Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. “Isaiah 1-37, part A, 1:1-5:30” Loc. 1163-2242.
Motyer observes that “A single theme binds the first thirty-seven chapters of Isaiah: the king who reigns in Zion” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1164). Overall he sees this portion of Isaiah looking to a future state of affairs rather than the present. Chapters 1-5 set the stage as they describe a time of turmoil which needs relief (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1175). Motyer sketches the theme of various portions, then makes notes about the structure, seeing chapters 1-5 as prefatory (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1197). Chapters 6-12 and 28-35 are parallel in their content. Chapters 13-27 and 36-37 comment on the material coming immediately beforehand (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1207).
Chapters 1-5, curiously enough, come before the fairly elaborate call narrative in chapter 6. Motyer considers the material to be displaced purposely, used as an introduction, though the prophecies would have been received by Isaiah after his call (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1241). Chapters 2-4 are cohesive, themselves introduced and concluded by chapters 1 and 5 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1246). Chapter 5 draws a conclusion that we have no hope of restoration in ourselves. It sets the stage for God’s intervention (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1271).
Chapter 1 emphasizes the experience of Judah as it has been broken by sin (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1288). The world is not simply mechanistic. God intervenes so as to prevent complete destruction as a result of human disobedience (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1302). At the same time, God uses nations which are hostile to him as his instruments to chastise Judah. In 1:10-20 it is clear that the religious failings of Judah have placed them in this position (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1374) Rather than encountering God in their worship, the people were encountering themselves (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1422). After correction, in verse 18 the people are given a judgment of forgiveness rather than the condemnation they might have expected (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1467). In response, rather than rejoicing, there is a lament over the loss of the glory of former days (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1487). The end of chapter one details the tension between God’s judgment and promised restoration (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1551).
Motyer points out that chapters 2-4 are also undated and not clearly tied to history. As with chapter one, the concept, not the time, is important (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1596). Chapter 2:2-4 also appears in Micah 4:1-4, both prophets in the same time and place (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1621). The theme is the restoration of Jerusalem and the place of God’s mercy (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1632). Jerusalem, currently the home of disorder, is called to repentance (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1664). Isaiah describes the disorder in considerable detail. The use of idols is the epitome of disorder. They cannot be depended on in any way (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1768). In a day of judgment they prove useless. Chapter 3 continues to show the failure of Jerusalem, but now its social, rather than religious, condition (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1784). The society has become one of greed and oppression, not of integrity. This, Motyer says, is a matter of God giving the society some of what it deserves (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1810). The people and their rulers are intent on plunder. God will serve as the judge in the end (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1909). Chapter 4 then treats of a coming day of the Lord. This is a day of restoration, counter to expectations (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1950). This restoration is pictured as a regrowth of God’s branch, or tree (Motyer 1993, Loc. 1968). Motyer observes several other types of imagery in chatper 4, such as washing, purifying by fire, and providing shelter.
Chapter 5 is the darkest portion of Isaiah’s introduction. Divine judgment is inevitable (Motyer 1993, Loc. 2041). God’s vineyard has been ruined (vv. 1-7), producing a bitter crop (vv. 8-30) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 2046). Though God has done everything to prepare for good, evil has come in the end. The specific outcomes are denounced individually (Motyer 1993, Loc. 2102). The people have pursued their own destruction regardless of any way in which God has cared for them. All this comes from human desire for autonomy (Motyer 1993, Loc. 2201). Not satisfied with the riches of God, we seek our own desires, which lead to ruin (5:20ff).