(Hebrews Yesh'yahu, i.e., "the salvation of Jehovah").
(1.) The son of Amoz (Isaiah 1:1; 2:1), who was apparently a man of humble rank. His wife was called "the prophetess" (8:3), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20), or simply because she was the wife of "the prophet" (Isaiah 38:1). He had two sons, who bore symbolical names.
He exercised the functions of his office during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). Uzziah reigned fifty-two years (B.C. 810-759), and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah's death, probably B.C. 762. He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and in all likelihood outlived that monarch (who died B.C. 698), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for the long period of at least sixty-four years.
His first call to the prophetical office is not recorded. A second call came to him "in the year that King Uzziah died" (Isaiah 6:1). He exercised his ministry in a spirit of uncompromising firmness and boldness in regard to all that bore on the interests of religion. He conceals nothing and keeps nothing back from fear of man. He was also noted for his spirituality and for his deep-toned reverence toward "the holy One of Israel."
In early youth Isaiah must have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Pul (q.v.), 2 Kings 15:19; and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered on his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Samaria (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5, 6). Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglath-pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29; 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26). Soon after this Shalmaneser determined wholly to subdue the kingdom of Israel. Samaria was taken and destroyed (B.C. 722). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah (B.C. 726), who "rebelled against the king of Assyria" (2 Kings 18:7), in which he was encouraged by Isaiah, who exhorted the people to place all their dependence on Jehovah (Isaiah 10:24; 37:6), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2-4). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (B.C. 701) led a powerful army into Palestine. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:14-16). But after a brief interval war broke out again, and again Sennacherib (q.v.) led an army into Palestine, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2-22; 37:8). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (37:1-7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the Lord" (37:14). The judgement of God now fell on the Assyrian host. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either Southern Palestine or Egypt." The remaining years of Hezekiah's reign were peaceful (2 Chronicles 32:23, 27-29). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are unknown. There is a tradition that he suffered martyrdom in the heathen reaction in the time of Manasseh (q.v.).
(2.) One of the heads of the singers in the time of David (1 Chronicles 25:3, 15, "Jeshaiah").
(3.) A Levite (1 Chronicles 26:25).
(4.) Ezra 8:7.
(5.) Nehemiah 11:7.
Isaiah, The Book of
Consists of prophecies delivered (Isaiah 1) in the reign of Uzziah (1-5), (2) of Jotham (6), (3) Ahaz (7-14:28), (4) the first half of Hezekiah's reign (14:28-35), (5) the second half of Hezekiah's reign (36-66). Thus, counting from the fourth year before Uzziah's death (B.C. 762) to the last year of Hezekiah (B.C. 698), Isaiah's ministry extended over a period of sixty-four years. He may, however, have survived Hezekiah, and may have perished in the way indicated above.
The book, as a whole, has been divided into three main parts:
(1.) The first thirty-five chapters, almost wholly prophetic, Israel's enemy Assyria, present the Messiah as a mighty Ruler and King.
(2.) Four chapters are historical (36-39), relating to the times of Hezekiah.
(3.) Prophetical (40-66), Israel's enemy Babylon, describing the Messiah as a suffering victim, meek and lowly.
The genuineness of the section Isaiah 40-66 has been keenly opposed by able critics. They assert that it must be the production of a deutero-Isaiah, who lived toward the close of the Babylonian captivity. This theory was originated by Koppe, a German writer at the close of the last century. There are other portions of the book also (e.g., ch. 13; 24-27; and certain verses in ch. 14 and 21) which they attribute to some other prophet than Isaiah. Thus they say that some five or seven, or even more, unknown prophets had a hand in the production of this book. The considerations which have led to such a result are various:
(1.) They cannot, as some say, conceive it possible that Isaiah, living in B.C. 700, could foretell the appearance and the exploits of a prince called Cyrus, who would set the Jews free from captivity one hundred and seventy years after.
(2.) It is alleged that the prophet takes the time of the Captivity as his standpoint, and speaks of it as then present; and (3) that there is such a difference between the style and language of the closing section (40-66) and those of the preceding chapters as to necessitate a different authorship, and lead to the conclusion that there were at least two Isaiahs. But even granting the fact of a great diversity of style and language, this will not necessitate the conclusion attempted to be drawn from it. The diversity of subjects treated of and the peculiarities of the prophet's position at the time the prophecies were uttered will sufficiently account for this.
The arguments in favour of the unity of the book are quite conclusive. When the LXX. version was made (about B.C. 250) the entire contents of the book were ascribed to Isaiah, the son of Amoz. It is not called in question, moreover, that in the time of our Lord the book existed in the form in which we now have it. Many prophecies in the disputed portions are quoted in the New Testament as the words of Isaiah (Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4-6; 4:16-41; John 12:38; Acts 8:28; Romans 10:16-21). Universal and persistent tradition has ascribed the whole book to one author.
Besides this, the internal evidence, the similarity in the language and style, in the thoughts and images and rhetorical ornaments, all points to the same conclusion; and its local colouring and allusions show that it is obviously of Palestinian origin. The theory therefore of a double authorship of the book, much less of a manifold authorship, cannot be maintained. The book, with all the diversity of its contents, is one, and is, we believe, the production of the great prophet whose name it bears.