The vision of Isaiah - It seems doubtful whether this title belongs to the whole book, or only to the prophecy contained in this chapter. The former part of the title seems properly to belong to this particular prophecy; the latter part, which enumerates the kings of Judah under whom Isaiah exercised his prophetical office, seems to extend it to the whole collection of prophecies delivered in the course of his ministry. Vitringa - to whom the world is greatly indebted for his learned labors on this prophet and to whom we should have owed much more if he had not so totally devoted himself to Masoretic authority - has, I think, very judiciously resolved this doubt. He supposes that the former part of the title was originally prefixed to this single prophecy; and that, when the collection of all Isaiah's prophecies was made, the enumeration of the kings of Judah was added, to make it at the same time a proper title to the whole book. As such it is plainly taken in 2 Chronicles 32:32, where the book of Isaiah is cited by this title: "The vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz."
The prophecy contained in this first chapter stands single and unconnected, making an entire piece of itself. It contains a severe remonstrance against the corruptions prevailing among the Jews of that time, powerful exhortations to repentance, grievous threatenings to the impenitent, and gracious promises of better times, when the nation shall have been reformed by the just judgments of God. The expression, upon the whole, is clear; the connection of the several parts easy; and in regard to the images, sentiments, and style, it gives a beautiful example of the prophet's elegant manner of writing; though perhaps it may not be equal in these respects to many of the following prophecies.
The vision - The first verse evidently is a title, but whether to the whole book or only to a part of it has been questioned. As it stands here, however, it seems clearly intended to include the entire book, because it embraces all that was seen during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; that is, during the whole prophetic life of the prophet. The same title is also given to his prophecies in 2 Chronicles 32:32: ‹Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold they are written in the vision of Isaiah.‘ Vitringa supposes that the former part of this title, ‹the vision of Isaiah,‘ was at first affixed to the single prophecy contained in the first chapter, and that the latter part was inserted afterward as an introduction to the whole book. This might have been done by Isaiah himself if he collected his prophecies into a volume, or by some other inspired man who collected and arranged them; see the Introduction to Numbers 12:6; Numbers 24:4; 1 Samuel 3:1; Psalm 89:19; Daniel 2:19; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:1; Nahum 1:1; Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 22:1. Hence, the prophets were anciently called “Seers,” as those who saw or witnessed events which were yet to come; compare 1 Samuel 9:9: ‹He that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a “Seer;”‘ 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18-19; 1 Chronicles 9:22; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Kings 18:13. In these visions the objects probably were made to pass before the mind of the prophet as a picture, in which the various events were delineated with more or less distinctness, and the prophecies were spoken, or recorded, as the visions appeared to the observer. As many events could be represented only by symbols, those symbols became a matter of record, and are often left without explanation. On the nature of the prophetic visions, see Introduction, Section 7. (4.)
Of Isaiah - The name Isaiah ישׁעיהו yesha‛yâhû from ישׁע yesha‛ - salvation, help, deliverance - and יהוה yehovâh or Jehovah, means ‹salvation of Yahweh,‘ or ‹Yahweh will save.‘ The Vulgate renders it “Isaias”; the Septuagint has: Ησαΐ́ας Eesaias “Esaias.” This is also retained in the New Testament; Matthew 3:3; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 15:7; Mark 7:6; Luke 4:17; John 12:39; Acts 8:28; Romans 9:27, etc. In the book of Isaiah itself we find the form ישׁעיהו yesha‛yâhû but in the inscription the rabbis give the form ישׁעיה yesha‛yâh It was common among the Hebrews to incorporate the name Yahweh, or a part of it, into their proper names; see the note at Isaiah 7:14. Probably the object of this was to express veneration or regard for him - as we now give the name of a parent or friend to a child; or in many cases the name may have been given to record some signal act of mercy on the part of God, or some special interposition of his goodness. The practice of incorporating the name of the God that was worshipped into proper names was common in the East. Thus the name “Bel,” the principal idol worshipped in Babylon, appears in the proper names of the kings, as Belshazzar, etc.; compare the note at Isaiah 46:1. It is not known that the name was given to Isaiah with any reference to the nature of the prophecies which he would deliver; but it is a remarkable circumstance that it coincides so entirely with the design of so large a portion of his predictions. The substance of the latter portion of the book, at least, is the salvation which Yahweh would effect for his people from their oppressers in Babylon, and the far mightier deliverance which the world would experience under the Messiah.
The son of Amoz - See the Introduction, Section 2. “Concerning Judah.” The Jews after the death of Solomon were divided into two kingdoms; the kingdom of Judah, and of Israel, or Ephraim. The kingdom of Judah included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Benjamin was a small tribe, and it was not commonly mentioned, or the name was lost in that of Judah. The kingdom of Israel, or Ephraim, included the remaining ten tribes. Few of the prophets appeared among them; and the personal ministry of Isaiah does not appear to have been at all extended to them.
Jerusalem - The capital of the kingdom of Judah. It was on the dividing line between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It is supposed to have been founded by Melchizedek, who is called king of Salem Genesis 14:18, and who is supposed to have given this name “Salem” to it. This was about 2000 years before Christ. About a century after its foundation as a city, it was captured by the “Jebusites,” who extended its walls and built a citadel on Mount Zion. By them it was called Jebus. In the conquest of Canaan, Joshua put to death its king Joshua 10:23, and obtained possession of the town, which was jointly occupied by the Hebrews and Jebusites until the latter were expelled by David, who made it the capital of his kingdom under the name of “Jebus-Salem,” or, for the sake of easier pronunciation by changing the Hebrew letter ב (b ) into the Hebrew letter ר (r ), “Jerusalem.” After the revolt of the ten tribes, it of course became the capital of the kingdom of Judah. It was built on hills, or rocks, and was capable of being strongly fortified, and was well adapted to be the capital of the nation. For a more full description of Jerusalem, see the notes at Matthew 2:1. The vision which is here spoken of as having been seen respecting Judah and Jerusalem, pertains only to this chapter; see Isaiah 2:1.
In the days of Uzziah - In the time, or during the reign of Uzziah; 2 Chronicles 26:5-15. He had under him an army of more than three hundred thousand men. But he became proud - attempted an act of sacrilege - was smitten of God, and died a leper. But though the kingdom under Uzziah was flourishing, yet it had in it the elements of decay. During the previous reign of Joash, it had been invaded and weakened by the Assyrians, and a large amount of wealth had been taken to Damascus, the capital of Syria; 2 Chronicles 24:23-24. It is not improbable that those ravages were repeated during the latter part of the reign of Uzziah; compare Isaiah 1:7.
Jotham - He began to reign at the age of twenty-five years, and reigned sixteen years; 2 Chronicles 27:1-2.
Ahaz - He began to reign at the age of twenty, and reigned sixteen years. He was a wicked man, and during his reign the kingdom was involved in crimes and calamities; 2 Chronicles 28.
Hezekiah - He was a virtuous and upright prince. He began his reign at the age of twenty-five years, and reigned twenty-nine; 2 Chronicles 29; see the Introduction Section 3,
The judgment that befell Uzziah seemed to have a restraining influence on his son. Jotham bore heavy responsibilities during the later years of his father's reign and succeeded to the throne after Uzziah's death. Of Jotham it is written: “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places.” 2 Kings 15:34, 35. PK 305.1
The reign of Uzziah was drawing to a close, and Jotham was already bearing many of the burdens of state, when Isaiah, of the royal line, was called, while yet a young man, to the prophetic mission. The times in which Isaiah was to labor were fraught with peculiar peril to the people of God. The prophet was to witness the invasion of Judah by the combined armies of northern Israel and of Syria; he was to behold the Assyrian hosts encamped before the chief cities of the kingdom. During his lifetime, Samaria was to fall, and the ten tribes of Israel were to be scattered among the nations. Judah was again and again to be invaded by the Assyrian armies, and Jerusalem was to suffer a siege that would have resulted in her downfall had not God miraculously interposed. Already grave perils were threatening the peace of the southern kingdom. The divine protection was being removed, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah. PK 305.2
But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord's servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression. By their apostasy and rebellion those who should have been standing as light bearers among the nations were inviting the judgments of God. Many of the evils which were hastening the swift destruction of the northern kingdom, and which had recently been denounced in unmistakable terms by Hosea and Amos, were fast corrupting the kingdom of Judah. PK 305.3Read in context »
1 (Hebrews 11:37). Isaiah Was Sawn Asunder—Isaiah, who was permitted by the Lord to see wonderful things, was sawn asunder, because he faithfully reproved the sins of the Jewish nation. The prophets who came to look after the Lord's vineyard, were indeed beaten and killed. “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented”—men of whom the world was not worthy. They were cruelly treated, and banished from the world (The Signs of the Times, February 17, 1898). 4BC 1137.1Read in context »