Questions & Answers
Dr. Avraham Gileadi will answer your most searching questions on the prophecy and theology of Isaiah once a week, opening your view to new vistas of understanding the words of Isaiah.
The Book of Isaiah’s layered literary features entirely change the rules for interpreting it, transforming it into a series of allegories of the endtime. The Hebrew idea that events in Israel’s ancient past foreshadow endtime events appears in many biblical passages (i.e., Ecclesiastes 1:9). The Book of Isaiah is the best example of combining two scenarios—ancient and endtime—into a single prophecy. Its message enables us to use Isaiah’s hindsight of ancient events as foresight of what will yet transpire.
Because God works within the parameters of the covenants he makes, covenants constitute the most powerful way we can interact with God. Collective agreements, such as the Sinai Covenant, God makes with a nation or people. Individual agreements, such as the Davidic Covenant, God makes with persons who wish to serve him on higher spiritual levels. God also honors personal covenants we make with him and arranges our circumstances so we may fulfill our righteous desires and attain the special blessings we seek.
People who appear in the Book of Isaiah aren’t incidental. A closer look shows that the way Isaiah characterizes them defines ascending and descending rungs on a spiritual ladder. Isaiah’s descriptions of higher and lower categories of people, such as those he names Jacob/Israel and Zion/Jerusalem, illustrate this. As people keep higher laws pertaining to higher divine covenants, God recreates them on higher spiritual levels.
Isaiah was the son of Amoz, brother of King Amaziah of Judah. He prophesied in Jerusalem during a pivotal period of Israel’s history (742–701 B.C.), when many things transpired that would typify events in the “last days” or endtime. Isaiah’s name, Yeshayahu, means “Jehovah is Salvation,” foreshadowing a message of hope to those who would understand his words. As both a prophet and a poet, Isaiah encoded many layers of meaning into his words, making it essential to search them in order to determine their meaning.
At a young age, Isaiah saw Israel’s God Jehovah in the temple at Jerusalem. On that occasion, God called him as a prophet to his people: “Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, Who shall I send? Who will go for us? And I replied, Here am I; send me! And he said, Go, and say to these people, Go on hearing, but not understanding; Go on seeing, but not perceiving. Make the heart of these people grow fat; dull their ears and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand in their heart, and repent, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:8–10).
So far had his people drifted away from their God that he sent Isaiah to warn them of calamities that lay just ahead. Isaiah’s prophecies, however, divided people into those who would see, hear, understand, repent and be healed of their behavioral dysfunctions and those who wouldn’t. The Book of Isaiah spells out the evil consequences of people’s not giving heed to Isaiah’s words but also the glories God promises those who will take them to heart.
When Isaiah was prevented by the ruling king from prophesying to the people, he called his children by symbolic names that portended Assyria’s imminent invasion of Israel and God’s
deliverance of a remnant of his people. Isaiah’s wife, “the prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3), gave birth to
two sons—Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, “Hasten the Plunder, Hurry the Spoil,” and Shear-Jashub, “A Remnant Shall Repent/Return” (Isaiah 7:3; 8:3).
Later, after more than forty years of ministering as a prophet of God during the reigns of five kings—Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh—Isaiah was sawn in half by the evil King Manasseh (Ascension of Isaiah 5:1, 11). Toward the latter part of his life Isaiah had lived mostly in Israel’s desert regions with a small entourage of prophets in order to escape the wrath of Manasseh. Eventually, however, the king’s false-prophet cohorts tracked him down.
Isaiah describes his book as having been written in “parables” (Ascension of Isaiah 4:20). From that perspective, those parts of Israel’s ancient history that Isaiah selected and chose to write about function as an allegory of the “last days” or endtime. Having seen “the end from the beginning” in a great vision of eternity (Isaiah 46:10), Isaiah patterned his prophecies in such a way that “the end” of the world was typified by events in “the beginning.”
Isaiah thus knew that his prophecies would be most relevant to the end of the world, not in his own day. At that time, Israel’s history would repeat itself on a world scale and Isaiah’s prophecies would at last bear good fruit among the people of God. (Taken from the book, Isaiah Made Simple.)
My book The End from the Beginning has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian. I am anticipating further translations into Dutch, French, and German. Because translations are expensive, the Hebraeus Foundation has been able to fund these only according to donations from readers like you. Please let the foundation know if you would like any book among those listed on the Isaiah Institute’s websites translated into a particular language.
I took a full year off during my Ph.D. program to attempt a modern English translation of Isaiah from the Hebrew Masoretic Text that as much as possible reflected the meaning of the Hebrew words. Although I knew Hebrew fluently from living five years in Israel, I used Hebrew dictionaries, lexicons, and concordances to research every word except prepositions. I also compared twelve different modern translations of Isaiah word for word, although I found most of these unhelpful.
I additionally researched the complete Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah of St. Mark’s Monastery word for word and the Greek Septuagint Version. On occasion, I used their variant translations where they appeared more correct within their context based on the internal dynamics of the Book of Isaiah. In every such instance, I explained in footnotes how these variants compared to the Masoretic Text.
One problem that arose was the dislocation of words and phrases from where they most fitted within the context of the text. Those dislocations were evidently the result of Jewish scribes who had memorized entire scriptural texts so they could survive the Babylonian and Roman destructions of their records. When they remembered these misplaced parts after they had inscribed the text past the point where they should have appeared, they simply inserted them at the point where they remembered them. Many of these misplaced words, I relocated where they best fit within the context of a passage, again noting all such instances in footnotes.
The result was a much more intelligible and coherent reading than the King James Version, one that accords with the Book of Isaiah’s own internal check and balances we find in its variety of literary features.
The Hebraeus Foundation is a non-profit organization originally set up in 1990 to support my research in the Book of Isaiah. Its board of directors oversees different aspects of spreading Isaiah’s message to the world, such as social media, marketing, special events, web design, publishing, online courses, finances, and translations. The Hebraeus Foundation depends on donations from readers like you to further its objectives.
Questions & Answers
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Disclaimer: Questions answered by Dr. Avraham Gileadi are intended to provide information and understanding regarding the book of Isaiah for the Hebraeus Foundation and Isaiah Institute. The content of each article is the sole expression and opinion of its author drawn from his research and analysis and does not proclaim implicitly or explicitly doctrinal views and beliefs for any church or other religious organization. All materials are copyrighted. The Hebraeus Foundation and Isaiah Institute shall not be liable for any physical, psychological, emotional, financial, or commercial damages, including, but not limited to, special, incidental, consequential or other damages. We caution the reader against quoting these materials out of context, drawing conclusions not specifically stated, or attributing other ideas to Dr. Avraham Gileadi.