Introduction to Isaiah
Although Isaiah was not the first of the writing prophets chronologically, he is universally considered the “prince of prophets,” not only because of the length of his prophecy (the prophecy of Jeremiah is slightly longer) but because of the majesty and beauty of his themes, and the many prophetic foregleams of the coming Messianic kingdom. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains probably the clearest and fullest exposition of the sacrificial sufferings of Christ in substitution for our sins to be found anywhere in the Bible, including the New Testament. The book begins with a painful depiction of the sinful, lost condition of the people, but ends in the triumphant creation of the new heavens and new earth.
Isaiah was a prophet in Judah, serving under several kings in his long career—Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). His most influential ministry was under King Hezekiah, who led the nation in its greatest spiritual revival since the days of David and Solomon.
Critics, however, have viciously attacked the book of Isaiah, insisting that there were at least two “Isaiahs”—one who wrote chapters 1–39, the other chapters 40–66. Some have even suggested three or four authors.
The ostensible reason for the unwarranted assertion of a “Deutero-Isaiah” is that the two divisions have two different literary styles. Critics ignore the fact, however, that the two different styles relate to the two different themes of the two sections, not to mention the fact that far more similarities than differences can be found in the two sections.
The real reason, however, for the “two Isaiahs” notion is that the second division contains many remarkable prophecies that were later fulfilled—for example, the naming of the Persian emperor Cyrus a century and a half in advance (Isaiah 45:1-4). Skeptical theologians are unwilling to believe that God can supernaturally reveal the future to His divinely called and prepared prophets, and so most assume that the last part of Isaiah was written by an unknown writer living among the exiles in Babylon after Cyrus had conquered the city.
This criticism not only accuses the prophet of deception but also defies the uniform belief of both Jews and Christians all through the centuries. Furthermore, both the apostles and Jesus Himself frequently quote from both sections of Isaiah, always attributing them to Isaiah with no suggestion that they were referring to two different men. For example, Jesus attributes His quote of Isaiah 40:3 to “the prophet Esaias” (Matthew 3:3) and His quote of Isaiah 6:9-10 to “Esaias the prophet” (John 12:40-41).
The oldest extant manuscript of Isaiah is in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated about 100 B.C., and this gives no indication whatever that it was not all written by the same man. The same is true of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. In fact, all genuine historical evidence agrees on the unity of Isaiah.
Thus there is no reason whatever to doubt the authenticity of the entire book. Isaiah’s book is a marvelous document containing history and prophecy, clearly pointing forward to the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of all God’s purposes for both Israel and His whole creation.