Isaiah is widely regarded as one of the greatest prophets of the Bible. His name means “the Lord is salvation.” He lived in Jerusalem and the prophecies God gave him were directed toward Israel, Judah and other nations. Jewish tradition says he was of royal descent, and he may have been a cousin to king Uzziah. This may have given him path to the kings of Judah in Jerusalem.
The biblical account in chapter 1, verse 1 says he received visions from God during the reigns of four kings of Judah – Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. The time covered is from the end of king Uzziah’s reign (Isaiah 6:1) to the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, it was at least 40 year ministry.
Isaiah was married to a prophetess (Isaiah 8:3). They had two sons whose names had prophetic meanings. They were Shear-Jashub (Isaiah 7:3), meaning “a remnant shall return”, and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Isaiah 8:1-4), meaning “speed the spoil, hasten the booty.” Isaiah and his family would be for “signs and wonders in Israel” (Isaiah 8:18). Jewish tradition says he was killed by being sawn in two by king Manasseh, the son of king Hezekiah. This seems to be suggested to in Hebrews 11:37. Isaiah’s style of writing reveals a well educated background.
Many of the prophecies in Isaiah begin with the historical conditions and prophecies for his day and then move forward to a far greater fulfillment prior to the return of Jesus Christ. This is the dualism seen in many of the prophecies of the Bible. The first, historical, fulfillment is lesser in outlook and is followed by the greater future fulfillment at the end of this present time. The dualism is Isaiah usually pertains to the prophecies about Jesus Christ, Israel, Judah or other nations. Two exceptions would be the prophecies of the coming Day of the Lord and the Kingdom of God. These prophecies are singular and point to only one fulfillment.
There are four major themes of prophecy found in the book of Isaiah.
1. Jesus Christ, the most important theme.
Almost one-third of the chapters of the book of Isaiah contain prophecies about Jesus Christ, addressing bot His first and second comings. Isaiah provides more prophecy of the second coming of Christ than any other Old Testament prophet. The following are just some of the prophecies about Christ in both His first and second comings:
“He shall judge between the nations” – Isaiah 2:4
He was to be the “Branch of the Lord” – Isaiah 4:2; 11: 1
He would be born of a virgin and be called “Immanuel” – Isaiah 7:14; 8:8,10
He would be a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” – Isaiah 8: 14
An eternal “government will be upon His shoulders “and He would be called the Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9: 6-7
The Holy Spirit would “rest upon Him” – Isaiah 11:2
He would be “a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation” – Isaiah 28:16
Christ is directly spoken of in more than half of the chapters between Isaiah 40 and 61. Undoubtedly, the most important chapter referring to mankind’s salvation is Isaiah 53. This prophecy explains how much He would suffer during His sacrifice for man’s sins. Also in this section a description of His first coming begins in Isaiah 52:14, which says, “His visage [appearance] was marred more than any man”. Isaiah 53: 2-5 explains that His earthly physical appearance would not stand out, He was “despised and rejected,” and “by His stripes [wounds] we are healed” of our sicknesses.
This important chapter tells us that He would come to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. The Passover lamb symbolized this merciful act (Isaiah 53:7; Exodus 12: 5; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Statements of his death are then repeated: “For He was cut off from the land of the living” (Isaiah 53: 8). “And they made His grave with the wicked” (verse 9). He was an “offering for sin” (verse 10) and He “poured out his soul unto death” (verse 12).
Through the book of Isaiah, God revealed that Jesus would come to earth first as a human to deal with sin and then again in His glorified state after being resurrected from the grave to establish the Kingdom of God (also see Hebrews 9: 28). Not understanding the dualism of Christ’s coming, many Jews rejected Him during His first coming as a human because He did not fulfill the prophecies of ruling over the earth and establishing an eternal government that are to happen during His second coming (Isaiah 9:6-7; 40:10).
God also revealed through Isaiah how Christ would be able to come back to life after being crucified. The prophet wrote, “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise” (Isaiah 26:19). Also, prior to Isaiah’s time, King David had prophesied of Christ’s death and resurrection (Psalm 16:10).
2. Warnings and assurances to Israel and Judah
In terms of content, the largest single subject in the book of Isaiah is warnings to Israel and Judah both for Isaiah’s age and for us today. The first 11 chapters describe many social, moral and religious sins that are similar ti the sins that the modern descendants of Israel and Judah are presently committing. The dualism of the historical setting as a prophecy for the end of the age is apparent in chapter 11, which says, “The Lord shall set His hand again the second time” to bring them back from captivity (verse 11). The timing of this restoration is during and after Christ’s second coming (verses 4-10).
The warnings to Israel and Judah of their national sins continue throughout chapters 41 to 49. The difference is that in these chapters God gives them encouragement that He will eventually redeem them. Here are some examples:
“You are My servant, I have chosen you” – 41:8-9; 49:3.
“I will not remember your sins” – 43:25.
“Even I will carry, and will deliver you” – 46:4.
The Lord is “the Redeemer of Israel” – 49:7; 44:22.
In chapters 56 to 59 God continues to give correction and warning to Israel and Judah for their sins. In these chapters Israel and Judah are chastised for their hypocrisy in how they worship God. There are two chapters in particular that touch on this religious hypocrisy. They are Isaiah 56, which focuses on keeping the Sabbath, and Isaiah 58, which deals with fasting for the wrong reasons and, again, keeping God’s Sabbath.
The prophecies to Israel and Judah in the book of Isaiah end on a future encouraging note with God’s eventual deliverance and mercy in the coming Kingdom of God (61:3-9; 63:7-9, 14).