Isaiah, Esaias [Īzā'iah,Ī za'ias]—jehovah is helper or salvation is of the lord. The name of the greatest of the Assyrian group of prophets is synonymous with Joshua or Jesus and symbolic of his message. Little is known of this gospel prophet, often severe in tone. He is described as the son of Amoz, not Amos the prophet (Isa. 1:1; 2:1; 6:1; 7:3; 13:1). Some scholars suggest that Amoz was the uncle of Uzziah which, if true, would make Isaiah the king’s cousin. Evidently Isaiah was of good family and education.
Isaiah’s home and the scene of his labors was Jerusalem. His wife was a prophetess (Isa. 8:3) and bore the prophet two sons, whose names were symbolic of those aspects of the nation’s history which Isaiah enforced in his prophecies:
Shear-jashub, meaning, “a remnant shall return” (Isa. 7:3).
Maher-shalal-hash-baz, implying, “Haste ye, speed to the spoil” (Isa. 8:1-4). Often names were given for signs and wonders in Israel.
Isaiah’s original call to service is unrecorded, but in chapter six we have his vision and commission. A prophet of Judah, Isaiah ministered during the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahab and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. He comes before us as a man of many parts—a man eminently gifted and called of God as the first and chief of Israel’s prophets and poets.
I. The Writer. Isaiah wrote a history of the reign of Uzziah and Ahaz (2 Chron. 26:22; 32:32). No other Old Testament writer uses so many beautiful and picturesque illustrations, epigrams and metaphors as Isaiah, who was also a poet of no mean order (Isa. 1:13; 5:18; 12:1-6; 13:3).
The book bearing his name is made up of sixty-six chapters, and is a miniature Bible with its sixty-six books.
II. The Statesman. Isaiah was an ardent patriot, loving God and his nation. He was a bold, true statesman, seeking no court favor. How strongly he denounced all foreign alliances, (Isa. 7:5; 37:22)! It is Isaiah who gives us the earliest recorded vision of world-wide peace (Isa. 2:1-4).
III. The reformer. Like Noah, Isaiah was also a preacher of righteousness, and exposed formalism as a bad substitute for spiritual life and conduct (Isa. 36-39). Yet, like all the greatest contributors to moral uplift, Isaiah, amid all his rebukes and denunciations of evil, was truly optimistic.
IV. The Prophet. In no uncertain language Isaiah foretold the future of Israel and Judah, and the downfall of Gentile nations. Many of his predictions in regard to ancient nations have been fulfilled. Then Isaiah was The Christ-Harbinger, prophesying the coming of the Messianic King and Suffering Saviour. Chapter fifty-three of his prophecy drips with the ruby blood of the Redeemer. No wonder Jerome described Isaiah as “The Evangelical Prophet.”
V. The Teacher. To perpetuate his message and influence, Isaiah formed a group of disciples to whose teaching and training he devoted himself when his public ministry seemed useless. He was not only a counselor of kings and princes, but an instructor of those who were eager for his vision. He was an orator without peer—Jerome likened him to Demosthenes. This trait must have made an impact upon those he sought to train.
VI. The Theologian. This dreamer and poet, architect and builder, prophet and statesman was also a theologian able to discourse upon the sovereignty and holiness of God with utmost clarity. What an artist with words Isaiah was! Every word from him stirs and strikes, as he expounds the lordship of Jehovah—the need of all men for cleansing—the forgiving grace of God. The prophet insisted upon reverence for God whose usual title he gave as “The Holy One of Israel.” Sometimes stern in tone, he could also be tender and compassionate (Isa. 15:5; 16:9).
The time of his death is unknown. Legend has it that he was placed inside a hollow tree and sawn asunder at the command of Manasseh (Heb. 11:37).