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You will find an introduction and outline of Isaiah, here.

A prayer to use before you read, from the Book of Common Worship.

O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Outline of Isaiah 1-39

I. 1:1-31 Title and Prologue

II. 2:1-39:8 The Testimony of Isaiah from the Death of King Uzziah to the End of Time

K.34:1-35:10 The Future of Zion: These chapters appear to have been written by one who had chapters 2-34 and chapters 40-66 as they link these two traditions together.

34:1-17 Judgment against the Nations:  This judgment is against all the nations and is large in scope. Edom is giving as an example of the fate of God’s enemies.  In other Biblical texts (Jeremiah,Obadiah, Lamentations, Psalms), Edom is also condemned for its role in the destruction of Jerusalem. Edom, in the sixth century BCE began to decline as a result of Arab tribes entering its land. Notice that there are parallels between the judgment here and the judgment in chapter 1 against Israel and Jerusalem. The portrayal of destruction uses, in verse 6, the animals that are typically sacrificed. Bozrah is a city in Edom. In verses 9-10 Edom’s punishment resembles the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lilith is a hostile goddess of the night from Sumerian mythology.

35:1-10 A Summary of God’s Promises: After the destruction of the previous chapter, now the creation flourishes and sees the glory of the Lord. The weak and fearful are strengthened. Verses 5-6 are a reversal of chapter 6 where the people are blind and deaf. A highway through the wilderness is a theme from the Exodus and earlier in Isaiah 19:19-25;27:12-14.

L.36:1-39:8 Jerusalem and Further Intrigue with the Assyrians and the Babylonians: This is a historical appendix which is mostly duplicated in 2 Kings 18:3-20:19. How does having these chapters in Isaiah shift how we interpret them? Chapters 36 and 37 concern the siege of Jerusalem in 705-701 BCE by Assyria and its king Senacherib and God’s deliverance. Chapter 39 tells of the visit of a Babylonian king and predicts Judah’s exile under the Babylonians in 586 BCE. These chapters are the last time the prophet Isaiah appears in the book of Isaiah. These chapters transition the reader from the fall of Jerusalem to the return of the exiles beginning in chapter 40.

36:1-37:38 God’s Deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib: Recall that Hezekiah allied with Babylon and others against Assyria. The allies submitted to Assyrai and Hezekiah alone remained. Verses 1-22 tell of the attack against Judah.  “Rabshakeh” is a title, perhaps chief cupbearer, a positions similar to that of Eliakim. Rabshakeh’s speech is in Hebrew and the Jerusalem officials ask him to speak in Aramaic so the city’s residents will not understand what he is saying. Rabshakeh refuses and speaks to the people of Jerusalem.

37:1-35 Hezekiah consults Isaiah: Isaiah relays God’s message to Hezekiah, the Assyrians will hear a false rumor, believe it and abandon the siege. Verses 8-20 are an account of a second confrontation between Assyria and Hezekiah.The prayer of Hezekiah in verses 9-20 is not  verbatim from 2 Kings. Isaiah responds with God’s reply to Hezekiah. Notice that this reply repeats themes from earlier in Isaiah- the lofty will fall, God has a plan and is in control all all the nations.

38:1-22 Hezekiah’s Recovery from Illness: After the previous verses focus on national and international events, now we have the story of one person, King Hezekiah. Isaiah tells the ill Hezekiah that he will die soon. Hezekiah prays and God adds 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. Verses 9-20 are a a prayers or song of Hezekiah and does not appear in 2 Kings 20:1-11. Verses 21-22 may be out of place and seem to belong better between verse 6 and 7.

39:1-8 Jerusalem and the Future Babylonian Threat: This story predicts the Babylonian exile which is addressed by Isaiah 40-66.

 Read More About It:

Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Isaiah.

Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.

The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 6, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.

Sheppard, Gerald T. “Isaiah” in  HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.

Sweeney,  Marvin A. “Isaiah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

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