James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.Isaiah 1:1-5:30
The first five chapters of Isaiah form a natural division, to which, for want of a better title, we give that of General Discourses, or messages. The first is limited to chapter 1, the second covers chapters 2-4, and the third chapter 5.
But first notice the introduction, Isaiah 1:1. By what word is the whole book described? What genealogy of the prophet is given? To which kingdom was he commissioned, Israel or Judah? In whose reigns did he prophesy?
Examine 2 Kings, chapters 15-20, and the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles for the history of this period. It will be seen later that the prophet received his vision in the last year of Uzziah, so that few of his messages belong to that reign. In the days of Jotham and Ahaz Judah was menaced by Syria and Israel, and shortly after Ahaz came to the throne he made an alliance with Assyria against them. This was contrary to the divine will and gives occasion for much of Israel’s prophecy, especially in the early part of the book. Assyria at first a friend, afterwards became the enemy of Judah, to the latter’s serious loss. When Hezekiah came to the throne however, he placed his trust in Jehovah and was able to resist the further inroads of Assyria. Familiarity with these facts is necessary to understand the allusions in Israel.
FIRST DISCOURSE (Isaiah 1:2-31)
This discourse opens with an indictment against the people for their sin (Isaiah 1:2-4), ingratitude and sinful ignorance being emphasized. The name of Israel in these verses is to be taken in a generic sense as including Judah. Now follows a description of the present consequences of their sin (Isaiah 1:5-9). Notice the figure of speech “a cottage in a vineyard.” The cottage was the shelter of the keeper of the vineyard, but Judah’s desolation at this time represented a vineyard without fruit, the cottage alone indicating that it was a vineyard. In other words Jerusalem “the daughter of Zion” and the capital of the kingdom was about all that remained to her at this time. A remonstrance follows (Isaiah 1:10-15). The names Sodom and Gomorrah are used metaphorically. The people were hypocritical in their religious worship, and God was weary of it. He appeals to them (Isaiah 1:16-20). The appeal is recognized as fruitless, and judgments must follow, out of which purification and redemption shall come (Isaiah 1:21-27). This period of judgment runs throughout the history of Judah down to the end of this age, as indicated by Isaiah 1:26-27, which speak of a time not yet realized in her experience. In other words Jerusalem on this earth shall some day be known as “the city of righteousness.’’ This will be when Zion, or the kingdom of Judah, shall have been redeemed with judgment. The discourse closed with a further note of warning (Isaiah 1:28-31).
SECOND DISCOURSE (Isaiah 2-4)
This discourse opens where the previous one ends, viz. “in the last days” (Isaiah 2:2). Then the kingdom shall have been restored to Judah, and that nation shall have become the head of the Gentile nations on the earth, for such is the meaning of Isaiah 2:2-4. The millennial age is brought into view, when the other peoples of the earth are learning of God through the converted Jew, and when peace is reigning among them. This vision of future blessing for Judah is following by a repetition of the indictment against the people for their present sin (Isaiah 2:6-9). They have been affiliated with the Gentile nations, luxuriating in their wealth, and worshiping their idols. The coming penalty on Judah is predicted (Isaiah 2:10 to Isaiah 4:1). In these verses note the rebuke to the pride of the men of Judah and the luxury of the women. The details of the attire of the women (Isaiah 3:16-26) has had light thrown upon it recently by oriental exploration. Seventeen of the twenty- one ornaments spoken of were those worn by the heathen goddess Ishtar. The Baby-Ionian women copied the dress of their favorite goddess, and the Jerusalem women adopted their fashions. The discourse closes with a repetition of the future blessing promised (Isaiah 4:2-6).
THIRD DISCOURSE (Isaiah 5)
The vineyard spoken of, and of which such care was taken is Judah (Isaiah 5:1-3). How Judah repaid God for this care is shown (Isaiah 5:4). The penalty is indicated figuratively (Isaiah 5:5-7). The remainder of the chapter gives in plain language the details of Judah’s sin, and the penalty to be inflicted upon her.
1. How many discourses are in the section?
2. Have you refreshed your memory by reading the chapters in Kings?
3. Give in your own words an outline of the first discourse.
4. How does the second discourse open and close?
5. Under what figure is the story of God’s goodness and Judah’s unrighteousness repeated in chapter 5?