The Last Chapters of the Book of Isaiah
By David Baron
article is taken from Mr Baron’s book, ‘The
Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew,’ written in 1900. Mr David Baron
was born in
‘The Book of Consolations,’ as the Rabbis call the last chapters of the Book of Isaiah (40 - 66), consists for the most part of the general announcement of a glorious future of salvation and peace, but often the salvation which the prophet foretells is defined and specified. The message embraces a two-fold promise.
First, the certain restoration from the Babylonish captivity, which is portrayed in terms which far exceed what actually took place at that restoration, and which will only be exhausted and fulfilled in the greater restoration of Israel from all ‘the four corners of the earth.’ The very instrument who should be the means of the minor restoration (Cyrus) is foretold, and called by name more than 150 years before he was born.
But the theme with which the prophet’s soul is full and to
which his thoughts ever recur, even while he deals with the minor deliverance,
is the grand redemption and salvation to be accomplished by One greater than Cyrus, even by Messiah - a salvation of
In dealing with this greater salvation the relation of time is not observed. Now, the prophet beholds the author of it in His humiliation and suffering, then the most distant future of Messiah’s kingdom presents itself to the enraptured eye - the time when Israel shall walk in the light of Jehovah and all the Gentile world will be converted to Him; when all that is opposed to God shall be destroyed; when inward and outward peace shall prevail and all evil caused by sin shall be removed. Elevated above time and space, his own soul full of rapturous enthusiasm for the Redeemer-King, Isaiah in these twenty-seven chapters surveys the whole development of the Messianic kingdom from its small beginning to its glorious end, and gives us the fullest portrayal of the Messiah’s person and mission, humiliation and exaltation to be found in the Old Testament.
On examining this glorious prophecy closely we find that the twenty-seven chapters range themselves into three equal smaller cycles of nine chapters each, all ending with nearly the same solemn refrain, ‘there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’ The subject is the development and certain overthrow of the evil and the wicked, who are excluded from all the blessings of Messiah’s kingdom; and the sufferings but final glory of the righteous remnant who are the subjects of that kingdom, whose King is described as passing through the same path of suffering to the glory that should follow. The subject treated throughout the three sections becomes developed and intensified as we go along until it reaches its climax in the last chapter.
The first section is brought to a close at the end of chapter 48, where the blessedness of the righteous who are ‘redeemed’ (verse 20) and peacefully led and satisfied even in the desert is contrasted with the state of the wicked to whom ‘there is no peace.’
In the second division the same subject becomes intensified, there is development of both evil and good, righteousness and wickedness, and it ends with chapter 57, where ‘Peace! peace!’ is announced to the righteous, but the wicked have not only ‘no peace,’ but having grown in wickedness, have become like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
In the last division the destiny of both is brought to a climax and become fixed for ever. ‘Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, My servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, My servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name.’ This contrast is continued until finally we find the righteous dwelling for ever in the new heavens and the new earth wherein shall dwell righteousness, while as to the wicked who have transgressed against God, ‘their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh.’
The heart and Messianic climax of the whole prophecy is to be found in its inmost centre, which, instead of a prophecy uttered centuries in advance, reads like an historic summary of the Gospel narrative of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Taking our position at this central point we are almost overwhelmed with the evidence of design in the very structure of this prophecy, for on closer examination we find that each book is sub-divided into three sections of three chapters each, nearly corresponding to the divisions in the Authorised Version. Thus the middle book is 49 - 57.
The middle section of the middle book is chapters 52, 53, 54, and chapter 53 is the middle chapter of the middle section of the middle book - forming, as it were the heart and centre of this wonderful Messianic poem, as well as the heart and centre of all Old Testament prophecy. The central verse of this central paragraph, which begins properly with chapter 52: 13, is, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement with the view to our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.’ The doctrine it enshrines (substitution) is the essence of the teaching in Old and New Testaments, as well as the central truth of the prophecy. It is moreover, the essence of the message of comfort with which the prophet begins (40: 1-2), solving the problem as to how ‘her iniquity is pardoned.’