“Introduction to the Book of Isaiah,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Isaiah,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Introduction to the Book of Isaiah
Why study this book?
When Jesus Christ visited the Nephites after His Resurrection, He quoted many of the words of Isaiah to them and then said: “A commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). He also told them that everything Isaiah had prophesied would be fulfilled (see 3 Nephi 23:3). The book of Isaiah was written during a time of great wickedness and apostasy, and it addresses both events of Isaiah’s era and events that would occur in the future. Perhaps the most important part of the book of Isaiah is Isaiah’s testimony and witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of Israel, and the promised Messiah. Studying the book of Isaiah can strengthen students’ testimonies of the Savior and teach them to listen to the Spirit as they encounter symbolism in the scriptures. As students mature in their understanding of the gospel, they can appreciate Isaiah’s witness and feel a desire to study his words and say as Nephi said: “My soul delighteth in his words … for he verily saw my Redeemer” (2 Nephi 11:2).
Who wrote this book?
Isaiah (the son of Amoz) is the author of the book of Isaiah. His name means “the Lord is salvation,” and this idea is reflected in his writings. Isaiah served as a prophet in Jerusalem for about 40 years (approximately 740–701 B.C.), during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah was married and had at least two sons (see Isaiah 7:3; 8:1–3). “Tradition states that he was ‘sawn asunder’ during the reign of Manasseh” (Bible Dictionary, “Isaiah”).
When and where was it written?
The book of Isaiah was written sometime during the ministry of Isaiah (approximately 740–701 B.C.). Since Isaiah’s ministry was centered in Jerusalem, this is the most likely location of the book’s origin.
What are some distinctive features of this book?
“Isaiah is the most quoted of all the prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other Old Testament prophet. Likewise the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants quote from Isaiah more than from any other prophet” (Bible Dictionary, “Isaiah”).
Isaiah’s prophecies often have multiple meanings and fulfillments. Concerning Isaiah’s prophecies, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The book of Isaiah contains numerous prophecies that seem to have multiple fulfillments. One seems to involve the people of Isaiah’s day or the circumstances of the next generation. Another meaning, often symbolic, seems to refer to events in the meridian of time, when Jerusalem was destroyed and her people scattered after the crucifixion of the Son of God. Still another meaning or fulfillment of the same prophecy seems to relate to the events attending the Second Coming of the Savior. The fact that many of these prophecies can have multiple meanings underscores the importance of our seeking revelation from the Holy Ghost to help us interpret them. As Nephi says, the words of Isaiah ‘are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy’ (2 Ne. 25:4)” (“Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8). In Isaiah 29, there is a prophecy of the Restoration that describes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, including an exchange between Martin Harris and Professor Charles Anthon (see Isaiah 29:11–12; Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65).
Isaiah assumes the reader has an understanding of the geography of Israel and the surrounding regions and of Hebrew poetry.
Isaiah 1–12 Isaiah describes Israel as apostate and corrupt. Isaiah explains that the Israelites will be blessed if they repent and punished if they remain rebellious. He prophesies of events concerning the Restoration, including the latter-day gathering of Israel. Isaiah’s call to the ministry and Judah’s impending wars against Ephraim and Syria are mentioned. Isaiah prophesies of the Messiah.
Isaiah 13–27 The fall of Babylon will foreshadow the destruction of the world at the Second Coming. Israel will be scattered and then gathered. Israel will enjoy millennial rest and will be victorious over Babylon (the world). Isaiah describes God’s judgments against wicked nations. Israel will fill the earth.
Isaiah 28–35 Isaiah foretells the apostasy, the Restoration, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Israel will be scattered because they rejected the Lord and the prophets. People will turn away from the Lord and become wicked before the Second Coming. Zion will be supported by its stakes. The Lord will punish the wicked at the Second Coming.
Isaiah 36–39 Isaiah describes the invasion of Assyria. King Hezekiah asks Isaiah for advice to prevent the destruction of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 40–48 Isaiah writes about Jesus Christ, who will act as a shepherd to Israel and a light to the Gentiles. The Lord will raise up a deliverer (King Cyrus) to free Israel from captivity. This deliverer is a type of Jesus Christ, who will be the true deliverer. Jesus Christ alone will save Israel, and no one will save Babylon.
Isaiah 49–66 The Lord will gather Israel in the last days. Isaiah describes the Messiah’s suffering. Isaiah invites all to seek the Lord. The Lord will destroy the wicked at His Second Coming.