Isaiah (Īzāˈyə, Īsāˈ–) [key], prophetic book of the Bible. It is a collection of prophecies from a 300-year period attributed to Isaiah, who may have been a priest. Some scholars argue that a long-lived "school" of Isaiah preserved his oracles and supplemented them in succeeding centuries. He received his call to prophesy in the year of King Uzziah's death (c.742 B.C.) and preached during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His message was partly political; he urged King Hezekiah to recognize the power of Assyria, then at its height, and not to ally himself with Egypt, as a party of nobles urged. Like other 8th-century prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah), Isaiah indicts the people of God for perpetrating social injustice. The book falls into the following major sections. First are oracles of doom against Judah and Assyria interspersed with oracles of salvation in which a Davidic king and a renewed Jerusalem play prominent roles. These are followed by oracles against foreign nations and prophecies announcing the destruction and subsequent redemption of Zion. Next is an account (paralleled in 2 Kings) of Sennacherib's unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem and his assassination long after. The sickness of Hezekiah is recounted; his prayer and his subsequent recovery are followed by his reception of an embassy from Babylon and prophecy of captivity there. The rest of the book is divided into three parts—delivery from captivity, redemption from sin, and the redeemed state of Israel. The book contains prophecies interpreted by Christians as references to Christ; the most famous such prophecy is the vision of the suffering servant. Later biblical allusions to Isaiah are frequent. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are two manuscripts of the book of Isaiah dating from the 2d–1st cent. B.C. As pre-Masoretic texts, these are important witnesses for establishing the contours of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 1,000 years before the earliest extant manuscripts of the Masoretic text.
See C. Westermann, Isaiah 40–66 (1969); J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah 1–39 (1986).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.