Isaiah - Introduction to Chapters 40-66

DIVISION THREE
Chapters 40 to 66

Introduction:


The Manifestation of God in His Ways with Israel

This third part an integral portion of the book and the writing of the
same author, not a Deutero-Isaiah. The divine and human authorship
both attested by the same mark of "three" impressed upon it.


One cannot approach this last part of our book that speaks so clearly and directly of our Lord, both as to His sufferings and the glory that shall follow, without fear lest he should fail to discern the intent of the Spirit in moving this holy man of God thus to speak; or, on the other hand, to deduce what is not in accord with that intent: that is, to err either in omission or commission. We know well that we are about to enter an apartment of the divine Word in which are treasures of gold, silver, and precious stones of truth, but without the light given by the same Spirit, who is the real Author of the book, we shall fail to find them. May the Lord deign to anoint our eyes with that eyesalve that shall cleanse them from all film, and enable us to see "wondrous things" in this holy Word.

With this in view, I cannot esteem necessary any lengthy attempt to show the unity of the whole book in the single authorship of its threefold parts. For 2,000 years and more there was not a whisper of a "Second Isaiah," or (since no one has ever discovered to whom these marvelous pages could be attributed), "The Great Unknown."

In the eighteenth century there arose a school of theologians, mostly residing in Germany, comprising names that have since become notorious, rather than famous, among all who love and reverence the Bible, as Eichorn, Paulus, Hitzig, Nobel and others, whom we can but class with those keen-witted false prophets that our enemy constantly sends out into the world to offset the grace of God. For just before the time of their appearing, Wesley, Whitefield, Watts, Doddridge, Venn, and a host of kindred-spirited evangelists had been commissioned to go over all the earth with the gospel of Christ. Then later the modern "Tubingen School" (as it is called, since most of its adherents were connected with the university of that name) sent out its poison marked with that sure evidence of its Satanic source by claiming superior insight, a higher degree of candor and knowledge, generally, enwrapped in the appropriated name of "Higher Criticism."

But it must not be thought that it is because investigation as to the genuineness of this part of the book is feared or shirked that it is not taken up. Christian scholars, certainly not less entitled to respect, both on account of their ability and of their integrity, than those with German names as given above (and indeed, including many from that country, as Keil, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg and many others) have followed patiently all the arguments of these opponents of truth, have analyzed them, and torn them to shreds.*

For us the clear testimony of the prophets, apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament will be all that we need. John Baptist testified of himself as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, as said the prophet Esaias." That is, not "The Great Unknown," but the well-known Isaiah wrote the words in chapter 40. This is followed by Luke 4:17-21 , the Lord Jesus Himself distinctly confirming the genuineness of chapter 61. Then comes Matthew 8:17 and John 12:37-41 . As to Acts 8:26-40 , Birks writes:

If these verses which the eunuch was reading are not Isaiah's, and do not really predict the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, but are a doubtful guess at the sufferings of Israel by a nameless writer in the days of Cyrus  —what conclusion will follow? The eunuch would have been deceived and taught a double falsehood by a conspiracy of no less than three parties, the evangelist Philip, an angel of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit of God! This grand religious fraud would then have been the first step in the conversion of Ethiopia to the Christian faith!
Paul adds his voice to the sure truth in his letter to the Romans (10:16-21). One feels that to pursue the theme further would be an unjustifiable waste of time.

The root of the attack really lies in the determination of the human will to eliminate God from His creation altogether. Admit that God is, and can be active in the affairs of men, and all such difficulties disappear. Take the simplest and clearest "proofs" of the impossibility of Isaiah having written this part of the book that has borne his name. How could Isaiah speak as if he himself were one of the captives in Babylon, whereas when he wrote Israel was not there at all? Our opponents say: "It is a first principle that the historical horizon of a prophet belongs to his own time. He takes his stand in his own generation and looks onward from it," which is a piece of reasoning quite worthy of self-styled Rationalism; for putting this into plain English it means that being a prophet he cannot see beyond the horizon of his own times! For, if he can, where is the limitation of his Vision?

But we are even told the very name of the man who should decree the building of the city and the house, long before he came into existence! Marvelous beyond credence, is it not? that God, who could call all worlds into being, whose every attribute is without limit, should be able to foreknow what lay two hundred years in the future for His people Israel, and by His Spirit actually communicate the name that a man should bear before he was born! That is far too great a strain on the credulity of, and is detected at once as evidence of fraud by, the keen intellect of Rationalism!

But even as to this name of Cyrus, hear what Josephus, the Jewish historian, writes: "Now Cyrus learned this (as to building the House) by reading the book that Isaiah had left of his own prophecies 210 years before. . . . These things Isaiah foretold 140 years before the temple was destroyed. When Cyrus therefore had read them, and had admired their divine character, an impulse and emulation seized him to do what was written."

With this the first verses of Ezra come into line: "Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem."

It is therefore certain that whoever wrote that prophecy wrote it before, and long before, Cyrus was born, or the fraud would have been transparent; but who but God could possibly be the Author of such a prophecy, let the human hand be whose it may? How well Delitzsch writes of this blatant, self-styled Rationalism:

Modern criticism visits all who dare assert that Isaiah was indeed the human writer with the double ban of want of science and want of conscience. No prophecies find any favor in its eyes save such as can be naturally explained. It knows exactly how far a prophet can see, and where he must stand in order to see so far. But we are not tempted at all to purchase such omniscience at the price of the supernatural.
We will then leave this question of authorship, and if the learned rationalists of our day prefer to call him "The Great Unknown," we shall adopt the words of the Holy Ghost used in another connection, and say, "Whom ye thus ignorantly name has been declared to us as Isaiah." For that is the only name among men that by its very significance fits the contents of this "third part of the book." Does it not mean "The salvation of Jehovah"? And might not these chapters from 40 to 66 be so entitled, and to have as its author, one whose significant name expresses it? In these "the salvation of Jehovah" is more clearly set forth than in any other of the Old Testament pages.

Further, there is peculiar and inimitable beauty in the numerical structure of this third part that, apart from all other proof (and this abounds), bears on it evidence of its perfect unity with the parts that have preceded it. It is not too much to say that the three subdivisions of this third division are divinely marked out for us. Twice we get the words, "There is no Peace, saith my God to the wicked," marking the termination of the first and second parts by the inerrant Finger of God.

This imprint of the number of divine manifestation, "three," is even more marked in this later part than anywhere else. I have already noted that Delitzsch** gives a testimony as to this that is of peculiar value, since he draws no deductions from it, and is apparently unaware of the striking value of what he finds, so that none can say with regard to these writers that they have first put in what they afterwards take out, for they apparently did not discern what was in.

Three! Why, here we have not only one three, but this raised again and again to ever higher powers: three main divisions of this third division, and each one of this three itself divided into three  —and these again similarly subdivided into three.

I am not unaware that this will be met with a shrug, and perhaps with a pitying smile by many; but they might as well assume to pity those who with gladness discern the beauties of His works impressed on all nature, and the closer studied, the more clearly discerned  —from those constellations that pursue their march through the heavens, down to the invisible diatom; the aid of the telescope on the one side and the microscope on the other only revealing perfections of His unrivalled Fingerprints, not discernible to nature's vision. That same bond of perfection that binds in unity all nature, also binds together the parts of our book, although it may, and does need, more than nature's powers to discern them.

Let me then repeat that God Himself has put His Fingerprint on this part of the book in the divisions. It is composed of 27 chapters divided into three threes each, thus:

1: Chapters 40 to 48, closed by the words, "No peace to the wicked."
2: Chapters 49 to 57, closed by the words, "No peace to the wicked."
3: Chapters 58 to 66, closed by the same finality of "No peace to the wicked" in Gehenna.

The subdivisions of the first are:

1: Chapters 40 to 43:13.
2: Chapters 43:14 to 45:25.
3: Chapters 46 to 48.

But once again, take the first of these subdivisions, and we find three sub-sections there:

1: Chapter 40,
2: Chapter 41.
3: Chapters 42 to 43:13.

Let the reader consider for himself chapter 40, and can he fail to discern again three divisions?

1: Verses 1-11: The God of all comfort speaks to Israel.
2: Verses 12-26: Contrast with vain idols.
3: Verses 27-31: Divine strength manifested in weakness.

Yet even once again note the clear threefold division in verses 1 to 11, marked by three voices:

1: Verses 1, 2: The "voice" of comfort from Jehovah.
2: Verses 3-8: The "voice" in the wilderness, telling of contrast; frail man and the eternal Word.
3: Verses 9-11: The voice of Jerusalem, "Behold your God."

Surely so marvelous a structure, such a succession of trinities, can no more be attributed to chance or mere coincidence than the structure of a flower or of a butterfly's wing. The true Author is neither a first nor second Isaiah, but God.


Footnotes:

*As an illustration of this Birks notes, "Forty words, even under the first letter of the alphabet alone, in which the later resemble the earlier prophecies of Isaiah, and which do not appear at all, with one or two slight exceptions, in the writings which are known to belong to the time of the exile, or the return from Babylon. . . . The verbal argument, on which the modern theory has relied in the teeth of all external evidence, when once fairly and inductively examined, is a powerful refutation of the hypothesis of a Deutero-Isaiah."

** And with him this scheme is adopted by Havernick, Hahn, Ruckert, and, among our more modern English writers, Darby, Kelly, and very many more.