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Second (& Third?) Isaiah. After Chapter 39, the Assyrian threat is never mentioned again. After Chapter 39, Isaiah himself is never mentioned again.

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second third isaiah
Second (& Third?) Isaiah
  • After Chapter 39, the Assyrian threat is never mentioned again.
  • After Chapter 39, Isaiah himself is never mentioned again.
  • Babylonian captivity, and the likelihood that Babylon will fall to the Persian king Cyrus, are all mentioned as present realities, not distant forecasts.
  • The tone shifts from warnings and threats to comfort and promises.
  • The theological themes are distinctive: God is fully transcendent and fully immanent; an unnamed servant suffers on behalf of all people; God is shaping ALL human history; Cyrus is God’s messiah (anointed one), etc.
  • Many scholars also consider Isaiah 56-66 to be the work of an even later writer (after the return to Jerusalem), because of the circumstances it addresses, but the tone and themes of these chapters are still close to those of Isaiah 40-55. We’ll take them together.
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Can you detect where there is an abrupt shift in style?

The last part of First Isaiah (chs. 36-39) comes from 2 Kings.

The Transition between 1 & 2 Isaiah

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

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Isaiah 39:5-8

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”

2 Kings 20:16-19

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

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Timeline of First Isaiah

Timeline of Second (& Third) Isaiah

transcendence immanence of god
Transcendence/Immanence of God

Isaiah 57:15

For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 46:5-11

To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, as though we were alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales— they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries out to it, it does not answer or save anyone from trouble. Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man for my purpose from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have planned, and I will do it.

cyrus as god s messiah
Cyrus as God’s Messiah

Isaiah 43:16-21

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Isaiah 45:1-7

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.

the suffering servant
The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13-53:9

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

who is the suffering servant
Who Is the Suffering Servant
  • Israel?
  • Isaiah?
  • An unknown contemporary?
  • An imaginary ideal figure?
  • Jesus?
  • God? (Heschel’s translation of Isaiah 63:9: “In all their affliction He was afflicted… In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”)
  • All of the above?
a rabbinic interpretation of isaiah 40 1 2
A Rabbinic Interpretation of Isaiah 40:1-2

Isaiah 40:1 – 2

Comfort ye, O comfort ye My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and declare to her: because her term of service is over; because her iniquity is expiated; because she has received at the hand of the Lord double for

her sins.

Pesikta Rabbati 29/30

The words "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people" (Isa. 40:1) are, according to R. Berekhiah the Priest, to be read, "Comfort Me, comfort Me, O My people." In the world's use, if a man owns a vineyard and robbers come and cut it down, who is to be comforted, the vineyard or the owner of the vineyard? And so, too, if a man owns a house and robbers come and burn it down, who is to be comforted, the house or the owner of the house? You are My vineyard. But Nebuchadnezzar came and, having destroyed it, exiled you and burned My Temple; it is I that need to be comforted. Hence, "Comfort Me, comfort Me, O My people."