A Book of the Prophets



A book of the Prophets  (Isaiah through Malachi)


          The grouping here is that of the Latter Prophets, with two

selections from the Writings: Lamentations and Daniel.  In the

English world, these are commonly known as the Major Prophets

(Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and the Minor Prophets

(Hosea-Malachi).  These writings span from the middle of the 8th

century B.C.E. to the late 5th century B.C.E.  The focus of

individual compositions is the Israelite people as constituted

in one of these circumstances: the divided kingdoms of Israel

(to 722 B.C.E.) or Judah (to 586 B.C.E.), the exilic period

(586-536 B.C.E.), or the post-exilic period (from 536 B.C.E.).

Although these writings are directed primarily to ancient

Israel, portions of their messages pertain to Israel’s

neighbors.  From this material, the modern student learns of

God’s dealings with both his covenant people and those who lay

outside that covenant.  These insights demonstrate continuing

principles related to God and human conduct.


Isaiah.  The longest of the Prophets, Isaiah stands at the head of

that set of books known as the Latter Prophets.  Read Dillard and

Longman, pp. 267-284.


Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old


Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. A moderately conservative introduction that


higher-critical methods. The authors tend to be noncommittal on important


of authorship that have divided liberals from conservatives. Regarding the

book of

Isaiah, they maintain that the belief that Isaiah wrote it “should not be

made a

theological shibboleth (Judges 12:6) or test for orthodoxy” (p. 275).


Daniel, they leave open “the possibility that some later unnamed disciples


his speeches or even added some or all of the third-person stories” (p. 332).


Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical

Studies and the chair of the department. He came to Westmont in

the 1998-99 school year after teaching for eighteen years at

Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His teaching

responsibilities at Westmont include Life and Literature of the

Old Testament as well as various upper division classes.

Representative of the latter is the course in Biblical

Interpretation, Old Testament Psalms and Wisdom, the Pentateuch, and the

Bible in

Its Ancient Near Eastern Context. Dr. Longman has degrees from Ohio Wesleyan

University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary

(M.Div.), and Yale University (M.Phil.; Ph.D.). He has written a number of


and books including Fictional Akkadian Autobiography,

Introduction to the Old Testament, How to Read the Psalms, Reading the

Bible with

Heart and Mind, Old Testament Commentary Survey, Literary Approaches to


Interpretation, and God is a Warrior. He has written a short commentary on

the minor

prophet Micah, as well as major commentaries on Ecclesiastes, Song of

Songs, Daniel,

and Nahum. In addition, he has teamed up with the psychologist Dan

Allender to write

four books: Bold Love, Cry of the Soul, Intimate Allies, and Bold Purpose. At

present, he is engaged in research on the history of Israel, the biblical

genres in

the light of ancient Near Eastern literature, as well as commentaries on


and Jeremiah. He has also been active in the area of Bible translation, in

particular he serves on the central

committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.


An Introduction to Isaiah



     A.   There is debate as to whether there was one or two

          (three or four) author’s of the book because there does

          not seem to be any reason for eighth century Isaiah to

          discuss events lying 200 years in the future for

          Hezekiah’s generation.  It is assumed that chapters 40-

          66 were written by a Second Isaiah at the end of the

          exile to deported and defeated fellow-countrymen.  This

          broad generalization is not a necessary conclusion.

     B.   He is identified as Isaiah ben Amoz (1:1)

     C.   He was born into an influential, upper class family and

          thus knew royalty and gave advice concerning foreign

          affairs of the nation  (7:3,4; 8:2 30:1-7; 36:1–38:8,

          21f cf. 2 Kings 18:3–20:19)

     D.   He was married to a prophetess (8:1) and had at least

          two children: Shear jashub ( bwvy rav ) “a remnant will

          return”) Mahershalalhashbaz ( zB Vj llV rhm ) “hurry

          spoil, hasten booty”

     E.   He attacked social problems which were symptomatic of

          the Judah’s covenant relationship (1:3-9; 38:6-10)

     F.   He lived most of his life in Judah and was sawn in two

          inside of a hollow log (according to tradition:

          Assumption of Isaiah) during the reign of Manasseh (696- 642).

See Hebrews 11:37

     G.   Tradition states that Isaiah was a cousin of Uzziah or

          a nephew of Amaziah (Talmud Meg. 10b)

     H.   He was probably a scribe or keeper of the official

          chronicle of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22).


     A.   The basic dates are from 740-700 B.C.  The Northern

          Kingdom is in captivity and there are 150 years left in

          the Southern Kingdom

     B.   Isaiah’s Judean ministry extended for at least 40 years


          1.   Uzziah’s death 740 B.C. (6:1)

          2.   Through the reign of Jotham (750-731)

          3.   Through the reign of Ahaz (735-715)

          4.   Through the reign of Hezekiah (certainly 701)

          5.   Possibly through some of the reign of Manasseh [if

               it was he who assassinated him] (696-642)

     C.   If Isaiah recorded Sennacherib’s death (Isa. 37:38 as

          he probably did), than he court life and prophetic

          ministry extended from 745 to about 680 (cf. 2

          Chronicles 26:22 where he may have been active in

          Uzziah’s court before the king’s death)

     D.   Assyrian kings:

          1.   Tiglath-pileser III (745-727)

          2.   Shalmaneser V (727-722)

          3.   Sargon II (722-705)

          4.   Sennacherib (705-681)


     A.   Isaiah was a contemporary with Amos, Hosea and Micah

          for at least part of his ministry

     B.   Tiglath-pileser had conquered all of northern Syria by

          740 (the date of Uzziah’s death)

          1.   He conquered the Aramean city-state of Hamath

          2.   He forced all small kingdoms, including Israel

               under Menahem to pay tribute (2 Kings 15:19f) and

               Judah under “Azariah” (Uzziah)1

          3.   He entered Palestine in 734 B.C., set up a base of

               operations at the River of Egypt.  Many small

               states rebelled against him including Israel in

               the Syro-Ephraimite war (733 B.C.).

          4.   Judah would not participate in the Syro-Ephraimite

               coalition.  The coalition attempted to overthrow

               the Davidic dynasty to appoint a king who would

               join the coalition (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5; Isa. 7:1)

          5.   Isaiah exhorted Ahaz to trust in the YHWH; he

               refused and turned to Assyria (Isa. 7; 2 Kings


          6.   Tiglath-pileser invaded Israel and almost came to

               Judah’s boarders (Isa. 15:29)

               a.   Israel’s king–Hosea paid tribute to Tiglath-

                    pileser (732)

               b.   Tiglath-pileser died (727) and Hosea (who

                    overtook Pikah in Israel) refused (in

                    alliance with So of Egypt) to pay tribute to

                    Shalmaneser V as he had to Tiglath-pileser (2

                    Kings 17:4).

     C.   Assyria (Shalmaneser or his successor Sargon II) moved

          against Israel and after a three year siege, took the

          capital of Samaria (722/1) and carried the people into


     D.   Assyria expanded unto the northern boundary of Judah.

          Judah was also left alone when many of the city states

          of Palestine and Syria along with Egypt rebelled

          against Assyria and were put down in 720 B.C.

     E.   Judah (under Hezekiah) joined an uprising along with

          Egypt, Edom, and Moab against Assyria (713-711)

     F.   Sargon (of Assyria) took Ashdod and Gath leaving Judah


     G.   Sargon died in 705 leading to revolt by many including

          Judah under Hezekiah along with Babylon (2 kings 20:12-

          19; Isa. 39:1-4)

     H.   Sennacherib (of Assyria) retaliated in 701 defeating

          Sidon, receiving tribute from Ashdod, Ammon, Moab, and

          Edom, subjugating Ashkelon and Ekron, and surrounding

          Hezekiah2 and forcing him to pay tribute to Sennacherib

          (2 Kings 18:13-16)

IV.  THE BOOK’S DESIGN:  To exhort people (and especially Israel)

     to place their trust in YHWH for their deliverance by

     predicting and historically demonstrating the judgment which

     falls on those who do not trust in YHWH and the blessing

     which comes to those who do trust in Him





The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is an ancient book (or better: an ancient


of books). While its basic content and story line may be grasped by the


modern reader, to appreciate and understand it within its ancient context

with all

its intricacies and beauty requires serious study.


The greatest of the prophets appeared at a critical moment of Israel’s

history. The

second half of the eighth century B.C. witnessed the collapse of the northern

kingdom under the hammerlike blows of Assyria (722), while Jerusalem

itself saw the

army of Sennacherib drawn up before its walls (701). In the year that

Uzziah, king

of Judah, died (742), Isaiah received his call to the prophetic office in

the Temple

of Jerusalem. Close attention should be given to Isa 6, where this divine

summons to

be the ambassador of the Most High is circumstantially described.


The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamps an indelible character on


ministry and provides the key to the understanding of his message. The


holiness and glory of the Lord took possession of his spirit and,

conversely, he

gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness. The enormous

abyss between

God’s sovereign holiness and man’s sin overwhelmed the prophet. Only the


coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance

of the

call: “Here I am, send me!”


The ministry of Isaiah may be divided into three periods, covering the

reigns of

Jotham (742-735), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezekiah (715-687). To the first period

belong, for the most part, the early oracles (Isa 1-5) which exposed the


breakdown of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. With the accession of Ahaz,


prophet became adviser to the king, whose throne was threatened by the

Syro-Ephraimite coalition. Rejecting the plea of Isaiah for faith and

courage, the

weak Ahaz turned to Assyria for help. From this period came the majority of

messianic oracles found in the section of Immanuel prophecies (Isa 6-12).


Hezekiah succeeded his father and undertook a religious reform which Isaiah

undoubtedly supported. But the old intrigues began again, and the king was

soon won

over to the pro-Egyptian party. Isaiah denounced this “covenant with

death” and

again summoned Judah to faith in Yahweh as her only hope. But it was too

late; the

revolt had already begun. Assyria acted quickly and her army, after

ravaging Judah,

laid siege to Jerusalem (701). “I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in his

cage,” boasts

the famous inscription of Sennacherib. But Yahweh delivered the city, as

Isaiah had

promised: God is the Lord of history, and Assyria but an instrument in his



Little is known about the last days of this great religious leader, whose


of singular poetic beauty and power, constantly reminded his wayward

people of their

destiny and the fidelity of Yahweh to his



The complete Book of Isaiah is an anthology of poems composed chiefly by

the great

prophet, but also by disciples, some of whom came many years after Isaiah.

In 1-39

most of the oracles come from Isaiah and faithfully reflect the situation in

eighth-century Judah. To disciples deeply influenced by the prophet belong


such as the Apocalypse of Isaiah (Isa 24-27), the oracles against Babylon


13-14), and probably the poems of Isa 34-35.


Isa 40-55, sometimes called the Deutero-Isaiah, are generally attributed

to an

anonymous poet who prophesied toward the end of the Babylonian exile. From


section come the great messianic oracles known as the songs of the

Servant, whose

mysterious destiny of suffering and

glorification is fulfilled in the passion and glorification of Christ. Isa


contain oracles from a later period and were composed by disciples who

inherited the

spirit and continued the work of the great prophet.


The principal divisions of the Book of Isaiah are the following:


The Book of Judgment

Indictment of Israel and Judah (Isaiah 1:1-5, 30)

Immanuel Prophecies (Isaiah 6:1-12:6)

Oracles against the Pagan Nations (Isaiah 13:1-23:18)

Apocalypse of Isaiah (Isaiah 24:1-27:13)

The Lord Alone, Israel’s and Judah’s Salvation (Isaiah 28:1-33:24)  The

Lord, Zion’s

Avenger (Isaiah 34:1-35:10)

Historical Appendix (Isaiah 36:1-39:8)

The Book of Consolation

The Lord’s Glory in Israel’s Liberation (Isaiah 40:1-48:21)

Expiation of Sin, Spiritual Liberation of Israel (Isaiah 49:1-55:13)

Return of the

First Captives (Isaiah 56:1-66:24)