Have you wondered whether the Hebrew prophets wrote down revelations precisely as God gave them, or whether they added their own thoughts and ideas? Isaiah, for example, was a literary genius as well as an inspired prophet of God. His writings exhibit many layered literary devices. These mechanics of prophesying show an amazing deliberation in how he organized his revelations. As their intent was to communicate the most truth in as few words as possible, Isaiah used all literary forms of the ancient Near East, adapting them for his own prophetic purpose. Although he built on the foundation of previous prophets, he exceeded those before and after. Some say there lived more than one “Isaiah.” However, his book’s layered literary features refute that.
One literary technique Isaiah uses is to predict end-time events that resemble ancient events. In fact, Isaiah limits himself to that method of prophesying. In that way, his predictions stay grounded in the Hebrew prophetic tradition and always appear familiar. In practice, it means that whatever set a precedent in the past may qualify as a type or pattern of the future. Upon such types Isaiah builds his predictions. When he mentions an ancient person or nation by name, for example, that person or nation set a precedent that typifies something in the end-time. We say history repeats itself. But because not everything that happened in the past follows this pattern, Isaiah uses history selectively, depending on whether he knows something similar is going to occur again.
More than thirty new versions of ancient events appear in Isaiah’s writings, repeating every major event in Israel’s history. Although Isaiah disperses their predictions throughout his book, he interconnects them like dominos. One passage, for example, may contain a combination of several events while another will use a different combination. In the end, all are accounted for—a new chaos, creation, paradise, Sodom-and-Gomorrah destruction, bondage, Passover, exodus, wandering in the wilderness, conquest of the land, inheritance of the land, rebuilding of the temple, and so forth. Although all these events re-occur, their order differs as the world relives Israel’s history in one grand end-time scenario. Indeed, that very scenario is what defines the “end-time.”
This repetition of history as Isaiah predicts it involves all of humanity. But it isn’t Isaiah’s scenario. Unlike human prognosticators—who have little or no idea of what lies ahead—Israel’s God foretells “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). He orchestrates human history in such a way that the end is contained in the beginning. The former events he brought to pass, in other words, foreshadow end-time events. That capability, says Israel’s God, proves his divinity. When those ancient events re-occur, people will have no further excuse for not minding Isaiah’s warning. In fact, a reassuring thing about prior persons and events typifying future ones is that they help discern counterfeits—things that aren’t of God, that deviate from the patterns of the past.
(Taken from Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah, pp 4–6)