Chapter 39 marks the endpoint to the first historical era represented in Isaiah. Remember, this is a complex book, recording the events of ancient Judah (and Israel) over the span of one hundred and fifty years.

How to Read Isaiah

How are we to read such a long and complex book? Is it really one book, written by one writer? Is it a compilation of lectures, sermons, oracles, and chronicles by a number of writers? Understanding that the chapters and verses were added somewhere in the Medieval times (two thousand years after Isaiah was written), is it possible there are other, far more ancient divisions, or sections, to this book, considering its size?

Isaiah’s Students

Well, first, to begin the inquiry, there was a group of students who were taught by Isaiah, and were a part of the process of Isaiah’s material being recorded on scrolls.

School of Isaiah[1]

Isaiah makes several references to students—sometimes referred to as “sons of the prophet”—who formed what scholars call the School of Isaiah. An example of Isaiah instructing his students is found here,

Go now, write it before them on a tablet,
    and inscribe it in a book,
so that it may be for the time to come
    as a witness forever.

Isaiah 30:8 (NRSV)

Students were to write down Isaiah’s teaching so that it would be preserved for future generations. Another example is found in Isaiah’s instruction to

Bind up the testimony, seal the teaching among my disciples.

Isaiah 8:16 (NRSV)

Raffael – The Prophet Isaiah – 1511-1512 | By Raphael – Web Gallery of Art: Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

Isaiah’s Span

Because the historical span of the Book of Isaiah covers a full two centuries, scholars hold that it must have been students in the School of Isaiah, or perhaps Isaiah’s sons and grandchildren, who carried on the prophetic call and work of their founding prophet.

This is completely in keeping with the standard of that ancient day, where the style and viewpoint of the founder would be continued in the disciples.

Isaiah’s Sections

Many modern-day scholars divide this book into three distinctive sections.

First Isaiah (also called Proto-Isaiah)1-39, dated to the late eighth to early seventh century BCE, with Isaiah in Jerusalem. Isaiah’s contemporaries were Micah in Judah and Jonah in Israel. Here, the prophet warns of judgment and places hope on a godly Davidic king.

Second Isaiah (also called Deutero-Isaiah) 40-55, refers to events that occur in the sixth century BCE. Nahum was prophesying in Israel, then Daniel began to prophesy during the Babylonian exile, and Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were all prophesying right before Judah went into exile. Here, the prophet offers comfort, and places hope in the Lord’s suffering servant.

Third Isaiah (also called Trito-Isaiah) 56-66, refers to events that occur in the fifth century BCE, or possibly even later. During and after the Judahite exile, contemporaries included Jeremiah, then Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi to those who were returning from exile. Here, the prophet writes from within the context of captivity, with a rebuilt Jerusalem, and the empires of Assyria and Babylon are no longer a threat.

But what about the prophesies recorded in Isaiah? Does this division of the book seem to say these were not prophesies, but rather written after the events took place?

For help in answering this question, I turned to the eminent Walt Kaiser, Ph.D. in The Archeological Study Bible, published by Zondervan. Dr. Kaiser agrees Isaiah can be seen as having three sections, or at least two sections. However, spreading their dating over two hundred years, rather than sixty, is not, according to him, defensible. (For an in-depth explanation as to why, see the link below)

Isaiah’s Significance

The book of Isaiah is found exactly in the middle of the Bible and has often been called a mini Bible.

  • The Bible itself has sixty-six books, and Isaiah has sixty-six chapters.
  • The thinnest Christian canon (which would be the Protestant) contains the Hebrew Testament at thirty-nine books and the Greek Testament at twenty-seven books. That is the core for a variety of canons that spread across the three main branches of the Christian faith—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant.

Incredibly, Isaiah divides in exactly the same way. The first section goes from Chapter One to Chapter Thirty-Nine, and contains warnings of God’s condemnation, judgment and wrath.

The second section goes from Chapter Forty to Chapter Sixty-Six and conveys God’s message of consolation and hope.

And it is now time to prepare for this second half of Isaiah’s work.

With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us get an overview of the second half of the Book of Isaiah.

[1] For help, I turned to Michael D. Coogan’s A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context

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