(I·saʹiah) [salvation of Jehovah].
A prophet, the son of Amoz (not the prophet Amos). He served Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah. (Isa. 1:1) Kings Pekah and Hoshea were ruling in the northern kingdom of Israel, which ended in 740 B.C.E., during the time of Isaiah’s prophetic service. Contemporary prophets were Micah, Hosea and Oded. Isaiah evidently began his prophesying later than Hosea’s start and before Micah began.—2 Chron. 28:9; Hos. 1:1; Mic. 1:1.
BEGINNING OF PROPHETIC WORK
In the year that King Uzziah died (778/777 B.C.E), Isaiah had a vision commissioning him to the special work of speaking for Jehovah to the people of Judah and Jerusalem about God’s coming judgments, He was told in advance that their ears would be unresponsive. Jehovah said that this situation would continue until the nation would come to ruin, and that only a “tenth,” a “holy seed,” would be left like the stump of a massive tree. Isaiah’s prophetic work must have comforted and strengthened the faith of that small number, even though the rest of the nation refused to take heed.—Isa. 6:1-13.
It is probable that Isaiah’s vision recorded in chapter six of his book marks the beginning of his prophetic service, although he may have been active as a prophet before that time. He says that he prophesied in the days of Uzziah, which could possibly include more than the last year of Uzziah’s life, when Uzziah’s son Jotham was administering the affairs of the king’s house and judging the people, because of his father’s leprous condition.—2 Chron. 26:21.
LENGTH OF PROPHETIC SERVICE
Though concentrating on Judah, Isaiah also uttered prophecies concerning Israel and the nations round about, as they had a bearing on Judah’s situation and history. He enjoyed a long term in the prophetic office, continuing at least until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (732/731 B.C.E.) and possibly beyond that date, though no prophecy of his can be definitely shown to have been made later. (Isa. 36:1, 2) It was in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah that Sennacherib sent an army against Jerusalem and was turned back. In addition to giving the account of the threatened siege and the delivery of Jerusalem, Isaiah tells of Sennacherib’s return to Nineveh and his assassination. (Isa. 37:36-38) If this bit of historical information was written by Isaiah and was not an insertion by a later hand, it may show that Isaiah prophesied for some time after Hezekiah’s fourteenth year. The Assyrian chronological records (though their reliability is questionable) say that Sennacherib ruled some twenty years after his campaign against Jerusalem. Whether this figure is exact or not, Isaiah may have lived until the reign of King Manasseh of Judah. Jewish tradition, which can also be unreliable, says that Isaiah was sawn asunder at King Manasseh’s order. (Whether Paul has reference to this at Hebrews 11:37, as some believe, has not been proved.) However, weighing against these arguments is Isaiah’s own statement that he received his visions during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He makes no mention of doing any prophetic work during Manasseh’s reign.—Isa. 1:1.
During Isaiah’s prophetic service to Judah, especially in the days of King Ahaz, the kingdom was in a deplorable moral state. It was full of revolt on the part of both princes and people, and in Jehovah’s eyes the nation was full of wounds from head to foot, sick in the heart and in the head. The rulers were called “dictators of Sodom” and the people likened to “people of Gomorrah.” (Isa. 1:2-10) Uzziah had built and fortified Jerusalem and had a reign of prosperity. The reign of Uzziah’s son Jotham also saw relative prosperity. Nonetheless, wickedness prevailed, and Jotham could not stem the tide. Even though he did what was right and did considerable building work in Judah, also subduing the Ammonites, “the people were yet acting ruinously.” (2 Chron. 27:1-6) And Jotham’s son and successor Ahaz “went walking in the way of the kings of Israel,” bringing in the detestable practices of the nations, even burning his son in the fire. (2 Ki. 16:1-4; 2 Chron. 28:1-4) Hezekiah, on the other hand, put forth strenuous efforts at reform, and Jehovah spared Jerusalem from sharing in the northern kingdom’s captivity to Assyria. Nevertheless, as soon as Hezekiah died, the people under Manasseh returned to their wickedness until there was no healing of the nation.—2 Ki. 23:26, 27.
Isaiah was married. His wife is called “the prophetess” (Isa. 8:3), which seems to mean more than merely the wife of a prophet. Evidently, like Deborah, of the time of the judges, and Huldah, during Josiah’s reign, she had a prophetic assignment from Jehovah. (Judg. 4:4; 2 Ki. 22:14) The Bible names two sons of Isaiah, given to him as “signs and as miracles in Israel.” (Isa. 8:18) Shear-jashub was old enough in the days of Ahaz to accompany his father when Isaiah delivered a message to that king. The name Shear-jashub means “A mere remnant will return.” This name was prophetic in that, just as certain as a son born to Isaiah was given that name, so the kingdom of Judah would in time be overthrown and only a mere remnant would return after a period of exile. (Isa. 7:3; 10:20-23) This return of a small remnant took place in 537 B.C.E. when King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree liberating them from Babylon after an exile of seventy years.—2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1; 2:1, 2.
Another son of Isaiah was named prior to conception, and the name was written on a tablet and attested to by reliable witnesses. Apparently the matter was kept secret until after the birth of the son, when the witnesses could come forward and testify to the prophet’s foretelling of the birth, thereby proving the matter to have prophetic significance. The name given to the boy by God’s command was Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning “Hasten, O spoil! He has come quickly to the plunder.” It was said that before this son would know how to call out, “My father!” and, “My mother!” the threat to Judah existing from the conspiracy of Syria and the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel would be removed.—Isa. 8:1-4.
The prophecy indicated that relief would come to Judah soon; relief did come when Assyria interfered with the campaign against Judah by King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel. The Assyrians captured Damascus and, later, in 740 B.C.E., despoiled and destroyed the kingdom of Israel, fully carrying out the prophetic meaning of the boy’s name. (2 Ki. 16:5-9; 17:1-6) However, instead of trusting in Jehovah, King Ahaz had tried to stave off the threat made by Syria and Israel, resorting to bribery of the king of Assyria to gain his protection. Because of this, Jehovah allowed Assyria to become a great threat to Judah and actually to flood into the land right up to Jerusalem itself, as Isaiah had warned.—Isa. 7:17-20.
Isaiah spoke many times of “signs” that Jehovah would give, among them being his two sons and, in one instance, Isaiah himself. Jehovah commanded him to walk about naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and against Ethiopia, signifying that they would be led captive by the king of Assyria.—Isa. 20:1-6; compare Isaiah 7:11, 14; 19:20; 37:30; 38:7, 22; 55:13; 66:19.
PROPHECIES OF EXILE AND RESTORATION
Isaiah was also privileged to foretell that Assyria would not be the nation to dethrone the kings of Judah and destroy Jerusalem, but that this would be done by Babylon. (Isa. 39:6, 7) At the time when Assyria flooded Judah “up to the neck,” Isaiah delivered the comforting message to King Hezekiah that the Assyrian forces would not be able to enter the city. (Isa. 8:7, 8) Jehovah backed up His word by sending an angel to destroy 185,000 of the Assyrian army’s mighty men and leaders, thus delivering Jerusalem.—2 Chron. 32:21.
The thing that undoubtedly gave Isaiah the greatest joy was the privilege accorded him by Jehovah to speak and to write many prophecies of restoration of his beloved Jerusalem. Although Jehovah would allow the people to go into exile to Babylon because of rebellion and revolt against him, God would in time judge Babylon because she acted out of malice and intended to hold God’s people in captivity forever. A number of Isaiah’s prophecies are devoted to God’s judgment on Babylon and the desolate ruin she would become, never to be rebuilt.—Chaps. 13; 14; 21; 45:1, 2; 46; 47; 48.
The restoration prophecies that are found throughout the book of Isaiah glorify Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and mercy toward his people, and toward all mankind. They foretell the time when Jerusalem would be elevated to a new position with Jehovah, a glory that would be seen by all nations, and she would be a blessing to all nations. Jerusalem was indeed restored and rebuilt and was blessed by the presence of the Messiah, who “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.” (2 Tim. 1:10) Jerusalem’s restoration also had a greater and grander fulfillment to come.—Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; Gal. 4:25, 26.
FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES OF ISAIAH’S WORK
Isaiah wrote not only the Bible book bearing his name, but evidently at least one historical book, the affairs of King Uzziah, which no doubt formed part of the official records of the nation. (2 Chron. 26:22) In faithfully carrying out the prophetic work assigned to him by Jehovah, he had a strong influence on the nation’s history, particularly as a result of his counsel and guidance of righteous King Hezekiah. Many of Isaiah’s prophecies also have a larger fulfillment in the Messiah and his kingdom. Isaiah’s book is quoted or referred to many times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In many instances the Christian writers make application of Isaiah’s prophecies to Jesus Christ, or point to a fulfillment of his prophecies in their day.
Some Prophecies Applying to Jesus Christ
Isaiah text Christian Scriptures
7:14 Birth of Jesus from a virgin Matt. 1:18-23
by power of holy spirit
9:1, 2 Jesus’ preaching brought light Matt. 4:14-16
to land of Zebulun and Naphtali
40:3 John the Baptist the one Matt. 3:1-3
“calling out in the wilderness:
‘Clear up the way of Jehovah,
42:1-4 Jesus Christ God’s servant whom Matt. 12:14-21
53:4 Jesus carried the sicknesses of Matt. 8:14-17
53:5, 11 Jesus bore the sins of the people 1 Pet. 2:24
on the stake
61:1, 2 Jesus’ application of a passage Luke 4:18-21
as his commission from Jehovah
In many other instances events fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecies are noted where the writer makes no reference to Isaiah.
Isaiah text Christian Scriptures
53:7 Jesus quiet, uncomplaining, before Matt. 27:12-14
53:9 Jesus buried in a rich man’s grave Matt. 27:57-60
53:12 Jesus reckoned with lawless ones Luke 22:37
Other Prophecies Fulfilled
A few of the many events prior to the first century C.E. that fulfilled prophecies of Isaiah are:
1:26-30; 24:1-6; 39:6, 7 Jerusalem to be destroyed;
captivity to Babylon
43:14; 44:26-28 Release from captivity; Jerusalem to be
restored; Cyrus an instrument used by Jehovah
to accomplish this
23:1, 8, 13, 14 Mainland city of Tyre destroyed by Chaldeans
Larger Fulfillments Now and in the Future
It is obvious, from a reading of the Bible, that many of Isaiah’s prophecies have more than one fulfillment, and that a great portion of the book is finding and is yet to find its final, major fulfillment. In the book of Revelation alone are many quotations or allusions to Isaiah’s prophecies, some of which are here listed:
Isaiah text Revelation
21:9 Babylon has fallen! 18:2
40:10 Jehovah is coming with his reward 22:12
47:5, 7-9 Babylon, a harlot and mistress of 17:1, 2,
kingdoms, suffers calamity 18; 18:7
48:20 God’s people commanded to get out of 18:4
60:1, 3, 5, 11 New Jerusalem likened to ancient 21:11, 24-26
Jerusalem in its restored state
66:22 Jehovah creates a new heaven and 21:1
a new earth