AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Isaiah is one of the longest and most important books of the Old Testament. The prophet began his career during a time of relative peace and prosperity under two of Judah's kings--Uzziah and Jotham. However, before long, conditions deteriorated, especially on the international scene. During Ahaz' reign, Assyria became a superpower and deported Judah's sister kingdom (Israel) in 722 B.C., but Ahaz viewed Syria and Israel as greater threats than Assyria. Isaiah tried to reassure Ahaz, asking only that he have faith in God. Ahaz refused.
Later, in 701 B.C., during Hezekiah's reign, Assyria ravaged the Judean countryside, and the city of Jerusalem itself almost fell. Again, Isaiah preached a message of hope for a repentant Judah who would trust in the Lord.
Exactly when Isaiah's career ended is not known, but a Jewish tradition (which may be reflected in Heb.11v37) says that he was martyred by King Manasseh, Hezekiah's son.
To view Isaiah merely as a preacher about events during his lifetime is to have only half of the picture, because he is perhaps best known for his prophecies about the intermediate and distant future. Isa.1-39 deals primarily with events during the prophet's lifetime, but the latter part of the book is almost totally concerned with the future (from their vantage point). Isa.40 begins a major section that looks ahead to Judah's return from Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C. The latter chapters also peer beyond Isaiah's day, but the time period covered is more difficult to determine. The New Testament finds in many of these passages (including some in the first part of the book) as prophecies about the Messiah. The most striking of these relate to Jesus' miraculous birth (Isa.7v14) and His suffering and death (Isa.53). Christians, therefore, have found Isaiah to be one of the most valuable books of the Old Testament.
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