ISAIAH, BOOK OF. One of the longest and greatest of the prophetic hooks of the (lid Testa ment. It is placed first in the writings of the prophets in the English Bible, and is the first of the four so-called greater prophets. :Most modern scholars are agreed that the hook is a composite structure of an exceedingly complicated character, not the work of one author, but of perhaps half a dozen, or even more. It represents a gradual growth extending through several cen turies, and is even more complicated than the Flexateuch (q.v.), although its composition (lid not occupy so long a period as that of the latter. A-. early as the latter part of the eighteenth cen tury the theory was put forward that the book consists of two indei•ndent works: ( I) Chapters i.-xxxix., and (2) chapters xl.-lxvi. By the middle of the nineteenth century this view had been widely accepted. The author of the second sec tion (often called Denten). Isaiah) has in mind distinctly exilic and post-exilic conditions. and rc fers to exilic and post-exilie events, S1101 the permission given by Cyrus—who is mentioned by name—to the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Hence it seems that he cannot possibly be identical with the Isaiah living before the Exile, whose dis murses are incorporated in the first section. Se i s.t t .t II.
investigation brought forth the theory that both parts of the book consist of several distinct sections, belonging to periods separated from one another by intervals, so that the dis course, in the book, if arranged in chronological order, extend from the last half of the eighth century down to the third eentury ti.c. There are still a number of problems connected with Isaiah to he investigated. but the researches of scholars have proceeded so far that they feel justified in saying that not a single diseinirse of Isaiah has been preserved in the form in which he delivered or wrote it. His work has been rearranged, and additions made to it, reflecting post-exilic views and conditions. Isaiah became the type and model 01 Hebrew prophecy. llis religious point of xiew appealed to the pious Yah wch-worshipers of the Exile, who felt that events justified the main thesis put forth by the prophet. The popularity that he thus attained in certain circles led to his being amplified. as it were. His discourses, instead of being handed down in their mig_inal form, were modified so as to lit in with later conditions, and. as this proeess went on, the character of the collection naturally took on a totally ditTerent form. ..Nloreo•er, various other discourses, or groups of discourses. that were deemed worthy of a place beside Isaiah were in cerporated with him, and thus there was pro duced a collection which merited the name of because the personality of the prophet overshadowed that of all others whose discourses were joined to his. From the religious point of view, however. Isaiah represented only a part of the whole. He is a prophet of hope. but rather one who, disappointed in the policy adopted by both Ahaz and Ilezekiah• looks for ward to a future of gloom and woe. (See ISAIA If.) The prophet of doom needs to be sup plemented by the prophet of hope, and hence there was joined to the first Book of Isaiah a second collection, entirely post-exilie in origin. the main themes of which were encouragement to the faithful followers of Yahweh. assurance of
Cod's; favor toward the community which sought to regulate publie and private conduct and the cult according to divine law, and advice in peri ods of distress and anguish. While the date of the combination of the two collections cannot be definitely determined, it is safe to assume that the book was put in its present form later than the second half of the third century B.C.
Taking up the two collections, one finds in the first (chaps. i.-xxxix.) the following divisions. corresponding roughly to the component parts of the collection itself: (a) chaps. i.-xii.; (b) xiii.-xxiii.; (e) xxiv.-xxxv.; (d) xxxvi.-xxxix. The general subject of (a) is the political and religious conditions in Judah in the face of the threatened invasion by Israel and Syria, with consideration of the danger threatening both Judah and Israel from Assyria. The bulk of the discourses are from Isaiah, but there have been added introductions and epilogues at various points, and editorial insertions with reference to the Messianic future of Israel, the insertions themselves being at times extracts from pro phetical discourses of a late post-exilic date. Chap. i. appears to stand by itself, and con tains a general (and very late) introduction to the completed collection. Chaps. ii.-iv. have been pieced together from various discourses and given a Messianie interpretation. Chap. v. is again an independent production. Chaps. Vi.-x. are narratives. with fragments of dis courses introduced by way of illustration; while chaps. xi. and xii. embody three appendices to the collection, containing (a) a description of the Messiah as the perfect ruler; (b) a reference to the restoration of the exiles of Israel and Judah to their country: and (c) a lyric in praise of Yahweh. The second division (chaps. xiii. xxiii.) is a collection of ten oracles mostly on the nations around Israel and Judah. These oracles, in which are often interspersed snatches of poems. fragments of oracles. and other inser tions, date from different periods, and it cannot be safely maintained that more than five of these (chaps. xiv., xv., XVii., xxii., xxiii.) are based upon predictions of Isaiah. The third division (chaps. xxiv.-xxxv.) is far more complicated than the preceding two. It may be further sub divided into: (a) Chaps. xxiv.-xxvii., a spe cies of apocalyptic prophecy on the coining judg ment of the whole world, from which Israel alone will he rescued; the composition of these chap ters is by sonic critics brought down as late as the end of the second century B.C.. ha it is likely that the conditions involved are those prevailing at the close of the fourth century n.c. (bi Chaps. a series based upon oc currences in the times of Isaiah, but in which only the framework of xxviii.-xxxi. can be con sidered Isaianic. Chap. xxxii. is a picture of the Messianic age, while chap. xxxiii. contains a denunciation of an invader of Judah in which a section (verses 9-14) may emanate from Isaiah. (c) Chaps. xxxiv.-xxxv. announce Is rael's triumph over Edom and exultation over the return of the exiles. (d) The fourth division (chaps. xxxvi.-xxxix.) is an historical epilogue. with a poetic insertion, again consisting of two distinct narratives, and furnishes the historical commentary to the discourses of Isaiah and to some events alluded to therein.