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Isaiah (Bible Card).jpg
Prophet Isaiah; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (c. 1904)
Born 8th Century BC
Judah (?)
Died 7th Century BC
Honored in Judaism
Feast May 9 [2]

Isaiah (US /ˈz.ə/ or UK /ˈz.ə/;[2] Hebrew: יְשַׁעְיָהוּ, Modern Yeshayahu Tiberian Yəšạʻyā́hû ; Syriac: ܐܫܥܝܐ Eshaya; Greek: Ἠσαΐας, Ēsaïās; Arabic: إشعيا Ishiya;[1] "Yah is salvation"[3]) was a prophet said by the Biblical Book of Isaiah to have lived in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.[4][5]

The exact relationship between the Book of Isaiah and any such historical Isaiah remains the subject of ongoing scholarly discussion.[a] One widespread view sees parts of the first half of the book (chapters 1–39) as originating with the historical prophet, interspersed with prose commentaries written in the time of King Josiah a hundred years later; with the remainder of the book dating from immediately before and immediately after the end of the exile in Babylon, almost two centuries after the time of the original prophet. Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed (although not the earliest) of the neviim akharonim, the latter prophets.[6]


Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah, 18th century (iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia).

The first verse of the Book of Isaiah states that Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1). Uzziah's reign was 52 years in the middle of the 8th century BC, and Isaiah must have begun his ministry a few years before Uzziah's death, probably in the 740s BC. Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign (who died 698 BC), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for as long as 64 years.

Isaiah's wife was called "the prophetess" (Isaiah 8:3), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14–20), or simply because she was the "wife of the prophet" (as he is named, for instance in Isaiah 38:1). The second interpretation, that it was simply an honorary title is likely.[7] They had two sons, naming one Shear-Jashub, meaning "A remnant shall return" (Isaiah 7:3) and the younger, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, "Spoil quickly, plunder speedily." (Isaiah 8:3) The book of Isaiah, along with the book of Jeremiah, is distinctive in the Hebrew bible for its direct portrayal of the "wrath of the Lord" as presented, for example, in Isaiah 10:19 stating, "Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire."[8]

In early youth, Isaiah may have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:19); and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5–6). Humbled, Ahaz sided with Assyria and sought the aid of Tiglath-Pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

Isaiah receives his vision of the Lord's house. A stained glass window at St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Soon after this, Shalmaneser V determined to subdue the kingdom of Israel, Samaria was taken and destroyed (722 BC). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah, who was encouraged to rebel "against the king of Assyria" (2 Kings 18:7), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2–4). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (701 BC) led a powerful army into Judah. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:14–16). But after a brief interval war broke out again. Again Sennacherib led an army into Judah, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2–22; 37:8). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (37:1–7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the Lord" (37:14).

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying "Thus saith the lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.

This is the word that the lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.

Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel."

According to the account in 2 Kings 19 (and its derivative account in 2 Chronicles 32) the judgment of God now fell on the Assyrian army and wiped out 185,000 of its men. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either the Southern Levant or Egypt."[9]

The remaining years of Hezekiah's reign were peaceful (2 Chr 32:23–29). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are not specified in either the Bible or recorded history. There is a tradition in Rabbinic literature that he suffered martyrdom by Manasseh.[10]

In Christianity[edit]

Isaiah is often referred to as "The Messianic Prophet", because of his many prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus. The New Testament quotes and applies more scriptures from the book of Isaiah than any other Old Testament prophet.

Yet Isaiah's work was not solely foretelling the future. A prophet of God was not primarily a future teller, but one who spoke God's word to the people of his own day. The word "prophet" literally means "to boil up like a fountain." Therefore a prophet was a spokesman for God; not so much a "foreteller" as a "forth teller"!

Isaiah was God's spokesman to Judah and Jerusalem at time when the nation was immersed in sin. He spoke God's indictment against their sins, urging them to repent. He then foretold destruction upon them if they did not return to God.

In the midst of these dire warnings, Isaiah also foretold of a bright future with the coming Messiah. God would not forget His covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He would spare a remnant of the nation of Israel out of which would come the Messiah and His new kingdom.


His name (Isaiah) means "salvation of the Lord" or "the Lord is salvation", and is certainly symbolic of his message. He is described as "the son of Amoz" (Isa 1:1; 2:1; 13:1), of whom the Bible reveals nothing. He was married and had two sons, Shear-Jashub ("the remnant shall return", Isa 7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz ("in-speed-spoil-booty- hastens", Isa 8:3), whose names also symbolized his message.

Tradition says that Amoz was a brother of Amaziah, the son of Joash, king of Judah (2Ki 14:1). This would make Isaiah a close relative to those who were kings during his lifetime, and would explain his close association with kings and priests and involvement with world affairs.

Isaiah received his visions in the days of "Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (Isa 1:1). It is generally thought the vision of the throne scene which occurred "in the year Uzziah died" (Isa 6:1) was the beginning point of his ministry as a prophet (ca. 739 B.C.). According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was executed by Manasseh only a few years after he ascended the throne. One source describes Isaiah as having been sawn asunder with a wooden saw (cf. He 11:37). This would mean Isaiah prophesied during a period of approximately fifty years (ca. 739-690 B.C.).


It was a time of great political turmoil for the nation of Judah. Assyria was expanding its empire, attacking Israel and Syria to the north. When Judah refused to joined a coalition with Israel and Syria to resist Assyria, Judah was attacked by Israel and Syria in retaliation. As Judah seriously considered inviting Assyria to help, Isaiah sought to encourage the king and the people to trust only in Jehovah. King Ahaz of Judah rejected Isaiah's advice and asked Assyria to come to his aid. Assyria accepted, and the capital of Israel (Samaria) fell in 722 B.C. (Hendriksen)

It soon became apparent that Judah was next on Assyria's hit list. Judah began looking to Egypt in the south for help. Once again, Isaiah counseled the nation to make no alliances but trust only in the Lord. King Hezekiah heeded Isaiah and God rewarded his faith by destroying the Assyrian host (Isa 36-37). But in a moment of weakness Hezekiah showed the ambassadors from Babylon (Assyria's enemy) the house of his treasures (Isa 39:1-2). This prompted Isaiah to foretell that the king's treasures and his descendants would be taken away to Babylon (Isa 39:5-7). With this prophecy as an introduction, in chapters 40-66 Isaiah speaks from the viewpoint of Babylonian exile and foretells of coming pardon, deliverance, and restoration. (ibid.)

During this time God sent several prophets to Israel and Judah. Hosea (750-725 B.C.) prophesied mainly to Israel, the northern ten tribes. Micah (735-700 B.C.) together with Isaiah spoke primarily to Judah in the south.


Two major themes run throughout the book. There is the exhortation to "Trust in the Holy One of Israel". Faith in the Lord would assure forgiveness for their transgressions and deliverance from their enemies. Eight times the people are urged to "wait upon the Lord" (cf. Isa 40:28-31). "The Messiah to come and the glory of His age" is another dominate message. Isaiah spoke frequently of the events to come, foretelling the fall of heathen nations and the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah who would rule in justice and righteousness (cf. Isa 2:1-5).

Isaiah's favorite designation for Jehovah (Yahweh) is "The Lord of Hosts", used 62 times in the book.

"The name designates the Lord as omnipotent, used by all the writing prophets except Ezekiel, Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. The term 'hosts' designated the armies of Israel. It could also refer to the angels, the heavenly messengers of the Lord, and to the stars as God's hosts. When, as here, it appears without further qualification, it designates the Lord as the God of all hosts, and is thus an equivalent expression for the 'all-powerful God'." - Edward J. Young

Another designation for the Lord used by Isaiah is "The Holy One Of Israel". In his book it is used 25 times, while found only six times in all the rest of the Bible.

The book of Isaiah can be divided into two major parts:

The Assyrian Period (chapters 1-39) - The prophet proclaims the Lord's indictment against Judah and Jerusalem, and the coming judgment against them. He portrays the sovereign rule of the Lord of Hosts who judges not only Israel, but heathen nations as well. He prophesies that the Lord will use Assyria, Babylon, and the Medes to execute His purposes, and afterward judge each of these along other nations, bringing them to desolation because of their sins. (Harkrider)

The Babylonian Period (chapters 40-66) - Isaiah exhorts an afflicted people to have faith and patience. He describes the salvation and future blessings to come upon the true Israel of God. Though Isaiah did not live during the period of Babylonian captivity, through inspiration he was able to speak words of comfort to those who would experience that difficult time of Israel's history. (ibid.)


Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City)

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–395), believed that the Prophet Esaias (Isaiah) "knew more perfectly than all others the mystery of the religion of the Gospel". Jerome (c. 342–420) also lauds the Prophet Esias, saying, "He was more of an Evangelist than a Prophet, because he described all of the Mysteries of the Church of Christ so vividly that you would assume he was not prophesying about the future, but rather was composing a history of past events."[12]

In Islam[edit]

Although Isaiah is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an or in the authenticated sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammed, Muslim sources have accepted him as a prophet.[13] Some Muslim scholars, such as Ibn Kathir and Kisa'i, reproduced Jewish traditions, transmitted through early Jewish converts to Islam, regarding Isaiah. Such Old Testament stories, which are not confirmed by the Quran or prophetic hadeeth, are referred to as Isra'iliyyah, and are not considered strong enough to be used as evidence in Islamic law. Isaiah is mentioned as a prophet in Ibn Kathir's Story of Prophet Isaiah[14] and the modern writers Muhammad Asad and Abdullah Yusuf Ali[15] accepted Isaiah as a true Hebrew prophet, who preached to the Israelites following the death of King David. Isaiah is well known in Muslim exegesis and literature, notably for his predictions of the coming of Jesus and Muhammad.[16] Isaiah's narrative in Muslim literature can roughly be divided into three sections. The first part establishes Isaiah as a prophet of Israel during the reign of Hezekiah; the second part focuses on Isaiah's actions during the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib; and the third part is primarily focused upon Isaiah warning the people of coming doom.[17]

Muslim exegesis preserves a tradition,[18] which parallels that of the Hebrew Bible, which states that Hezekiah was the king that ruled over Jerusalem during Isaiah's time. Story of the Prophet Hezekiah obeyed and gave an ear to what Isaiah advised him but, nonetheless, this was a turbulent time for Israel.[19] Tradition, however, maintains that Hezekiah was a righteous man and that the turbulence increased after Hezekiah's death. After the death of the king, Isaiah told the people to not forsake God and he warned Israel that the people must cease from their persistent sin and acts of disobedience. Muslim tradition maintains that the unrighteous people of Israel were angered and sought to kill Isaiah.[19] In a death that resembles that attributed to Isaiah in Lives of the Prophets, Muslim exegesis recounts that Isaiah was martyred by Israelites by being sawed in half.[19]

In the Baha'i Faith[edit]

Isaiah is considered a lesser prophet in the Baha'i Faith.[20] Abdul-Baha mentions prophecies by Isaiah which refer to a man called the Branch as applying to Baha'ullah.[21]

Rabbinic literature[edit]

According to the Rabbinic literature, Isaiah was a descendant of the royal house of Judah and Tamar (Sotah 10b). He was the son of Amoz (not to be confused with Prophet Amos), who was the brother of King Amaziah of Juda. (Talmud tractate Megillah 15a).[22]


  1. ^ See the article Book of Isaiah for an extended overview of theories of its composition.


  1. ^ a b Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, Appendix II
  2. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). ""Isaiah"". Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 378. ISBN 0-582-05383-8. 
  3. ^ New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.
  4. ^ The Scofield Study Bible III, NKJV, Oxford University Press
  5. ^ De Jong, Matthijs J., Isaiah Among The Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies, BRILL, 2007, p. 13–17 [1]
  6. ^ JPS Hebrew English Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society, 2000
  7. ^ Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009, p.273.
  8. ^ Isaiah 10:19.
  9. ^ Sayce, Archibald Henry. The ancient empires of the East. Macmillan, 1884, p. 134.
  10. ^ "Isaiah", Jewish Encyclopedia
  11. ^ {{cite web|url=}title="THE BOOK OF ISAIAH"}
  12. ^ The Lives of the Holy Prophets, Holy Apostles Convent, ISBN 0-944359-12-4, page 101.
  13. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam
  14. ^
  15. ^ The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Note. 2173 to 17:4: "The Book is the revelation given to the Children of Israel. Here it seems to refer to the burning words of Prophets like Isaiah. For example, see Isaiah, chap, 24. or Isaiah 5:20–30, or Isaiah 3:16–26."
  16. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, Shaya, Online Web.
  17. ^ Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, i, 638–45
  18. ^ Isaiah 38.
  19. ^ a b c Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Isaiah bin Amoz
  20. ^ An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith - Page 108, Peter Smith - 2008
  21. ^ Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith - Page 239, J. E. Esslemont - 2006
  22. ^ Isaiah at Jewish Encyclopedia

Further reading[edit]

  • Baltzer, Klaus (2001). Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 
  • Church, Brooke Peters (1953). The Private Lives of the Prophets and the Times in Which They Lived. New York: Rinehart. 
  • Cohon, Beryl D. (1939). The Prophets: Their Personalities and Teachings. New York: Scribner. 
  • Herbert, Arthur Sumner (1975). The book of the prophet Isaiah : Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-08624-8. 
  • Herbert, Arthur Sumner (1975). The book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapters 40–66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20721-5. 
  • Kraeling, Emil G. (1969). The Prophets. Chicago: Rand McNally. 
  • Miscall, Peter D. (1993). Isaiah. Sheffield, England: JSOT Press. ISBN 1-85075-435-7. 
  • Quinn-Miscall, Peter D. (2001). Reading Isaiah : poetry and vision. Louisville: Westminster Press. ISBN 0-664-22369-9. 
  • Phillips, J. B. (1963). Four Prophets, Amos, Hosea, First Isaiah, Micha: A Modern Translation from the Hebrew. New York: Macmillan. 
  • Sawyer, John F. A. (1996). The fifth gospel : Isaiah in the history of Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44007-6. 
  • Scott, R. B. Y. (1968). The Relevance of the Prophets. Macmillan: London. 
  • Smith, J. M. Powis (1941). The Prophets and Their Times. Chicago: University of Chicago. 

External links[edit]