Isaiah has often been called "the prince of prophets" because of the majestic sweep of his book and the powerful way he depicts the themes of justice and redemption, culminating in the great prophecies of the Messiah and the messianic age. In this sense, Isaiah is like a miniature Bible. The first thirty-nine chapters are filled with judgment upon immoral and idolatrous people—both Judah and the surrounding nations. But the final twenty-seven chapters declare a message of hope and consolation.

The name Isaiah, from the Hebrew yeshaiah, means "Yahweh is Salvation," a term which aptly summarizes the contents of the book.

Author: Isaiah, the son of Amoz, is named as the author (Isa 1:1LEB), and there is not even an allusion to any other writer. The unity of Isaiah has been challenged in the modern period by scholars who ascribe much of chapters 1-39 to the prophet Isaiah himself, but attribute chapters 40-55 (called "Deutero-Isaiah") to an unknown prophet in Babylon, and chapters 56-66 (called "Trito-Isaiah") to another unknown prophet in Palestine (c. 460-445 B.C.). Here it is argued that significant stylistic, historical, and theological differences distinguish chapters 1-39 from chapters 40-66, and that chapters 40-66 must further be divided into two sections reflecting a Babylonian exilic setting and a Palestinian postexilic setting, respectively.

Although the arguments against the unity of Isaiah have been impressive to some, strong arguments can also be marshalled in favor of the literary unity of the book. While some differences between sections do exist, the stylistic similarities throughout the book are greater than the alleged differences. These include similarities in thoughts, images, rhetorical ornaments, characteristic expressions, and local coloring. It is true that the first section is more terse and rational while the second is more flowing and emotional, but much of this is due to the different subject matter—the difference between condemnation and consolation.

Portions of the book are attributed to a period later than Isaiah, son of Amoz, because it is thought that the prophet could not have predicted the Babylonian exile and the return under Cyrus. This argument is based, however, on the dogmatic assumption that predictive prophecy is impossible. Such a theory cannot explain the presence of messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in the life of Yashua. When all is said and done, the idea of a single author raises fewer difficulties than the theories of multiple authorship.

With good reason, then, it has been traditionally maintained that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who prophesied in Jerusalem during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, is the author of the book that bears his name. The prophet was evidently from a distinguished Jewish family, and his education is evident in his impressive vocabulary and style. Isaiah apparently maintained close contact with the royal court, but his exhortations against alliances with foreign powers were not always well received. His wife was a prophetess and he fathered at least two sons (Isa 7:3LEB; Isa 8:3LEB). Isaiah spent most of his time in Jerusalem, and Jewish tradition says that his persecutors sawed him in two during the reign of the evil king Manasseh (cf. Heb 11:37LEB).

Date: Isaiah's long ministry ranged from about 740 to 680 B.C. (Isa 1:1LEB), and the book of Isaiah no doubt contains prophetic writings written throughout this period. He began his ministry near the end of Uzziah's reign (790-739 B.C.) and continued through the reigns of Jotham (739-731 B.C.), Ahaz (731-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). Isaiah outlived Hezekiah by a few years because Isa 37:38LEB records the death of Sennacherib in 681 B.C. Hezekiah was succeeded in 686 B.C. by his wicked son Manasseh, who overthrew the worship of Yahweh and no doubt opposed the work of Isaiah.

During the time of Isaiah, Assyria was growing in power under Tiglath-Pileser, who turned toward the west after his conquests to the east, plucking up many of the smaller nations along the Mediterranean including the Northern Kingdom of Israel (722-21 B.C.). As a contemporary of Hosea and Micah, Isaiah prophesied during the last years of the Northern Kingdom but ministered to the Southern Kingdom which was following in the sins of her neighbor to the north. After the fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom, he warned Judah of judgment not by Assyria, the most immediate threat, but by Babylon.

Themes and Literary Structure: The book of Isaiah has three major sections: prophecies of condemnation (chs. 1-35), an historical parenthesis or interlude (chs. 36-39), and prophecies of comfort and consolation (chs. 40-66).

Isaiah's message is presented against the background of Israel's greatest period of prosperity after the "Golden Age" under David and Solomon. Prosperity, agricultural and commercial success, and military success were accompanied by immorality, excessive drinking, idolatry, oppression of the poor, greed, and the presence of false prophets who pandered to the desires of the people. In response to this situation, Isaiah stressed (1) salvation by faith (Isa 7:9LEB; Isa 28:16LEB; Isa 30:15LEB), (2) the holiness of Yahweh and the need for ethical living (Isa 6:1-8LEB; Isa 37:23), (3) the offense of human sin and the certainty of divine judgment (chs. 1-35), and (4) the assurance of redemption for a repentant remnant (Isa 1:9LEB, Isa 1:19LEB; Isa 10:19-22LEB; Isa 46:3LEB, Isa 46:4LEB; Isa 65:8-10LEB).

The basic theme of this book is found in Isaiah's name, which means "Salvation is of Yahweh." The word "salvation" appears twenty-six times in Isaiah but only seven times in all the other prophets combined.

Of all the books in the Old Testament, only the Psalms contain a larger number of messianic prophecies than Isaiah. Isaiah sets forth every aspect of the glory and ministry of Yashua: His incarnation (Isa 7:14LEB; Isa 9:6LEB); His youth (Isa 7:15LEB; Isa 11:1LEB; Isa 53:2LEB); His mild manner (Isa 42:2LEB); His obedience (Isa 50:5LEB); His message (Isa 61:1LEB, Isa 61:2LEB); His miracles (Isa 35:5LEB, Isa 35:6LEB); His sufferings, rejection, and vicarious death (Isa 50:6LEB; Isa 53:1-12LEB); and His exaltation (Isa 52:13LEB).