Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Isaiah—I
“WHOM shall I send, and who will go for us?” To this invitation from Jehovah God, Isaiah the son of Amoz replies: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 1:1; 6:8) At that, he receives an assignment as a prophet. Isaiah’s prophetic activities are recorded in the Bible book bearing his name.
Written by the prophet himself, the book of Isaiah covers a period of 46 years, from about 778 B.C.E. to sometime after 732 B.C.E. While the book contains pronouncements against Judah, Israel, and surrounding nations, its basic theme is not judgment. Rather, it is ‘the salvation by Jehovah God.’ (Isaiah 25:9) The very name Isaiah, in fact, means “Salvation of Jehovah.” This article will discuss highlights from Isaiah 1:1–35:10.
“A MERE REMNANT WILL RETURN”
Whether the prophetic message recorded in the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah is delivered before Isaiah’s appointment as a prophet or after, the Bible does not say. (Isaiah 6:6-9) What is clear, though, is that Judah and Jerusalem are spiritually sick “from the sole of the foot even to the head.” (Isaiah 1:6) Idolatry is rampant. Leaders are corrupt. Women have become haughty. People do not serve the true God acceptably. Isaiah is commissioned to go and speak “again and again” to those who neither understand nor want any knowledge.
Judah is threatened with invasion by the combined forces of Israel and Syria. Using Isaiah and his children “as signs and as miracles,” Jehovah assures Judah that the Syro-Israelite alliance will not succeed. (Isaiah 8:18) Unending peace, though, will come only through the rule of the “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7) Jehovah shall also call to account Assyria, the nation that he uses as “the rod for [his] anger.” Judah will eventually go into captivity, but “a mere remnant will return.” (Isaiah 10:5, 21, 22) True justice is to become a reality under the rule of a figurative “twig out of the stump of Jesse.”—Isaiah 11:1.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:8, 9—How is the daughter of Zion to be “left remaining like a booth in a vineyard, like a lookout hut in a field of cucumbers”? This means that during the Assyrian invasion, Jerusalem will look extremely vulnerable, like a mere booth in a vineyard or an easily collapsible hut in a cucumber field. But Jehovah comes to her aid and thus does not allow her to become like Sodom and Gomorrah.
1:18—What is meant by the words: “Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us”? This is not an invitation to talk things over and reach a mutual agreement by having give-and-take discussions. Instead, the verse refers to establishing a forum of justice in which the righteous Judge, Jehovah, gives Israel an opportunity to change and cleanse herself.
6:8a—Why are the pronouns “I” and “us” used here? The pronoun “I” stands for Jehovah God. The plural pronoun “us” indicates that there is another person with Jehovah. This, of course, is his “only-begotten Son.”—John 1:14; 3:16.
6:11—What did Isaiah mean when he asked: “How long, O Jehovah?” Isaiah was not asking how long he would have to deliver Jehovah’s message to unresponsive people. Rather, he wanted to know how long the spiritually sick condition of the people would continue to bring dishonor to God’s name.
7:3, 4—Why did Jehovah extend salvation to wicked King Ahaz? The kings of Syria and Israel planned to dethrone King Ahaz of Judah and install in his place a puppet ruler, the son of Tabeel—a man who was not a descendant of David. This diabolical scheme would have the effect of interrupting the operation of the Kingdom covenant with David. Jehovah extended salvation to Ahaz in order to preserve the line through which the promised “Prince of Peace” would come.—Isaiah 9:6.
7:8—How was Ephraim “shattered to pieces” within 65 years? The deportation of the people from the ten-tribe kingdom and the repopulation of the land with foreigners began “in the days of Pekah the king of Israel,” shortly after Isaiah uttered this prophecy. (2 Kings 15:29) It continued long thereafter into the days of the Assyrian King Esar-haddon, a son and successor of Sennacherib. (2 Kings 17:6; Ezra 4:1, 2; Isaiah 37:37, 38) This ongoing Assyrian transplantation of people to and from Samaria allows for the period of 65 years mentioned at Isaiah 7:8.
11:1, 10—How can Jesus Christ be “a twig out of the stump of Jesse” as well as “the root of Jesse”? (Romans 15:12) Jesus was “out of the stump of Jesse” in a fleshly way. He was a descendant of Jesse through Jesse’s son David. (Matthew 1:1-6; Luke 3:23-32) However, the receiving of the kingly power affects Jesus’ relationship with his ancestors. By virtue of his having been given power and authority to grant obedient mankind everlasting life on earth, Jesus becomes their “Eternal Father.” (Isaiah 9:6) Hence, he is also “the root” of his ancestors, including Jesse.
Lessons for Us:
1:3. To refuse to live by what our Creator requires of us is to know less than a bull or an ass. On the other hand, building appreciation for all that Jehovah has done for us will deter us from behaving without understanding and leaving him.
1:11-13. Hypocritical religious ceremonies and formalistic prayers are wearisome to Jehovah. Our actions and prayers should stem from a right heart motive.
1:25-27; 2:2; 4:2, 3. Slavery and the desolation of Judah were to end with the return of the repentant remnant to Jerusalem and the restoration of true worship. Jehovah is merciful to repentant wrongdoers.
2:2-4. Our having a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work helps individuals from many nations to learn the ways of peace and to pursue peace with one another.
4:4. Jehovah will remove, or wash away, moral filthiness and bloodguilt.
5:21-23. Christian elders, or overseers, must avoid being “wise in their own eyes.” They also need to exercise moderation in “drinking wine” and must refrain from showing favoritism.
11:3a. Jesus’ example and teachings show that there is joy in the fear of Jehovah.
“JEHOVAH WILL SHOW MERCY TO JACOB”
Chapters 13 to 23 are pronouncements against the nations. However, “Jehovah will show mercy to Jacob” by allowing all tribes of Israel to return home. (Isaiah 14:1) The message of desolation for Judah in chapters 24 to 27 is accompanied by the promise of restoration. Jehovah expresses his anger at “the drunkards of Ephraim [Israel]” for forming an alliance with Syria and at “priest and prophet” of Judah for seeking an alliance with Assyria. (Isaiah 28:1, 7) Woe is pronounced upon “Ariel [Jerusalem]” for “setting out to go down to Egypt” for protection. (Isaiah 29:1, footnote; 30:1, 2) Still, salvation is foretold for individuals who exercise faith in Jehovah.
Like ‘a maned young lion growling over its prey,’ Jehovah will guard “Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 31:4) There is also a promise: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself.” (Isaiah 32:1) While the Assyrian threat to Judah causes even “the very messengers of peace” to weep bitterly, Jehovah promises that his people will be healed, “pardoned for their error.” (Isaiah 33:7, 22-24) “Jehovah has indignation against all the nations, and rage against all their army.” (Isaiah 34:2) Judah will not remain desolate. “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron.”—Isaiah 35:1.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
13:17—In what way did the Medes consider silver as nothing and take no delight in gold? The Medes and the Persians regarded the glory resulting from a conquest more highly than the spoils of war. This proved true in the case of Cyrus, who gave the returning exiles the gold and silver utensils that Nebuchadnezzar had looted from Jehovah’s temple.
14:1, 2—How did Jehovah’s people become “the captors of those holding them captive” and “have in subjection those who were driving them to work”? This was fulfilled in the case of such individuals as Daniel, who held a high office in Babylon under the Medes and the Persians; Esther, who became a Persian queen; and Mordecai, who was appointed prime minister of the Persian Empire.
21:1—What region is called “the wilderness of the sea”? Even though Babylon was nowhere near the actual sea, it is referred to this way. This is because the overflowing waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flooded the region annually, creating a marshy “sea.”
24:13-16—How would the Jews become “in among the peoples, like the beating off of the olive tree, like the gleaning when the grape gathering has come to an end”? Just as some fruit is left on a tree or a vine after the harvest, only a few would survive the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Wherever the survivors were deported, whether to “the region of light [Babylon in the East]” or to “the islands of the [Mediterranean] sea,” they would glorify Jehovah.
24:21—Who are “the army of the height” and “the kings of the ground”? “The army of the height” could well refer to the wicked spirit forces. “The kings of the ground,” then, are the earthly rulers, over whom the demons have powerful influence.—1 John 5:19.
25:7—What is “the envelopment that is enveloping over all the peoples, and the woven work that is interwoven upon all the nations”? This comparison draws attention to two great enemies of mankind—sin and death.
Lessons for Us:
17:7, 8. Though most in Israel did not listen, some individuals looked to Jehovah. Similarly, some in Christendom respond to the Kingdom message.
28:1-6. Israel will fall to Assyria, but God will see to it that faithful individuals survive. Jehovah’s judgments do not leave the righteous without hope.
28:23-29. Jehovah readjusts sincere individuals according to their specific needs and circumstances.
30:15. Salvation by Jehovah requires that we show faith by “resting,” or refraining, from seeking salvation through human schemes. By “keeping undisturbed,” or not being fearful, we also demonstrate trust in Jehovah’s ability to protect us.
Isaiah’s Prophecy Fortifies Our Confidence in God’s Word
How thankful we can be for God’s message in the book of Isaiah! The prophecies that have already been fulfilled fortify our confidence that the ‘word that goes forth from Jehovah’s mouth will not return to him without results.’—Isaiah 55:11.
What about the Messianic prophecies, such as those found at Isaiah 9:7 and 11:1-5, 10? Do they not strengthen our faith in Jehovah’s provision for our salvation? The book also contains prophecies whose major fulfillments are taking place in our day or will yet occur. (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9; 25:6-8; 32:1, 2) Indeed, the book of Isaiah adds to the evidence that “the word of God is alive”!—Hebrews 4:12.
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Isaiah and his children were “as signs and as miracles in Israel”
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Jerusalem was to become “like a booth in a vineyard”
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How are people from the nations being helped to “beat their swords into plowshares”?