Isaiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) His ministry spans 50-60 years from approximately 740 – 680 BC during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (kings of Judah).
This first section of Isaiah (1-35) covers the period of about 740-700 B.C. Isaiah chapters 1-35 are set against the background of the Assyrian empire, when the Assyrian emperors scourged both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdoms of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity in 722BC, during Isaiah’s lifetime.
The middle section of Isaiah (36-39) is a history lesson written in prose, in contrast to the poetic sections on both sides.
The last section of Isaiah (40-66) is set against the Babylonian captivity and is addressed to a group of people who lived about 120 to 140 years after Isaiah ministered. In this section Isaiah prophesies to the captives in Babylon, but they aren’t captives yet.
Isaiah is a unique prophet. He not only prophesied to his contemporaries. but he also prophesied to a generation some 120 years later.
While the major divisions of the book are fairly clear, the book is difficult to outline. Isaiah repeats to the several themes throughout the book. Each time he returns to a theme he approaches it from a slightly different angle and often gives more detail, giving the book a kind of “spiral” outline.
Isaiah 1-5: Introduction
- Isaiah 1:2-3: People of Israel are lost and ungrateful, like rebellious sons; more stupid than an animal; even an ox knows who feeds him.
- Isaiah 1:5-6: God has already disciplined Israel severely. Does God really need to apply more discipline?
- Isaiah 1:16-17: What does God ask? Repent and do good.
- Isaiah 2:12-22: A day of reckoning is coming. When God acts, the weakness of the great will become clear.
- Isaiah 4:3: A righteous remnant will remain.
- Isaiah 5:1-6: Analogy of the vineyard. God’s way of dealing with Israel’s rebelliousness.
Isaiah 6-12: Warnings against allying with Israel and Aram
- Isaiah 6:8-9: Isaiah commissioned as prophet.
- Isaiah 7:4: Isaiah was sent to Ahaz to warn him not to join the alliance.
- Isaiah 9:2-7: Israel is destined to be great. A king of Israel will be key for this development.
- To prepare Israel for this destiny God is sending foe after foe. In spite of His anger, God does not turn away (Isaiah 9:12 etc.); For injustice (Isaiah 10:1-2);
- Isaiah 10:5-7: The foes will punish Israel, but those foes will be punished in turn (e.g. Assyria).
- Isaiah 11:1-12: The glorious future of the world; Peace and righteousness; Jews gathered from every part of the world.
- Isaiah 12:1 Praise be to God for this. He turned from his anger.
Isaiah13-23: Destruction of the Nations
- Describes the fate of the neighbors of Israel: Babylon; Assyria; Philistia; Moab; Damascus; Ethiopia; Egypt; Edom; Arabia; Tyre;
- Wilderness of the Sea
- Valley of Vision (This appears to be Jerusalem)
- Most of the prophecies: describe destruction; sometimes a short term date; sometimes hyperbolic; sometimes long term date; sometimes short term with a long term; sometimes with an upside (a righteous remnant).
Isaiah 24-27: Destruction of the world
- Isaiah 24:1-6: The world is destroyed.
- Isaiah 25:1: Glory to God for pulling off this marvelous chain of events.
- Isaiah 25:9: We waited for God to save us and He did it!
- Isaiah 26:20-21: So let us endure a little longer.
- Isaiah 27:2-6: In the end God will care for His people like His vineyard.
Isaiah 28-35: Warnings against allying with Egypt
- Isaiah 28:1-2:Ephraim deserves punishment. Charge against Ephraim.
- Isaiah 28:14-15: Judah deserves punishment. Charge against Judah.
- Isaiah 29:3: Jerusalem will be besieged.
- Isaiah 29:8: But those who try to destroy Israel will fail.
- Isaiah 30:1-3: Don’t seek refuge in an alliance with Egypt.
- Isaiah 30:9-10: Judah will not listen to God.
- Isaiah 30:18-23: God is eager to be gracious.
- Isaiah 31:1-3: Egypt can’t really help.
- Isaiah 32:1-4: Israel has a glorious future.
- Isaiah 33:1-2: God will destroy the destroyer.
- Isaiah 33:19-20: No more foreign oppressors.
- Isaiah 34:1-2: God will completely destroy the nations.
- Isaiah 34:8: Recompense for the cause of Zion.
- Isaiah 35:5-10: Zion will be made joyful.
Isaiah 36-39: Historical realization of short-term prophecies (Assyrian Siege)
- Isaiah 36:13-15; Isaiah 36:18-20: The Assyrian messenger belittled Yahweh.
- Isaiah 37:6-7: Isaiah responds on behalf of God.
- Isaiah 37:36-38: Assyrian army leaves suddenly.
- Isaiah 38:5: Hezekiah’s life is extended 15 years.
- Isaiah 39:1-2: Hezekiah showed his treasures.
- Isaiah 39:6: Prediction of Babylonian captivity.
Isaiah 40-48: Only Yahweh is in control of history
- Isaiah 40:1-2:My people’s suffering is coming to an end.
- Isaiah 40:17: God is firmly in control of what nations do.
- Isaiah 40:18: No idol can compare to Him.
- Isaiah 40:22-23: Rulers can’t compare to Him.
- Isaiah 40:31: But He gives strength to those who wait on Him.
- Isaiah 41:21-24: God challenges the idols to make sense of the past and predict the future.
- Isaiah 42:1-4: God introduces His servant.
- Isaiah 42:9: The things God predicted earlier have happened.
- Isaiah 43:5-6: Gathering His people.
- Isaiah 43:10-11: Israel is God’s witness that God is God.
- Isaiah 44:7-8: No other god can assure what is going to happen.
- Isaiah 45:1-3: God announces that He has anointed Cyrus for a historic mission.
- Isaiah 45:5-7: He will show that God is the only God.
- Isaiah 45:20-25: No other god can show such control of history.
- Isaiah 46:8-11: God will certainly make it happen.
- Isaiah 47:10-11: Babylon will be punished for arrogance.
- Isaiah 47:12-15: Sorcery and astrology will not help you.
- Isaiah 48:6-8: God announces new things so they can’t say, “I knew that.”
- Isaiah 48:20-22: “Leave Babylon!”
Isaiah 49-55: God’s Servant to bring salvation
- Isaiah 49:6: God’s Servant will bring salvation to the ends of the world.
- Isaiah 49:20-23: All the world powers will help bring Israel’s children back.
- Isaiah 50:5-7: God’s Servant is obedient even though humiliated.
- Isaiah 51:11: The ransomed of the Lord will return.
- Isaiah 51:22-23: You will not drink of God’s wrath again; it will be given to your foes.
- Isaiah 52:9-10: God has redeemed Jerusalem.
- Isaiah53:1-6: The Servant did not look impressive and was despised, but took our sins.
- Isaiah 54:9-10: There will be no more judgment.
- Isaiah 54:14: No more oppression or fear.
- Isaiah 55:6-9: Seek the Lord while he may be found (55:6-9).
- Isaiah 55:11-13: God’s word will be accomplished.
Isaiah 56:66: Worldwide reign of righteousness
- Isiah 55:1-13: God invites Israel to renew the covenant with Him.
- Isiah 56:1-8: God will extend salvation to the Gentiles through Israel.
- Isaiah 63-7-64:12: Israel will enjoy the salvation and fatherhood of YHWH.
- Isaiah 65:17-25: Israel, as a completely renewed people, will inherit a new heavens and new earth from YHWH.