The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

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The Bible: Interesting Facts and Study Principles


Fun Quiz

(Answers are below.)

1. How many books are contained in the Bible?

A. 56 B. 66 C. 76 D. 86

2. How many books are in the Old Testament?

A. 27 B. 29 C. 37 D. 39

3. How many books are in the New Testament?

A. 21 B. 24 C. 27 D. 37

4. What is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God?

A. Esther B. James C. Hezekiah D. Ecclesiastes

5. How many accounts of the gospel are in the Bible, and what are those books called?

6. What is the name of the last book of the Bible?

7. Which book of the Bible has the most chapters, and how many are there?

8. What book of the Bible has the shortest name (i.e. the least amount of letters)?

9. Which five books of the Bible contain only one chapter?

10. Can you name any secular historians who lived during the time when the New Testament was written, and whose writings back up many of the narratives written in the New Testament?

INTERESTING FACTS

There are many interesting facts about the Bible, which, according to Daniel Radosh of The New Yorker, is not only the best-selling book of all time, but also the best-selling book every year. The following are just a few of these facts:

  • Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, containing only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses.
  • Psalm 118 is the middle chapter in the Bible (there are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after Psalm 118).
  • The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
  • The book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, contains 150 chapters and 43,743 words. The book of 3 John is the shortest book, and contains only 299 words.
  • The longest verse in the Bible is Esther 8:9, with 90 words. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, with only two words (“Jesus wept“).
  • There are 31,102 verses in the Bible (more than 23,000 in the Old Testament, and almost 8,000 in the New Testament. That’s an average of 26 verses per chapter.
  • The Bible was only divided into chapters in the year 1228, by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The New Testament was only divided into verses in the year 1551, by Sir Robert Stephens.

PRINCIPLES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE


Distinguish Between Literary Forms and Genres

The Bible is made up of narratives (stories) more than any other type of literature (other genres include law, poetry, wisdom, prophecies, parables, and epistles). Narratives sometimes teach things indirectly, rather than directly. For example, in the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11), we’re not told directly that adultery is wrong. However, this was already taught directly in the law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 20:14). Still, II Samuel 11 illustrates how David’s adultery harmed his personal life and his ability to rule over Israel.

Note the Context

In the Bible, it’s rare that we seek to understand a single verse by itself, or isolated from all surrounding verses. There are exceptions to this, of course, in the book of Proverbs. Looking at a verse or a passage in context means considering a larger portion of the text as a whole.

The word “earth,” for example, is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments. In some places where it’s used, it’s not a reference to the entire globe. Instead, it’s a reference to the land of Israel (i.e. the Promised Land) only. In fact, some Bible translations will use “earth” in the same passages where other translations will use the word “land.” Luke 21:23 is one example of this pattern. Even if a translation uses the word “earth” in this verse, the context ought to clearly show that Jesus was speaking specifically about Israel. He predicted that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (verse 20), and He warned “those living in Judea” to flee to the mountains (verse 21). He then spoke of “great distress in the earth” (or “land”) and “wrath against this people” (verse 23). The context shows that He didn’t speak of people in Chicago, or of people living in the 21st century, but of Jews living in his own generation.

Consider Audience Relevance

“Exegesis” is a literary interpretation method that involves determining what a text meant to those who first received it. This method should guide “hermeneutics,” the science of interpretation. So the first question to ask is, “What did the text mean to the original audience that first heard or read it?” Then, and only then, is it time to ask the second question: “What does this text mean to us now?”

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets often announced the future. However, were they speaking about our future, or were they speaking about the more immediate future of Israel, Judah, and other surrounding nations? Many today believe that Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of a future invasion of modern-day Israel by Russia, Ethiopia, and a few other countries. This is despite the fact that Ezekiel described ancient warfare (e.g. the use of horses) in his prophecy.

In II Thessalonians 2, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the man of sin and the Day of the Lord. Many today assume that what Paul told them will be revealed soon and will take place for our generation to see. Yet consider what Paul said to his first century readers: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (verses 5-7).

Similarly, John told his first century readers in the book of Revelation that they were capable of calculating “the number of the beast”: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In other words, they could figure out who the beast was. Many have not considered the audience relevance when thinking of this text, and have insisted that the beast (or “Antichrist,” they might say) was Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, etc.

It’s also important to note that we don’t live under the Old Covenant, as ancient Israel once did. This covenant, through Jesus, has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). There are commands that were given to the ancient Israelites under the law, which are no longer instructive to God’s people on how to live. We can still derive principles from those laws, understand God better by reading those portions of Scripture, and understand how certain types and shadows are now fulfilled in Jesus, etc. Yet we are not bound by the Old Covenant laws which functioned as a national constitution for ancient Israelites who lived in the land of Israel. We are told in Hebrews 8, for example, that this first covenant was not faultless (verse 7), was made obsolete (verse 13), and has been replaced by a new covenant with better promises (verse 6).

Scripture Interprets Scripture

We are not the ultimate authority when it comes to interpreting Scripture. If we believe that the Biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we can appreciate how they interpret older Scripture passages, even if it means setting aside our own preconceived notions. We see an interesting example of this principle very early in the New Testament when Matthew takes an Old Testament passage from Hosea 11:1 that clearly refers to ancient Israel (“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son“), and applies it to Jesus:

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring your word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

The implication is that Matthew viewed Israel, not as his own homeland, the political nation of Israel, but rather as Jesus.

In Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 we see a prophecy that a wolf will lay down with a lamb. Many today believe or teach that the animal kingdom will literally be transformed in this way in a future millennium, a period lasting 1000 years. However, Paul demonstrated in Romans 15 that Isaiah 11 was fulfilled through Jesus’ work on the cross, and His bringing together Jews and Gentiles in Himself. In other words, the wolf and the lamb represented Jews and Gentiles.

In Matthew 23 Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the religious rulers of Israel, when He said:

“I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36).

Who did Jesus say would be responsible for shedding the blood of all righteous people, and which generation would be held responsible? Clearly, it’s first century Israel. So what do we conclude then when we see these passages in the book of Revelation?

[1] “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.'” (Revelation 16:4-6)

[2] “I saw the woman [Babylon the Great], drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:6)

[3] “Alas, alas, that great city… Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! … And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:20, 24)

Not only do Jesus’ words in Matthew 23 tell us who shed this blood and when they did it, but the principle of “first mention” can help us here as well. “The great city” is first mentioned in Revelation 11:8. There it is described as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” We know, of course, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. The “great city” then is Jerusalem, which also happens to be the city Jesus said in Matthew 23 would be held responsible for the shed blood of all the saints. 

Types and Shadows Point Toward Fulfillment

The New Testament follows the Old Testament in the Bible. Within the Old Testament, there were many practices and laws which foreshadowed realities that have been fulfilled in Jesus. The book of Hebrews speaks much about the types and shadows (e.g. in the sacrificial system) which pointed toward Jesus. One form of eschatology, the study of last things, teaches that in a future millennium there will be renewed animal sacrifices and offerings in a rebuilt temple. Does this teaching not promote a return to types and shadows? One author, Kim Riddlebarger, calls this ” a redemptive-historical U-turn.” Perhaps this teaching persists because some view certain prophetic passages in the Old Testament through a lens that doesn’t recognize apocalyptic language, and assumptions are made that they haven’t yet been fulfilled.

ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ

1. B (66)

2. D (39)

3. C (27)

4. A (Esther); P.S. There is no book called “Hezekiah.”

5. Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

6. Revelation

7. Psalms; 150

8. Job

9. Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

10. Josephus (a Jew); Tacitus (a Roman)

Sources:

1. Maarschalk, Adam. “Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled.” Pursuing Truth Blog. January 29, 2012. http://kloposmasm.com/2012/01/29/romans-15-shows-that-isaiah-11-is-fulfilled/
2. Radosh, Daniel. “The Good Book Business.” The New Yorker. December 18, 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/12/18/061218fa_fact1
3. Riddlebarger, Kim. “Jesus, The True Temple.” The Riddleblog. April 9, 2008. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/4/9/jesus-the-true-temple.html

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This article first appeared on the Yahoo Contributor Network

An Outline of the Book of Isaiah


The last two posts on Isaiah 17 (covering verses 1-6 and verses 7-14) have rekindled my desire to study Isaiah’s prophetic writings more deeply. As time allows, I hope to complete and post more studies from this rich and wonderful book, especially verse-by-verse studies. A few studies from the book of Isaiah are already listed on our Bible Studies page.

One of the rich features in Isaiah is the level of insight he was given into the new covenant age we presently live in and enjoy. He not only gave warnings to Judah, Israel, and other surrounding nations, but he also spent a great deal of time sharing the visions he was given of the spiritual blessings available to God’s people now in Jesus Christ.

Another feature I hope to bring out is Isaiah’s accuracy as a prophet for his own time. God used Isaiah as a voice to foretell times of judgment and redemption that his own people and surrounding peoples would soon experience. And his words came to pass. This is important at a time when books are being sold by the millions speculating on how Isaiah’s prophecies are about America, Syria, a “resurrected Babylon,” and other modern nations, while often ignoring how they were beautifully fulfilled in his own generation or soon afterward. For example, a well-known author left a comment at this site last week implying that Isaiah 13-23 will be fulfilled in the future. However, looking just at Isaiah 13 (Isaiah’s burden against Babylon), not only did Isaiah prophesy at a time in history when there really was an empire named Babylon, but verse 17 even identifies who would overthrow Babylon: “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them…” (Isaiah 13:17). The fulfillment of this prophecy is shown in Daniel 5-6 when the Medo-Persians defeated Babylon.

The Biblica website has a very informative outline of the book of Isaiah published by Zondervan. I’m reproducing it here, and also including much of Zondervan’s description on the book of Isaiah. I believe it will be helpful as a guide to future studies on Isaiah at this site, as well as helpful for anyone at anytime:

Isaiah

Outline

Part 1: The Book of Judgment (chs. 1–39)

  • Messages of Rebuke and Promise (chs. 1–6)
    • Introduction: Charges against Judah for Breaking the Covenant (ch. 1)
    • The Future Discipline and Glory of Judah and Jerusalem (chs. 2–4)
      1. Jerusalem’s future blessings (2:1–5)
      2. The Lord’s discipline of Judah (2:6—4:1)
      3. The restoration of Zion (4:2–6)
    • The Nation’s Judgment and Exile (ch. 5)
    • Isaiah’s Unique Commission (ch. 6)
  • Prophecies Occasioned by the Aramean and Israelite Threat against Judah (chs. 7–12)
    • Ahaz Warned Not to Fear the Aramean and Israelite Alliance (ch. 7)
    • Isaiah’s Son and David’s Son (8:1—9:7)
    • Judgment against Israel (9:8—10:4)
    • The Assyrian Empire and the Davidic Kingdom (10:5—12:6)
      1. The destruction of Assyria (10:5–34)
      2. The establishment of the Davidic king and his kingdom (ch. 11)
      3. Songs of joy for deliverance (ch. 12)
  • Judgment against the Nations (chs. 13–23)
    • Against Assyria and Its Ruler (13:1—14:27)
    • Against Philistia (14:28–32)
    • Against Moab (chs. 15–16)
    • Against Aram and Israel (ch. 17)
    • Against Cush (ch. 18)
    • Against Egypt and Cush (chs. 19–20)
    • Against Babylon (21:1–10)
    • Against Dumah (Edom) (21:11–12)
    • Against Arabia (21:13–17)
    • Against the Valley of Vision (Jerusalem) (ch. 22)
    • Against Tyre (ch. 23)
  • Judgment and Promise (the Lord’s Kingdom) (chs. 24–27)
    • Universal Judgments for Universal Sin (ch. 24)
    • Deliverance and Blessing (ch. 25)
    • Praise for the Lord’s Sovereign Care (ch. 26)
    • Israel’s Enemies Punished but Israel’s Remnant Restored (ch. 27)
  • Six Woes: Five on the Unfaithful in Israel and One on Assyria (chs. 28–33)
    • Woe to Ephraim (Samaria)—and to Judah (ch. 28)
    • Woe to David’s City, Jerusalem (29:1–14)
    • Woe to Those Who Rely on Foreign Alliances (29:15–24)
    • Woe to the Obstinate Nation (ch. 30)
    • Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt (chs. 31–32)
    • Woe to Assyria—but Blessing for God’s People (ch. 33)
  • More Prophecies of Judgment and Promise (chs. 34–35)
    • The Destruction of the Nations and the Avenging of God’s People (ch. 34)
    • The Future Blessings of Restored Zion (ch. 35)
  • A Historical Transition from the Assyrian Threat to the Babylonian Exile (chs. 36–39)
    • Jerusalem Preserved from the Assyrian Threat (chs. 36–37)
      1. The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (ch. 36)
      2. The Lord’s deliverance of Jerusalem (ch. 37)
    • The Lord’s Extension of Hezekiah’s Life (ch. 38)
    • The Babylonian Exile Predicted (ch. 39)

    Part 2: The Book of Comfort (chs. 40–66)

  • The Deliverance and Restoration of Israel (chs. 40–48)
    • The Coming of the Victorious God (40:1–26)
    • Unfailing Strength for the Weary Exiles (40:27–31)
    • The Lord of History (41:1—42:9)
    • Praise and Exhortation (42:10–25)
    • The Regathering and Renewal of Israel (43:1—44:5)
    • The Only God (44:6—45:25)
    • The Lord’s Superiority over Babylon’s Gods (ch. 46)
    • The Fall of Babylon (ch. 47)
    • The Lord’s Exhortations to His People (ch. 48)
  • The Servant’s Ministry and Israel’s Restoration (chs. 49–57)
    • The Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1–13)
    • The Repopulation of Zion (49:14–26)
    • Israel’s Sin and the Servant’s Obedience (ch. 50)
    • The Remnant Comforted Because of Their Glorious Prospect (51:1—52:12)
    • The Sufferings and Glories of the Lord’s Righteous Servant (52:13—53:12)
    • The Future Glory of Zion (ch. 54)
    • The Lord’s Call to Salvation and Covenant Blessings (55:1—56:8)
    • The Condemnation of the Wicked in Israel (56:9—57:21)
  • Everlasting Deliverance and Everlasting Judgment (chs. 58–66)
    • False and True Worship (ch. 58)
    • Zion’s Confession and Redemption (ch. 59)
    • Zion’s Peace and Prosperity (ch. 60)
    • The Lord’s Favor (ch. 61)
    • Zion’s Restoration and Glory (62:1—63:6)
    • Prayer for Divine Deliverance (63:7—64:12)
    • The Lord’s Answer: Mercy and Judgment (ch. 65)
    • Judgment for False Worshipers and Blessing for True Worshipers (ch. 66)

Position in the Hebrew Bible

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Isaiah initiates a division called the Latter Prophets…including also Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets (so called because of their small size by comparison with the major prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and not at all suggesting that they are of minor importance)… Thus Isaiah occupies pride of place among the Latter Prophets. This is fitting since he is sometimes referred to as the prince of the prophets.

Author

Isaiah, the son of Amoz is often thought of as the greatest of the writing prophets. His name means “The Lord saves.” He was a contemporary of Amos, Hosea and Micah, beginning his ministry in 740 b.c., the year King Uzziah died (see note on 6:1). According to an unsubstantiated Jewish tradition (The Ascension of Isaiah), he was sawed in half during the reign of Manasseh (cf. Heb 11:37). Isaiah was married and had at least two sons, Shear-Jashub (7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3). He probably spent most of his life in Jerusalem, enjoying his greatest influence under King Hezekiah (see 37:1–2). Isaiah is also credited with writing a history of the reign of King Uzziah (2Ch 26:22).

Many scholars today challenge the claim that Isaiah wrote the entire book that bears his name. Yet his is the only name attached to it (see 1:1; 2:1; 13:1). The strongest argument for the unity of Isaiah is the expression “the Holy One of Israel,” a title for God that occurs 12 times in chs. 1–39 and 14 times in chs. 40–66. Outside Isaiah it appears in the OT only 6 times. There are other striking verbal parallels between chs. 1–39 and chs. 40–66. Compare the following verses:

1:2 66:24
1:5-6 53:4–5
5:27 40:30
6:1 52:13; 57:15
6:11–12 62:4
11:1 53:2
11:6–9 65:25
11:12 49:22
35:10 51:11

Altogether, there are at least 25 Hebrew words or forms found in Isaiah (i.e., in both major divisions of the book) that occur in no other prophetic writing.

Isaiah’s use of fire as a figure of punishment (see 1:31; 10:17; 26:11; 33:11–14; 34:9–10; 66:24), his references to the “holy mountain” of Jerusalem (see note on 2:2–4) and his mention of the highway to Jerusalem (see note on 11:16) are themes that recur throughout the book.

The structure of Isaiah also argues for its unity. Chs. 36–39 constitute a historical interlude, which concludes chs. 1–35 and introduces chs. 40–66 (see note on 36:1).

Several NT verses refer to the prophet Isaiah in connection with various parts of the book: Mt 12:17–21 (Isa 42:1–4); Mt 3:3 and Lk 3:4 (Isa 40:3); Ro 10:16,20 (Isa 53:1; 65:1); see especially Jn 12:38–41 (Isa 53:1; 6:10).

Date

Most of the events referred to in chs. 1–39 occurred during Isaiah’s ministry (see 6:1; 14:28; 36:1), so these chapters may have been completed not long after 701 b.c., the year the Assyrian army was destroyed (see note on 10:16). The prophet lived until at least 681 (see note on 37:38) and may have written chs. 40–66 during his later years. In his message to the exiles of the sixth century b.c., Isaiah was projected into the future, just as Ezekiel was in Eze 40–48.

Background

Isaiah wrote during the stormy period marking the expansion of the Assyrian empire and the decline of Israel. Under King Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727 b.c.) the Assyrians swept westward into Aram (Syria) and Canaan. About 733 the kings of Aram and Israel tried to pressure Ahaz king of Judah into joining a coalition against Assyria. Ahaz chose instead to ask Tiglath-Pileser for help, a decision condemned by Isaiah (see note on 7:1). Assyria did assist Judah and conquered the northern kingdom in 722–721. This made Judah even more vulnerable, and in 701 King Sennacherib of Assyria threatened Jerusalem itself (see 36:1 and note). The godly King Hezekiah prayed earnestly, and Isaiah predicted that God would force the Assyrians to withdraw from the city (37:6–7).

Nevertheless Isaiah warned Judah that her sin would bring captivity at the hands of Babylon. The visit of the Babylonian king’s envoys to Hezekiah set the stage for this prediction (see 39:1,6 and notes). Although the fall of Jerusalem would not take place until 586 b.c., Isaiah assumes the destruction of Judah and proceeds to predict the restoration of the people from captivity (see 40:2–3 and notes). God would redeem his people from Babylon just as he rescued them from Egypt (see notes on 35:9; 41:14). Isaiah predicts the rise of Cyrus the Persian, who would unite the Medes and Persians and conquer Babylon in 539 (see 41:2 and note). The decree of Cyrus would allow the Jews to return home in 538/537, a deliverance that prefigured the greater salvation from sin through Christ (see 52:7 and note).

Themes and Theology

Isaiah is a book that unveils the full dimensions of God’s judgment and salvation. God is “the Holy One of Israel” (see 1:4; 6:1 and notes) who must punish his rebellious people (1:2) but will afterward redeem them (41:14,16). Israel is a nation blind and deaf (6:9–10; 42:7), a vineyard that will be trampled (5:1–7), a people devoid of justice or righteousness (5:7; 10:1–2). The awful judgment that will be unleashed upon Israel and all the nations that defy God is called “the day of the Lord”… Throughout the book, God’s judgment is referred to as “fire” (see 1:31; 30:33 and notes). He is the “Sovereign Lord” (see note on 25:8), far above all nations and rulers (40:15–24).

Yet God will have compassion on his people (14:1–2) and will rescue them from both political and spiritual oppression. Their restoration is like a new exodus (43:2,16–19; 52:10–12) as God redeems them (see 35:9; 41:14 and notes) and saves them (see 43:3; 49:8 and notes). Israel’s mighty Creator (40:21–22; 48:13) will make streams spring up in the desert (32:2) as he graciously leads them home. The theme of a highway for the return of exiles is a prominent one (see 11:16; 40:3 and notes) in both major parts of the book. The Lord raises a banner to summon the nations to bring Israel home (see 5:26 and note).

Peace and safety mark this new Messianic age (11:6–9). A king descended from David will reign in righteousness (9:7; 32:1), and all nations will stream to the holy mountain of Jerusalem (see 2:2–4 and note). God’s people will no longer be oppressed by wicked rulers (11:14; 45:14), and Jerusalem will truly be the “City of the Lord” (60:14).

The Lord calls the Messianic King “my servant” in chs. 42–53, a term also applied to Israel as a nation (see 41:8–9; 42:1 and notes). It is through the suffering of the servant that salvation in its fullest sense is achieved. Cyrus was God’s instrument to deliver Israel from Babylon (41:2), but Christ delivered humankind from the prison of sin (52:13—53:12). He became a “light for the Gentiles” (42:6), so that those nations that faced judgment (chs. 13–23) could find salvation (55:4–5). These Gentiles also became “servants of the Lord” (see 54:17 and note)…

Literary Features

Isaiah contains both prose and poetry; the beauty of its poetry is unsurpassed in the OT. The main prose material is found in chs. 36–39, the historical interlude that unites the two parts of the book (see Author). The poetic material includes a series of oracles in chs. 13–23. A taunting song against the king of Babylon is found in 14:4–23. Chs. 24–27 comprise an apocalyptic section stressing the last days (see note on 24:1—27:13). A wisdom poem is found in 28:23–29 (also cf. 32:5–8). The song of the vineyard (5:1–7) begins as a love song as Isaiah describes God’s relationship with Israel. Hymns of praise are given in 12:1–6 and 38:10–20, and a national lament occurs in 63:7—64:12. The poetry is indeed rich and varied, as is the prophet’s vocabulary (he uses a larger vocabulary of Hebrew words than any other OT writer).

One of Isaiah’s favorite techniques is personification. The sun and moon are ashamed (24:23), while the desert and parched land rejoice (see 35:1 and note) and the mountains and forests burst into song (44:23). The trees “clap their hands” (55:12). A favorite figure is the vineyard, which represents Israel (5:7). Treading the winepress is a picture of judgment (see 63:3 and note), and to drink God’s “cup of wrath” is to stagger under his punishment (see 51:17 and note). Isaiah uses the name “Rock” to describe God (17:10), and animals such as Leviathan and Rahab represent nations (see 27:1; 30:7; 51:9).

The power of Isaiah’s imagery is seen in 30:27–33, and he makes full use of sarcasm in his denunciation of idols in 44:9–20. A forceful example of wordplay appears in 5:7 (see note there), and one finds inversion in 6:10 (see note there; see also note on 16:7) and alliteration and assonance in 24:16-17 (see note there). The “overwhelming scourge” of 28:15,18 is an illustration of mixed metaphor.

Isaiah often alludes to earlier events in Israel’s history, especially the exodus from Egypt. The crossing of the Red Sea forms the background for 11:15 and 43:2,16–17, and other allusions occur in 4:5–6; 31:5; 37:36 (see notes on these verses). The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah is referred to in 1:9, and Gideon’s victory over Midian is mentioned in 9:4; 10:26 (see also 28:21). Several times Isaiah draws upon the song of Moses in Dt 32 (compare 1:2 with Dt 32:1; 30:17 with Dt 32:30; and 43:11,13 with Dt 32:39). Isaiah, like Moses, called the nation to repentance and to faith in a holy, all-powerful God. See also note on 49:8.

The refrain in 48:22 and 57:21 divides the last 27 chapters into three sections of nine chapters each (40-48; 49-57; 58-66; see Outline).

© Zondervan. From the Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Used with Permission.

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