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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Isaiah 1–39

THE PROPHET ISAIAH, the son of Amoz, lived in Jerusalem during the last half of the 8th century BCE. His prophecies are deeply rooted in his time and place, and many of them address current events of his day. Unfortunately, only rarely does he tell us what these events are (his audience, of course, would have known immediately, since they were living through them as well). As a result, scholars frequently need to reconstruct the political or historical settings of his prophecies. It will be helpful to review some major events of Isaiah's time, since these serve as the backdrop to his prophecies. During the 8th century, the Assyrian empire (located in what we know today as northern Iraq and south‐eastern Turkey) began to grow in power and influence. It put more and more pressure on the small kingdoms along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, including Judah and Israel. These countries sometimes accepted Assyria as their overlord, paying the Assyrian king tribute and relying on him for defense. At other times, these nations attempted to revolt against Assyria, often relying on Egypt as an ally. Usually, these revolts ended disastrously. In fact, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians after one such revolt in 722 BCE, and much of its population was deported. For Isaiah, the rise of Assyria presented a pressing religious question: To what extent should the Judeans attempt to confront their enemies using the usual military and diplomatic means (which entailed entering into alliances with other nations), and to what extent should the Judeans stay free of alliances and rely solely on God to protect them? Unlike most of his contemporaries, Isaiah strongly preferred the latter option. A second major trend in Isaiah's day was the growth of large estates owned by aristocrats and the consequent impoverishment of the peasantry. Isaiah, like his contemporaries Micah and Amos, spoke out strongly against the accumulation of great wealth and the haughtiness of the rich.

Several main themes emerge from Isaiah's prophecies. Isaiah believed that Jerusalem, the holy city, would never fall to Judah's enemies. He emphasized social and economic justice. He referred repeatedly to the remnant of Israel, who would survive an enormous catastrophe that God would send to punish the nation for its lack of faith and hypocrisy.This remnant would serve as the kernel from which a purified Israel would be renewed. (By definition, Jerusalem would be part of the remnant, since it would never fall.) He anticipated the dawn of a new era in which all nations would recognize the one true God. Each nation would be satisfied with its own land and would not covet other lands. Consequently empires—and warfare—would exist no more. During this new era the Judean king, a descendant of David, would rule all Israel in perfect justice. (From this set of ideas, later Judaism would construct the idea of the Messiah and the messianic era, though Isaiah never calls him Messiah.) Common to all these ideas is Isaiah's stress that only God can be great; all other haughty things (whether rich people, large empires, or high mountains) would be reduced to their proper place at the end of days. All sin, for Isaiah, stems from the failure to recognize that God alone can be exalted. Isaiah's prophecies are remarkable for their fairly consistent lack of oracles of vengeance against Judah's enemies. Assyria and Egypt would be punished in the future for their haughtiness and idolatry, but not for their treatment of Israel and Judah. After all, it was God who sent them to attack Israel and Judah in the first place. Once they had been taken to account for their haughtiness, they would be restored and live in peace, recognizing the one true God. Thus their fate, for worse and then for better, is identical to that of Israel.

Many modern scholars believe that large sections of Isaiah chs 1–33 were written by additional prophets and scribes who lived later than the historical Isaiah—that is, later than the 8th century. Others, including many leading Jewish biblical critics, attribute most or all of these chs to Isaiah himself. The annotations treat this material as largely dating to the 8th century, with a few possible exceptions (in particular, chs 13, 24–27, and 30.1 8–26 ). Chs 34–35 belong to the same time period as chs 40–66 . Chs 36–39 narrate certain events in which Isaiah played an important role. They were not written by Isaiah but are taken, in a modified form, from the book of Kings.

Isaiah chs 1–39 contains the following subsections: Ch 1 : Introductory prophecy, covering Isaiah's main themes. Chs 2–12 : Prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Chs 13–23 : Prophecies concerning many nations, including Judah but focusing on foreign peoples. Chs 24–27 : Prophecies concerning the end of days, in an apocalyptic style. Chs 28–33 : Prophecies concerning the end of days. Chs 34–35 : Redemption for Judah. Chs 36–39 : Narratives concerning the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BCE and Isaiah's role in the events of that time. The book does not follow a chronological order; the same event is often treated in many different chs at a wide remove from one another.

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