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Book of Isaias

Book of Isaias
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Holy Prophet Isaias lived 700 years before the birth of Christ, and was of royal lineage. The name "Isaias" is a Hebrew name (pronounced Yeshayahu) which means "Yah (the Lord) is salvation". Isaias' father Amos raised his son in the fear of God and in the Law of the Lord. Having attained the age of maturity, the Prophet Isaias entered into marriage with a pious prophetess (Is 8:3) and had a son Jashub (Is 8:18).

St. Isaias was called to prophetic service during the reign of Oziah (Uzziah), king of Judea, and he prophesied for 60 years during the reign of kings Joatham, Achaz(Ahaz), Hezekiah and Manasseh. St Isaias is sommemorated on May 9th in the Orthodox Church.

Brief summary:

Isaias left behind him a book of prophecy (66 Chapters) in which he denounces the Jews for their unfaithfulness to the God of their Fathers. He predicted the captivity of the Jews and their return from captivity during the time of the emperor Cyrus, the destruction and renewal of Jerusalem and of the Temple. Together with this he predicts the historical fate also of the other nations bordering the Jews. But what is most important of all for us, the Prophet Isaias with particular clarity and detail prophesies about the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Savior. The prophet names the Messiah as God and Man, teacher of all the nations, founder of the Kingdom of peace and love.

Most scholars believe that the book of Isaias is the work of more than one author. It covers the period from the middle of the eighth century before Christ to the time of the Babylonian exile. It tells of the impending doom upon the people of God for their wickedness and infidelity to the Lord. And it foretells the mercy of God upon His People, as well as the gentiles, in the time of His redemption in the messianic age. The famous vision of the prophet in chapter six is included in the eucharistic prayers of the Orthodox Church. Of central importance in Isaias are the prophecies in the first part of the book, especially chapters six to twelve, concerning the coming of the Messiah-King; and the prophecies at the end of the book, about the salvation of all creation in the suffering servant of the Lord. The entire book of Isaias is read in the Church during Great Lent, and many selections are read at the vigils of the great feasts of the Church. In the New Testament scriptures there are innumerable quotations of the prophecy of Isaias made in reference to John the Baptist, and most especially to Christ Himself.

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A narrative summary is provided below.

Is 1-39 contains oracles by Isaias and narratives about his life. Isaias lived in and around Jerusalem during the late seventh century BC, when the Assyrians were conquering the northern part of the country. The first part of the book summarizes the prophet's message (Is 1-5). He condemns Israel's injustice and misguided trust in ritual, and calls the people to repent. He compares the sins of Judah to fine vineyard producing only wild grapes. Isaias is called by God through a vision of the heavenly throne room. He tells King Ahaz not to fear pressure from Israel and Syria for they will fall to the Assyrians (Is 6-8). Isaiah promises that God will raise up a righteous king and judge the nations that oppose Israel (Is 9-35). God delivers Jerusalem from the Assyrians and heals King Hezekiah of an illness, although Hezekiah's naive trust in the Babylonians portended the future fall of Jerusalem.

Isaias 40-66 offers encouragement to those living at the end of the exile. Those who have gone into exile can take comfort (Is 40:1) for their time of servitude will end when the Persian king Cyrus conquers the nations(Is 45:1). God is Lord over all.

We now turn to the Book of Jeremias.

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