This commentary on the book of Isaiah is a revision of the commentary that was available for download for a number of years on www.oudesporen.nl. This revision concerns the insertion of the text of the Dutch Herziene Statenvertaling and an extension of the commentary. The reason for this is its publication in book form.
It has become – unlike the earlier internet version – a commentary by two authors. By the way, this should be interpreted in a broader sense. We have gratefully used what the Lord had already shown to others about the contents of this Bible book. We leave it up to the reader to check for him- or herself on the basis of God’s Word whether what is written in this commentary indeed consistent with God’s purpose (Acts 17:11).
In these times, when the church is characterized by great weakness and diverse needs and problems, we desperately need the prophetic word. It is proof of God’s grace that He has given prophets. He sends prophets when the people deviate from Him. Their message has two sides: judgment on those who persist in their rejection of His Word and blessing for those who heed the prophet’s call on God’s behalf.
Anyone who reads the book of Isaiah attentively will be impressed by the topicality and the power of his message for us. More than ever we need to stimulate each other to take time each day (Acts 17:11b) to listen to what the Spirit has to say to us personally through the Word of God.
Let what God has said also be a regular topic of conversation in the family (Deu 6:6-9). This commentary could be a useful tool for this. For example, after a meal a part of the Bible book of Isaiah can be read, then the explanation of that same part can be read and talk about it with each other for a while. If we do this with a prayer to the Lord that “the eyes of” our “heart may be enlightened” (Eph 1:18), the blessing will be experienced by the whole family (cf. Heb 6:7).
When a part of God’s Word has become clear(er), thank the Lord for what He has shown. God’s Word can also make it clear that we have to confess something as sin. By giving thanks and through confession, what we read becomes our spiritual property, with which we can also serve others.
When we enter this beautiful part of the treasury of God’s Word in prayer, we will emerge gratefully, because we have met the Lord Jesus in this book. At his calling Isaiah has seen His glory (Isa 6:1-3; Jn 12:36-41). In this book the glory of the Lord Jesus is painted for us in many colors. The more we see of it, the more our hearts are filled with thanksgiving and worship.
Ger de Koning / Tony Jonathan
Middelburg / Arnhem, Netherlands, May 2014 / Translation January 2022
What does the name ‘Isaiah’ mean to us when we read that name? Unfortunately, often no more than a name. But if we know the meaning of this name, hearing this name or reading about it will make our hearts tremble with immense joy, for his name means ‘the salvation of the LORD’. The name ‘Isaiah’ represents in one word the content of the whole book.
The book of Isaiah is in terms of content the largest and most comprehensive prophetic book of the Bible. The prophetic word is present in many aspects in this book. Isaiah speaks about the fulfillment of God’s counsel regarding His earthly people. This counsel means that God will bring His purposed salvation over Israel and through Israel also over the Gentiles (Rom 15:9-12). This fulfillment will take place in the millennial realm of peace. In several parts of the book we will also see a pre-fulfillment of this in our time. God’s glory becomes visible in all times in all His ways with people, both in grace and in judgment.
Isaiah is called ‘the evangelist of the Old Testament’. The good message – that is what the word ‘gospel’ means –, which contains blessing and comfort (Isa 40:1), goes out to Israel as well as to the nations (Isa 49:6). This message is directly related to the great and central subject of the prophetic word: the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. His first coming as the suffering Servant of the LORD and also His second coming as King above all kings are highlighted in detail. Isaiah speaks about the birth of the Lord Jesus, about His food, His life, His death, His resurrection, His return and His kingdom of peace. We will find it all in this Bible book.
There is no Bible book in which we learn so much about the suffering, the glorification and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus as in this book of Isaiah. It is also not surprising that, next to the book of Psalms, the New Testament quotes more from Isaiah’s prophecy than from any other book of the Old Testament. The New Testament contains about 85 quotes from Isaiah.
It is good to say just one more word about prophecy in general. Prophecy has been compared with music that always sounds melodious to the hearing of faith (cf. 1Chr 25:1a,3). The meaning of prophecy is especially appreciated in times of trial and discipline and sorrow and decay of God’s people. Prophets are sent by God to His people in times of decay. Prophets are the mouth of God, the spokesmen of God (cf. Exo 7:1). They call upon a people who have departed from Him to return to Him so that He may bless them again. If they do not listen, judgment must come. Warnings are followed by judgment. Judgment always applies to the ungodly mass of the people.
But judgment does not have the last word. For the prophets have always had their eye upon a God-fearing remnant, “a few survivors” (Isa 1:9). Sometimes the prophets themselves are a type of that remnant, like Isaiah (Isa 8:18). The characteristic of a remnant is that, as an object of God’s grace, it remains standing for God and His rights in the midst of decay.
Those who constitute the remnant also receive from the LORD a special announcement concerning the future, the end time (Isa 46:10). The end time is the coming of the Lord Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom. Many prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled. That complete fulfillment will come when the Lord Jesus establishes the kingdom of peace and reigns as Messiah. However, some prophecies have already had a partial, provisional fulfillment.
The true value of the prophecy is that it deals with a Person and not primarily with events. It is about Christ – see under ‘Central theme’. Prophecy is also not only the prediction of future events, but also the passing on of God’s thoughts and the application thereof to heart and conscience (1Cor 14:3).
This ‘method’ applies to the writing prophets, i.e. the prophets from whom we have a writing in the Bible. Non-writing prophets, for example Elijah and Elisha, prophesy in view of the actual situation of God’s people. They also prophesy about future things, but then they speak mainly about the immediate future, about things they often experience themselves. In their lives and history we do see the spiritual characteristics of the end time, the characteristics of decay.
When studying the books of the prophets we can notice three layers or manners of approaching.
In the first place prophecy has a direct, first meaning for the situation in the time in which the prophet performs.
In the second place we see in the books of the prophets a prophetic perspective. In the events of the days of the prophet we see a foreshadowing of events which will take place at the end of time.
Thirdly, every Bible book of the prophets, including Isaiah, is a typological book. ‘Typological’ means that events or persons are types or pictures from which we can learn spiritual lessons. Scripture itself says that the history of God’s people is written for that purpose and urges us to read Scripture in the same way (1Cor 10:6,11; Rom 15:4; Gal 4:21-31). The spiritual condition of the people of God in the past speaks to us about the spiritual condition of us as God’s people now.
It is important to note that prophecy has a literal fulfillment for Israel, God’s earthly people, and not for the church, God’s heavenly people. However, literal fulfillment for Israel should not prevent the church from drawing spiritual lessons from the prophecies.
Person of Isaiah
The name ‘Isaiah’ is the abbreviated form of the Hebrew Yeshayahu and means ‘salvation of the LORD’, a name that is in perfect agreement with the message of his book.
Isaiah is married. His wife’s name is not mentioned, but what she does is. She is called “the prophetess” (Isa 8:3). They have two sons. The names of these two sons are also mentioned. These names have a prophetic meaning. The youngest is called “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” (Isa 8:3), which means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey”. The oldest is called “Shear-jashub” (Isa 7:3), which means “a remnant will return”.
Isaiah lives in a time full of dangers, when the survival of Israel and Judah is at stake. He is called by the LORD at the end of the reign of King Uzziah to be a prophet, which is the year 740 BC (Isa 6:1). He is then still relatively young. The period of his ministry spans more than 40 years. The area of his life and ministry and life is Jerusalem and its surroundings.
When he is called, he sees the LORD of hosts (Isa 6:1-3). This marks his life and ministry, just as Paul’s life and ministry were shaped by his meeting with the glorified Lord on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). The application for us is that the service we may do for the Lord must also be preceded by a personal encounter with Him.
According to tradition, Isaiah is cruelly killed by the child-adolescent King Manasseh after he became king in 686 BC. Manasseh is then twelve years old. According to tradition, Manasseh put him in a hollow tree trunk and sawed him into pieces (cf. Heb 11:37). It is quite possible and not surprising that satan raged like a roaring lion against Isaiah, who is such a powerful witness of God, and had him cut into pieces.
Satan did not only – according to tradition – have the person Isaiah cut into pieces. He has also tried, and is still trying, to cut his book into pieces by means of modern theologians. They claim that not one Isaiah, but three Isaiahs have written the book, over a period of several hundred years. It shows that satan has understood the importance of the book of Isaiah well, because otherwise he would not have put in so much effort to attack Isaiah and his book so fiercely.
The discovery of the manuscripts of Isaiah in 1948 near the Dead Sea, the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah, which turned out to be a 1000 years older than the then known manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, confirm the extremely accurate and reliable transmission of the biblical text. These manuscripts of the 2nd century AD do not exhibit the characteristics of several authors. On the contrary, where liberal theologians believe that there would be a transition from one writer to another, the text simply continues.
Isaiah is one of the greatest writers who ever lived. According to some experts his writing style and literary qualities are deeper and more brilliant than, for example, those of Shakespeare.
During the war in 734 BC between the coalition of Syria and Israel, the ten tribes realm, on the one hand, and Judah on the other hand, King Ahaz of Judah was very afraid (Isa 7:2). Isaiah assures him that the enemies will not be able to overcome Judah. In order to benefit from this promise Ahaz must put his trust in the LORD and not in an alliance with Assyria. Ahaz, however, does not put his trust in the LORD, but in Assyria. That’s why God judges Judah through Assyria. All of Judah, except Jerusalem, is destroyed. At the last moment God, in His grace, has redeemed Jerusalem by destroying the entire army of Assyria in one night (Isa 37:36).
Some characteristic expressions
Characteristic of the book of Isaiah is the expression Kadosh Yisrael, ‘the Holy One of Israel’, the three times holy God Who revealed Himself to Isaiah (Isa 6:1-3). This expression occurs twenty-five times in this book, twelve times in the first part (Isaiah 1-39*) and thirteen times in the second part (Isaiah 40-66**). This underlines the unity of this book. The same expression also occurs three times in the book of Psalms (Psa 71:22; 78:41; 89:18), twice in the book of Jeremiah (Jer 50:29; 51:5) and once in the second book of Kings (2Kgs 19:22).
Another keyword in this book is the word jesha which means ‘salvation’. This word also occurs twenty-five times in this book, eight times in the first part and seventeen times in the second part. The fact that this word occurs so often must have contributed to Isaiah being called the ‘evangelist of the Old Testament’.
Another expression characteristic of Isaiah is Ebed Yahweh, which means ‘servant of the LORD’. In plural it is an indication for the people of Israel. In the singular, however, this expression is often not an indication for Israel, but for the promised Messiah. This is especially evident in the four songs we have about the Servant of the LORD in this book (Isa 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:1-11; 52:13-15; 53:1-12).
Blessing to the nations
When the LORD gives salvation by grace, He cannot limit this salvation to Israel. Salvation goes to the entire world.
“He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth”” (Isa 49:6).
It should come as no surprise to us that the Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, has, from all the Old Testament books, chosen to take the book of Isaiah with him from Jerusalem. In this book he meets Jesus when he is reading it during the journey back to his country after his visit to Jerusalem (Acts 8:27-28,35). Isaiah has preached to him the gospel that he accepts after the explanation by Philip. He is the first of the nations of whom Scriptures tell us that he has become partaker of salvation.
Subdivision of the book
The book of Isaiah can be divided in several ways. The large division is in two main parts, with a small middle part in between:
1. Main part 1: Prophetic part (Isaiah 1-35).
This part is about God’s judgment on Israel and the nations. In it Assyria is used by God as an instrument, as a rod of discipline in His hand. The youngest son of Isaiah is given a name with a meaning that indicates the contents of this part: “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” (Isa 8:3). This name means, as already mentioned, ‘swift is the booty, speedy is the prey’.
2. Middle part: Historical part (Isaiah 36-39).
Here we see the history of Hezekiah as a type and illustration of the history of the faithful remnant of Israel. This remnant is tried and tested and in trouble both by its own sins and by enemies from outside. The LORD gives salvation through healing and deliverance.
3. Main part 2: Messianic part (Isaiah 40-66).
This part is also a prophetic part. It is about the salvation of the LORD that will come upon the people despite Israel’s failure. God will eventually be able to bless the people through the coming of the Servant of the LORD, the Christ, the Messiah. These names mean the same. Both Christ (Greek) and Messiah (Hebrew) mean ‘Anointed’.
The eldest son of Isaiah is given a name with a meaning that indicates the contents of this part: “Shear-jashub” (Isa 7:3). This name means, as already mentioned, “a remnant will return”. To this remnant God will bestow all His promised blessings.
The book of Isaiah is a Bible in miniature. The first part, including the middle part, has as many chapters as the Old Testament has Bible books, namely 39. In this part the emphasis is on God’s judgments on His people. These judgments must come because God is the Holy One of Israel and His people have become unholy. In the Old Testament God’s holiness is more in the foreground.
The second part has as many chapters as the New Testament has Bible books, namely 27. This part emphasizes that salvation is the result of God’s grace for Israel. In the New Testament God’s grace is more in the foreground.
The characters of the first and the second main part are quite different. This is related to the enemies of God’s people who play a leading role in each of these parts. In the first part Assyria is the enemy, in the second part it is Babylon. The middle part deals with the change from one enemy to the other. But He Who controls and governs everything is the God of Israel.
It is also possible to divide the book of Isaiah into seven parts:
1. Prophecies about Judah (Isaiah 1-12).
2. Prophecies about the nations (Isaiah 13-27).
3. A sixfold woe about the folly of unbelief (Isaiah 28-35).
Each of these three parts ends with a song of praise.
4. History of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36-39).
In the next three parts we find three times nine chapters about the salvation of God. Each of these three parts ends with the fate of the wicked.
5. God versus idolatry and Babylon (Isaiah 40-47).
6. Christ the Servant of the LORD, His glorification after His suffering because of His rejection by the people (Isaiah 48-57).
7. The faithful remnant of Israel, through the Spirit connected with the Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 58-66).
Overview main part 1.1 – Isaiah 1-12
Sayings about Judah and Jerusalem
The first part of the first main part (Isaiah 1-35) includes Isaiah 1-12 and can be divided as follows:
1. Indictment of the LORD against His people (Isaiah 1:1-31)
2. The house of God and the reign of God (Isaiah 2:1-5)
3. The day of the LORD (Isaiah 2:6-22)
4. God’s judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (Isaiah 3:1-4:1)
5. Zion’s glorious future (Isaiah 4:2-6)
6. The parable of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7)
7. Condemnation of the sins of Judah (Isaiah 5:8-30)
8. The vision and calling of the Holy One (Isaiah 6:1-13)
9. The sign of Shear-jashub (Isaiah 7:1-9)
10. The sign of Immanuel (Isaiah 7:10-25)
11. The sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:1-10)
12. Isaiah and his children as signs and wonders (Isaiah 8:11-18)
13. The light and the Child (Isaiah 8:19-9:7)
14. The judgment on Ephraim (Isaiah 9:8-10:4)
15. The judgment on Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-19)
16. The deliverance of the remnant (Isaiah 10:20-34)
17. The Davidic King and His benevolent government (Isaiah 11:1-9)
18. The people and the nations (Isaiah 11:10-16)
19. A joyful song of praise (Isaiah 12:1-6)