INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH
This book is called, in the New Testament, sometimes "the Book of the Words of the Prophet Esaias", Luke 3:4 sometimes only the "Prophet Esaias", Acts 8:28 and sometimes, as here, the "Book of the Prophet Esaias", Luke 4:17. In the Syriac version the title is, "the Prophecy of Isaiah the Son of Amos": and in the Arabic version, "the Beginning of the Prophecy of Isaiah the Prophet". It stands first of all the prophets; though the order of the prophets, according to the JewsF1T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 14. 2. , is, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve. But it is here placed first, not because Isaiah prophesied before the other prophets; for Joel, Jonah, Hosea, and Amos, begun before him, namely, in or before the days of Jeroboam the Second; but because of the excellency of the matter contained in it. Isaiah is called by Ben SyraF2Ecclesiasticus, ch. xlviii. ver. 22. the great prophet, and by EusebiusF3Demonstrat, Evangel. l. 5. c. 4. inscript. p. 225. the greatest of the prophets; and JeromF4Adv. Ruffinum, fol. 76. D. tom. 2. ad Paulam & Eustechium, fol. 8. M. tom. 3. a says, he should rather be called an evangelist than a prophet, since he seems rather to write a history of things past, than to prophesy of things to come; yea, he styles him an apostle, as well as an evangelistF5Prooem. in Es. fol. 2. B. tom. 5. : and certain it is that no one writes so fully and clearly of the person, offices, grace, and kingdom of Christ; of his incarnation and birth of a virgin; of his sufferings and death, and the glory that should follow, as he does. John, the forerunner of Christ, began his ministry with a passage out of him concerning himself, Matthew 3:3. Our Lord preached his first sermon at Nazareth out of this book, Luke 4:17 and it was in this the eunuch was reading when Philip came up to him, who from the same Scripture preached to him Christ, Acts 8:28. And there are more citations in the New Testament made out of this prophecy than any other book, excepting the book of Psalms, as Musculus observes. To which may be added, as another reason, the elegance and sublimity of his style in which he exceeds the greatest of orators, Demosthenes among the Greeks, and Tully among the Romans; and this is observed both by Jews and Christians. AbarbinelF6Comment. in Proph. Poster. fol. 1. 2. says, that the purity, and elegance of his diction is like that of kings and counsellors, who speak more purely and elegantly than other men: hence their Rabbins, he says, compare Isaiah to a citizen, and Ezekiel to a countryman. And JeromF7Ad Paulam, ut supra, (& Eustechium, fol. 8. M. tom. 3.) observes, that Isaiah is so eloquent and polite, that there is nothing of rusticity in his language; and that his style is so florid, that a translation cannot preserve it. Moreover, another reason of this book being placed first may be the bulk of it; it being larger, and containing more chapters, than any of the greater prophets, and almost as many as all the lesser prophets put together. That Isaiah was the writer of this book is not to be questioned; many of the prophecies in it are by name ascribed to him, Matthew 13:14 though some others might be the compilers of it, collect his prophecies, and digest them in order: so the Jews sayF8T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 15. 1. , that Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, &c. At what time, and in whose days he prophesied, may be learnt from Isaiah 1:1 by which it appears that he prophesied long, and lived to a good old age. He began to prophesy about A. M. 3236, and about seven hundred and seventy years before Christ. Abulpharagius, an Arabic writer, saysF9Hist. Dynast. p. 43. , he lived an hundred and twenty years, eighty five of which he prophesied. It is a generally received tradition with the Jews, that he lived to the time of Manasseh, and that he was sawn asunder by him; and which has been embraced by the ancient Christian writers, and is thought to be referred to in Hebrews 11:37. See Gill on Hebrews 11:37. But Aben Ezra on Isaiah 1:1 observes, that had he lived to the time of Manasseh, it would have been written, and is of opinion that he died in Hezekiah's time. According to the Cippi HebraiciF11P. 11. Ed. Hottinger. , he was buried at Tekoah, over whose grave a beautiful monument was erected; though EpiphaniusF12De Vitis Prophet. c. 7. & Isidor. Hispalens. de Vit. & Mort. Sanct. c. 37. , or the author of the Lives of the Prophets that go by his name, says he was buried under the oak of Rogel, near the fountain of Siloam; and it is a tradition with the Syriac writers, that his body lay hid in the waters of Siloah; See Gill on John 5:4 but these are things not to be depended on; and alike fabulous are all other writings ascribed to him, besides this prophecy; as what are called the ascension of Isaiah, the vision of Isaiah, and the conference of Isaiah. This book contains some things historical, but chiefly prophetic; of which some relate to the punishment of the Jews, and other nations; but for the most part are evangelical, and concern the kingdom and grace of Christ; of which some are delivered out more clearly and perspicuously, and others more obscurely, under the type of the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity.