Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 1

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

Verse 1

Book Comments

Walking Thru The Bible



Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament more than any other prophet. There are more than 250 allusions to Isaiah’s prophesies. The New Testament says that Isaiah "saw the glory of Christ and spoke of him" John 12:41.

Isaiah’s name "Yesha-Yahu" (Salvation is of Yahweh) is almost identical in meaning with Joshua (Yahweh is Salvation), which in the New Testament corresponds to "Jesus."

[Graphic Chart]

Isaiah -- The Man

Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the 8th century BC. It was during his ministry that the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians. It was a critical time for Judah for the Assyrians were threatening them also. The prophet Hosea had been preaching in Israel before its fall and Micah was a contemporary prophet with Isaiah in Judah.

Isaiah lived in Jerusalem with his wife and two children to whom he gave significant names (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:3). The prominence of his father is seen in that the prophet is often called "the son of Amoz" (13 times). The Rabbis taught that Isaiah’s father was a brother of King Amaziah, and thus Isaiah would be a first cousin to King Uzziah and of royal blood.

Isaiah was well-educated and aware of the international political scene. His wisdom from God was respected by Hezekiah and he served him as a kind of court-prophet.

A tradition in the Talmud states that Isaiah when an old man denounced Manasseh’s idolatrous decrees and being put inside a hollow log was "sawn asunder" (2 Kings 21:16; Hebrews 11:37).

Isaiah -- The Author

The fabulous book of Isaiah contains 66 chapters. Radical critics in the last century have generally conceded that Isaiah may have written chps 1-39, but argued that chps 40-66 was added by someone else later. These are critics who reject the idea that Isaiah could have prophesied so clearly about Christ.

There is no clearer evidence for the unity of Isaiah, however than the testimony of Christ and the writers of the NT. They quote from all sections of Isaiah’s book and simply attribute it to Isaiah. (In John 12:37-41, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 6 in the same breath, crediting the prophet with both statements, even joining the two passages by saying, "Isaiah said again..." (vs. 39).

Isaiah -- His Work

A main theme running through the Book is that God is sending either judgments or comforts, depending on how people respond to Him.

I. Visions of Judgment 1-39 (39 number of books in OT)

A. The Denunciation of Judah and Jerusalem 1-12

B. The Denunciation of foreign nations 13-27

C. The Denunciation in "Woes" 28-35

D. The Denunciation of Sennacherib 36-39*

II. Visions of Comfort 40-66 (27 number of books in NT)

A. The Deliverance -- 40-48

From impending Babylonian Captivity

B. The Deliverer -- 49-57

The Lord’s suffering servant

C. The Delivered -- 58-66

The coming glory

[* Chps 36-39 is a historical narrative of some events in the reign of Hezekiah and the invasion of Sennacherib.]

Isaiah -- His Message

The northern kingdom of Israel became immersed in idolatry and carnality and falls to Assyria in 722 BC. The threat of invasion from Assyria is real to Judah as well. Isaiah rebukes the nation’s leadership for looking to political alliances with Egypt and others for security instead of trusting in the Lord.

Isaiah charges the people of Jerusalem with sin and impiety as the cause of their troubles. Social injustice was rampant in the land, with rich landowners exploiting the poor (Isaiah 5:8). Spiritual life was at a low ebb, with both priests and prophets flattering the wealthy in hope of gain (Isaiah 56:10-12); cf. Micah 3:11). Jerusalem itself was a boiling pot of political factions, intrigue, and corruption.

The prophet pleaded for repentance and genuine reformation of life (Isaiah 1:16-17). Isaiah foretells of the captivity in Babylon but prophecies of deliverance and a coming glory. He looks beyond all the events of his own troubled time to the coming, suffering, and reign of the Messiah.

Isaiah -- The Messianic Prophet

Isaiah earns this title because he increased significantly the awareness of the coming Christ. Interlaced through his messages are glorious glimpses of one who will be the Redeemer of God’s people. A few are:

1. There is the prophecy of Immanuel’s birth to a virgin in Isaiah 7:14. The Apostle Matthew certifies this passage is fulfilled in the birth of jesus (Matthew 1:22-23).

2. The rejection of the Lord (Christ) as a "stone of stumbling" and "rock of offense" is predicted in Isaiah 8:13-14. See the Apostle Peter’s reference in 1 Peter 2:8, 1 Peter 3:14.

3. The benevolence and universality of the Messiah’s reign during the Christian age is vividly portrayed in Isaiah 11:1-11. Note how the Apostle Paul uses this in Romans 15:12.

4. The precious, tried, sure foundation corner-stone to be laid in Zion is viewed in Isaiah 28:16, and referred to on several occasions in the NT (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6).

5. In Isaiah 40:3-5 we have a preview of John the Baptist and his preparatory work for the One who came to reveal the "glory of the Lord" to "all flesh." (Note Matthew 3:3).

6. The Lord’s compassionate and just mission is stressed in Isaiah 42:1-4 (See Matthew 12:18-21).

7. Isaiah 53 (Isaiah 53:1-12 )is a veritable galaxy of prophecies pointing to the atoning work of the Savior and many details connected with it (Acts 8:32-35; John 12:38, etc.)


1. If God is GOD then he is able to see the end from the beginning and declare it to his prophets (Isaiah 46:9-10; Isaiah 48:5). To reject predictive prophecy which has been fulfilled clearly and in detail years after the prediction (and said by inspiration to be the fulfillment) is to reject GOD, and vice versa.

2. Sin and wickedness always brings God’s disfavor.

3. The Lord has always wanted his people to put their trust in Him and not in the forces of politics.

4. God’s great plan has been to redeem man from sin. The promise was given to people long ago and we can enjoy that redemption which is in Christ Jesus.




1. Isaiah gives an inspired picture of what God’s Son would look like, He is called "The Suffering Servant".

2. In the section we have three paragraphs, each giving us a different pose. It begins with "Behold"-- Stop!! look, see!

I. The Faithful Servant Isaiah 52:13-15

1. He volunteered to be a servant -- Philippians 2:7.

2. He was a faithful servant or steward.

5. A servant that would startle many. Mark 6:2

II. The Divine Sufferer Isaiah 53:1-3

1. A proverb of his background -- John 1:46

2. King without pomp -- cf. Acts 25

3. Undesired and despised.

4. Unreceived and rejected -- John 15:25; John 17:15

5. A Man of Holiness, acquainted with grief, without esteem.

III. The Sinless Substitute Isaiah 53:4-6

1. No other substitute fitting.

3. He took our place.

4. Beaten and insulted.

5. Bruised and crushed.

6. "God laid on him the iniquity of us all."

7. Cut off for our transgressions.


1. Three paragraphs and three poses of Jesus our Savior.

2. All we like sheep have gone astray.

3. What do we see as we look at His picture?

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Verse Comments

kings of Judah -- The full reigns of all four kings covers a period of about a century (790–687 bc). The reference to Uzziah’s death in Isa 6:1 suggests Isaiah’s ministry started around 740 bc. Compare Hosea 1:1 and note.

Verse 2

1:2–20 Yahweh formally brings a legal suit against Judah for a breach of contract (breaking their covenant with Him). The accusation appears in Isa 1:2–3, followed by a direct address to the people outlining the charges detailed in vv. 4–20.

1:2 heavens, and listen, earth -- Heaven and earth are called to witness God’s accusation against Israel. The word pair can be read as figure of speech (a merism) invoking all of creation.

merism : An expression using contrasting parts to indicate totality, e.g. “head to toe” or “heaven and earth.”

I reared children --God is emphasizing His role as caretaker or master over Israel’s well-being; He cared for them like a father.

rebelled --The Hebrew word for “rebel” is elsewhere used to describe political rebellion (see 2 Kings 3:5-7). It indicates a breach of contract—when someone has not fulfilled his or her contractual obligation.

Verse 3

1:3 An ox knows its owner -- God’s children have shown less sense and loyalty than stubborn farm animals, who at least recognize their master’s role in providing for them.

Israel -- Here, “Israel” refers to God’s people generally, not just the northern kingdom. The vision is addressed to Judah and Jerusalem, the southern kingdom.

Verse 4

1:4 children -- Indicates that those being addressed are connected to God’s rebellious children in Isa 1:2.

the holy one of Israel -- This title for God is frequently used in Isaiah to emphasize the holiness of God. Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6:1-13 may have profoundly impacted his vision of God, and led him to stress this aspect as central to God’s identity.

Isaiah develops a portrait of God as all powerful and greater than other so-called gods. The title also emphasizes God’s separateness and otherness compared to His creation (Hosea 11:9), and His demands for moral perfection and ritual cleanness (Leviticus 19:2). Isaiah’s dismay in Isa 6:5 is related to his awareness of his own uncleanness for standing before that which was most holy.

Verse 5

again -- Emphasizes Israel’s continued rebelliousness, which will provoke even more punishment against the already weakened nation.

Verse 6

1:6 the sole of the foot and up to the head -- The corporal punishment has been meted out head to toe. All levels of society will be affected by this judgment—from leadership to the common people. In Isaiah 9:14-15, a similar metaphor is used to emphasize how Israel’s leaders failed her, from the elders and judges to the prophets who misled with lies.

bruise and sore and bleeding wound - Depicts Israel as a person who is badly beaten from head to toe, yet stubbornly refuses to get help.

Verse 7

1:7 cities are burned with fire -- Assyrian annals indicate that Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 bc left 46 cities under siege or destroyed.

devastation by foreigners -- This verse may contain an allusion (or indirect reference) to God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen 19. The Hebrew word mahpekhah (“overthrown”) is used elsewhere in the ot only to refer to God’s overthrow of those cities.

Another link to Sodom arises from the possibility that this second use of the Hebrew word zarim (“strangers, foreigners”) at the end of the verse could be a scribal error for the similarly spelled “Sodom.” This possibility produces the reading “like overthrown Sodom” for the final words of this verse.

Verse 8

1:8 Zion -- Another name for Jerusalem, “Zion” symbolized God’s choice of the city as His dwelling.

the daughter of Zion -- Refers to Jerusalem. The city surrounded Zion and the temple—Yahweh’s dwelling place in their midst.

a booth in a vineyard -- The image of a temporary structure alone in the middle of a field emphasizes Jerusalem’s precarious position: after Assyria’s campaign against Judah in 701 bc, Jerusalem was weakened—but still standing.

like a city that is besieged -- In his annals, Sennacherib claims that he left Hezekiah trapped “like a bird in a cage.”

Verse 9

1:9 survivors, we would have been as few -- The fate of Judah’s survivors is a key theme of Isaiah (see Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah emphasizes that a remnant of Israel is left only because of God’s grace.

Yahweh of hosts -- This is a common title for God in Isaiah. It occurs over 50 times. God is commander-in-chief of the heavenly armies.

as Sodom -- God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness (Gen 19). The prophets frequently referenced the cities to illustrate what God’s judgment looks like (see Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Amos 4:11; Zephaniah 2:9).

Verse 10

1:10 the word of Yahweh -- The prophets frequently used this phrase to legitimize their message: It is from God, not of their own making.

rulers of Sodom -- Isaiah both addresses and insults the leaders of Judah with this reference to Sodom—a proverbially wicked city (see note on Isaiah 1:9).

Verse 11

1:11–14 The prophets often criticized outward observance of rites and rituals when the people used it to mask inward rebellion, defiance, or disloyalty to Yahweh (compare 1 Samuel 15:22; Amos 4:4-5; Micah 6:6-8).

1:11 the abundance of your sacrifices -- An increase in offerings is meaningless without a change in attitude. The sacrifice represented Israel’s relationship of dependence on Yahweh. There was no point in going through the motions if they had abandoned that dependence—either through idolatry or pride in their self-sufficiency.

the fat of fattened animals -- The fat and the blood are the most important parts of the offering (Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 3:3-4).

burnt offerings of God’s insistence that He does not want burnt offerings would be surprising to the people of Judah. Leviticus 1 praises the burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to Yahweh (Leviticus 1:9).

the blood of bulls -- The fat and the blood are the most important parts of the offering (Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 3:3-4).

Verse 12

this from your hand: you trampling my courts -- Ironically, the people of Judah believed God required the elaborate sacrificial system now being condemned

Verse 13

1:13 new moon -- Israel’s holy days included sacrifices for the new moon (Numbers 28:11-15). The new moon also represented an occasion for ritual feasting (1 Sam 20:5, 24). Work and travel was prohibited, similar to a Sabbath observance (2 Kings 4:23).

Sabbath --The weekly Sabbath was the central observance of sacred time in ancient Israel. Leviticus specifically commands that no work is to be done on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3).

the calling of a convocation -- Biblical law required three major festivals or convocations where all of Israel gathered to worship Yahweh. Leviticus 23:4-44 describes these festivals: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles).

Verse 14

1:14 new moons and your appointed festivals -- The observance of the new moon was important for keeping an accurate calendar and ensuring the feasts were celebrated at the proper time.

my soul hates -- God hates Israel’s empty religiosity in the very core of His being. The Hebrew word used here is commonly translated “soul” but more frequently used with reference to the life essence of a person. In some cases, “my soul” can simply mean “I.”

Verse 15

1:15 Your hands are full of blood -- Like sacrifices, prayers are pointless and ineffective due to the people’s rebellious attitudes and actions. “Blood” may refer to literal violence and murder, ritual uncleanness from improper animal sacrifice, or metaphorical staining from sinful attitudes (compare Isaiah 59:3).

Blood symbolizes the essence of life—both human and animal. The sacred nature of blood is reflected in three major concerns of the ot: the prohibition of murder (Genesis 4:10), the prohibition of consuming blood (Genesis 9:4), and its role as the central element of animal sacrifice (Leviticus 1:5). Isaiah’s use of this image seems to invoke both the prohibition against murder and the sacred nature of sacrificial blood. The tirade against Israel’s useless ritual observances and sacrifices in Isaiah 1:11-14 culminates in the pronouncement that their hands are full of blood. The leaders of Israel are both guilty of unjust bloodshed and ineffective (and hence, unnecessary) shedding of animal blood in sacrifice.

Verse 16

1:16 Remove the evil of your doings -- God calls for inward repentance after condemning the empty efforts of outward observance in vv. 11–15.

Verse 17

1:17 Defend the orphan -- Righteous leadership always involves fair treatment of the weakest members of society—orphans, widows, and immigrants. This concern is evident in the Law (Deuteronomy 24:17), the Prophets (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:6; Zechariah 7:10), and Wisdom literature (Job 31:16-18).

Verse 18

1:18 let us argue -- The Hebrew verb here carries the sense of “to argue” or “to prove” in a legal context (see Job 23:7). It does not carry the sense of rational logic implied by the English “reason.”

scarlet -- The colors scarlet, red, and crimson call to mind the blood of Isaiah 1:15. The contrast with the white of snow and wool (symbolizing purity) reinforces the status of the people as impure and unclean because of their sins, which included injustice, bloodshed, and improper sacrifice.

Verse 19

1:19 the good of the land -- Obedience equals blessing, but disobedience equals judgment. The choice is also summarized in Deuteronomy 30:15-18.

Verse 20

1:20 the mouth of Yahweh has spoken Indicates the end of this section of accusation, and marks a transition to a lament over Zion. The phrase is used in Isaiah 40:5 and Isaiah 58:14 to link later oracles of restoration back to this choice.

Verse 21

1:21–31 Jerusalem—the faithful city—has turned away from God (v. 21). Its rulers and its riches have become corrupt and require purification by fire (v. 25), which will result in the city’s restoration (v. 26). Zion will be redeemed, but those who corrupt her will be punished (vv. 27–31)

1:21 How has a faithful city become like a whore? --The Hebrew interjection here indicates the beginning of a new poem. The interjection also formally marks the poem as a “lament.”

has a faithful city become like a whore -- Israel’s unfaithfulness to God was tantamount to adultery. The prophets regularly compare God’s covenant with Israel to a marriage contract between husband and wife (Jeremiah 3:6-10; Ezek 16; Hosea 1:2). This image was typically used to shock God’s people into recognizing the seriousness of their rebellion.

Verse 23

They do not defend the orphan -- See note on Isaiah 1:17. The rulers are not following God’s standard of justice in caring for widows and orphans.

Verse 24

1:24 the Mighty One of Israel -- A unique variation on the poetic title for God as the “Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; Psalms 132:2; Genesis 49:24).

my enemies -- God is referring to His own unfaithful people as “enemies” and “foes.”

Verse 26

1:26 the first -- This Hebrew term takes on special significance in Isa 40–55. There, the message of consolation is contrasted with the earlier message of judgment (see Isaiah 42:9). God’s redemption is often described as restoring things to their former state, before they were polluted by sin.

the city of righteousness, faithful city -- The judgment is necessary to purge and purify Jerusalem, and restore its former righteousness and faithfulness.

Verse 27

1:27 will be redeemed by justice -- Isaiah 4:4 suggests God is the agent of redemption that comes through a “spirit of judgment.”

those of her who repent -- Since this Hebrew word can mean both “to repent” and “to return,” this verse may refer either to those who repent or to those who have returned to Jerusalem after the exile. In the Septuagint, the term is understood as “her captives”—another possible reading of the word.

Septuagint: The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (Genesis—Malachi) begun around 250 bc. Sometimes abbreviated with the Roman numeral for 70 (lxx) based on the tradition that 70 translators participated.

Verse 29

the gardens --The references to oak or terebinth trees and gardens likely allude to Canaanite religious practices, possibly including the Asherah poles that Hezekiah cut down in 2 Kings 18:4.

Verse 30

like an oak withering its leaves -- The metaphor is extended from religious practices to the biological impact of cutting a garden off from its source of life.

Verse 31

there is not one to quench -- Both the rebellious leaders of Judah and the product of their labor (idols for worship) will be destroyed in the judgment to come.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Isaiah 1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/isaiah-1.html. 2021.
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