Lesson 2 of5
In Progress

Outline of Isaiah

1. Book 1 (Isaiah 1:1-33:24)

The first part of the long book of Isaiah contains oracles of judgment and hope by Isaiah of Jerusalem (eighth-century B.C.E.). Additional prophetic oracles were added when the book was put together at a later date.

A. Words of Judgment, Words of Hope (Isaiah 1:1-12:6)

This section includes strong words of judgment, typical of the eighth-century prophets, and striking, well-known promises of salvation. Isaiah is called and responds, “Here am I; send me!” (6:8).

  • Why Do You Continue to Rebel? (Isaiah 1:1-31)
    The book begins with an announcement of judgment against God’s rebellious people, a judgment that calls Israel to repentance and produces God’s own lament.
  • Words of Hope and Warning (Isaiah 2:1-5:30)
    A strong word of promise opens this section, but most of the oracles announce judgment against Judah and Jerusalem because of their own injustice to the neighbor.
  • The Story and Mission of the Prophet (Isaiah 6:1-9:7)
    Isaiah is called to be a prophet when he sees a vision of God in the temple. His message is a bitter one, though God’s offer of renewal never disappears. Isaiah is a prophet who speaks to kings and also announces the coming of a new king, a Prince of Peace.
  • Judgment Announced and Salvation Promised (Isaiah 9:8-12:6)
    The prophet continues to bring God’s word of judgment produced by the destructive behavior of God’s own people and of Assyria. The promise of a peaceful kingdom remains, however, giving rise to the songs of praise that close this section.

B. Oracles against Foreign Nations (Isaiah 13:1-23:18)

Like many prophets, Isaiah is given messages or oracles against foreign nations. God’s judgment, like God’s salvation, extends to all peoples. This section includes oracles against major centers of power like Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Tyre, along with lesser regions like the “wilderness of the sea,” Dumah, “the desert plain,” and “the valley of vision.” A few brief words of hope and restoration are scattered through the chapters.

C. The Isaiah “Apocalypse” (Isaiah 24:1-27:13)

These chapters contain themes and images typical of later apocalyptic literature. The texts foresee the desolation of the whole earth, but also God’s feast for all peoples on the holy mountain, where God “will swallow up death forever.” Judah sings and looks forward to God’s ultimate deliverance.

D. Oracles regarding Judah and Israel (Isaiah 28:1-33:24)

The prophet continues to announce God’s judgment on the corrupt leaders and practices of Israel and Judah. God’s children are seen as rebellious because they rely on foreign nations and military power rather than on God; nevertheless, God holds out a firm promise of deliverance that closes the section.

2. Transition (Isaiah 34:1-39:8)

This section of the book includes material that looks back to the period of Book 1 and anticipates the time of Book 2.

A. The Time to Come: Judgment and Renewal (Isaiah 34:1-35:10)

Together, the two chapters announce that God’s coming transformation will involve both total judgment of the wicked and final salvation for the redeemed. Chapter 35 includes themes that anticipate the message of Second Isaiah.

B. Looking Back, Looking Ahead (Isaiah 36:1-39:8)

These chapters provide an historical appendix, using material from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, that reviews the time during which Isaiah of Jerusalem prophesied and looks forward to the Babylonian era, providing the background for the prophecy of Isaiah of Babylon or Second Isaiah.

3. Book 2 (Isaiah 40:1-55:13)

The second major segment of the book contains messages of comfort and encouragement to the exilic community in Babylon (sixth-century B.C.E.) by an unknown prophet, sometimes called Second Isaiah or Isaiah of Babylon.

A. Comfort My People (Isaiah 40:1-31)

Voices call, valleys are lifted up, good news is announced: God is coming to comfort and rescue the exiles in Babylonian captivity. No power can claim divinity other than God.

B. I Am About To Do a New Thing (Isaiah 41:1-48:22)

These chapters announce the new exodus that God is about to accomplish for God’s captive people. It will be like what God has done in the past, yet it will be totally new.

  • Summoning the Victor (Isaiah 41:1-29)
    The idols of the nations, however seductive, are finally powerless. God, however, will work through “a victor from the east”–Cyrus of Persia–to transform the political world and free God’s people.
  • Introducing the Servant (Isaiah 42:1-12)
    Amid all the appeals to power, God introduces “my servant,” who will not cry out, but who will bring a gentle justice to Israel and the nations.
  • A New Exodus (Isaiah 42:13-43:28)
    God promises to be with Israel in all times of trouble, to break down the bars of Babylonian captivity, and to bring God’s people safely home through a desert that has been made fertile and welcoming.
  • God, Not Idols! (Isaiah 44:1-22)
    God, who formed Israel in the womb, promises continued care and deliverance, unlike the lifeless and useless idols that are seen to be a fraud.
  • The Call of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:23-45:19)
    Cyrus, the Persian ruler, has been chosen by God to free the people. Cyrus is God’s “shepherd,” even God’s “anointed,” sent to do God’s saving work.
  • Idols Cannot Save; Babylon Cannot Stand (Isaiah 45:20-48:22)
    The judgment of the idols and of Babylon is now in progress. Israel is called to turn from its own obstinacy and embrace God’s offer of salvation.

C. A Light to the Nations (Isaiah 49:1-55:13)

God calls the servant to be a light to the nations and calls Israel to listen to God’s teachings and to prepare for the return to Jerusalem.

  • The Call of the Servant (Isaiah 49:1-50:3)
    The servant reports being called by God in language similar to the call of a prophet. The servant is commissioned as a light to the nations that God’s salvation might reach to the ends of the earth. God promises to bring home exiles from all directions.
  • To Listen and to Teach (Isaiah 50:4-51:8)
    The servant is confidant of God’s vindication despite being struck and insulted for his fidelity to God’s call. The people are called to listen to God and not to fear the reproach of others.
  • Awake, Awake (Isaiah 51:9-52:12)
    Israel calls upon God to “awake” and to help them, but God calls Israel to awake and put on strength for the journey out of Babylon.
  • The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
    The servant is introduced as “a man of suffering”; surprisingly, he suffers not for his own iniquity but for the sake of others. He will be honored by God because he “bore the sin of many.”
  • Life Made New (Isaiah 54:1-55:13)
    God calls Israel to sing for joy and to enjoy God’s own feast, eating at last “what is good.” God’s word will do its work as surely as the rain and snow water the earth.

4. Book 3 (Isaiah 56:1-66:24)

The third portion of Isaiah contains messages of hope and warning to the people of God back in Jerusalem following the release from captivity in Babylon (538 B.C.E.).

A. Maintain Justice (Isaiah 56:1-59:21)

Through the prophet, God invites all to enter into God’s salvation, while calling on Israel to turn from idolatry and inauthentic worship, to share their food with the hungry, and to repent of their oppression of others and their revolt against God.

B. Your Light Has Come (Isaiah 60:1-62:12)

These central chapters of the third part of Isaiah are very similar to Book 2 (Second Isaiah). God promises renewal and restoration of Israel, liberty to the captives, and comfort for those who mourn.

C. Announcing Vindication (Isaiah 63:1-66:24)

The people hear God’s accusation and appeal for divine mercy. God promises again to make things new and to nourish Israel like a nursing mother.

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