This week I want to commence looking at the prophet Isaiah. This is no small task as the Book of Isaiah is quite extensive and controversial. There are many who will say that this book was written by at least 3 different authors over an extended period of time. I shall not bore you with details about those arguments1 .
I stated in my first article that the prophets I would commence with all prophesied around the same time period, and said that my focus would be on the role that religious and secular leaders play in the destruction of their societies. The Prophet Isaiah completes this set of four.
Today's article will just recap on what has gone before and highlight what will come and I do this so that you might see how these four prophets dovetail together.
In the article on the Prophet Amos I wrote:
An Overview of the Prophet Amos during the reign of King Uzziah, prior to Assyrian incursions into Syria, Israel and Judah. The prophecies take place about 35-40 years prior to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom Israel and the exile of its people, and less than 200 years before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile in Babylon and destroyed King Solomon's Temple.
Amos Chapter 1 verse one says that the prophet Amos was a herdsman from a place called Tekoa and relates that the things which he saw concerning Israel and Judah occurred in the latter years of the reign of King Uzziah of Judah (2 years before the earthquake of 759 BC) during the final few years of the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel - perhaps no more than 6 years.
His prophecies principally relate to the Northern Kingdom of Israel but do include the Southern Kingdom of Judah and other nations. The principal targets of his prophecies are the leaders, religious and civil, and the rich of the land. Issues of concern to God were those of justice, avarice and oppression.
In the article on the Prophet Hosea I wrote:
Hosea is the first of the Minor Prophets. Hosea 1:1 tells us that his father was a person named 'Beeri' but we know nothing about his background. His ministry takes place during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of the Southern kingdom of Judah, and of King Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Presuming he prophesied from the last year of Uzziah to the first year of Hezekiah then his ministry lasted at least 32 years. (Jotham and Ahaz each reigned 16 years). Since his principal work revolved around the Northern kingdom we know that his ministry was all but over by 722 BC. The Prophet Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah, Micah and Amos.
We are told nothing about his life except as it relates to some instructions about his marriage and those instructions are a little difficult to understand.
The basic message of this prophet is the same as was that of the Prophet Amos. Judgment is decreed because the wealthy and powerful oppress the poor. God's primary concern is seen to be that of 'Social Justice'. Those with wealth, power and religious or secular responsibility are the measuring rod by which a nation shall be judged, and its fate depends on their righteous behavior.
In last week's article on the Prophet Micah I wrote:
Micah Chapter 1 Verse 1 states that Micah was from Moresheth Gath, around 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem - and he prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. As such this prophet overlaps with Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. During the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, the Northern Kingdom of Israel still existed and in fact persecuted the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Micah's prophesies concern both kingdoms and his message is both of judgment and grace.
At the end of that article I wrote:
At the height of the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel, Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity due mainly to the weak political and military state of affairs in Syria and Assyria. One can only assume that the relative peace, security and prosperity led to a decrease in dependence on religious faith and following the Law of God. Hence we have 4 prophets arise to chastise the people and warn them of impending disaster. (Isaiah, Amos, Micah and Hosea).
Subsequent to the death of King Jeroboam II of Israel and the almost immediate murder of his son, there was a succession of usurpers on the throne of the Northern Kingdom, which, combined with the rise of Assyrian military power and expansion made Israel and Judah vulnerable. Had the religious and secular leaders paid attention to the messages of the prophets, they may have been spared the disaster that befell Israel in 722 BC.
The message in the books of Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and Micah are almost identical. Secular and religious leaders and those with the power that comes from wealth neither paid attention to doing what was right in the eyes of God nor treated the common man with decency and dignity. When leadership fails to set the right example for society, that society crumbles, and since these societies - Israel and Judah - were the chosen of God - 'a light of the Gentiles' - the people of God through whom the world would come to know God, that society could not be allowed to degenerate to the level of the common pagan world. Chastisement leading to repentance was a necessity and the time was drawing near.
Today I begin this overview with Isaiah Chapter One in order to demonstrate the connection between these four prophets.
Isaiah Chapter 1
Who is Isaiah? When did he prophesy? What was his message?
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
What purposes do religious rituals serve?
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
The Call to Repentance
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The Sins of the Secular/Religious leaders
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
The Promise of Final Restoration
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
These four prophets prophesied at the same approximate time for the same reasons. As we have seen in the first three, so we shall see in the prophet Isaiah. God's judgments are true and righteous altogether, but man quite often pays lip service to the ways of the Lord. As it was 2700 years ago, so it is now. Unless the people of God (the people God has chosen - not the people who have chosen God) pay close attention to their behavior, chastisement must come, and if the religious and secular leaders do not take care to do justly, then the nation itself will fall. We should beware.
Next week we will commence looking at the Book of Isaiah commencing with Chapter 2.
M. Wallace Johnson
1 Tradition ascribes authorship of the book to Isaiah son of Amoz, but for over a hundred years scholars have seen it as a compilation of writings from three different periods. The first, termed Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1-39), contains the words of the 8th-century BCE prophet with 7th-century BCE expansions; the second, Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40-55), is the work of a 6th-century BCE author writing near the end of the Babylonian captivity; and the third, the poetic Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56-66), was composed in Jerusalem shortly after the return from exile, probably by multiple authors. (Wikipedia)
M. Wallace Johnson
Articles by M. Wallace Johnson
Introducing M. Wallace Johnson
Holy, Wholly or Holey SERIES
Idols in Ministry SERIES
No 1: The Prophet Amos
Column Page Writers Journal Kingscalendar