Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 22, “Isaiah” pp. 367-388.
The book of Isaiah has had a tremendous influence on Christianity. It inspired many famous hymns. It is also referred to a great deal in the New Testament (Lessing 2014, 367). By the late 1800s, scholars had fragmented the text. “Isaiah was understood as a collection of texts that have little or no coherence or unity of thought” (Lessing 2014, 367). In recent years there has been more of an effort to find unifying factors in Isaiah.
Isaiah’s arrangement is topical, rather than chronological. Lessing notes that this is apparently confused with contributions of multiple authors (Lessing 2014, 369). Chapters 40-66 particularly look forward to future events. This is part of Isaiah’s call, from chapter 6, vv. 9-13. People would not understand, but future generations would. Lessing finds throughout “a careful and deliberate arrangement” (Lessing 2014, 370), especially in chapters 56-66. The arrangement is so purposeful and ophisticated that many miss it altogether. After giving a brief outline, Lessing turns to discuss textual evidence on p. 374. There are numerous intact copies of Isaiah from Qumran, showing consistency with later copies.
The text of Isaiah deals with events covering about 200 years (Lessing 2014, 374). Lessing highlights some of the important events and world leadesr mentioned.
Central themes in Isaiah are God’s holiness, the plan of Yahweh for his people (Lessing 2014, 376), the Gospel of God’s comfort (Lessing 2014, 377), redemption, as God purchases his people out of bondage, a recurring theme of a “Servant” (Lessing 2014, 378), the idea of righteousness (Lessing 2014, 381), and the time of creation (Lessing 2014, 383).
Lessing finds that in Isaiah, the message of Christ pushes forcefully toward the New Testament (Lessing 2014, 384). Many names which foreshadow Christ are used throughout Isaiah. The sin of idolatry, chasing after a substitute for Christ, is frequently a problem in Israel. God raises up his Servant who brings forgiveness (Lessing 2014, 385).