The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: I

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Isa, thematic breakdown

A quick and easy way of thinking about / remembering the whole of Isaiah:

Books of the Bible: 66. Books in OT: 39. Books in NT: 27.

Chapters of Isaiah: 66. Divisible into "OT Isaiah": first 39 chapters -- and "NT Isaiah": last 27 chapters (Isa 40-66).

This is quite reasonable, in that the first portion of Isaiah is related primarily to the nation of Judah (Israel), and its interactions with the surrounding nations (and, in a nutshell, this is what the whole of the Old Testament is about!).

The last four chapters of this "OT" section (Isa 36-39) are a sort of appendix -- explaining the historical background of the rest of the prophecy. Coming as they do at the end of section one, these chapters also serve to highlight the division of the whole of Isaiah into two major parts.

In this appendix, the first two chapters (Isa 36; 37) describe Jerusalem (and Judah) saved from the Assyrian in the days of Hezekiah. This is of course the defining moment of the first half of Isaiah -- which also helps to explain and interpret much that might otherwise be obscure in the first half.

In the appendix, the last two chapters (Isa 38; 39) focus on one single man, Hezekiah -- the king of Israel, who suffers a grievous illness, is brought to the point of death, and is "raised up" by God to a renewed life in a renewed Kingdom. (This personal "deliverance" happens at about the same time as his nation is delivered from "national death" at the hand of the Assyrian.)

This "Suffering Servant" of Yahweh is plainly intended to be a type pointing forward to the true "Suffering Servant", Jesus Christ.

And Hezekiah (to some extent) and Jesus (much more) are the patterns for the last portion of Isaiah (40-66), all about the "Servant" of Yahweh. This is the "New Testament" portion of Isaiah!

One further little point pertaining to the NT "half" of Isaiah:

Isa 53 is the "highlight" of the second half of Isaiah -- and it comes exactly halfway through the last half (counting by chapters. From Isa 40 through 53, there are about 20 references to the "Servant" (singular) of Yahweh -- and none to the plural "servants". But from this point on (Isa 54-66) there are about 11 references to the "servants" (plural) of Yahweh, and no more references to the singular "Servant".

So the NT portion of Isaiah (40-66) itself breaks down into two portions: in its first half (40-53) it is about the ONE preeminent "servant", and in its second half (54-66) it is about the many "servants" (who owe their spiritual existence to the One special servant). A perfect match for the NT itself: the first part about Christ (Mat to John), and the last part (Acts to Rev) about the Body of Christ (his servants)!

[This breakdown demonstrates, incidentally, the wholeness of Isaiah: there are two main sections, but each section is tied to the central appendix, and thus is clearly an integral whole.]

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