The Book of Isaiah is named after a great prophet who lived in Jerusalem in the latter half of the eighth century bc. This book may be divided into three principal parts:
(1) Chapters 1—39 come from a time when Judah, the southern kingdom, was threatened by a powerful neighbour, Assyria. Isaiah saw that the real threat to the life of Judah was not simply the might of Assyria, but the nation's own sin and disobedience to God, and their lack of trust in him. In vivid words and actions the prophet called the people and their leaders to a life of righteousness and justice, and warned that failure to listen to God would bring doom and destruction. Isaiah also foretold a time of worldwide peace and the coming of a descendant of David who would be the ideal king.
(2) Chapters 40—55 come from a time when many of the people of Judah were in exile in Babylon, crushed and without hope. The prophet proclaimed that God would set his people free and take them home to Jerusalem, to begin a new life. A notable theme of these chapters is that God is the Lord of history, and his plan for his people includes their mission to all nations, who will be blessed through Israel. The passages about “the Servant of the Lord” are among the best-known in the Old Testament.
(3) Chapters 56—66 for the most part speak to a time when people were back in Jerusalem and needed reassurance that God was going to fulfil his promises to the nation. Concern is expressed for righteousness and justice, and also for Sabbath observance, sacrifice, and prayer. A notable passage is 61.1–2, words used by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry to express his calling.
Outline of Contents
Warnings and promises 1.1—12.6
Punishment of the nations 13.1—23.18
God's judgement of the world 24.1—27.13
Further warnings and promises 28.1—35.10
King Hezekiah of Judah and the Assyrians 36.1—39.8
Messages of promise and hope 40.1—55.13
Warnings and promises 56.1—66.24