Isaiah was the son of Amoz (Isaiah 1:1), but because very little of his personal history is known, the tribe to which he belonged is unknown. He is thought to have lived in Jerusalem near the temple, married a prophetess, by whom had a son named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, and another son, Shear-jashub, was mentioned. He dressed according to his profession in a coarse linen or hair overcoat.

Being a prophet during the eighth century BC, authoring a prophetic book in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, Isaiah was greatly influential in the court of the kings of Judah. He prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekrah; a period extending from King Uzziah’s death (c. 740, Isaiah 6:1) to the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701. According to an early tradition he died a martyr’s death during the reign of Manasseh (c. 690-640). In Islam, Isaiah is known as Sha’ya.

At the court he took a prominent part in foreign politics. His preaching resembled those of Amos
and Hosea proclaiming the supremacy and moral demands of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Isaiah also emphasized God’s holiness (Isaiah 6). It was from these beliefs that his political counsel came: urging Judah to retain foreign alliances. His hopes for the future were based on the survival of a «remnant» (but perhaps only a remnant) of Judah and the promises made to the Davidic dynasty.

The Book of Isaiah may be divided into three parts, Chapter 1-35, Chapters 36-39, and Chapters 40-66. The first part, Chapters 1-35, is concerned with the especially with the Syrian pressure on Judah during the years 740-700 BC. The Immanuel prophecy of Chapter 9:2-7, comes from this period. The oracles issued in Chapters 13:1-14, 23:24-27, and 34-34 appear to have been from later than Isaiah’s time. The second part, Chapter 36-39, is a section taken from 2 Kings 18:13-20, 19, plus the «Song of Hezekrah» (Isaiah 38:10-20). The third part, Chapters 40-66, is concerned with the redemption of Israel and its mission in the world. Since the 19th century these chapters have been known as the «Deutro-Isaiah» on the recognition that they were written by a later author who wanted to encourage the Jewish exiles in Babylon shortly before their release in 537 BC. Chapters 56-66 seem to presuppose that the Temple had been rebuilt, and are therefore frequently distinguished as «Titro-Isaiah.»

The Ascension of Isaiah is an apocryphal work that was originally Jewish, but now with Christian interpolations. It describes Isaiah’s martyrdom, his ascension into heaven, and his visions there. The entire work survives only in Ethropic, the date of the original being uncertain. A.G.H.


Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 534-538
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 477-478