Isaiah was born during the reign of King Uzziah, around the year 760 B.C., and pursued his ministry in and around Jerusalem. The dominant political situation was the Syro-Ephraimite crisis, with Assyria the menacing world power. Israel (Ephraim) and Damascus (Syria) plotted to resist them, applying pressure on King Ahaz and Judah to join them. Ahaz refused, but rather than simply trust God as Isaiah directed Ahaz (ch. 7), he called upon Assyria for aid. Assyria responded by destroying Damascus and eventually Samaria, Israel's primary city, in 721 b.c. Then, instead of rewarding its ally, Judah, Assyria reduced it to a vassal state. Chs. 1-12 are from this period. The pronouncements of judgment against a corrupt society see Assyria as God's instrument of that judgment. Imbedded in the material are expressions of hope (2:1-5; 4:2-6; 9:2-7; 11:1-12:6) that come to fruition in chs. 40-55 and most fully in the idea of a messianic age.
During Hezekiah's reign (720-686 b.c.) there were several attempts to rebel against Assyria. Frequent contact was made with Egypt for help despite Isaiah's warnings that it was useless (31:1-3) and that they should trust God instead. As he did with King Ahaz, Isaiah had easy access to King Hezekiah and interceded for him during his illness (ch. 38) and chastised him when he revealed his treasury to Babylonian envoys (ch. 39).
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