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date: 28 March 2017

The Book of Isaiah

Summary and Keywords

The book of Isaiah is a compilation of prophetic poetry and narratives, named for an 8th-century bce Judahite prophet. As depicted in chapters 1–39, Isaiah declared that Yhwh intended to punish Judah for social and cultic infractions; at the same time, he expressed support for the Davidic monarchy and proclaimed that Jerusalem would not be conquered by the Assyrians. Chapters 40–55 are addressed to a later audience following the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 bce. These texts offer reassurance that Jerusalem will be restored and its exiled citizens will return. The final chapters, 56–66, reflect growing disillusionment and conflict in Judah under Persian rule, and the book ends by describing Yhwh’s eschatological destruction of the wicked and vindication of a righteous remnant. The book grew and developed over a period of four to five centuries. Despite its sometimes conflicting perspectives, it is broadly unified by its focus on the fate of Jerusalem, and later editors worked to impose some coherence upon its varied content, as seen by the repeated thematic echoes in Isaiah 1 and 65–66.

Isaiah is a sophisticated work of biblical Hebrew poetry, characterized by intricate combinations of imagery and wordplay. It features a high view of divine sovereignty, emphasizing Yhwh’s control over world nations and superiority over all human and divine powers; these ideas contributed to the emergence of monotheism in ancient Judah. The book also articulates diverse responses to imperial domination, even as it chronicles the ebb and flow of Judah’s own imperial aspirations. Striking portrayals of women and gender appear throughout Isaiah, including the extensive personification of Jerusalem as a woman and the comparison of Yhwh to a mother. Isaiah is also notable for its discourse about disability, which serves a variety of rhetorical functions in the book.

The impact of Isaiah was felt immediately, as evidenced by the number of copies of the book among the Dead Sea scrolls and citations of it in the New Testament. It greatly impacted the development of important religious ideas, including apocalypticism and belief in resurrection. In Christianity, Isaiah played an important role in reflection upon the nature of Jesus and the inclusion of Gentiles, even as it informed Christian anti-Judaism. The book has had a more complicated reception in Judaism, where it significantly influenced the growth of Zionism. Scholarly study of Isaiah continues to clarify the shape of its final form and history of composition. Current research on the book is increasingly interdisciplinary, engaging metaphor theory, disability studies, and postcolonial thought. The history of the book’s interpretation and reception is another area of growing interest.

Keywords: Isaiah, prophecy, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, poetry, monotheism, gender, disability, reception history

One of the most influential books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the book of Isaiah is a compilation of prophetic poetry and narratives. It is the first in a series of books in the Bible named for Israelite and Judahite prophets, and, like these other books, it grew and developed in multiple stages. In its present form, the book contains theological reflection on Judah’s fortunes over four to five centuries under the rule of three ancient Near Eastern empires. Its generative ideas have impacted the religions of Judaism and Christianity from their emergence through the present.

Structure and Content of the Book of Isaiah

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with critical biblical scholarship is probably familiar with the classic threefold division of the book of Isaiah, proposed in the late 19th century by Bernhard Duhm.1 According to this division, First Isaiah, or Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1–39), is a record of the prophetic activity of 8th-century bce Judahite prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. Second Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40–55), contains anonymous prophecies about the return of exiled Judahites from Babylon, which date to the second half of the 6th century bce. Finally, Third Isaiah, or Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), dates to the turn of the 5th century bce or later, dealing with life in postexilic Jerusalem. While this remains a broadly accurate, useful heuristic device, a closer examination of indicators within the book reveals a more complex structure.

The first two chapters of Isaiah each begin with superscriptions that attribute the content of the book to Isaiah son of Amoz. The superscription in chapter 1 further locates the prophet’s activity during the reigns of four successive kings of Judah in the late 8th century bce. These dual superscriptions suggest that these chapters successively opened different versions of the book. As the beginning of Isaiah in its current form, chapter 1 introduces several topics that play an important role in the book, including the fate of Jerusalem (1:8–9, 24–28), social justice (1:16–17, 23), proper worship (1:11–16, 29), and the necessity of repentance (1:18–20, 27–28). It also contains echoes of the final chapters of the book, forming a kind of literary envelope or inclusio around the work as a whole; such structures are common at both small and large scales in the Hebrew Bible. At the same time, the structural significance of chapter 1 should not be overstated. A number of prominent Isaianic themes do not appear in the chapter, and its similarities to chapters 65–66 coexist with significant differences in perspective.2

Following this introduction, Isaiah 2–12 makes up the next major section of the book, with several distinct subsections. Chapters 2–4 are framed by short poems describing the restoration and exaltation of Jerusalem (2:1–4; 4:2–6). The intervening chapters harshly denounce Jerusalem’s idolatry and social injustice and threaten it with military invasion and natural disasters. Chapters 6–8 are predominantly narratives about the prophet Isaiah, allowing readers to encounter his actions and not simply his words. Chapter 6 contains a first-person account of the prophet’s commission, in which he is commanded to proclaim a message that will reinforce the people’s opposition to Yhwh and lead to their annihilation and exile (6:8–13). Chapters 7–8 describe Isaiah’s activity during the Syro-Ephraimite crisis (735–732 bce), an attempted invasion of Jerusalem by Israel and Damascus, neighboring kingdoms to the north. These chapters include birth announcements for children whose symbolic names reinforce the prophet’s hopeful message: Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (7:14–16), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “swift to the spoil, quick to the plunder,” with reference to the conquest of Judah’s enemies (8:1–4). King Ahaz of Judah rejects Isaiah’s counsel to trust Yhwh’s protection, in response to which the prophet declares that Assyria will later invade Judah (7:17–25; 8:6–8). Isaiah 9:1–6 (Eng. 9:2–7) and 11:1–10 both describe an idealized, future monarch from the Davidic line, whose reign will be characterized by the cessation of military conflict and the establishment of a truly just society in Judah. This section closes with a hymn celebrating Yhwh’s deliverance (12:1–6). The threefold repetition of the term salvation (yǝšûʿâ) in 12:2–3 plays on the name Isaiah (yǝšaʿyāhû), which means “Yhwh saves.”

Isaiah 13–23 contain a series of prophecies against foreign nations, such as one finds in other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible (cf. Jer. 46–51; Ezek. 25–32; Amos 1–2; Zeph. 2). The superscription in Isaiah 13:1 attributes the prophecy against Babylon in 13:1–14:23 to Isaiah, an attribution that presumably extends to the other prophecies in this section. Some of these prophecies are set in the time of the historical prophet. For instance, the prophecy against the Philistines is explicitly dated to the “year of the death of King Ahaz” (most likely 715 bce) in Isaiah 14:28, while Isaiah 17:1–6 announces destruction against Damascus and Israel, the two nations that threatened Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite conflict. Others seem to address later historical periods, such as Isaiah 13:1–22, which reflects exilic hopes for the destruction of Babylon. Two more general passages suggest the intended message of the collection as a whole. Isaiah 14:25–27 announces that Yhwh has a plan for all nations that cannot be thwarted, while Isaiah 17:12–14 declares that all nations threatening Judah will be defeated. Both of these claims are powerfully reinforced by Isaiah 24–27, which depict a period of cosmic upheaval during which divine judgment will fall upon all nations, even as Judah is restored and its exiles return from throughout the earth.

Although it does not open with a superscription comparable to those in chapters 1, 2, and 13, Isaiah 28 begins a new section in which the focus largely returns to Israel and Judah. Structurally, this section is held together loosely by the repetition of the vocative particle hôy (“hey!”) in 28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; and 33:1. It contains notable echoes of Isaiah 7–8, in particular, the rejection of the advice to trust in Yhwh in the face of military threats (28:14–19; 30:15–17). Looming large over this section is the crisis of 705–701 bce, when King Hezekiah of Judah withheld tribute from Assyria and the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib responded by invading Judah and blockading Jerusalem. Some texts discourage Judah from rebelling and, in particular, from forming alliances with Egypt to support their rebellion (28:14–22; 30:1–7; 31:1–3). Others depict Jerusalem at the brink of destruction but predict that it will be saved at the last minute (29:1–8; 31:4–5). Still others look forward to the decisive defeat of the Assyrian empire (30:27–33; 31:8–9). Chapters 34–35 bridge multiple sections of the book. The prophecy against Edom in chapter 34 recalls the prophecies against foreign nations in chapters 13–27, even as it anticipates a second prophecy against Edom in 63:1–6. Chapter 35 is the culmination of a series of increasingly hopeful passages in the section (29:17–24; 30:18–26; 33:15–24; 35:1–10). It introduces or develops themes that appear again in chapters 40–55, including the fructification of barren landscapes (35:1–2, 6–7) and the construction of a highway for Yhwh’s people (35:8–10).

Isaiah 36–39 is a series of narratives depicting interactions between Isaiah and Hezekiah. By and large, these chapters are identical to 2 Kings 18–20. They also have many similarities to Isaiah 7. Both are set against the backdrop of a military threat against Jerusalem—in this case Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah—and both contain poetic words of reassurance and the offer of a tangible sign from the prophet to the anxious Judahite ruler. Strikingly, parts of both narratives are set at “the channel of the upper reservoir on the highway to the fuller’s field” (7:3; 36:2), an obscure location in Jerusalem that is not mentioned in any other biblical text except the parallel narrative in 2 Kings. For all of these similarities, the portrayals of the two monarchs are vastly different. Whereas Ahaz faithlessly rejects Isaiah’s counsel, which he had not even solicited in the first place, Hezekiah consults Isaiah at every turn and believes his word. The portrayal of Hezekiah ends on an ambiguous note, however, as Isaiah announces the future destruction of Jerusalem and exile by the Babylonians after Hezekiah had shown all of his treasure to the Babylonians. In response, Hezekiah seems almost to dismiss the message because it concerns events beyond his lifetime (39:5–8).

Moving from Isaiah 39 to Isaiah 40, several changes become apparent. The text returns to poetry, and the name “Isaiah” never appears again in the book. Isaiah 40:2 speaks of a time of crisis that has passed, identified in subsequent texts as the Babylonian exile predicted in Isaiah 39:6–7. This new section extends through chapter 55, framed by opening and closing declarations of the efficacy of the divine word (40:8; 55:10–11). Chapters 40–48 are connected by the repeated address to Israel/Jacob, whom Yhwh promises to deliver from exile in Babylon. In 49–55, the primary addressee is the desolate city of Jerusalem/Zion, personified as a bereaved woman. Three additional figures play significant roles: Cyrus of Persia, whom Yhwh appoints to liberate the exiles and rebuild Jerusalem (41:2–4, 25; 44:28–45:6; 45:13; 46:10–11); Daughter Babylon/Chaldea, whose humiliating downfall is cause for celebration (47:1–15); and an enigmatic figure simply called Yhwh’s “servant” (42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). The latter receives a mission that involves both Israel and other nations (42:1; 49:5–6), and he suffers greatly in carrying out this mission (50:6; 53:3–10). Elsewhere in these chapters, Israel/Jacob is called Yhwh’s servant (41:8–9; 44:1–2; 45:4), and this identification makes sense for many if not all of the texts about the servant, although the prophet responsible for these chapters is another possibility. Isaiah 40–55 stands out as the most consistent section of the book, focused almost exclusively on the restoration of Jerusalem and its exiles and the corresponding exaltation of Yhwh. Some of its prominent imagery is anticipated in 29:17–24 and 35:1–10, and language from Isaiah’s commission in 6:9–10 recurs prominently throughout these chapters (e.g., 42:18–19; 43:8; 44:18).3 They also introduce several distinctive themes without a counterpart in the earlier sections of the book, including the metaphor of “redeemer” for Yhwh (41:14; 43:14; 44:6, 24; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7, 26 54:5, 8) and the figure of Yhwh’s servant.

Chapters 56–66 make up the final section of the book. The units in this section have been shaped into a loose chiasm, with chapters 60–62 at the center and chapters 56–59 and 63–66 echoing each other on either side. (See Figure 1.) In both style and content, 60–62 are similar to 40–55, describing the restoration of Jerusalem and the return of its exiles. Moving out from these chapters, one finds descriptions of Yhwh as a victorious warrior in 59:15–21 and 63:1–6. Isaiah 63:7–64:12 is a bitter communal complaint about the desolation of Jerusalem, suggesting that the grand promises of 60–62 did not materialize. This unit is matched in 56:9–59:14 by a series of alternating prophetic denunciations of the people and communal complaints about ongoing injustice. Finally, Isaiah 56:1–8 and 65:1–66:24 imagine the ultimate vindication of Jerusalem, which is repeatedly called Yhwh’s “holy mountain” (56:7; 65:11, 25; 66:20).

The Book of IsaiahClick to view larger

Figure 1. Chiastic Structure of Isaiah 55–66

This new period will be marked by the return of exiles (56:8; 66:19–20), all-inclusive worship in the Temple (56:3–7; 66:21, 23), and the total destruction of the wicked (65:11–12; 66:15–16). A pronounced distinction emerges in the last two chapters between Yhwh’s servants and their opponents (65:8–15; 66:14). This dualism is one of several echoes of the book’s opening chapter (cf. 1:27–28), along with references to new moon and Sabbath observances (1:14; 66:23), illicit worship in gardens (1:29; 66:17), and destruction by fire (1:31; 66:15, 24). One should also note the prominent echo of 11:6–9 in 65:25. The book of Isaiah ends on a horrifically gruesome note, as Yhwh’s worshipers in Jerusalem look upon the burning, rotting bodies of the wicked (66:24). To mitigate this unsettling conclusion, it is customary in Jewish Bibles to print verse 23 a second time following verse 24.

Formation of the Book of Isaiah

As this brief survey demonstrates, some recurring themes appear throughout Isaiah, and some chapters tie particular motifs together in ways that create a limited sense of coherence across the book. Even as these thematic and structural elements inform appreciation of the book as a literary and religious text, they also provide the basis for reconstructions of its formation. Although much about this process remains uncertain, it is possible to summarize the broad points on which many scholars presently agree (See Figure 2). The book of Isaiah almost certainly originated with an early collection of prophecies attributed to Isaiah son of Amoz, written during or shortly after his lifetime, which lies behind the present form of Isaiah 1–33. Despite arguments that prophetic books like Isaiah are entirely late compositions with no connection to the prophets for whom they are named, there are strong grounds for positing such a collection. Nearly contemporaneous prophecies from Nineveh confirm the practice of collecting prophecies with the name of the prophet in the ancient Near East. Many texts in Isaiah 1–33 show evidence of firsthand knowledge of Neo-Assyrian propaganda.4 Other texts seem to have been updated during the exile, which necessitates the prior existence of some form of their content.5 Proposals about the content of this putative collection vary, depending on prior conclusions concerning the nature of proclamation of the historical prophet. Many scholars argue that the collection of Isaianic prophecies was subsequently edited during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (640–609 bce) to celebrate the imminent end of the Assyrian empire and support Josiah’s religious and political ambitions.6 It was likely updated again following the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 587 bce.7

The exile also provided the context for the most substantial development in the formation of the book of Isaiah—the composition of Isaiah 40–55 and the addition of these chapters to an earlier version of Isaiah 1–33. Despite ongoing debate about compositional issues relating to 40–55, there is wide agreement that the combination of the two collections was not haphazard but was based on their perceived thematic continuity. Additional editorial work accompanied the union of these sections, including the placement of chapters 36–39 as a transition between the two parts of the book. There may have been other changes to 1–33 to prepare the way for the addition of the later chapters, such as the addition of the hymn in Isaiah 12:1–6.8 The earliest core of Isaiah 56–66 comprises chapters 60–62, which seem to have been composed between the rebuilding of the Temple in the late 6th century bce and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the mid-5th century bce (60:10, 13). The chapters surrounding this core developed in stages, culminating in the additions of chapters 56:1–8 and 65–66. Most of the texts seem to have been composed for their present location, in conversation with chapters 1–55; the one exception is the lament in 63:7–64:12, which was likely a preexisting text that predates the rebuilding of the Temple (63:18; 64:11). The editors responsible for chapters 65–66 may have arranged chapter 1 in its present form, given the similarities between the beginning and end of the book, along with other additions to the earlier sections. Chapters 34–35, which contain echoes of both chapters 40–55 and 56–66, were added in their present location sometime during the final stages of the book’s editing. Some scholars suggest that chapter 33 was similarly composed to bridge the major sections of the book, while others view it as part of the earlier collection in 1–33. Most scholars also favor a late date for the addition of chapters 24–27, although there is ongoing debate on this matter.

The final stages of the formation of Isaiah, including the appearance of something like its present form, occurred sometime between the 5th and 3rd centuries bce. More precise dates remain contested, owing to the paucity of both specific historical references in the later chapters of the book and external historical sources from this period. The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa)—a complete copy of the book whose content is very similar to manuscripts from nearly a millennium later—dates to the late 2nd century bce; near the beginning of the same century, the author of the biblical book of Sirach knew a form of Isaiah that included both chapters 36–39 and 40–55 (Sir. 48:23–24). Additional editorial work may have continued until the turn of the Common Era, as suggested by differences among copies of Isaiah from Qumran, the early Greek translation of Isaiah in the Septuagint, and later Hebrew manuscripts.9 At the same time, Qumran marks the point at which interpretation of Isaiah began to appear in separate commentaries on the text, instead of additions to the book itself.10 Although it would be historically anachronistic to speak of a biblical canon at this point, this development suggests that Isaiah was viewed as possessing some degree of religious authority.

The Book of IsaiahClick to view larger

Figure 2. Possible Reconstruction of the Formation of the Book of Isaiah

Isaiah and Biblical Hebrew Poetry

Apart from narratives in Isaiah 6–8, 20, and 36–39 and scattered prose prophecies, the book of Isaiah consists of poetry, like most prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible. This fact was seldom recognized in Jewish or Christian interpretation for many centuries, and manuscripts of Isaiah did not use special formatting to mark line breaks, as was sometimes employed for books like Psalms or Proverbs; extra spacing between lines in Isaiah 61:10–62:9 in 1QIsaa is a notable exception. In his 1753 Praelectiones academicae de sacra poesi hebraeorum (Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews), Robert Lowth demonstrated that texts from biblical prophetic books share important features with acknowledged poetic books like Psalms. Lowth was captivated by the book of Isaiah, calling it “the most perfect model of the prophetic poetry . . . at once elegant and sublime, forceful and ornamented.”11 Lowth’s Lectures and later Isaiah commentary helped normalize the practice of marking line breaks within poetic texts in modern editions and translations of the Hebrew Bible, even when there is no ancient manuscript evidence for lineation. In such cases, line breaks can be identified through attention to parallelism, sound patterns, syntax, and other features.

A few examples from Isaiah 1–39 will demonstrate the sophistication and variety of the poetry in Isaiah. The opening verses of the book (1:2–9) develop an intricate web of images to castigate the people of Judah. They are initially depicted as Yhwh’s rebellious children (1:2), and their lack of perception is contrasted with the intelligence of common livestock, who at least recognize their owner and food source (1:3). Verse 4 exploits the patterned structures of parallelism to heap denunciations upon the people, using four different nouns or adjectives to characterize them as sinful and three different verbs to describe their rebellion against Yhwh. In verses 5–6, the poet wonders why the audience continues to offend the deity despite having already been punished repeatedly. This charge is followed by the absurdly gruesome image of a body so severely abused that it consists entirely of bruises and wounds. These injuries correspond to burned cities and ravaged fields left in the wake of a catastrophic military attack, likely Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 bce (1:7). Reinforcing this connection, three nouns denoting bodily injuries in verse 6 (“bruises,” “stripes,” “wounds”) match three nouns denoting locations devastated by invading armies in verse 7 (“land,” “cities,” “countryside”). Verse 8 turns to the city of Jerusalem, which was apparently spared destruction but remained highly vulnerable, as represented by a pair of similes comparing the city to fragile, solitary agricultural structures. The people finally speak in verse 9, but instead of expressing remorse they blithely acknowledge their survival, reinforcing the charges that they stupidly refuse to learn from their circumstances.

While much of the artistry of a poem like Isaiah 1:2–9 is evident in translation, other features of Isaiah’s poetry are perceptible only in Hebrew. Repetition of sound is commonplace, especially alliteration. Rhyme is less common but does occur. Both are present in an evocative sequence of words in Isaiah 22:5: mǝhûmâ ûmǝbûsâ ûmǝbûkâ (“devastation, disarray, and dismay”), in which the drumbeat-like repetition of the consonants m and b mimics the sounds of battle. Although biblical Hebrew poetry is not metrical, the poet may use line length for rhetorical effect. In Isaiah 5:26–29, a string of short clauses recreates the swiftness of an army’s advance, while unusually long lines in Isaiah 14:26 reinforce the global reach of Yhwh’s control. The poet also employs wordplay frequently. A parade example is Isaiah 5:7, which disappointedly explains that the deity expected “justice” (mišpāṭ) and “righteousness” (ṣǝdāqâ) from the people but got “violence” (miśpāḥ) and “cries of oppression” (ṣǝʿāqâ). Although the wordplay is impossible to capture in another language, the New Jewish Publication Society translation achieves an effective approximation that also represents the brevity of the lines in Hebrew:

  • He hoped for justice,
  • But behold, injustice;
  • For equity,
  • But behold, iniquity!

A common form of wordplay in these chapters is double entendre, in which a word or phrase has multiple contextually possible meanings.12 In Isaiah 28:14, for instance, the prophet addresses the political class in Jerusalem as mōšǝlîm, a term that can mean either “leaders” or “proverb makers,” suggesting that their leadership is heavy on oratory but light on substance. (One can only hope that the irony of using wordplay to make this charge was not lost on the poet.) Double entendre may involve ambiguous syntax, as in a description of Moabite vineyards in 16:8. Depending on how one identifies the subject and object of the second clause, it could mean “rulers of nations struck its choice grapevines” or “its choice grapevines struck rulers of nations drunk”—with the verb “strike” (ḥālam) potentially functioning as a euphemism for intoxication (cf. Isa. 28:1; Prov. 23:35), much like “hammered” or “smashed” in colloquial English.

A studied appreciation of biblical Hebrew poetic style is imperative for proper interpretation of Isaiah. Whatever motivations a reader might have—whether theological, historical, ideological, or the like—one risks misunderstanding if poetic texts are not read first as poetry. Many otherwise excellent commentaries do not consider the possibility of double entendre in ambiguous texts, insisting that only one possible meaning could be correct and thereby missing an important component of the text’s meaningfulness. Some final-form readings of Isaiah problematically treat the book like a novel or overemphasize its small percentage of narrative texts, as if narrative unity were the only possible kind of literary unity. A more helpful approach would treat the book as a sequence of nonnarrative poems, of which there are many examples in world literature, such as the ancient Greek poet Callimachus’s Aetia, the medieval Italian poet Petrarch’s Il canzoniere, or the modern American poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Important Themes in the Book of Isaiah

Not surprisingly for a large book containing the work of multiple hands over many centuries, Isaiah contains a rich variety of themes, only some of which can be discussed here. The following have received considerable attention in recent scholarly study, and they represent some of the book’s most distinctive emphases.

Divine Sovereignty and Monotheism

The book of Isaiah features one of the most exalted views of Yhwh in the Hebrew Bible. In the commission account in Isaiah 6, the deity appears as a powerful monarch, seated on an enormous throne and surrounded by attendants who acclaim the deity’s holiness (Isa. 6:1–3). Further reflecting this characterization, the divine title “Holy One of Israel” appears frequently throughout the book (1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11–12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14). Consonant with this high view of divine sovereignty, Isaiah is one of the first biblical texts to develop the claim that Yhwh governs world affairs according to a divine plan. Although some of its details become clear over the course of the book—most notably the defeat of Assyria (10:12; 14:24–25) and the empowerment of Cyrus (44:26; 46:10–11)—there is no systematic description of the plan in its full scope. Rather, it functions primarily as a rhetorical strategy for amplifying the depiction of Yhwh’s power. The plan has been in place since the distant past (22:11; 25:1; 37:26); the emphasis on this point in exilic texts (45:21, 46:10) may respond to an implicit charge that Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians somehow took Yhwh by surprise (cf. Lam. 2:17). It involves all world nations (14:26; 19:12, 17; 23:8–9). It is largely inscrutable to humans (5:19; 28:21). Its success is guaranteed (14:24, 27), in contrast to human plans that invariably fail (8:10; 19:3, 11; 29:15–16; 47:13). Indeed, the refusal to acknowledge the divine plan is one of the chief reasons for the breakdown of human plans (5:12; 22:11; 30:1). Ideally, the Davidic monarch has the ability to make effective plans (9:5, Eng. 9:6; 11:2), but Hezekiah’s rebellion against Assyria and alliance with Egypt are portrayed as opposition to the divine plan (30:1; 31:1).

This discourse positions the deity as the sole effective power in the world, a claim that the book argues for in a variety of ways. Already in the early chapters of Isaiah—although they may belong to a later editorial stage—one finds passages denying agency to the images of other deities, portraying them simply as human creations (2:18, 20; 30:22; 31:7). Isaiah 10:5–15 describes Yhwh’s power over the Assyrian empire, explicitly countering its claims of world dominion. While the passage seems to have the Assyrian king in mind (10:12), it is initially addressed simply to “Aššur” (10:5), which is the name for both the kingdom and its titular deity, and it may function as an implicit polemic against the latter. More extensive polemics against idols in Isaiah 40–48 emphasize their human construction and abject powerlessness. For instance, Isaiah 44:9–20 lampoons an idol maker who burns half of a log to cook a meal and carves the other half into a statue to worship. Isaiah 46:1–4 develops several wordplays to discredit the worship of the Babylonian deities “Bel” (Marduk) and “Nebo” (Nabu). Instead of having humans bow to them, their images “bow” because the animals that “carry” them slump from exhaustion. Yhwh, by contrast, is carried by no one but rather is the one who “carries” Israel. Repeatedly in these chapters, the prophetic speaker points to multiple capacities demonstrated by Yhwh but lacked by idols, including the ability to create the cosmos (40:25–26; 45:5–8, 18) and announce events like the rise of Cyrus far in advance (41:21–29; 43:9; 48:5).

In short, from the earliest material in Isaiah onward, Yhwh appears not simply as one national deity among many—a view still preserved in Deuteronomy 32:8–9, Judges 11:24, and Micah 4:5—but as the supreme deity, unrivaled by any other divine power. This rhetoric likely originated as a reaction to Neo-Assyrian imperial propaganda claiming superior status for Aššur, and it was refined in response to similar claims for Marduk by Babylon. Although early texts like Isaiah 10 are occasionally labeled “monotheistic,” it seems best to view the ideology of these texts as a precursor to the development of monotheistic rhetoric.13 Explicit claims of Yhwh’s sole existence appear only in Isaiah 40–48 (43:10–11; 44:6, 8; 45:5–7, 14, 18, 21; 46:9). Coupled with texts from the same chapters that reduce the status of divine images, these claims have been widely regarded as evidence that full-blown monotheism emerged in Judahite thought during the exile.


As suggested by the foregoing discussion, much of the theology in the book of Isaiah—indeed, much of the book’s discourse as a whole—reflects and responds to the challenges of imperial domination. The three major divisions of the book correspond roughly to the periods during which three successive kingdoms controlled Judah: Assyria (8th–7th centuries bce), Babylon (6th century bce), and Persia (6th–4th centuries bce). (There remains debate over whether any texts in Isaiah come from the period of Hellenistic rule in the 4th–2nd centuries bce). The portrayal of each kingdom is different, however, such that the book does not contain a unified stance on the topic of empire.14 Assyria is uniquely depicted both as Yhwh’s instrument for punishing Judah (7:17–20, 8:7, 10:5–6) and the object of Yhwh’s punishment when it oversteps that role (10:12, 16–19; 14:24–25; 30:31–33; 31:8). Likely influenced by Isaiah, similar views of Babylon appear in Jeremiah 25:9–14, Jeremiah 27:5–7, and Habakkuk 1:5–11. Surprisingly, Babylon never appears as Yhwh’s servant in Isaiah, even though Yhwh takes full credit for orchestrating the exile (42:24–25; 43:27–28). A few texts seem to recall Babylon’s erstwhile status as Judah’s ally against Assyria (21:1–10; 39:1–2), although more attention is given to Egypt in that role (28:14–15; 30:1–7; 31:1–3). Otherwise, Babylon appears strictly as Jerusalem’s oppressor, whose vicious defeat is cause for celebration (13:1–14:23; 43:14; 47:1–15), and a place of captivity, from which Judahite exiles are commanded to return (48:20; 51:11–12). Persia receives the least attention, which is surprising given how much of the book’s formation occurred during the period of Persian rule. In fact, the name “Persia” never appears in the book. The Persian ruler Cyrus, however, is depicted in glowing terms as Yhwh’s chosen agent to liberate the exiles and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (41:2–4, 25; 44:28–45:6; 45:13; 46:10–11). It is possible that some negative references to Assyria or Babylon were interpreted by later editors as applying to Persia, but this remains speculative at best.

The book of Isaiah also records the ebb and flow of Judah’s own imperial aspirations across several centuries. Isaiah 2:4 famously depicts the cessation of war throughout the world, but this is possible only because other nations have agreed to settle their disputes through arbitration by Yhwh in Jerusalem, which implies their political submission to Judah.15 Not surprisingly, Judah’s imperial hopes were tied to the fortunes of the monarchy. The end of Assyrian oppression is associated with the accession of a new Davidic king in Isaiah 9:1–6 (Eng. 9:2–7), while Isaiah 11:5 imagines a future king who will “strike the earth with the rod of his mouth”; the famous description of the peaceable kingdom in the following verses (11:6–9), much like Isaiah 2:5, may have in view a period of worldwide peace made possible by Judahite domination. Any such hopes, needless to say, were shattered by the termination of the Davidic line as a result of the Babylonian conquest in 587 bce. Isaiah 40–55 expresses no hope for the restoration of the monarchy after the exile, in contrast to many other prophetic texts (e.g., Jer. 23:5–6; 33:14–26; Ezek. 34:23–24; 37:24–25; Hag. 2:21–23). Quite the contrary, Cyrus is called Yhwh’s “shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed” (45:1), terms used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible for David or the Davidic king (2 Sam. 5:2; 19:22, Eng. 19:21; 22:51; 23:1; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24; Pss. 78:71; 84:10, Eng. 84:9; 132:17; Lam. 4:20 ). Further, the benefits of the covenant granting kingship to David’s line (cf. 2 Sam. 23:5) are extended to the entire community of exiled Judahites in Isaiah 55:3–5. The contrast between the aspirations invested in the monarchy in earlier chapters and the virtual disappearance of the institution in later chapters is one of the starkest tensions within the book. That is not to say that the desire for imperial dominion is completely absent, however. Like Isaiah 2:2–4—which may itself be a late composition—some texts in Isaiah 40–66 keep alive the vision of a future stream of foreign nations to Jerusalem to pay tribute, submit to Judahite authority, and worship Yhwh (49:22–23; 60:3–17; 66:23).

Women and Gender

Scholars who are interested in the Hebrew Bible’s discourse on women and gender have found many texts and images in Isaiah that deserve comment. Isaiah 3:16–24 is an extended critique of the opulent wealth of upper-class women in Jerusalem, consisting largely of an extended catalogue of jewelry and other luxury items that will be taken away from them. Given the relatively minimal power that even elite women held in ancient Judahite society, this singling out of women for social critique is troubling to many contemporary readers. Even more disturbing are threats of rape and bodily mutilation against these women in verses 17 and 24 (cf. Ezek. 16:36–40; Nah. 3:4–6). Isaiah 8:3 briefly refers to the mother of one of Isaiah’s children as a “prophetess” (nǝbîʾâ). Although some interpreters have suggested that this was simply a designation for the wife of a prophet, every other occurrence of the term in the Hebrew Bible refers to a woman who performs prophetic activity (Exod. 15:20; 2 Kings 22:14; Neh. 6:14); moreover, the text never indicates that she was Isaiah’s wife. It seems more likely that this woman was a recognized prophet in her own right.16

The most prominent female persona in Isaiah is the personified city of Jerusalem/Zion. She first appears in Isaiah 1, where she is depicted as a prostitute, a common prophetic metaphor for the perceived religious shortcomings of Israel and Judah (1:21–26; cf. Hos. 2; Ezek. 16, 23). In Isaiah 49–54, her fortunes are restored. She is reclaimed by Yhwh, her divine husband, and her children—a creative metaphor for exiles from Jerusalem—return to her in astonishing number (Isa. 49:20–23; 54:1–13). Later writers further developed this imagery in Isaiah 62:1–12 and 66:7–12. Other cities are also portrayed as women in Isaiah, including Tyre and Sidon (23:12, 15–18) and Babylon (47:1–15), whose humiliation is the counterpart of the exaltation of Jerusalem/Zion. A handful of Isaianic texts with feminine metaphors for Yhwh—among only a few such texts in the Hebrew Bible—are noteworthy. In Isaiah 42:14, the deity’s power to liberate the exiles is compared to the ferocity of a woman in labor, an image that is paired with the metaphor of a warrior in the previous verse. In addition, Isaiah 46:3, 49:15, and 66:13 liken Yhwh’s compassion and nurture to that of a mother, while Isaiah 66:9 suggests the image of the deity as a midwife. Biblical and archaeological evidence suggests that the worship of traditional goddesses declined in Judah in the late monarchic period. Some scholars argue that the unprecedented prominence of feminine imagery for Yhwh in exilic and later texts from Isaiah may be related to this change.17


Portrayals of disability or disabled persons in Isaiah—which seldom refer to disabled persons in their own right, but rather serve as literary images—are noteworthy for both their frequency and distinctive contributions to the book’s discourse. As noted already, references to blindness and deafness throughout Isaiah echo the language of the prophet’s commission in 6:9–10, contributing to the impression of coherence across the various parts of the book. Such disability language metaphorically charts the breakdown of divine-human communication, as both the deity (1:15) and humans (29:9–10; 43:8) experience temporary disruptions in their abilities to perceive one another. A positive relationship between the two parties, conversely, may be described as the continuation of sensory perceptions (32:3–4) or as their restoration (29:18; 35:5–6).18 In the latter passages, the healing of disability functions as a metaphor for the return from exile, paired with the common Isaianic image of the fructification of barren landscapes (29:17; 35:1, 7); other prophetic texts similarly associate disability with exile, but without imagining such miraculous transformations (Jer. 31:8–9; Mic. 4:6–7; Zeph. 3:19). This anomaly is part of a larger rhetorical strategy in the book of Isaiah, in which divine protection and restoration of Jerusalem is depicted in terms of exaggeratedly idealized human bodies (cf. Isa. 65:17–20; 66:7–8).19

Other texts in Isaiah do not associate the same degree of stigma with disability. In Isaiah 3:1 and 8, the nation of Judah is portrayed as a lame person, whose faulty metaphorical crutch is its ineffective political, military, and religious officials. By focusing on support technology, the metaphor presents disability as a complex interaction between a body and its environment, rather than a flaw that resides simply in the body itself. Isaiah 33:23 depicts a future scenario in which lame men join other warriors in dividing military plunder, although it emphasizes their dependence on divine assistance to achieve this level of participation. Isaiah 56:4–5 offers a word of comfort to eunuchs, a class of people considered disabled in the ancient Near East. Their full participation in the Temple is guaranteed, and the deity promises them a memorial in the Temple to counteract the social shame of lacking children.20 Disability language occurs repeatedly with reference to Yhwh’s servant in Isaiah 40–55. Isaiah 42:19–21 depicts the figure as “blind” and “deaf,” despite which Yhwh enhances his instruction to the nations. The account of the servant’s suffering in Isaiah 53 also contains language associated with disability elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.21

Impact and Reception of the Book of Isaiah

The growth of the Isaiah tradition over several centuries, as reflected in the formation of the book, suggests that its religious ideas remained meaningful and productive well beyond the historical periods in which they emerged. This continued to be the case even after the book was complete, as evidenced by its rich history of interpretation and reception in Judaism and Christianity. Citations from or allusions to Isaiah already appear in late books of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Isa. 6:10 in Zech. 7:11; Isa. 7:9 in 2 Chron. 20:20; Isa. 26:19 and 66:24 in Dan. 12:2). The Dead Sea Scrolls include twenty-one copies of the book and six commentaries on it, and the nonbiblical scrolls quote from it frequently. Citations of Isaiah in the Community Rule (1QS) suggest that the book substantially influenced the Qumran community’s own self-understanding, such as the use of Isaiah 40:3 with reference to their retreat to the desert (1QS VII 12–16). As evidenced by its use in Daniel and its popularity at Qumran, the book of Isaiah seems to have been particularly influential in early Jewish sectarian circles, owing in no small part to the likely sectarian milieu of some of its final editors.22 Texts like Isaiah 25:7–8 and 26:19 influenced the development of belief in resurrection among some of these groups, as indicated by Daniel 12:1. Insofar as the earliest followers of Jesus made up a sectarian apocalyptic movement within Judaism at the turn of the Common Era, like the Qumran community, its similar reliance on Isaiah is not surprising. Indeed, the two movements were drawn to some of the same specific texts, as Isaiah 40:3 is cited in all four New Testament Gospels with reference to John the Baptizer (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23).

The importance of Isaiah within Christianity cannot be overstated. Other than Psalms, it is the most frequently cited biblical book in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew alone, quotations from Isaiah appear with reference to Jesus’s birth (Matt. 1:22–23), healings (Matt. 8:16–17; 12:15–21), use of parables (Matt. 13:13–17), disputes with the Pharisees (Matt. 15:7–9), and cleansing of the Temple (Matt. 21:13). Isaiah 53 is associated with Jesus’s death in Luke 22:37, Acts 8:32–33, and 1 Peter 2:21–25. Isaiah 49:1–6 shaped Paul’s self-understanding of his vocation as a missionary (Gal. 1:15–16; cf. Acts 13:47), and he uses Isaiah to justify his outreach to Gentiles in Romans 10:15–16, 20–21; 14:11; and 15:12, 21. Revelation also contains frequent allusions to Isaiah (e.g., Rev. 3:7; 6:13–14; 21:27), yet another case of the contribution of Isaiah to apocalyptic thought. Of particular note is the quotation of Isaiah 6:3 in Revelation 4:8, a scene depicting worship of God in heaven. These trajectories of influence continued well beyond the New Testament. Early Christian writers interpreted texts from Isaiah as prophecies about practically every aspect of Jesus’s birth, life, and death; Isaiah 53, in particular, continued to shape the understanding of Jesus’s death as an act of vicarious suffering. These connections left their mark on Christian art and music, perhaps most famously the 18th-century oratorio Messiah, by George Frideric Handel. Isaiah 6:3 appears prominently in Christian worship and hymnody, including the Eucharistic liturgy in both Western and Eastern Christianity and the popular 19th-century hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which links the threefold repetition to the Christian idea of the Trinity. Interpretation of Isaiah also took new turns not explicitly anticipated by the New Testament, such as the contribution of texts like Isaiah 7:14 and 11:1 to adoration of the Virgin Mary.23 Isaiah 14:12–15, which itself drew upon an earlier ancient Near Eastern myth, was understood as a reference to the fall of Satan, as depicted in John Milton’s 17th-century epic Paradise Lost.

On a less salutary note, the interpretation of Isaiah contributed heavily to the growth of Christian anti-Judaism.24 Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho indicates that Isaiah was a focus of Jewish-Christian debate by the 2nd century. Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, prophetic critiques such as Isaiah 1:3, 6:9–10, 29:10–12, and 65:1 were divorced from their contexts and applied broadly to all Jews; precursors to this move appear already in New Testament texts like John 12:39–40 or Acts 28:25–28, which appealed to Isaiah 6:9–10 to explain Jewish rejection of Christianity. Such interpretations influenced widespread depictions of Jews as obdurate, including the infamous portrayals of the blind synagogue in Christian art. The fact that so many texts in Isaiah seemed to point to Jesus only added to the negative stereotypes, as Christians claimed that Jews stubbornly or stupidly ignored their own scriptures and rejected their own Messiah. Despite some increased sensitivity to the problems of anti-Judaism, contemporary Christian interpretation of Isaiah continues to demean Judaism, in many cases by presenting Christological readings of Isaiah as the only possible interpretive options, ignoring the possibility of alternative interpretations.25

Perhaps owing to these trends, the book of Isaiah has had a complicated reception in Judaism. Although the portrayal of the prophet in rabbinic texts is generally positive, a few sources suggest that Isaiah was punished for defaming Israel in Isaiah 6:5 (b. Yeb. 49b; Cant. Rab. 1:6). More Haftarot readings—assigned synagogue readings from the prophetic books—come from Isaiah than any other biblical book, with the majority of them coming from Isaiah 40–66. As in Christianity, Isaiah 6:3 appears prominently in Jewish liturgy, most notably in the Eighteen Benedictions, the central daily prayer of Judaism. Not surprisingly, Jewish interpreters developed alternative readings of Isaianic passages that Christians took as references to Jesus. The suffering servant of Isaiah 53, for example, was identified with Israel; in this case, as in others, critical biblical scholars have frequently argued this interpretation better fits the original historical setting of the text. Texts from Isaiah, especially depictions of the return to Jerusalem in Isaiah 40–55, have significantly informed modern Zionism. In both grand and mundane ways, the book of Isaiah is an inescapable part of everyday life in the modern state of Israel. In addition to a large number of place names taken from the book, one might note the name of the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem (“A memorial and a name,” Isa. 56:5), or the prominent place given to a replica of 1QIsaa in the Shrine of the Book, a wing of Israel’s national museum.26

Review of the Literature

Since the early 1980s, questions about the book’s formation and unity have dominated research on Isaiah. There are several helpful surveys of work in this area.27 The tide of scholarly opinion has almost completely turned against older views that posited the complete independence of the major sections of the book and arbitrariness of their connection. Many scholars have attempted to demonstrate the literary or theological unity of the book of Isaiah.28 Despite some common presuppositions, such readings of Isaiah vary greatly in both their approaches and conclusions, especially concerning the proper role of reconstructions of earlier stages of the book’s development. Still other scholars, while acknowledging some unifying tendencies within the book, have cautioned against overstating its coherence and have argued that tensions among its different perspectives are an important part of its meaning.29

As noted earlier, there is general agreement on the broad strokes of the formation of the book of Isaiah. Still, many important issues remain contested, in particular, the development of Isaiah 40–55. One divide pertains to the compositional unity of these chapters. Many scholars treat them as largely the work of a single individual, written in Babylon during the final decades of the exile,30 although a minority view holds that they were written in Jerusalem.31 A few scholars even maintain that the single author of 40–55 was also responsible for 56–66.32 At the other end of the spectrum, a large body of mostly German scholarship posits multiple editions of Isaiah 40–55 over two or more centuries following the exile. Rainer Albertz has provided a helpful summary and partial synthesis of this body of work.33 He proposes that an early version of Isaiah 40–55, which originally ended with Isaiah 52:11, was written by a group of exiled Temple personnel following their return to Jerusalem in 522–21 bce. Substantial additions to this work around the turn of the 5th century produced the current form of these chapters. The other major divide in research on Isaiah 40–55 concerns the originality of its connection to an earlier form of Isaiah 1–33. Some scholars maintain that chapters 40–55 were intended to be part of the growing book of Isaiah from the start.34 Others insist that they developed independently but were later intentionally added to the earlier corpus on the basis of perceived thematic similarities.35 An important component of this debate is the significance of allusions to Isaiah 1–33 in 40–55.36

There are more points of agreement about the other major sections of the book, although questions remain there as well. As with chapters 40–55, the identification and interpretation of allusions to earlier chapters remain crucial to understanding the relationship between chapters 56–66 and the rest of the book. A majority of interpreters regard the proposed chiastic structure of these chapters as the key to their synchronic form and composition alike, although questions remain about whether the component parts of the chiasm are discrete compositional units or the combination of editorial layers that run across the entire section.37 Another focus of current research is the potential role of the final editor(s) of 56–66 in the shape of the book as a whole.38 Historical reconstruction of the work of Isaiah son of Amoz remains ongoing, with current work focusing on whether he largely proclaimed divine judgment against Judah or offered consolation to its leaders in the face of external military threats.39 Isaiah 24–27, 34–35, and 36–39 have received special attention as texts that bridge the different perspectives of the major sections of the book.40

As the study of the book’s formation has increasingly achieved points of consensus always with still other points of irreconcilable difference, studies of other aspects of Isaiah are appearing in increasing number, although most of them necessarily include some discussion of compositional issues. Only a sampling of the wide-ranging areas of research is possible here; for more thorough discussions of recent scholarship, one may consult the surveys by Christopher B. Hays and H. G. M. Williamson.41 Traditional topics of interest in the book continue to elicit debate, such as kingship,42 monotheism,43 and the servant songs.44 Explorations of particular Isaianic texts or themes in their broader ancient Near Eastern literary and religious contexts remain a productive area of research.45 Although at least one recent commentator has questioned the existence of poetry in the book,46 several new studies of Isaiah’s poetry have appeared.47 As is true for the field of biblical studies more generally, much recent research in Isaiah has been more self-consciously theoretical and interdisciplinary. Among other areas, broader work in disability studies has called attention to the culturally constructed character of disability imagery in the book;48 metaphor theory has shed light on the interconnectedness and cognitive coherence of Isaianic metaphors;49 and postcolonial thought has provided comparative evidence from recent colonial contexts that clarifies how the book reflects its imperial milieu.50 The history of interpretation and reception of Isaiah has become a popular area of inquiry, with both new studies51 and new editions or collections of primary texts.52 Recent study of the Septuagint of Isaiah, in particular, has integrated the newer interest in the history of interpretation with older interests in textual criticism, in conversation with translation theory.53

Primary Sources

The standard critical edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible remains Biblia hebraica stuttgartensia, which is based on Codex Leningradensis, an 11th-century manuscript. For the book of Isaiah, however, the Hebrew University Bible, based on the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, offers a superior text-critical apparatus.54 The manuscript of the Aleppo Codex is available online at A new edition of the two most important Qumran manuscripts of Isaiah, 1QIsaa and 1QIsab, contains high-quality photographs with a transcription and extensive apparatus.55 Photographs of 1QIsaa may also be found at Two new critical editions are under preparation. Arie van der Kooij is editing the Isaiah fascicle for Biblia hebraica quinta, which will replace Biblical hebraica stuttgartensia, while Ronald Troxel and Eugene Ulrich are assembling an eclectic Hebrew text of Isaiah for The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition.

For English translations of Isaiah, one may consult The Harper Collins Study Bible, which uses the New Revised Standard Version translation and contains scholarly annotations by J. J. M. Roberts, or The Jewish Study Bible, which uses the New Jewish Publication Society translation and contains scholarly annotations by Benjamin Sommer.56 English translations of the copies of Isaiah from Qumran may be found in The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible.57

Further Reading

Alonso Schökel, Luis. “Isaiah.” In The Literary Guide to Bible. Edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, 165–183. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1987.Find this resource:

Berges, Ulrich. The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition and Final Form. Translated by Millard C. Lind. Hebrew Bible Monographs 46. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1–39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 19. New York: Doubleday, 2000.Find this resource:

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 40–55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 19A. New York: Doubleday, 2002.Find this resource:

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 55–66: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 19B. New York: Doubleday, 2003.Find this resource:

Conrad, Edgar W. Reading Isaiah. Overtures to Biblical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.Find this resource:

Couey, J. Blake. Reading the Poetry of First Isaiah: The Most Perfect Model of the Prophetic Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Firth, David G., and H. G. M. Williamson, eds. Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.Find this resource:

Goldingay, John. Isaiah 56–66: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. International Critical Commentary. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.Find this resource:

Goldingay, John, and David Payne. Isaiah 40–55: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. 2 volumes. International Critical Commentary. New York: T&T Clark, 2006.Find this resource:

McGinnis, Claire Mathews, and Patricia K. Tull, eds. “As Those Who Are Taught”: The Interpretation of Isaiah from the LXX to the SBL. SBL Symposium Series 27. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006.Find this resource:

Melugin, Roy F., and Marvin A. Sweeney, eds. New Visions of Isaiah. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 214. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Paul, Shalom M. Isaiah 40–66. Eerdmans Critical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.Find this resource:

Roberts, J. J. M. First Isaiah. Hermeneia: A Critical & Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015.Find this resource:

Sawyer, John F. A. The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Seitz, Christopher R. Isaiah 1–39. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1993.Find this resource:

Seitz, Christopher R. “The Book of Isaiah 40–66.” In The New Interpreters Bible. Edited by Leander M. Keck, vol. 6, 309–552. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.Find this resource:

Steck, Odil Hannes. Studien zu Tritojesaja. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 203. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991.Find this resource:

Stromberg, Jacob. An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah. T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London: T&T Clark, 2011.Find this resource:

Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39, with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature. The Forms of the Old Testament Literature 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.Find this resource:

Tull, Patricia K. Isaiah 1–39. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010.Find this resource:

Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 1–12. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.Find this resource:

Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 13–27. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997.Find this resource:

Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 28–39. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.Find this resource:

Williamson, H. G. M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.Find this resource:


(1.) Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jesaja (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892).

(2.) David M. Carr, “Reaching for Unity in Isaiah,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 57 (1993): 71–75.

(3.) Ronald E. Clements, “Beyond Tradition-History: Deutero-Isaianic Development of First Isaiah’s Themes,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31 (1985): 101–103.

(4.) Peter Machinist, “Assyria and Its Image in the First Isaiah,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 (1983): 719–737.

(5.) H. G. M. Williamson, “In Search of the Pre-Exilic Isaiah,” in In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel, ed. John Day, LHBOTS 406 (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 191–197.

(6.) Hermann Barth, Die Jesaja-Worte in der Josiazeit, Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 48 (Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1977); R. E. Clements, Isaiah 1–39, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980); Matthijs J. de Jong, Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies, Vetus Testamentum Supplement 117 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007), 357–394; and Marvin A. Sweeney, King Josiah of Judah: The Lost Messiah of Israel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 234–255.

(7.) R. E. Clements, “The Prophecies of Isaiah and the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.,” Vetus Testamentum 30.4 (1980): 421–436; and de Jong, Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets.

(8.) H. G. M. Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), 118–125.

(9.) Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8 (2001): 288–305.

(10.) Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible 19 (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 91.

(11.) Robert Lowth, Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, ed. Calvin E. Stowe, trans. G. Gregory, new ed. (Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1829), 176.

(12.) J. J. M. Roberts, “Double Entendre in First Isaiah,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992): 39–48.

(13.) Baruch Levine, “Assyrian Ideology and Israelite Monotheism,” Iraq 67 (2005): 419–425; and Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 165–166.

(14.) Göran Eidevall, “Propagandistic Constructions of Empires in the Book of Isaiah,” in Divination, Politics, and Ancient Near Eastern Empires, ed. Alan Lenzi and Jonathan Stökl, Ancient Near East Monographs (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014), 109–128.

(15.) J. J. M. Roberts, “The End of War in the Zion Tradition: The Imperialist Background of an Old Testament Vision of Worldwide Peace,” in Character Ethics and the Old Testament: Moral Dimensions of Scripture, ed. M. Daniel Carroll R. and Jacqueline E. Lapsley (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2007), 119–128.

(16.) Wilda Gafney, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), 103–107; H. G. M. Williamson, “Prophetesses in the Hebrew Bible,” in Prophecy and Prophets in Ancient Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, ed. John Day, Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 531 (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 74–76.

(17.) See Mark S. Smith, How Human Is God? Seven Questions about God and Humanity in the Bible (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014), 65.

(18.) Rebecca Raphael, Biblical Corpora: Representations of Disability in Hebrew Biblical Literature, LHBOTS 445 (New York: T&T Clark International, 2008), 120–128.

(19.) Jeremy Schipper, “Why Does Imagery of Disability Include Healing in Isaiah?” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 39 (2015): 319–333.

(20.) J. Blake Couey, “The Disabled Body Politic in Isaiah 3:1, 8,” Journal of Biblical Literature 133 (2014): 95–109; and Saul M. Olyan, Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Difference (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 83–85.

(21.) Jeremy Schipper, Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 31–59.

(22.) Joseph Blenkinsopp, Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 56–88.

(23.) John F. A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 42–99.

(24.) Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel, 100–125; Patricia K. Tull, Isaiah 1–39, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentaries (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010), 32–35.

(25.) Patricia K. Tull, “Isaiah ’Twas Foretold It: Helping the Church Interpret the Prophets,” in Strange Fire: Reading the Bible after the Holocaust, ed. Tod Linafelt (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 192–207.

(26.) Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel, 104–105.

(27.) Ulrich F. Berges, The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition and Final Form, trans. Millard C. Lind, Hebrew Bible Monographs 46 (Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Phoenix, 2012), 1–37; Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 78–92; Jacob Stromberg, An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah, T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies (London: T&T Clark, 2011), 7–54, 77–93; and Patricia K. Tull, “One Book, Many Voices: Conceiving of Isaiah’s Polyphonic Message,” in “As Those Who Are Taught”: The Interpretation of Isaiah from the LXX to the SBL, ed. Claire Matthews McGinnis and Patricia K. Tull, SBL Symposium Series 27 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 279–314.

(28.) Berges, The Book of Isaiah; Edgar W. Conrad, Reading Isaiah, Overtures to Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1991); Christopher R. Seitz, “Isaiah 1–66: Making Sense of the Whole,” in Reading and Preaching the Book of Isaiah, ed. Christopher R. Seitz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 105–126; and Marvin A. Sweeney, Isaiah 1–4 and the Post-Exilic Understanding of the Isaianic Tradition, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 171 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988), 27–99.

(29.) Carr, “Reaching for Unity,” 77–80; Benjamin D. Sommer, “The Scroll of Isaiah as Jewish Scripture, or, Why Jews Don’t Read Books,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, 1996, SBL Seminar Papers 35 (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1996), 225–242; and Tull, “One Book, Many Voices,” 310–314.

(30.) Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah, 21–26.

(31.) Hans M. Barstad, The Babylonian Captivity of the Book of Isaiah: “Exilic” Judah and the Provenance of Isaiah 40–55 (Oslo, Norway: Novus, 1997); Michael Goulder, “Deutero-Isaiah of Jerusalem,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 28 (2004): 351–362; and Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55, Vetus Testamentum Supplement 139 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011).

(32.) Shalom M. Paul, Isaiah 40–66 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 5–12; and Benjamin D. Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 187–195

(33.) Rainer Albertz, Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century b.c.e., trans. David Green, Studies in Biblical Literature (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 376–433.

(34.) Clements, “Beyond Tradition History,” 100–101; Christopher R. Seitz, Zion’s Final Destiny: The Development of the Book of Isaiah: A Reassessment of Isaiah 36–39 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 32; and Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah, 112–115.

(35.) Berges, The Book of Isaiah, 511–512; and Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 87–89.

(36.) Risto Nurmela, The Mouth of the Lord Has Spoken: Inner-Biblical Allusions in Second and Third Isaiah, Studies in Judaism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2006); Patricia Tull Willey, Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Isaiah 40–55, SBL Dissertation Series 169 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997); and Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture.

(37.) Paul A. Smith, Rhetoric and Redaction in Trito-Isaiah: The Structure, Growth and Authorship of Isaiah 56–66, Vetus Testamentum Supplement 62 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1992).

(38.) Jacob Stromberg, Isaiah after Exile: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book, Oxford Theological Monographs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

(39.) De Jong, Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets; Matthias Köckert, Uwe Becker, and Jörg Barthel, “Das Problem des historischen Jesaja,” in Prophetie in Israel, ed. Irmtraud Fischer, Konrad Schmid, and Hugh G. M. Williamson (Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag, 2003), 105–134; and H. G. M. Williamson, “Isaiah: Prophet of Weal or Woe,” in “Thus Speaks Ishtar of Arbela”: Prophecy in Israel, Assyria, and Egypt in the Neo-Assyrian Period, ed. Robert P. Gordon and Hans M. Barstad (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), 273–300.

(40.) J. Todd Hibbard and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds., Formation and Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27, Ancient Israel and Its Literature 17 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013); Hallvard Hagelia, “The Holy Road as Bridge: The Role of Chapter 35 in the Book of Isaiah,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 20 (2006): 38–57; J. Todd Hibbard, Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27: The Reuse and Evocation of Earlier Texts and Traditions, Forschungen zum Alten Testament II 16 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); Claire R. Matthews, Defending Zion: Edom’s Desolation and Jacob’s Restoration (Isaiah 34–35) in Context, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 236 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995); and Christopher R. Seitz, Zion’s Final Destiny.

(41.) Christopher B. Hays, “The Book of Isaiah in Contemporary Research,” Religion Compass 5 (2011): 549–566; and H. G. M. Williamson, “Recent Issues in the Study of Isaiah,” in Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, ed. David G. Firth and H. G. M. Williamson (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 21–39.

(42.) Ulrich Berges, “Kingship and Servanthood in the Book of Isaiah,” in The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew: Essays Honoring Joseph Blenkinsopp and His Contribution to the Study of Isaiah, ed. Richard J. Bautch and J. Todd Hibbard (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014), 159–178; and Jacob Stromberg, “The ‘Root of Jesse’ in Isaiah 11:10: Postexilic Judah, or Postexilic Davidic King?” Journal of Biblical Literature 127 (2008): 655–669.

(43.) Hywel Clifford, “Deutero-Isaiah and Monotheism,” in Prophecy and Prophets in Ancient Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, ed. John Day, Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 531 (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 267–289; Joel Kaminsky and Anne Stewart, “God of All the World: Universalism and Developing Monotheism in Isaiah 40–66,” Harvard Theological Review 99 (2006): 139–163; Nathan MacDonald, “Monotheism and Isaiah,” in Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, ed. David G. Firth and H. G. M. Williamson (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 43–61; and Saul M. Olyan, “Is Isaiah 40–55 Really Monotheistic?,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 12 (2012): 190–201.

(44.) Ulrich Berges, “The Literary Construction of the Servant in Isaiah 40–55: A Discussion about Individual and Collective Identities,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 24 (2010): 28–37; and Kathleen M. O’Connor, “Figuration in Jeremiah’s Confessions with Questions for Isaiah’s Servant,” in Jeremiah Invented: Constructions and Deconstructions of Jeremiah, ed. Else K. Holt and Carolyn J. Sharp, Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 595 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 63–73.

(45.) Michael J. Chan, “Rhetorical Reversal and Usurpation: Isaiah 10:5–34 and the Use of Neo-Assyrian Royal Idiom in the Construction of an Anti-Assyrian Theology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 4 (2009): 717–733; Michael J. Chan, “Cyrus, Yhwh’s Bird of Prey (Isa. 46:11): Echoes of an Ancient Near Eastern Metaphor,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 35 (2010): 113–127; Christopher B. Hays, Death in the Iron Age II and the Rhetoric of First Isaiah, Forschungen zum Alten Testament II 79 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011); Hanspeter Schaudig, “‘Bēl Bows, Nabu Stoops!’: The Prophecy of Isaiah XLVI 1–2 as a Reflection of Babylonian ‘Processional Omens,’” Vetus Testamentum 58.4–5 (2008): 557–572; John H. Walton, “The Imagery of the Substitute King Ritual in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song,” Journal of Biblical Literature 122 (2003): 734–743; and Jacob L. Wright and Michael J. Chan, “Isaiah 56:1–8 in Light of Honorific Royal Burial Practices,” Journal of Biblical Literature 131 (2012): 99–119.

(46.) Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 79–80, 181, 303; cf. James L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981).

(47.) J. Blake Couey, Reading the Poetry of First Isaiah: The Most Perfect Model of the Prophetic Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); A. Joseph Everson and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds., The Desert Will Bloom: Poetic Visions in Isaiah, Ancient Israel and Its Literature 4 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009); and Katie M. Heffelfinger, I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes: Lyric Cohesion and Conflict in Second Isaiah, Biblical Interpretation Series 105 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011).

(48.) Simeon Chavel, “Prophetic Imagination in the Light of Narratology and Disability Studies in Isaiah 40–48,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 14 (2014): 1–48; Couey, “The Disabled Body Politic”; Olyan, Disability in the Hebrew Bible, 78–92; Raphael, Biblical Corpora, 119–130; Schipper, Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant; and Schipper, “Why Does Imagery of Disability Include Healing in Isaiah?”

(49.) Sarah J. Dille, Mixing Metaphors: God as Mother and Father in Deutero-Isaiah, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 398 (London: T&T Clark, 2004); Brian Doyle, The Apocalypse of Isaiah Metaphorically Speaking: A Study of the Use, Function and Significance of Metaphors in Isaiah 24–27, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 151 (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2000); Bo H. Lim, The “Way of the LORD” in the Book of Isaiah, Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 522 (New York: T&T Clark, 2010); and Hanne Løland, Silent or Salient Gender?: The Interpretation of Gendered God-Language in the Hebrew Bible, Exemplified in Isaiah 42, 46 and 49, Forschungen zum Alten Testament II 32 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

(50.) Andrew T. Abernethy, Mark G. Brett, Tim Bulkeley, and Tim Meadowcraft, eds., Isaiah and Imperial Context: The Book of Isaiah in the Times of Empire (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013); and Göran Eidevall, “Propagandistic Constructions of Empires in the Book of Isaiah,” in Divination, Politics, and Ancient Near Eastern Empires, ed. Alan Lenzi and Jonathan Stökl, Ancient Near East Monographs (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014), 109–128.

(51.) Brevard S. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004); William L. Holladay, Unbound by Time, Isaiah Still Speaks (Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2002); McGinnis and Tull, “As Those Who Are Taught”; and Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel.

(52.) Eusebius of Caesarea, Commentary on Isaiah, ed. Joel C. Elowsky, trans. Jonathan J. Armstrong (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013); Steven A. McKinion, ed., Isaiah 1–39, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament 10 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004); Jacob Neusner, Isaiah in Talmud and Midrash: A Sourcebook, 2 vols., Studies in Judaism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2007); and Robert Louis Wilken, ed., Isaiah: Edited by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators, The Church’s Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007).

(53.) Abi T. Ngunga, Messianism in the Old Greek of Isaiah: An Intertextual Analysis (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013); Rodrigo F. De Sousa, Eschatology and Messianism in LXX Isaiah 1–12, Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 516 (New York: T&T Clark, 2010); Ronald L. Troxel, LXX-Isaiah as Translation and Interpretation: The Strategies of the Translator of the Septuagint of Isaiah, Supplements to Journal for the Study of Judaism 124 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008); Arie van der Kooij, The Oracle of Tyre: The Septuagint as Version and Vision, Vetus Testamentum Supplement 71 (Leiden: The Netherlands: Brill, 1998); and J. Ross Wagner, Reading the Sealed Book: Old Greek Isaiah and the Problem of Septuagint Hermeneutics, Forschungen zum Alten Testament II 88 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).

(54.) Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein, ed., The Book of Isaiah, Hebrew University Bible (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975).

(55.) Eugene Ulrich and Peter W. Flint, eds., Qumran Cave 1. II: The Isaiah Scrolls, 2 vols., Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 32 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2010).

(56.) Harold W. Attridge, ed., The Harper Collins Study Bible, rev. ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006); and Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford, 2014).

(57.) Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, trans., The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (New York: HarperCollins, 1999).