Divisions of the Book of Isaiah
Before using the book of Isaiah to explain the kinds of things the Hebrew prophets generally proclaimed, I need to say something about the peculiarity of this long, 66-chapter writing in particular.
A number of the books of the Bible appear to have been edited by later redactors — for example, by someone who added a conclusion in light of the new situation in which he was living. In the case of Isaiah, however, we are dealing with a situation that is far, far more extreme. For well over a century scholars have recognized that major portions of the book do not actually derive from Isaiah of Jerusalem. The evidence is that a number of passages do not fit into Isaiah’s own historical context.
Evidence of Multiple Authors
Most of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah clearly date to the ministry of Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century b.c.e. This is obviously true of the very end of the section, written when Hezekiah was king of Judah and was feeling threatened by envoys who had been sent to him from the surging power of Babylon. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that it is true that in the future, the Babylonians will indeed wreak havoc in Judah—but it will not be in Hezekiah’s own time (39:5–8). Immediately after this declaration, rather than continuing with a proclamation of eventual doom, the text shifts drastically in an effort to comfort the people of Judah who have now already suffered for the sins they have committed. This portion of the book appears to have been written
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