I wanted to begin this section on Isaiah with a premise that I will endeavor to prove as I go along.
Premise: The prophet Isaiah prophesied to and about the Jerusalem, Judah, and the Jews and about the coming Messiah and the establishment of the church throughout the entirety of the book bearing his name.
What this premise concerns is the fact that Isaiah, a prophet during the reign of four kings of Judah at a time just before up until right after the northern tribes of Israel were taken into Assyrian captivity. Isaiah writes, in all of God’s judgments against various nations, that these are warnings as to what will happen to the Jews if they do not follow after God. In so doing, Isaiah compares Judah, and Jerusalem its capital city, to every one of the nations in the book of Isaiah in a spiritual sense. Most notable are comparisons to Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon. I will point these out specifically for each chapter.
Isaiah also prophecies very heavily about the coming Messiah and his prophecies tie into the time period of his arrival and his kingdom, the church, throughout the book.
Also keep in mind that I am not doing a full commentary on the prophetic books. I am only covering context as it might pertain to understanding New Testament scripture.
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.
This is not just the introduction to the first chapter (chapters being man made breaks anyway). This statement is an introduction to the entire work of Isaiah and applies to the whole writing. Other chapters have truncated introductions concerning their specific context, but the overall context of Isaiah is established immediately as a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. This is the first leg supporting my premise.
- TO: Judah and Jerusalem
- ABOUT: Judah and Jerusalem
- CONTEXT: Warning Judah and Jerusalem about their own wickedness.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth…
Isaiah makes the same call for attention as Moses in Deut. 32:1. He does not speak to the inanimate objects that are outer space, the sky, and the planet. Isaiah is in fact speaking to the rulers and the people being ruled. This is seen in verse 10:
1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
And please note that contextually, Isaiah is not speaking to the literal Sodom and Gomorrah which perished long before Isaiah’s life time. He is comparing Judah to the spiritual state of Sodom and Gomorrah here:
1:9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
What was the spiritual state of Judah during this time? Isaiah writes:
1:3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
1:8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
He calls Jerusalem (Zion) a booth, nothing more than an outhouse, left out in the vineyard because of her sins.
1:21 How is the faithful city become an harlot!
1:23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
1:28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. 29For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
The term harlot was a reference to the fact that in every way, not just their idol worship, the Jews had become like the nations around them. It is like in the time of Samuel when the Israelites wanted a king “like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). Any time the Jews decided to be like the other nations, they were considered to be prostituting themselves out to those nations. It could be for the nations’ idols, their commerce, their political power. It did not matter what specific reason. When the Jews failed to trust in God and began to seek the favor of other nations, God considered them unfaithful.
- NT References:
Isa. 1:9 - Romans 9:29 – Paul applies vs 9 to the Jews of his day.
Isa. 1:21 - Rev. 17-19 If my premise is correct, then the harlot of Rev. is Jerusalem.
- TO: Judah and Jerusalem
- ABOUT: Judah and Jerusalem
- CONTEXT: Establishment of the church during the time when Judah and Jerusalem will be destroyed for their wickedness.
2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Here is the short introduction to the next section in Isaiah’s book (and the reason man made a chapter division here). Who is Isaiah talking about? Judah and Jerusalem. Who is he prophesying to? Judah and Jerusalem.
2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This portion is of course a prophecy of the establishment of the church. Some interesting words to note:
mountain(s) – domains, principalities, kingdoms; The domain of the Lord’s house (the church) shall be established above all other domains and all of the nations of the world will become part of it.
house – house of the Lord, house of God of Jacob; in OT times, the house of God was the temple. In NT times, the house/temple of God is the church (1 Tim. 3:15). The house of God is NOT Heaven and nowhere is Heaven ever referred to as such that I am aware of. (Even in Genesis 28, Jacob was referring to Bethel, not Heaven, when he said “this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”)
Zion – this is one of the seven hills on which the city of Jerusalem is built and is often used symbolically to refer to the city or the nation of the Jews at large. The law (the gospel in this context) would go forth from Jerusalem when the “mountain of the Lord’s house”, the domain of the church was established. For more, see Acts 2.
2:12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
Now remember, the context of this passage is the establishment of the church, which took place almost 2000 years ago. This “day of the Lord” is not the end of the universe. It is a judgment against wicked people and it happens during this time of establishment. What people is “the day of the Lord” a judgment against? Well, who is Isaiah writing about? Judah and Jerusalem. Who is he writing to? Judah and Jerusalem.
The next point from this chapter to consider is the ships of Tarshish. Keeping in mind that Isaiah is prophesying to and about Judah and Jerusalem, about a “day of the Lord” against them. Isaiah writes about judgment against ships of Tarshish. We will definitely come back to this point. For a teaser, go read Psalm 48.
2:19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
2:21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
Here Isaiah, in talking about judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, refers to the Lord shaking terribly the earth. This is not a literal earthquake, but a shaking up of the people. Remember Isaiah 1:2.
Isaiah 3 is a continuation of Isaiah 2 and the judgment against Judah and Jerusalem.
3:1 For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah…
3:8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen…
Again, keep in mind that this is during the time of the establishment of the mountain of the house of the Lord. Jerusalem is destroyed for her wickedness. Once again Isaiah compares her to Sodom in spiritual terms:
3:9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
The rest of the chapter is about the removal of the riches and beauty of the city. Then Isaiah ends the chapter with talk of the desolation of the city. In this context, the timing is the same as the desolation spoken of in Daniel (11:31; 12:11).
Chapter 4 is still a continuation of the same immediate context, the time of the establishment of the church, but here all the wicked are gone. Jerusalem is transformed from the physical and wicked to the spiritual and pure. Here, in this chapter, Jerusalem is a reference to the church. “Them that escaped of Israel” are those descendants of Jacob who became Christians.
Chapter 5 is about a song/story concerning a vineyard of God’s. In this story, God plants a vineyard expecting good grapes, but they are wild. He then rhetorically asks what more he could have done for the vineyard to get good grapes. Nothing, is the answer of course, because God did everything for the vineyard. This vineyard represents Jerusalem and Judah (vs. 3). And in the song/story, the vineyard is utterly destroyed such that briers and thorns grow up in it.
God continues the discourse from previous chapters on the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. He claims that Sheol (the grave, Hades) has opened wide her mouth, a personification giving the idea that death was widespread among the Jews. Fire is mentioned, that ever present emblem of judgment against nations, specifically the Jews.
This chapter ends with the description of how God will destroy the Jews. It will not be with hellfire and brimstone as with Sodom and Gomorrah, but with the armies of the Gentiles. This army, this judgment of God, will come swiftly. This swiftness is described in some detail. The army is also compared to lions, a symbol of strength throughout the scriptures. And the light of the nation will be darkened.
This is the end of Isaiah’s particular thought which began in chapter 2.
Isa. 5:1-7 – John 15:1-5
- TO: Judah and Jerusalem
- ABOUT: Judah and Jerusalem
- CONTEXT: Condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem.
This powerful scene in the book of Isaiah is that of the throne room of God. Here beings called seraphims each having six wings surround the throne of God. They cry “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts…” Sound familiar? It just might.
Isaiah sees this vision and knows it is the King, the Lord of Hosts, and feels unworthy to look upon him so he falls to the ground. One of the seraphims touches a hot coal from the altar and tells the prophet his iniquities have been taken away.
Then the Lord calls for a volunteer to take the bad news to the Jews. Isaiah volunteers with the familiar phrase from our songs “Here am I; send me.” And again Judah is condemned to desolation, a complete emptiness.
The chapter ends with:
6:13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
This remnant that returns and is holy, these trees, are Christians who were once Jews.
Isa. 6:1-3 – referred to in John 12:41
Isa. 6:9-10 – Jesus, in Matt. 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luk. 8:10; John 12:40 claims Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in the Jews of his day. In Acts 28:25-27, Paul also claims that Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in the Jews of the first century.
Isa. 6:3 - Rev. 4:8
In Truth and Love.
- Introduction - Chapters 1-6
- Assyria and Samaria - Chapters 7-12
- Babylon - Chapters 13-14
- Moab and Damascus - Chapters 15-18
- Egypt, Tyre, and Sidon - Chapters 19-23
- Desolation and songs of Praise - Chapters 24-26
- Main Premise Explicitly Stated - Chapter 27
- Out With the Old, In With the New - Chapters 27-35
- Historical Events and the Coming of John and the Messiah - Chapters 36-43
- The Coming Messiah - Chapters 44-59
- The Last Days - Chapters 60-66