take up that theme. The theology stressed in these chapters—the impossibility of the demise of the Davidic dynasty, God’s sovereignty over Assyria and the nations, the downfall of Assyria (God’s battle-ax) once it has fulfilled His purposes, and the promises of future restoration—are put to the test in chs. 36-39, when godly Hezekiah faces the brunt of the Assyrian attack.
The judgment of Judah by Assyria and the deliverance wrought by Yahweh (when 185,000 soldiers of Sennacherib are slain) find parallels in the eschaton, when Jerusalem will be surrounded by pagan nations and will be delivered by the return of the Messiah. Thus, it should be no surprise that these first 39 chapters contain many eschatological prophecies. In some ways, the Assyrian judgment/deliverance foreshadows the similar events of a future day.
I. Jerusalem and Judah, now and future (chs. 1-6)
II. Immanuel and Assyria: David’s Son and God’s Battle-axe (7:1-12:6).
Key Historical Episode: Pekah/Rezin Alliance (734 BC)
III. Advice for the Nations (chs. 13-23)
IV. The Little Apocalypse (chs. 24-27)
V. The Storm Clouds Gather: Preparation for the Assyrian Onslaught (chs. 28-35)
VI. Theology in the Crucible (chs. 36-39): Hezekiah and Sennacherib
Key Historical Episode: Invasion of Sennacherib (701 BC)
The coming of the messengers from Babylon (ch. 39) transitions the reader into the last half of the book. Their coming, set in the approximate time of the Assyrian invasion, leads to a prophecy of the future Babylonian Captivity. The deliverance from this Babylonian Captivity (and the eschatological parallels it evokes) becomes the focus of chs. 40-66.
PART TWO (CHS. 40-66)
The understood context of chs. 40-66 is the Babylonian Captivity, an event that happened after the ministry of Isaiah but expected and prophesied by him. Chapters 40-66 open with the proclamation of deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. The deliverance from Babylon, often a picture of the deliverance from the dominion of sin, evokes other themes of deliverance. The physical “redemption” from Babylon through Cyrus (Isa. 44:28; 45:1) points up the need for spiritual redemption through Messiah and the spiritual-national redemption obtained in His Kingdom.
Chapters 40-66 naturally divide into three parts (based on the refrain in 48:22; 57:21; cf. 66:24): (1) chs. 40-48; (2) chs. 49-57; (3) chs. 58-66.
VII. Deliverance from Babylon through Cyrus (chs. 40-48)
Understood Historical Context: Cyrus’ Decree (538 BC)
VIII. Deliverance from Sin through Messiah (chs. 49-57)
IX. Deliverance through the Messianic Kingdom (chs. 58-66)
 Not that these chapters were written during the Exile, but that they prepare the people for the events of that day.