The book of Isaiah is a tremendous work, long and meaty, full of fascinating prose and brilliant poetry. Isaiah shaped the entire theology of Israel during a critical turning point of their history. As they looked back at their experience of Exile, Jewish theologians sought to understand what had gone wrong within their covenant relationship with Israel’s God; they sought to learn from their mistakes and forge a new future with hope and faithfulness.
Scholars note three major and distinctive writings within the one book that carries the name Isaiah.
First Isaiah (chapters 1–39) seems to have been penned by Isaiah of Jerusalem during its last days. The narrative overflows with startling visions of the Divine, challenges the sins of the nation of Judah, and warns of dire consequences.
Second Isaiah (chapters 40–55) may have been written during the years of Exile in Babylon. There are no new visions but the writer is an inspired interpreter of First Isaiah. Here is some of the most soaring poetry in all of Scripture, maybe in all of literature, holding out hope in the midst of hopelessness.
Third Isaiah (chapters 56–66) sounds like it was recorded after the exiles returned home to rebuild their devastated land. The words encourage the weary people and hope for the return of Yahweh’s shining glory to the Second Temple.
Note: the above overview explaining how Isaiah organized is copied from Week 38. We will read Isaiah over the course of three weeks so take your time. We also begin The Revelation this week. If you are able, find a recording and listen to John’s entire letter in one sitting. (Bible Gateway has some audio options.)
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle. Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace. (Resource Publications)