Isaiah – An Introduction


[See Appendix 1: p.67 of “Two Cities” study notes for the historical context of Isaiah 1-39]

There are many themes [motifs] in Isaiah – a brief look at three to get a feel for the book; viz. “The Messianic Hope”, “The City theme” and “the Holy One of Israel”.

  1. The Messianic Hope.

There are 3 pictures of Messiah in Isa. –

King (ch.1-37) 7v10-15; 9v1-7; 8v23-9v6; 11v1-16; 14v28-32; 24v21-23; 32v1-8; 33v17-24:

Servant (38-55), 42v1-4; 49v1-6; 50v4-9; 52v13-53v12:

Anointed Conqueror (56-66), 59v21; 61v1-3; 61v10-62v7; 63v1-6.

These 3 roles are facets of the one Messianic person.

1.1. The Messiah is endowed with the Spirit and word. 11v1-2,4; 42v1; 49v1-3; 50v4; 59v21; 61v1-3.

1.2. Concept of righteousness is central to the Messiah.

– characteristic of throne and king 9v7; nature of his rule 11v4.

– righteousness at the heart of the servant’s work 53v11; 54v17.

– Conqueror 61v10; 63v1

– the result of his work 61v3, 11.

1.3. This Messiah is a descendent of [King] David (man) 9v6-7; 11v1 and also the root from which David springs (God) 11v10 and the mighty God 9v6.

– Human ancestry and appearance 53v2; common human experience of rejection 53v3 and suffering beyond any other 50v6; 52v14

– BUT also the arm of the Lord (the Lord himself visibly present in saving action 53v1; 51v9; 52v10.

– in the anointed one righteousness, vengeance and redemption meet – it seems to be the Lord 59v16 but in 61v10 the robes of salvation have been passed to the Anointed One. Its his righteousness, vengeance and redemption that are finally accomplished.

1.4. Messianic Hope embraces Israel and the Gentile world.

– restoration of Zion 1v26-27 and in flooding of the nations 2v2-4.

– ‘royal’ David rules over a new world 11v1; 11v6-9

– equality and acceptance of present outcasts and aliens 19v23-25;27v12-13.

– servant will be divine revelation & salvation to the Gentiles 42v1-2; 49v1-6;

– benefits of salvation extend to Zion and the whole world ch’s 54-55.

– the conqueror’s message is universal 62v11-12

– the missionary enterprise is integral to this universal message 66v19.

  1. The city motif.

Jerusalem first mentioned in Gen.14v18 – Melchizedek recognised as Priest Of Most High God by Abraham.

Becomes important when David captures it 2 Sam.5v6-10. Centralizes it religiously and politically. These beliefs expressed in Pss.110, 47, 87,……

Through David, under God, Davidic throne, the Melchizedek priesthood, the promises to Abraham and the chosen city all come together.

Isaiah’s prophecy centres around Judah and the city of Jerusalem 1v1. The fate of Judah is sealed in the city (destruction) but the restoration is not merely of ITS people but of the world,

The motif is striking when set over against Gen. 11v1-4 (Babel) – world history produces a global society structured without God, humanly-made, humanly-centred, created by human cleverness for human salvation.

Along with the Divine overthrow of this human city is the creation of the ‘city of God’, a new world order constructed by God on His plan, with Himself at the centre and from where he reigns over a universe of righteousness and peace. 24v10; 25v2-3, 6-10; 26v1-6.

  1. The Holy One of Israel.

The focal point of Isaiah’s call is the Holiness of God. 6v1-13. [Holiness and transcendence, holiness and judgement, holiness and salvation]

– “holy” used more often in Isaiah than in rest of OT put together.

– in chs.1-37 the emphasis is on the rejection of the Holy One and the judgement which follows 5v16, 24; 10v17; 30v12-14.

– The Holy One is the Saviour who invites his people back 30v15, who the remnant trusts10v20 and acknowledge as holy 29v23 and in whose salvation they rejoice 12v6; 29v19.

– The title ‘Holy One of Israel’ occurs 25 times in Isaiah and only 7 times in the rest of the OT.

chs.1-37     – unworthy, careless, rejecting and unresponsive people.

40 – 55 – length to which the Holy One will go to deal with sin, reclaim the

sinner and create a righteous people for himself.

56-66   – the eternal state of holiness he prepares for his people wherein they

will enjoy him forever.


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