You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.
In the middle of all the prophecies of doom and promises of hope in Isaiah, there are four chapters of history. Chapters 36-39 not only tell the story of King Hezekiah, but they also provide a key to understanding the structure of the entire book. For the first part of Hezekiah’s story details his struggle with the Assyrians, and the first part of Isaiah through chapter 38 can be considered the Age of Assyria. The last part of Hezekiah’s story introduces the Babylonians, to whom the overly proud king revealed all his country’s wealth, and the final chapters of Isaiah from 40 on can be called the Age of Babylon.
Assyrians were the dominant power in the time of Isaiah, who lived and prophesied from about 740-680 BC. Their threatened invasion hung over every decision that kings made in those days. The northern kingdom of Israel and their neighbor Syria (capital: Damascus) sought Judah’s help in defense against Assyria (chief city: Ninevah). Judah went its own way, but instead of seeking God’s help it turned to Assyria itself or Egypt. Only in the days of Hezekiah did Judah trust in God alone. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, but was itself defeated by Babylon by 609 BC.
With that context, Isaiah preaches to corrupt and idolatrous Judah, urging repentance. He exalts the Holy One of Israel, his favorite name for God. He details the coming Messiah, contrasting the eternal king with the sinfulness of the current kings. He highlights the wickedness of the old Jerusalem and the worldly lofty city in comparison with the New Jerusalem. He condemns and then comforts.
Chapters 1-12. Judgment and hope for Jerusalem.
Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1:4
Chapters 13-27. Judgment on the nations. Includes Chapters 24-27, the Day of the Lord or Isaiah’s Apocalypse.
In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon;
they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory. Isaiah 24:21-23
Chapters 28-35. Judgment and blessing. Woes on the unfaithful and on Assyria. Coming restoration of Zion.
In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:17-19
Chapters 36-39. History of Hezekiah.
Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. Isaiah 37:36-37
About this blog
During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Isaiah 9-41. Next week I will write about Isaiah 42 – Jeremiah 3. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Isaiah 9-41.
Boasting when humility is needed: Isaiah 9
The day of the LORD: Isaiah 13
Tale of Two Cities: Isaiah 24-26
Betting on the wrong horse: Isaiah 30
Painting by Marc Chagall