Here is a prayer to use before reading:
From the Book of Common Worship:
Eternal God, your wisdom is greater than our minds can attain, and your truth shows up our learning. To those who study, give curiosity, imagination, and patience enough to wait and work for insight. Help us to doubt with courage, but to hold all our doubts in the larger faith of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An Outline of Second Isaiah: The testimony of Isaiah addressed to people from the end of the Exile to the end of time.
A. 40:1-31 Transitional Introduction
B. 41:1-48:22 “Listen to me in Silence, O Coastlands!”
C. 49:1-57:21 The Word to the Coast lands.
D. 58:1-66:24 The Lord’s Way with this Diverse People
1.58:1-59:21 The Problem of God’s Silence
2. 60:1-62:11 Prophecies of Salvation:Notice the tone of hope and enthusiasm here. These chapters might remind you of chapters 40-55 also. “Light” is a theme through 60:1-22. Zion welcomes her children home. The nations come bearing gifts. Verses 6-7 name Arabian kingdoms. The “coast lands” are mentioned again.
61:1-11 This poem recalls the Servant Songs of chapters 42-53. Compare verses 1-3 with Luke 4:16-20. These verses also recall the Levitical (chapter 25) year of jubilee.
62:1-11 Notice here the bridal imagery. Israel’s new name reflects its new status. Verses 10-11 contain phrases that echo earlier sections of Isaiah
3. 63:1-6 The Divine Warrior: Edom was an actual enemy and served as an archetypal enemy also. In the sixth through fourth centuries BCE Edom declined and was displaced by Arabian tribal groups. Here, the decline of Edom is the Lord’s doing.
4. 63:7-65:16 God’s Salvation and Human Injustice A communal psalm of lamentation and intercession. (63:7-63:14 It begins by recalling God’s faithful actions in the past and then describing the people’s sin. Then the people remember all that God has done for them and call on God to rescue them. In 63:15-16 the prophet directly addresses God. 64:1-5 a direct appeal to God similar to a psalm of lament. Verses 6-7 are a confession. Verses 8-12 are another petition to God.
65:1-25 God answers. 1-7 Explain that God is not at fault, the people failed to seek God. Verses 3-5 contain a list of forbidden practices and actions. Beginning at with verse 8 God begins to describe what God will do.There will be restoration but the wicked will be punished.Verses 17-25 describe a new heaven and new earth. What is described here?
5. 65:17-66:24 Concluding Oracles: 66:1-24 the righteous will be restored. Verses 1-6 focus on Temple worship. This section is not advocating against Temple worship but rather for proper worship, killing a human, a dog, and swine blood were Canaanite practices, abominations. Verse 6 God has returned to the Temple. Verses 7-9 describe a miraculous birth, Jerusalem’s rebirth. In verses 10-13 the birth imagery shifts to the image of a nursing mother. Verses 18-23 all nations will know God’s glory. Verse 24 is a final reminder of the fate of the wicked.
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.