Introduction to Isaiah Son of Amoz

To Dr. Ronald Youngblood, my Old Covenant professor at Bethel Seminary West, who gave me a love for the TaNaKh (Hebrews 9:18). He used his brilliant mind for good,
and like Moses, was a very humble man (Numbers 12:3).

    In many respects Isaiah is a miniature Bible. It has sixty-six chapters and the Bible has sixty-six books. The first thirty-nine chapters correspond to the thirty-nine books of the TaNaKh, speaking largely about Isra'el before the coming Messiah. The last twenty-seven chapters parallel the New Covenant, speaking largely about the Messiah and His messianic Kingdom. Isaiah is one of the books of the TaNaKh most often quoted in the B'rit Chadashah. When people read Isaiah it sometimes seems as though they are reading from the pages of the Gospels (Chapters 9, 11, 40 and 53).1

    The name Isaiah (Hebrew: Yesha'yahu) can be translated any one of three ways because of the Hebrew language: The LORD is salvation, the LORD’s salvation, or the salvation of the LORD. But whichever way it is translated, the point is always the same; the two basic components are God’s personal name and salvation, in that Isaiah’s name is related to both Joshua and Jesus. As far as his family, three times in the book we are told he was the son of Amos, or Ben Amos (1:1, 2:1, 13:1). According to Jewish tradition, his father was also a prophet, and also according to Jewish tradition, his father was the brother of King Amaziah. If this were true it would mean he was a member of the royal house. However, there is no proof of the validity of these traditions.

    As far as his wife, she is never named. In Isaiah 8:3 she is called a prophetess. The naming of the son communicated the message that God’s word is sure and can be trusted. After the birth of his son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, Isaiah probably knew that he must call his wife a prophetess, because she had literally been the bearer of the Word of God.

    As far as his children, he had two sons whose names are significant as far as his prophecy is concerned. One was named Shear-Jashub, which means, a remnant will return, and the other was named Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means, the spoil speeds (the verb comes before the noun in Hebrew), or the prey hastens. Both names will have significant meanings for the Jewish history of this book, especially in Chapters 6 through 12. This is the extent of our knowledge of his family.

    As far as other specific events in his life, either from Isaiah or in other books of Scripture, first, we know that he wrote a biography of King Uzziah, but it did not survive. So Isaiah is not the only book he wrote, but it is the only book we have according to Second Chronicles 26:22. A second event was the contentious encounter with King Ahaz in Chapter 7 of Isaiah. A third event described how God directed Yesha'yahu to walk around in a loincloth and barefoot for three years as an object lesson to the nation (20:1-6). A fourth event was the invasion of the Assyrians under Sennacherib (Chapters 36 and 37). A fifth event is the sickness of Hezekiah (Chapter 38). A sixth event is the incident regarding the ambassadors from Babylon (Chapter 39).

    As far as his death we do not have any specific information, but a Jewish tradition says that he was put in the hollow of a tree trunk by King Manasseh and then sawed in half. Manasseh was capable of doing things like that (Second Kings 21:16). In addition, Hebrews 11:37 makes reference to the righteous of the TaNaKh who were sawed in half. We are never told specifically in Scripture that Yesha'yahu was one of these, but things like this did happen in Jewish history.

                                                                History of the Book

    In the early part of Isaiah’s prophecies, the Assyrian Empire was in full power, but in the latter part of Isaiah’s prophecies, Assyria was beginning to decline and Babylon was on the rise. Isaiah prophesied during the reign of four Assyrian kings, all of whom played a major role in Jewish history. Tiglath Pileser III (745 to 727 AD), Shalmaneser V (726 to 722 AD), Sargon II (721 to 705 AD), and Sennacherib (704 to 681 AD). Shalmaneser V began the final siege against the northern kingdom of Isra'el, but died before he could finish it. Isaiah prophesied to the last seven kings of the northern kingdom of Isra'el. He began in the days of Jeroboam II, at which point Isra'el was at a new height in its power, and witnessed a slow decline all the way to King Hoshea, the last king of Isra'el. Yesha'yahu lived in the time when Sargon II finally brought the northern Kingdom to its end.

    In Isaiah's own book he simply listed the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah to whom he served as a prophet. First was Uzziah (783 to 742), secondly Jotham (742 to735), thirdly Ahaz (735 to 715), and finally Hezekiah (715 to 687). Uzziah’s reign was recorded in Second Kings 14:21 to 15:7, and Second Chronicles 26:1-23. He was generally characterized as being a good king who started out well, but ended up badly because of a specific sin. When Uzziah was king of Judah, Jeroboam II was king of Isra'el. Between these two kings, they extended the borders of Y'hudah and Yisra'el to that which had flourished under David and Solomon. This was a new height of Jewish control in the Middle East. And it was in this atmosphere that Yesha'yahu began his prophecies. Uzziah was able to conquer Israel’s surrounding enemies, the Philistines, the Edomites and others. He was so well known that even the Egyptians, who were reluctant to honor any Semite, honored and respected him (unlike today where both Jews and Arabs are considered Semitic, Egyptians in those days were descendents of Ham or Hamitic). Uzziah built up the country and its fortifications. Judah’s strength was well recognized. But when he tried to perform a religious act in the Temple, which was left only to the Jewish priests, he was stricken with leprosy by YHVH and had to live out his days in a separate house by himself.

    When Jotham became king, his reign was somewhat short. We are told that he did what was right in the eyes of ADONAI, just as his father King Uzziah had done (Second Kings 15:32-38; Second Chronicles 27:1-9), but the same criticism was leveled against him that was leveled against his father (Second Kings 15:35). While he generally did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, he failed to remove the high places. His father, Uzziah, did not remove them either. They banished idolatry, but they were reluctant to remove the high places. Why is this reluctance prevalent, even among the good kings of Judah? What was it that separated the high places from normal idolatry? In order to prevent them from having to go all the way to Jerusalem to sacrifice, the Jews in the northern kingdom of Isra'el began to set up smaller temple forms (they would be quite small, yet contained a simulated a Holy Place and a Most Holy Place) in various cities aroud Samaria in which to sacrifice. They worshiped the Person, but they did it in the wrong place. ADONAI had commanded that He should be worshiped at the Temple in Yerushalayim (Second Kings 18:22; John 4:20).

    Then came Ahaz, who was a bad king (Second Kings 16:1-20; Second Chronicles 28:1-27). Of the four kings under which Yesha'yahu prophesied, he was the worst of the group. Second Chronicles 28:1 clearly says: Unlike his father David, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Because he tried to get along with everybody, he is charged with three types of sins. First, he walked in the ways of the kings of Isra'el, which was a corruption of the true form of worship. He worshiped in the wrong place, on the high places. Second, he also worshiped the gods of the Canaanites and the false god Ba'al. It was in his day that the two kingdoms of Isra'el and Syria aligned themselves for the purpose of doing away with the House of David. It was this conspiracy that led to the virgin birth prophecy in 7:14. When he took a trip to Damascus and saw the pagan altar in the temple there, he was so impressed that he had the Jewish high priest make one just like it to set up in place of the altar that Solomon had built. He brought idolatry right into the compound Temple itself. Thirdly, he began to worship the Ammonite god, Molech and sacrifice his own children to this god outside the walls of Jerusalem, in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. So, especially in Isaiah’s day, Hinnom became known as a valley of continual burning. In Hebrew, they Valley of Hinnom is Ge Hinnom and that is where we get the word Gehenna, a place of continual burning. One of the worst things that Ahaz did was to align himself with the Assyrians and end up under Assyrian domination. This lead to problems for Hezekiah.

    Hezekiah (Second Kings 18:1 to 20:21; Second Chronicles 29:1 to 32:33) was a good king; in fact we are told he was even better than David: There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him (Second Kings 18:5). Not only did he restore religious practices that his father Ahaz had done away with, but also he went beyond what Uzziah and Jotham had done, and destroyed the high places. He was not afraid to do this, even though other good kings had been afraid to remove them. Hezekiah totally cleansed the Temple of idolatry and declared the second month as the great national Passover. He even did some evangelistic campaigns into the northern area that had not been destroyed by the Assyrians.

                                                            Themes of the Book

    There are seven themes in the book of Isaiah. First, some have called this book the Gospel of Yeshua'yahu because he deals quite a bit with first coming prophecies. Secondly, he deals with Messianic times, and Second Coming prophecies. Thirdly, he deals with the Day of ADONAI, and has much to say about the Tribulation Period. Fourthly, the prophet emphasizes the LORD's sovereignty. Fifthly, he emphasizes God’s holiness. One of Isaiah’s favorite phrases, the Holy One of Isra'el, is mentioned continually. Sixthly, he deals with the remnant and the remnant motif of Isra'el. Although this motif begins with Elijah, Isaiah develops it more than any other prophet in the TaNaKh. Finally, there is a continual call to the southern kingdom of Judah for repentance.

                                                             Outline of the Book

    There are ten major divisions in the book. In the first three divisions, which comprise Chapters 1 through 5, Isaiah lays down basic themes, which he will detail and develop in the rest of his book saying, in effect, “Here is what I am going to be talking about.” So the first five chapters are key. That is why he does not start out to explain how he became a prophet. He saves that until he gets to Chapter 6. Then in the last seven divisions he talks about his prophetic office, saying, in effect, “Here is my right to do what I am doing.” As a result, in Chapters 7 through 66 Isaiah goes into detail about the themes he laid out in Chapters 1 through 5.

                                   The Use of the Hebrew name ADONAI rather than YHVH

    A basic problem in Judaism is that God’s personal name is never actually spoken. When Moses saw a bush that burned without being consumed in the wilderness of Midian, God revealed Himself to Moses and told him His own personal name, which consists of four letters, YHVH (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay), also known as the Tetragrammaton (four-letter writing). Today, ADONAI is a word used to refer to God by many people of the Jewish faith. Jews simply translate YHVH as meaning, the Name.

    The Name of God is a serious topic in Judaism, and when Herod's Temple was in existence there were many rules and traditions surrounding its use. Only the High Priest was allowed to speak the Name, and then only in the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple  (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Mt - The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple on Tisha B'Av in 70 AD), pronunciation of the Name fell into disuse. Scholars passed down knowledge of the correct pronunciation of YHVH for many generations, but eventually the correct pronunciation was lost, and we no longer know it with any certainty. We do not know what vowels were used, or even whether the Vav in the Name was a vowel or a consonant.

    Nevertheless, the relation between a name (shem) and a thing (davar) hold a foundational level of importance in the Holy Scriptures. From the Jewish mindset, naming and being are the same thing. As a result, the names of people in the TaNaKh reflect their personal characteristics. In the same way, the Name of God reflects Him and His attributes.

    Some people mistakenly pronounce the name of God as "Jehovah." Unfortunately, this word comes from the fact that the ancient Hebrew Masoretic annotations put the vowels for ADONAI under the consonants of YHVH to remind people not to pronounce YHVH as written. But a sixteenth century German Catholic scribe, while transliterating the Bible into Latin for the Pope, wrote the Name out as it appeared in his texts, with the consonants of YHVH and the vowels of ADONAI together, and came up with the word JeHoVaH ("J" is pronounced "Y" in German), and regrettably, the name stuck.

    Therefore, God does not have many names, He has only one name – YHVH (Yud Hay Vav Hay). All the other names in the Bible describe His characteristics and attributes. Hear, Israel! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Jewish tradition, then, forbids the pronunciation of the Divine Name, but instead chooses to use ADONAI in its place out of respect. As a result, I will be using ADONAI, Ha'Shem or other characteristics or attributes of His in this devotional commentary instead of YHVH.

                The Use of the Hebrew term TaNaKh rather than the phrase, the Old Testament

    The Hebrew word TaNaKh is an acronym, based on the letters T (for "Torah"), N (for "Neviim," or the Prophets), and K (for "Ketuvim," or the Sacred Writings). The A and the H are silent letters. It is the collection of the teachings of God to human beings in document form. The term "Old Testament" implies that it is no longer valid, or at the very least outdated. It implies, something old, to be either ignored or discarded. But Yeshua Himself said: Don’t think I have come to abolish the Torah and the Prophets, I have not come to abolish but to complete (Matthew 5:17 CJB). As a result, I will using the Hebrew acronym TaNaKh throughout this devotional commentary.

                      

Isaiah Son of Amoz

1: 1

    DIG: Isaiah’s ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah, almost 50 years. What do you know about Uzziah (see Second Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-20)? Or Jotham (see Second Chronicles 27:1-3)? Or Ahaz (see Second Chronicles 28:1-8, 22-25)? Or Hezekiah (see Second Chronicles 29:1-9; 31:20-21; 32:24-26)? How could you sum up what was going on in Judah during their reigns?

    The vision concerning Y'hudah and Yerushalayim that Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw during the reigns of Uzziah (during the last year of his reign), and Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, king of Judah, begins Isaiah. The term vision is the Hebrew word meaning to see as a prophet. It denotes prophetic perception either in vision or in word. When Isaiah uses the term vision itself, (as is the way God often deals with His prophets), he means that in vision form he was projected either into another place in his own time or into another time. He was able to see what was happening and describe it. Many of Isaiah’s prophecies were given to him by vision rather than by direct word; although there are places in the book where he receives a direct word (where he says that God whispers in his ear).

    Isaiah's basic topic is what he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, of which he was a native. God's prophet sees all of the covenant people of Isra'el as being typified in Yhudah and Yerushalayim. He deals with Gentile nations only as they come into contact with the kingdom of Judah and the City of David.

    He was a real prophet in that he is master of the Hebrew language. When you compare his book with a contemporary of his, such as Micah, there is a big difference. Isaiah’s Hebrew is superb, he writes in Hebrew Technicolor; while Micah writes in black and white, his is rough and coarse. But Micah is a country prophet, while Yesha'yahu is from the big city of Tziyon. Isaiah uses many words that are called hapax legomena. These are words that are not found anywhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures.

 

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