Lynellen Perry Feb. 22, 1991 OT Criticism
Analysis of Isaiah 40 - 66
John L. McKenzie (Second Isaiah, Anchor Bible) states: ". . . the vocabulary alone is not decisive. Nor is the style alone any more decisive. What is decisive-- for chapters 40-66 as a whole . . . is that the work moves in a different world of discourse from that of First Isaiah" (xvi). True, the work moves in a different world, for it is the prophecy of comfort and return from a land which should have been the death of the Israelite race due to assimilation. But the only shift from the supposed "First Isaiah" to the "Second Isaiah" is "one of perspective from present time to future time" (Open Bible, 654). All 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah were written by one man, before the Exile.
It is true that, if considered alone, chapters 40-66 appear to be set against a Neo-Babylonian period. Chapter 40, verse 2 sounds as if the Exile has occurred, as does 40:23-35 and 47:6. "He will build My city, and will let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward," says 45:13, and the exiles are being brought back to Israel from all the corners of the earth in 43:5-6. Babylon is mentioned by name in 43:14 which says that God has sent to Babylon to bring it down. Babylon is also mentioned in 47:1 and 48:14. "But Babylon is mentioned more than twice as often in 1-39 as in 40-66" (Open Bible, 654). Cyrus is even mentioned by name in 44:28 and 45:1. But to say that Isaiah could not have prophesied so accurately 150 years in advance is to assume that divine prophesy is impossible and "cannot explain the amazing messianic prophecies of Isaiah that were literally fulfilled in the life of Christ" some 700 years later (Open Bible, 654). So the accurate description of God's comfort in the future should not be misread to mean that someone else wrote the chapters after they occurred.
In addition, there are several facts that show that all of Isaiah was written before the Exile. The first of these is that the sacrificial system still seems to be in operation, which it would not have been during the Exile and for a number of years after the return. Isaiah 56:7 talks of foreigners who have joined themselves to the LORD bringing acceptable burnt offerings and sacrifices to God's altar. 66:21-22 mention the grain offering and the taking of sons of Israel for priests and Levites. The perversion of the sacrificial system is also shown in 43:22-24, 65:2 and 66:3 which talk of incorrectly done sacrifices or the sacrifice of improper things. God hates "robbery in the burnt offering" (61:8).
The second indication of pre-exilic authorship is that the writer show concern for the disadvantaged just like the historical Isaiah. The LORD Himself answers the afflicted and needy and provides water for them in 41:17-18; the bound are set free, those in darkness will be seen, they will be fed and have water, the sun will not scorch them (49:9-10); the poor are provided for in 54:11-15 and 55:1; in 58:6-7, the disadvantaged are cared for by the LORD in various ways, as they are in 61:1-3. The lack of Israel's care for widows, orphans, the poor and the oppressed are signs of pre-exilic moral decay and these chapters also contain a call to Israel to repent and correct her ways. The deaf are begged to hear and the blind to see (42:18, 23), Israel is asked to remember God, report to Him and to side with Him (43:26), and to return to God (44:22). "Turn to Me, and be saved," says 45:22. Isaiah 48:17-19 tells what it would have been like if Israel had followed the ways that God had taught them and 55:6-7 makes a very explicit call for repentance, with the promise that God will abundantly pardon.
The third evidence that these chapters are pre-exilic is that idolatry is a problem. As Dr. Bullock said, "The Exile cured Israel of idolatry." But alas, we see the making of idols of wood, gold and silver in 40:18-20, God's praise being given to graven images (42:8), and trust put in these idols (42:17). Chapter 44, verses 9- 20 tell of the same tree being used to make a fire to cook food and to make an idol to worship. Idols and false worship are also talked about in 45:16,20; 46:5-7; 48:5; the whole first half of chapter 57; and 65:7.
Although the unity of Isaiah has been challenged on the basis of language, style and theology of the two sections, it's unity is supported by the book of Ecclesiasticus, the Septuagint, the Talmud, and the New Testament (Open Bible, 654). Further, the unity is supported by the facts mentioned in this paper and the internal similarities between the sections including the "thoughts, images, rhetorical ornaments, characteristic expressions, and local coloring . . . If 40-66 was written by another prophet after the events took places, it is a misleading and deceptive work" (Open Bible, 654) and that will never do for a book of the Bible-- God's inspired and written revelation to man.