The Structure of the Book of Isaiah

In September, 2010, I gave a series of 7 talks on the book of Isaiah at “Word Works”, a conference organised by the Malaysia Gospel Growth Fellowship. The aim of the talks was to give an overview of Isaiah with a view to helping people read this part of the Bible for themselves. I’ll be publishing the talks soon; to help people digest the talks, I’m posting here my structure for the book of Isaiah which I referred to throughout the conference. You can also download the table as a PDF.

Section of book Key date Key historical crisis Bible references to key historical crisis Choice created by key historical crisis
Chs 1-12 734 BC Alliance of Ephraim* and Syria against Judah** Isaiah 7

2 Kings 16

Ask Assyria for help
OR
Rely on the Lord?
Chs 13-27 713-711 BC Philistine revolt against Assyria, backed by Egypt Isaiah 20 Join the nations
OR
Rely on the Lord?
Chs 28-35 ~ 704 BC Judah’s revolt against Assyria led by Hezekiah and aided by Egypt Isaiah 31:1

2 Kings 18:7-8

Rely on Egypt for help
OR
Rely on the Lord?
Chs 36-37

(Historical pivot, pointing back)

701 BC Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (Zion) Isaiah 36-39

2 Kings 18:13-19:37

Give in to Assyria
OR
Rely on the Lord?
Chs 38-39

(Historical pivot, pointing forward)

587 BC Babylonian exile foreshadowed by arrival of Babylonian envoys 2 Kings 20:1-19

2 Kings 25

Make alliance with Babylon
OR
Rely on the Lord?
Ch 40 – 51:11 537 BC Persian king Cyrus conquers Babylon and issues decree for Judah to return home Isaiah 45:1-4

Ezra 1:1-4

Stay in exile (with Babylonian idols)
OR
Return home to the Lord?
51:12 – Ch 55 537-516 BC Initial return of Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem (Zion) Isaiah 52:7-12

Ezra 1:5-11

Wake up and receive God’s salvation!
Chs 56-66 516 BC Rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (Zion) Isaiah 64:11-12

Ezra Ch. 3, 5:1-2, Ch. 6

Back to the old days
OR
Live in the light of the final glory?

*Ephraim is another name for the northern kingdom of Israel, because it was the major tribe
**Judah is the southern kingdom of Israel

Adapted from Webb, Barry G. W. “Zion in Transformation: a Literary Approach to Isaiah.” Pages 65-84 in The Bible in three dimensions: essays in celebration of forty years of Biblical studies in the University of Sheffield. Edited by David J. A. Clines, Stephen E. Fowl, and Stanley E. Porter. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.

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