Isaiah is considered the Paul of the Old Testament (Orr, 1495 Vol. 3). He was the son of Amoz and seems to have belonged to a family with an implied ranking hence the easy access to King Uzziah found in Isaiah 7:3 (Orr, 1495 Vol. 3). In Isaiah 1:1, Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah who were all kings of Judah (Orr, 1496 Vol. 3). In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah dates his inaugural vision which dates 740 BC, which is the year that not only does King Uzziah dies, but also that Isaiah starts his prophetic ministry (Orr, 1496 Vol. 3). “…Isaiah spoke against the people of the southern Kingdom of Judah and its capital Jerusalem. Crucially, Isaiah lived to see what happened when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded and dismantled by the Assyrians in 721BC (2 Kings 17:5-41) in fulfillment of the prophecies of Amos and Hosea, and this terrifying event deeply affected people like Isaiah and many others in Judah and Jerusalem” (Ashby).
Isaiah’s writings were in both narrative and poetic forms. “For versatility of expression and brilliancy of imagery Isaiah has no superior or even rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary art. Beauty and strength are characteristics of his entire book. Isaiah was also an orator: Jerome likened him to Demosthenes; and a poet: he frequently elaborates his message in rhythmic or poetic style….” (Orr, 1496 Vol. 3). “The Prophet Isaiah was primarily called to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah. Judah was going through times of revival and times of rebellion. Judah was threatened with destruction by Assyria and Egypt, but was spared because of God’s mercy. Isaiah proclaimed a message of repentance from sin and hopeful expectation of God’s deliverance in the future” (Houdmann, 2012).
Chapter 6 of Isaiah starts out with Isaiah himself narrating in verse one looking back when King Uzziah died, he saw the Lord upon His throne which is to say that it was but a glimpse of the Lord but still an overwhelming thought of His King on high (Buttrick, 207). It is imagined he had this vision when participating in the ceremonies of the cult standing with priests and looking through the doors of the temple which had been filled with the smoke of incense and toward the innermost chamber where the Lord Himself dwelt (Buttrick, 207-08). “Yahweh is depicted as king, yet not as a nationalistic deity, since His sway extends through all the earth and His hand falls heavily upon His own people (Brown, Fitzmyer, & Murphy, 234). It should also be noted that King Uzziah has ruled for 52 years and died of leprosy in 739 B.C. which was the same year that Isaiah started his prophetic ministry (MacArthur, 765).
“He received the prophecies of the first five chapters after his call but, at 6:1, he returns to authenticate what he has already written by describing how he was called” (MacArthur, 765). Verse two continues with Isaiah saying above the Lord Himself there stood seraphim, angelic creatures who were attendants on the throne resembling the four living creatures found in Revelation 4, who covered the Lord’s face (Buttrick, 208). The Lord’s face was covered because of His glory and majesty while His feet were covered because of His nakedness (Buttrick, 208). Verse three continues with one of the seraphim crying out to another seraphim saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Verse 4 reveals the ground shook when the seraphim cried out and the room was filled with smoke. “The trembling and the smoke manifest the powerful presence of the God in Heaven…the smoke is the same as the “cloud” of glory which filled the tabernacle and the house, both hiding and revealing the divine presence” (Buttrick, 209).
In verse five, Isaiah becomes aware of himself as an unclean man saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Brown et al., reveals that when Isaiah says, “Woe is me,” this is interpreted as when one sees God face to face, they can no longer live (234). In verses six through thirteen, Isaiah’s vision reveals to him his own sin which has made him broken but God uses his broken state to prepare him for cleansing and commission (MacArthur, 766). Verse 6, a seraphim takes a hot coal from the altar, which most likely was a heated stone because back then they used these for baking bread. It is implied that the seraphim was sent by God Himself to perform this very act (Buttrick, 210). The seraphim, in verse seven, takes the live coal and touches Isaiah’s moth with it signifying “mouth purification” as was in the Egyptian culture back then (Buttrick, 210). Verse 8, we hear God asking out loud who will He send to go. Isaiah, who is cleansed of his sin, cries out saying, “Here I am! Send me.”
“The great prophets were men who stood in the counsel of God, who could hear His word, and felt themselves commissioned and empowered to proclaim it” (Buttrick, 211). God tells Isaiah in verses nine and ten to go and tell the people the truth. “Isaiah’s message was to be God’s instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive people. Centuries later, Jesus’ parables were to do the same” (MacArthur, 766). Verse eleven shows Isaiah’s protest by asking the length of time he should tell the people the truth even when they don’t listen. “God replied that it must continue until the cities are desolate (v. 11) and the people have gone into exile (v. 12)” (MacArthur, 766). The chapter ends with God saying that even though there are many that will reject your teachings and prophecy, “the tenth, also called “stumps” and “holy seed,” represents faithful remnants in Israel who will be the nucleus who hear and believe” (MacArthur, 766-67).
Isaiah was given a vision by God to go to Israel and teach the truth. Isaiah knew that he was a sinner, unworthy of this or any great task that the Lord would present to him and yet the Lord chooses him. His vision revealed that God was powerful, holy, righteous, and yet loving. He cared about not only the Israelites but also Isaiah and wanted to give him a chance to tell His chosen people the truth because they were going down the wrong path. God wanted to give them a second chance, to know the truth, to come to know Him once again. This was Isaiah’s task. Isaiah was humbled greatly and revealed to him was Israel’s sin but also hope. Hope that there was a small remnant of people still in Judah that could be reached. Isaiah is left with that hope.
Ashby, P. (n.d.). Isaiah 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.prayerandbiblestudy.org/html/body_isaiah_1-5.html Brown, R., Fitzmyer, J., & Murphy, R. (1968). The new jerome biblical commentary. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc. Buttrick, G. (1956). The interpreter’s bible. (Vol. 5). Nashville, Tennessee : Abingdon Press. Houdmann, M. (2012). Book of isaiah – bible survey. Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Isaiah.html MacArthur, J. (2005). The macarthur bible commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Orr,
James, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939. Print.