Introduction to Isaiah


Author and Date

Isaiah was called to his prophetic ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” (6:1), around 740 B.C. He lived long enough to record the death of Sennacherib (37:38), in 681. However, most of the book can be dated only in very general terms because few specific dates are given.


The central theme of the book is God himself, who does all things for his own glory (48:11). Isaiah defines everything else by how it relates to God: is it rightly related to him as the center of all reality (45:22–25)? God’s people find strength only as they rest in the promises of their God (30:15). They find refreshment only as they delight themselves in his word (55:1–2). To serve his cause is their worthy devotion (ch. 62), but to rebel against him is endless death (66:24).

Simplified Overview of Isaiah

Isaiah 1–39 Isaiah 40–55 Isaiah 56–66
Date and Setting The eighth century B.C. (700s); the Assyrian threat Prophecies for the sixth century B.C. (500s); the Babylonian exile Prophecies about all times and occasions until the end
Audience God’s rebellious people craving worldly security God’s defeated people under worldly domination All who hold fast to God’s covenant
Actions God purifies a remnant of his apostate people through judgment God encourages his discouraged people in exile God prepares all of his true people for his promised salvation
Message “In returning and rest you shall be saved; . . . But you were unwilling” (30:15) “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (40:5) “Keep justice, and do righteousness” (56:1)

Key Themes

1. God is offended by religious practices that come from an empty heart or a careless life (1:10–17; 58:1–12; 66:1–4).

2. God’s true people will someday become a multinational community of worship and peace that will last forever (2:2–4; 56:3–8; 66:18–23). They will be the predominant culture of a new world (14:1–2; 41:8–16; 43:3–7; 60:1–22).

3. God opposes human pride (2:10–17; 13:11; 23:9).

4. The foolish idols that man creates are destined for destruction (2:20–21; 44:9–20; 46:1–7).

5. God’s judgment will reduce Israel to a remnant. From this remnant he will raise up a holy people (1:9; 6:1–12:6; 40:1–2).

6. God sometimes judges people by making them deaf and blind to his saving word (29:9–14).

7. The only hope of the world is in one man. He is the promised Davidic king (7:14; 9:2–7; 11:1–10), the servant of the Lord (42:1–9; 52:13–53:12), the anointed preacher of the gospel (61:1–3), and the victor over all evil (63:1–6).

8. God uses everything, even human sin, for his own glory (44:24–45:13).

9. All people are called to repent of sin and trust in God alone (12:2; 26:3–4; 32:17–18; 50:10; 66:2).

10. Often, when God’s people feel abandoned by him (40:27), they foolishly trust in worldly powers (31:1–3; 39:1–8).

11. God will vindicate his cause with a world-transforming display of his glory (11:10; 40:3–5; 52:10; 59:19).

12. God is guiding all of human history (41:1–4; 44:6–8; 46:8–11).

13. God’s faithfulness and the certainty of his final victory should motivate his people to pray and to be obedient (56:1–2; 62:1–64:12).

14. The wrath of God is to be feared above all else (9:19; 13:9, 13; 30:27; 34:2; 66:15–16).


  1. Introduction: “Ah, Sinful Nation!” (1:1–5:30)
  2. God Redefines the Future of His People: “Your Guilt Is Taken Away” (6:1–12:6)
  3. God’s Judgment and Grace for the World: “We Have a Strong City” (13:1–27:13)
  4. God’s Sovereign Word Spoken into the World: “Ah!” (28:1–35:10)
  5. Historical Transition: “In Whom Do You Now Trust?” (36:1–39:8)
  6. Encouragement for God’s Exiles: “The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed” (40:1–55:13)
  7. How to Prepare for the Coming Glory: “Hold Fast My Covenant” (56:1–66:24)

The Near East at the Time of Isaiah

c. 740 B.C.

The prophecies of Isaiah took place during the rise of the Assyrian Empire. Assyria posed a great threat to Israel and Judah as well as the entire Near East.

The Near East at the Time of Isaiah