I find it interesting that Isaiah has 66 chapters and the Bible has 66 books.
Not only so, but the turning point in Isaiah is the 40th chapter, and the turning point in the Bible is the 40th book, Matthew.
I know the chapters weren’t in Isaiah’s original prophecy, but there is an interesting symmetry to it.
So I’ve decided to see if there’s any parallel between the books of the Bible and the chapters of Isaiah...
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.
Isaiah 1:2 ESV
Genesis talks about the creation of the heavens and the earth by the word of the Lord.
It talks about Him making man and woman in His image and likeness.
It talks about the rebellion of mankind against the Lord.
Even from the first verse of Isaiah’s prophecy (barring the intro) my tentative theory of a colloration between Isaiah’s chapters and the Bible’s books seems to hold.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
Isaiah 2:2 ESV
The second book of the Bible is about the children of Israel escaping slavery in Egypt and heading to the promised land.
The last part of the book is about the tabernacle, the portable “house of the Lord”.
The second chapter of Isaiah anticipates not just Israel but all nations flowing to the house of the Lord.
And now in our New Testament age there’s people of most ethnic groups who have become part of the spiritual house of God, the church of Christ Jesus the Lord.
And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbour; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable.
Isaiah 3:5 ESV
Okay, so this is the opposite of the most famous verse in Leviticus: “Love your neighbour”. But that’s probably why Isaiah’s description of his contemporaries is so damning!
And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
Isaiah 4:3 ESV
Numbers is a record of those God gave a life free from slavery in Egypt.
This verse describes those who avoid exile in Babylon as recorded for life in Jerusalem.
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!
Isaiah 5:11 ESV
Deuteronomy includes blessings for obedience to God’s law; and woe for rebellion against it.
I was reminded of that by this verse.
Okay, so Isaiah’s Scriptures will have principally been those first five books of the old testament: the pentateuch/torah/law. So this is perhaps where my theory breaks down of parallels between Isaiah’s and Bible books as a whole.
But what if the 66 chapters/books weren’t Isaiah’s design but the Holy Spirit who inspired Him? Anyway, I’ve committed myself now, so I’ll have to plough on to test my theory!
Okay, so the Jewish and Greek orders of the old testament books are different, but seeing as Isaiah didn’t have the whole of the old testament anyway, I’ll plod on with the Greek order I’m familiar with in the hopes that the Holy Spirit teaches us something!
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah 6:1 ESV
It is widely accepted by orthodox scholars of the Bible that both Isaiah here and Joshua with the “commander of the Lord’s army”, experienced theophanies- preincarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ! Pretty awesome!
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 ESV
Not only is Jesus “Immanuel”- “God with us” to deliver us like the judges delivered Israel, but He is also the Judge of all the earth.
I will wait for the Lord , who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
Isaiah 8:17 ESV
Ruth, like Isaiah, waited for and hoped in the Lord at a time when it seemed like He was hiding His face from them.
Also, Isaiah 8 is about his family, like Ruth is about her family, and how she got adopted into the family of God.
9. 1 Samuel
I know Samuel, Kings and Chronicles were originally just 3 books altogether rather than 6, but for the purposes of this exercise I’ll go with the divisions that I assume were introduced in the Greek translation of the old testament, if not later…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 ESV
I know all of Scripture’s ultimately points to Jesus, but this verse clearly does, as does God’s promise to king David in 1 Samuel that his Descendant would have an everlasting Kingdom.
10. 2 Samuel
Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!
Isaiah 10:5 ESV
I must admit that this is the most tenuous chapter so far in my attempt to link Isaiah’s chapters with Scripture’s books as a whole.
But in Assyria’s prophesied demise, I see king Saul’s actual demise at the outset of 2 Samuel. Although God can use His enemies, ultimately He pronounces woe over them.
11. 1 Kings
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Isaiah 11:1 ESV
Through the whole of 1 Kings we might look for the promised Davidic king, descended from David’s dad Jesse, David’s Son. But we never find Him, although we trace God’s mercy to His ancestral line.
12. 2 Kings
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12:2 ESV
Isaiah didn’t set much hope in any of his contemporary kings of Judah to be the promised Son of David whose Kingdom would ever end. But he did sing praise to the Lord God His salvation.
13. 1 Chronicles
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
Isaiah 13:19 ESV
Chronicles “chronicles” or records for posterity God’s continued grace to the children of Israel.
Isaiah 13 chronicles the demise of Babylon, the ones who would take Judah off into exile.
14. 2 Chronicles
For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob.
Isaiah 14:1 ESV
Both the book and this chapter are full of hope that no matter how difficult the circumstances, God cares for His people.
An oracle concerning Moab. Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night, Moab is undone; because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night, Moab is undone.
Isaiah 15:1 ESV
As Isaiah 15 describes God’s judgement upon pagan Moab, Ezra mentions God’s judgement upon His own people for intermarriage with, among others, pagan Moabites
And joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field, and in the vineyards no songs are sung, no cheers are raised; no treader treads out wine in the presses; I have put an end to the shouting.
Isaiah 16:10 ESV
When God judges us as we deserve, whether Moab in Isaiah’s day or the Jews in Nehemiah’s day, joy and gladness are taken away.
But as Nehemiah encouraged His people- “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (so cheer up and celebrate Him!).
At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, they are no more! This is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us.
Isaiah 17:14 ESV
The conclusion of the book of Esther illustrates this verse well: it doesn’t end well for those who pick on the Jewish people!
For before the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks, and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
Isaiah 18:5 ESV
This one’s a bit tenuous, but it could be argued that Job is about God “pruning” Job to make him even more fruitful (and I’m thinking more in a spiritual sense than the material sense).
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
Isaiah 19:23 ESV
This one’s a bit of a stretch too, but Psalms starts with the blessed man not walking in the way of the wicked, and ends with a call to everyone to praise the Lord (that includes Egypt and Assyria- historical enemies of God’s people!)
And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?'”
Isaiah 20:6 ESV
Proverbs tells us to hope in the God of wisdom, otherwise it won’t go well for us…
For thus the Lord said to me: “Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees.
Isaiah 21:6 ESV
Solomon in Ecclesiastes is like a watchman who sees that if we only see with the naked eye, everything under the sun, beneath God’s dwelling place in the highest heaven, is meaningless, empty, vanity.
22. Song of Songs
and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Isaiah 22:13 ESV
Isaiah portrays eating, drinking and being merry- if that’s our ultimate meaning- as a bad think.
The Song of Songs however portrays eating, drinking and bring merry as blessings to be enjoyed (just not idolised!).
The oracle concerning Tyre. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor! From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them.
Isaiah 23:1 ESV
I suppose this is a typical chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. It displays something of his godly humanity. He might have pronounced judgement on nations, but he took no pleasure in doing so, and didn’t expect anyone else to either.
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. But I say, “I waste away, I waste away. Woe is me! For the traitors have betrayed, with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”
Isaiah 24:16 ESV
In this verse, Isaiah has a jeremiad moment (Jeremiah had been nicknamed “the weeping prophet”- he certainly felt woeful often!)
It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord ; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9 ESV
Isaiah’s 25th chapter is in joyful contrast to the Bible’s 25th book. But both encourage us to wait for the Lord and His salvation, whether we’re joyful or lamenting.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.
Isaiah 26:1 ESV
In his latter chapters, Ezekiel envisages the strong city that Isaiah sees here- the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Zion.
In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.
Isaiah 27:6 ESV
Different image to Daniel’s, but same meaning- Isaiah’s vine and Daniel’s rock are both the church of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Jesus is the rock upon which His Kingdom is built and which will topple all earthly kingdoms.
Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is on the head of the rich valley of those overcome with wine!
Isaiah 28:1 ESV
Isaiah 28 and Hosea alike prophesy against Ephraim- the northern kingdom of Israel.
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning and lamentation, and she shall be to me like an Ariel.
Isaiah 29:2 ESV
Both Joel and Isaiah 29 envisage judgement upon Judah, but also the better days ushered in by the Messiah, Jesus.
For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord ;
Isaiah 30:9 ESV
Isaiah’s listeners were about as tough an audience as those Amos had to contend with
For thus the Lord said to me, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, and when a band of shepherds is called out against him he is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the Lord of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.
Isaiah 31:4 ESV
Obadiah spoke against the Edomites who rejoiced in Judah’s demise. Isaiah here assures us that the Lord fights for His people.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
Isaiah 32:2 ESV
This verse reminds me of Jonah’s shelter from the burning east wind near Ninevah, which he idolised and sulked when God destroyed it. If we trust in anything other than Jesus for refuge, we’re going to be disappointed.
For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.
Isaiah 33:22 ESV
Amazingly, Micah prophesies that the Lord, the judge, lawgiver, king and Saviour wouldn’t come to Jerusalem initially but David’s seemingly insignificant town Bethlehem.
For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Isaiah 34:8 ESV
Isaiah 34 and Nahum alike portray God as a God of vengeance, although unlike us, His revenge is perfectly just.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Isaiah 35:4 ESV
Habakkuk comes across as a troubled soul, when he considers the apparent injustice of suffering. I think Isaiah’s 35th chapter would have reassured him.
Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”
Isaiah 36:15 ESV
Jerusalem may have escaped Assyria, but Zephaniah prophesied of coming Babylonian judgement (and the ultimate deliverance of God’s people).
As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord .
Isaiah 37:1 ESV
Isaiah 37 and Haggai centre around the house of the Lord, although Haggai is about rebuilding it
and said, “Please, O Lord , remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Isaiah 38:3 ESV
Isaiah 38 describes how king Hezekiah prays to the Lord to heal him, and He does. Zechariah hints at the Lord being the King of kings, to whom all the kings of earth are answerable.
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”
Isaiah 39:8 ESV
Hezekiah in Isaiah 39 comes across as badly as the people Malachi prophesies against. He didn’t care that his descendants would suffer because of his folly, because he himself wouldn’t, selfish man that he was.
To be continued.
My theory is far, far from proven but I’ve committed now so I’ll do the “new testament” inspired part 2 tomorrow!