Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Thirty-First and Thirty-Second Study.—Isaiah 1-12.1

[The material of this "study " is furnished by Professor Harper.]



1. A book-study on Isaiah 40-66, prepared by Prof. William G. Ballantine, D. D., was published in THE OLD TESTAMENT STUDENT of October, 1886. It does not seem necessary, therefore, to take up the consideration of those chapters in this connection.

2. Chs. 1-12 are universally recognized as among the most sublime and magnificent of Sacred Scripture. It is better to use the space allotted to Isaiah in the study of these particular chapters than to try to cover the thirty-nine chapters of the first part. These twelve chapters thoroughly studied will bring a clearer knowledge of Isaiah and his work than thirty-nine chapters cursorily examined.

3. The comparative definiteness of the historical situation of these chapters makes the study of them most satisfactory. With but few exceptions we are able to place the words of the prophet in direct connection with their historical occasion.

4. The large amount of the Messianic element constitutes also an important and interesting feature. No Messianic prophecies are more significant than those of Isaiah.

5. The arrangement cited below is believed to present the material in an order as nearly chronological as at this date is possible. There may certainly be expected additional light from the monuments.

6. It is a mistake to suppose (1) that we have in every case the very words to which Isaiah gave utterance; much of the material which has come down to us is fragmentary; in some cases, we have only the text which served as the basis of his sermon; in other cases, we have only a condensed statement of what originally made many discourses. (2) That in our present collection the discourses are arranged chronologically. The material of the historical books, where, if at all, we should expect a chronological order, is found often to have been arranged in accordance with a principle other than the chronological; just so with the material of the Psalter and of Isaiah. We are therefore doing no violence to the sacred narrative, if in our effort to understand it, we take it up in an order different from that in which it is given.2

7. We shall have the truest conception of the Book of Isaiah, if we understand that it is a collection of sermons, made in part by the author himself, in part by a later editor, and in many respects similar to the volumes of sermons published in our own day. In this collection, however, there will not be found the system and method of arrangement which would characterize a modern volume of sermons. This could not be expected. Let us place Isaiah before us as a preacher; whether speaking on the corners of the street or writing in the privacy of his home, he was the preacher of his times, and in these prophecies we have all that has descended to us of his work.

8. The literature of the subject is quite voluminous. Only a few of those books which the student will find most helpful need be mentioned: Delitzsch, "Commentary on Isaiah;" Cheyne, "The Prophecies of Isaiah;" Geakie, "Hours with the Bible," vol. IV.; Stanley, "History of the Jewish Church, Lectures;" Briggs, "Messianic Prophecy;" Orelli, "Old Testament Prophecy."3

9. In order to secure unity of treatment two "studies " will be combined into one.


1. Obtain an approximate date for the following events:4

(1) Death of Uzziah; accession of Jotham.

(2) Expedition of Tiglath-pileser against Syria, Israel, and Philistia.

(3) Accession of Ahaz.

(4) Accession of Shalmaneser.

(5) Accession of Hezekiah.

(6) Accession of Sargon; fall of Samaria.

(7) Merodach-baladan's embassy to Hezekiah.

(8) Sargon's siege of Ashdod.

(9) Sargon's conquest of Babylon.

(10) Accession of Sennacherib.

(11)Sennacherib's invasion of Judah.

(12) Accession of Esar-haddon.

2. Endeavor to secure, from whatever source, a clear conception of the times covered within these dates, as regards affairs in Assyria, Syria, Israel, and Judah.


1. Read carefully ch. 6 of Isaiah.

(1) Noting

(a) 6:1, the date, the details of the scene (" throne," "skirts ");

(b) 6:2-4, the occupation of the Seraphim, their cry, the result;

(c) 6:5, the feelings of the prophet;

(d) 6:6-10, his purification and commission;

(e) 6:11-13, the duration of the state of obduracy.

(2) Interpreting closely the various phrases in vs. 3,5,9,10,13, and these verses taken separately.

(3) Deciding whether this chapter is to be understood as the original call or -commission of Isaiah, or as a renewal of a call given before.

(4) Explaining

(a) how Isaiah could have undertaken a work knowing in advance that this work was to be a failure;

(b) how this chapter, if it is the original call, has come to stand sixth, rather than first.

(5) Comparing the inaugural vision of Jeremiah (ch. 1), and of Ezekiel (ch. 1).

(6) Fixing in mind the section as a whole, i. e.,

(a) linking together its several parts,

(b) considering it as a unity.5

2. Read carefully chs. 2:2-4:6,

(1) Noting

(a) 2:2-4, the first Messianic prophecy, viz., the exalted mountain, the flow of all nations to God's house, the resulting peace;

(b) 2:5, Israel cannot share in this glory, because

(c) 2:6-8, she has become "foreign," wealthy, idolatrous, and consequently

(d) 2:9-11, she must be brought low; this judgment will come

(e) 2:12-21, upon all nature and all inanimate objects in which pride has been taken,

(f) 2:22--3:15, upon the men who have been their rulers,

(g) 3:16-4:1, upon the women;

(h) the second Messianic prophecy, 4:2-6, viz., the purification of Zion, and the consequent blessing of the remnant.

(2) Interpreting closely the important phrases6 in 2:2-4; 2:6-8; 2:12-21; 2:22; 3:1-15;7 4:1; 4:2-6.

(3) Deciding

(a) the relation of 2:2-4 to Micah 4:1-4, viz., whether it is borrowed by Isaiah from Micah, by Micah from Isaiah, or taken by both from an earlier source;

(b) the relation of 2:2-4 to all that follows (2:5-4:6);

(c) the general force of the imagery in 2:12-16;

(d) the force of the transaction in 3:6,7;

(e) the relation of 4:2-6 to what precedes, viz., whether it belongs chronologically to a period following that to which the preceding events are assigned, or may be understood to be in progress at the same time with these preceding events.

(4) Explaining

(a) the different Messianic teachings in 2:2-4, e. g., the exaltation of the house of Jehovah, the going forth there from of instruction, the destruction of weapons of war, universal peace;

(b) in 4:2-6, e. g., destruction of Israel, saving of a remnant, the purity which results from the purging, great fruitfulness, holiness of those who remain, God's presence among his people and protection of them;

(c) the fulfillment of these ideas in the Messiah.

(5) Comparing8 these ideas with those contained in

(a) Joel 3;

(b) Joel 4:9-21;

(c) Amos 9:9-15;

(d) Hos. 11:8-11;

(e) Hos. 14:2-11.9

(6) Fixing in mind the section (2:2-4:6) as a whole; this is the crowning part of the work, and if it is left undone, nine-tenths of the value of the study is lost.

3. Read carefully 5:1-24; 5:25; 9:8-10:4; 5:26-30.

(1) Noting

(a) 5:1-7, the parable of the vineyard;

(b) 5:8-10,17, the woe pronounced against monopoly;

(c) 5:11-16, the woe against drunkenness and debauchery;

(d) 5:18-24, short woes against various sins;

(e) 5:25, which connects 5:1-24 with 9:8-10:4;

(f) 9:8-10:4 (divided into four strophes, 9:8-12, 9:13-17, 9:18-21, 10:1-4, each closing with a refrain) announcing a judgment upon Israel;

(g) 5:26-30, a prophetic vision of the advance of a foreign enemy, and its destructive fury.

(2) Interpreting closely10 the important phrases in 5:1-7; 5:8-24; 9:8-10:4; 5:26-30.

(3) Deciding

(a) the relation between the parable, 5:1-7, and the woes, 5:8-24;

(b) whether 5:17 fits in better after 5:10, or 5:16;

(c) whether 5:25 appropriately introduces 9:8-10:4;

(d) the relation between 5:1-24 and 9:8-10:4;

(e) whether 9:8-10:4 was originally written in this connection, or written perhaps earlier and incorporated later; in other words whether the first three strophes are to be taken as prophetic or historical;

(f) what evidence exists for placing 5:26-30 after 9:8-10:4, rather than in its present position.

(4) Explaining

(a) the various teachings of the parable, 5:1-7;

(b) the force of the various woes (5:8-24) when viewed from the stand-point of our own time;

(c) the attributes assigned to God in the representations made in 9:8-10:4;

(d) the transition from 9:8-21 to 10:1-4;

(e) the historical fulfillment of the announcement in 5:26-30.

(5) Comparing

(a) with 5:1-7, the parallel in Matt. 21:33-41, the similar representations in Ps. 80 and the allusion in Ez. 9:9;

(b) with 5:8-11, the similar idea in Job 20:19, Mic. 2:1-5, and the law of the jubilee year (Lev. 25:8-16);

(c) with the refrain in 9:8-10:4, that in Psalms 42, 43;

(d) with the re-arrangement of verses which seems to be required in this section, similar variations to be found

(α) in parallel Psalms, e. g., Pss. 42, 43; Ps. 18 and 2 Sam. 22; Ps. 108 with Ps. 57:8-12; 60:7-14; 1 Chron. 16:8-36 with Ps. 105:1-15; 96:1-12; 106:1,47,48;

(β) in parallel passages of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles; e. g., 2 Sam. 8, 9, 10 with 1 Chron. 18,19; 1 Chron. 11:1-47 with 2 Sam. 5:1-10, 23:8-39; 1 Chron. 13:1-14; 14:1-17 with 2 Sam. 6:1-11, 5:11-25; 2 Chron. 1:2-13; 1:14-17, 2, with 1 Kgs. 3:4-15, 10:26-29, 5:15-23.

(6) Fixing in mind the section as a whole (see remark above).

4. Read carefully chs. 7:1-9:7,

(1) Noting

(a) 7:1,2, the confederacy of Syria and Israel against Judah;

(b) 7:3-9, Isaiah's first interview with Ahaz, his announcement;

(c) 7:10-17, Isaiah's second interview, the Tmmanuel prophecy, the prediction of Assyria's coming;

(d)[ 7:18-25, an expansion of 7:17;]

(e) 8:1-4, Isaiah's third prophecy, Maher-shalal-hash-baz;

(f)[ 8:5-10, the destruction wrought by Assyria, but its influence counteracted by "Tmmanuel";

(g) 8:11-15, "explaining upon what conditions the motto " Immanuel " will be verified;]

(h) 8:16-9:7, including

(α) 8:16-18, a prayer that his testimony may be preserved and accomplish its purpose,

(β) 8:19-20, a warning to his disciples to avoid necromancy and to rely upon God's instruction,

(γ) 8:22, 9:1, a description of the approaching darkness and despair, the sudden change, light instead of darkness, beginning, too, in the same quarter in which darkness was the greatest;

(δ) 9:2-7, light, rejoicing, liberty, peace because of the birth of the Messiah, whose reign shall be righteous and everlasting.

(2) Interpreting closely

(a) "could not prevail" (7:1);

(b) " Shear-Jashub " (7:3);

(c) "two tails " (7:4);

(d) "head of Syria is D.," etc. (7:8);

(e) "depth,"' "height" (7:11);

(f) "a maiden shall conceive," "Immanuel" (7:14);

(g) v. 15;

(h) vs. 16,17;

(i) vs. 21,22;

(j) "pen of a man" (8:1);

(k) "Mahershalal-hash-baz;"

(1) v. 4, cf. 7:8;

(m) "waters of Shiloah " (8:6);

(n) v. 8;

(o) vs. 16,17;

(p) vs. 21,22;

(q) 9:1;

(r) "joy of harvest" (9:3);

(s) "day of Midian" (9:4);

(t) v. 5;

(u) "Wonderful," "Counsellor," "Mighty God," " Everlasting Father," " Prince of Peace" (9:6);

(v) v. 7.

(3) Deciding

(a) the relation between the first and second interviews of Isaiah with Ahaz (7:3-9; 7:10-17);

(b) the connection of 7:15-17 with 7:14;

(c) the relation, in particular, of 7:18-25 and 7:17;

(d) the relation of the Immanuel and the Maher-shalal-hash-baz prophecies;

(e) the connection of the passages 8:5-10, 8:11-15 with what precedes and follows;

(f) whether 8:22 should precede 8:21;

(g) the connection of 8:16-18; 8:19,20; 8:22,21 and 9:1 with each other and with 9:2-7.

(4) Explaining

(a) the historical situation (in Judah, Israel, Syria, Assyria) which gave rise to this prophecy;

(b) the attitude of Ahaz to Isaiah;

(c) Isaiah's policy and motive in the whole transaction;

(d) the Immanuel prophecy, upon the idea that a sign to be seen then and there was unnecessary;

(e) the Immanuel prophecy upon the idea that a sign to be seen then and there was necessary; i. e., that Isaiah had primary reference to a child who was soon to be borne (e. g., by his own wife, or by a member of Ahaz' household) and to be a type of the Messiah;

(f) the Immanuel prophecy, upon the idea that Isaiah expected the Messiah himself to appear in connection with the Assyrian invasion;

(g) the essential teachings of the Immanuel prophecy upon whatever theory;

(h) the historical meaning of the Maher-shalal-hash-baz prophecy;

(i) the historical basis of the " Prince of Peace " prophecy;

(j) the manner in which it is introduced;

(k) the points of contrast between the actual historical situation and the thing promised;

(1) the titles given, four or five, their meaning individually, their relation to each other;

(m) the Messianic teachings of the passage (9:1-7) as a whole.

(5) Comparing

(a) the attitude of Samuel, Elijah, Amos, Jeremiah to their respective kings, with that of Isaiah to Ahaz;

(b) the historical situation of this section with that of the preceding sections;

(c) the giving of signs, elsewhere in Scripture;

(d) the typical interpretation of the " Immanuel" prophecy with the similar interpretation of such passages as Pss. 2, 22, 72, 110;

(e) the use made of this prophecy in the New Testament, Matt. 1:23;

(f) with the "Prince of Peace" prophecy, Zech. 9:9,10; Mic. 5:5; Hos. 2; Pss. 2, 72, 110.

(6) Fixing in mind the section (7:1-9:7) as a whole.

5. Read carefully 10:5-12:6,

(1) Noting

(a) 10:5-11, that upon Assyria who has failed to work according to the divine will;

(b) 10:12-15, who knew not that she was an instrument;

(c) 10:16-19, there shall come destruction;

(d) 10:20-23, of Israel a remnant shall return;

(e) 10:24-27, Assyria even now is not to be feared;

(f) 10:28-34, though approaching with terrible onset, she shall be suddenly destroyed;

(g) 11:1-9, a rod of Jesse's stem shall sprout forth with divine spirit, a throne of justice, a kingdom of peace; and with the knowledge of Jehovah universal;

(h) 11:10-16, the gathering in of Israel, the union of north and south, the destruction of nations still hostile, etc.;

(i) 12:1-6, the song of the reunited and restored people.

(2) Interpreting closely.,

(a) 10:8,9;

(b) 10:14,15;

(c) 10:27;

(d) 10:33,34;

(e) "shoot," "branch" (11:1);

(f) "spirit of wisdom," etc. (11:2);

(g) 11:5;

(h) 11:6-8;

(i) 11:13;

(j) 11:14;

(k) " draw water out" (12:3).

(3) Deciding

(a) the difference between the ideas presented in 10:5-11 and 10:12-15;

(b) whether the thought of 10:20-23 is only a remnant shall return, or a remnant shall surely return;

(c) the relation of 10:28-34 to what precedes;

(d) the connection between 11:1-9 and 11:10-16;

(e) the general relation to the whole of 12:1-6.

(4) Explaining

(a) the general force of this discourse as concerning the Assyrians, as concerning Judah;

(b) the contrast between 10:5-34 and 11:112:6;

(c) the historical situation, whether before or after the downfall of Samaria; whether the Assyrian king was Sargon (about 711 B. C.) or Sennacherib (about 701 B. C.);

(d) the historical allusions in 10:9;

(e) the details of the march in 10:28-32;

(f) the thought of each verse of 11:1-9 separately;

(g) the general Messianic teachings of the passage, in reference to David's seed, a predicted prince, righteousness and peace, a universal knowledge of God.

(5) Comparing

(a) the passage with chs. 28, 29, e. g., 10:12 with 28:21; 10:22 with 28:22; 10:26 with 28:15,18; 10:33 with 29:7,8; 11:2 with 28:6;

(b) the thought of this Messianic passage with that of preceding passages in Isaiah;

(c) the historical situation of this section with that of preceding sections.

(6) Fixing in mind the section (10:5-12:6) as a whole.

6. Read carefully 1:1-31,

(1) Noting

(a) 1:1, the preface;

(b) 1:2-9, the description of the present, viz., apostasy, rottenness, desolation of the land;

(c) 1:10-17, the religious worship entirely formal and insufficient, the thing needed;

(d) 1:18-23, a promise of pardon notwithstanding the existing corruption and degradation;

(e) 1:24-31, the announcement of a purification, which will preserve the good, but destroy the bad.

(2) Interpreting closely,

(a) the introductory invocation (v. 2);

(b) the force of the comparison in v. 3;

(c) the climax in v. 4;

(d) force of vs. 5,6,7,8,9;

(e) "judges of Sodom;"

(f) the reference to sacrifices (vs. 11-14);

(g) the phrases in 16,17;

(h) the figures in vs. 21,22;

(i) the force of vs. 25,29,30,31.

(3) Deciding

(a) the relation of the various portions of the chapter to each other;

(b) whether there is any connection between chs. 1 and 2;

(c) the relation existing between chs. 1 and 6;

(d) the relation between chs. 1 and 2-12.

(4) Explaining

(a) the historical situation as implied in v. 7;

(b) the moral and religious condition as described especially in vs. 15,18,21;

(c) the relation of this condition of things to the time of Ahaz, to the time of Hezekiah;

(d) the considerations for and against assigning the chapter to the time of Sargon, to the time of Sennacherib;

(e) the force of the chapter as an introduction, written at a late date, to prophecies of different periods.

7. Group together now these various sections.

(1) Ch. 6, the inaugural vision and commission.

(2) Ch.2:2-4:6, the exalted mountain, Israel's humiliation, the purification of Zion.

(3) Chs. 5:1-24; 5:25; 9:8-10:4; 5:26-30, the fruit of the vineyard, the woes, the impending judgment, the advance and destruction of the enemy.

(4) Chs. 7:1-9:7 Syria and Israel vs. Judah, Isaiah and Ahaz, Tmmanuel and Maher-shalalhash-baz. Assyria's destruction, darkness and despair followed by light, rejoicing, peace.

(5) Chs. 10:5-12:6, the destruction coming upon Assyria; return of Israel's remnant; Assyria approaching with terrible onset, but to be destroyed suddenly; the sprouting rod of Jesse's stem with peace and universal acknowledgment of Jehovah, Israel's return, the song of union and restoration.

(6) Ch. 1, the wretched present, exhortation, promise, announcement of purging.

8. Group together the Messianic prophecies as follows:

(1) Under Jotham,

a) 2:2-4 the Exaltation of Jehovah's house, in contrast with the humiliation which Israel must first suffer before being allowed to become a partaker,

b) 3:2-6, the harvest blessings (holiness, divine presence and protection), in contrast with the want, ruin and desolation depicted in preceding chapters.

(2) Under Ahaz,

c) 7:14-17, the birth of Immanuel, serving as a threat and warning to Ahaz, but a promise and solace to the pious, in connection with the purpose of Ahaz to ally himself with Assyria.

d) 8:16-9:11, the birth of a "wonderful counsellor, God-hero, distributor (father) of spoil, prince of peace," in connection with the destruction of Northern Israel by the Assyrian hosts.

(3) Under Hezekiah,

e) 11:1-16, the shoot (producing fruit) of Jesse and the peaceful future, in contrast with the fallen cedar (Assyria), which shall never sprout forth again.

9. From your knowledge of -the chapters, select twelve or fifteen of the most important subjects or ideas which they contain, and collect under each subject all that is said concerning it. Such topics, for example, as the following may suggest themselves:

(1) Political condition of Judah;

(2) moral condition of Judah;

(3) Judah's relation to Assyria;

(4) condition of Assyria;

(5) Isaiah's attitude toward foreign powers;

(6) Isaiah's attitude towards idolatry;

(7) Isaiah's attitude towards sacrifices;

(8) God's love for Israel;

(9) threats of punishment;

(10) promises of blessings;

(11) striking figures;

(12) historical events;

(13) chief characters;

(14) important predictions;

(15) references to preceding sacred history;

(16) attributes of God asserted or implied;

(17) spiritual worship, etc., etc.

10. Formulate certain general principles of prophecy as suggested by your study of this section of prophetic material.



1) The " studies" printed in the April STUDENT were by oversight numbered thirty-one and thirty-two instead of twenty-nine and thirty.

2) It is hardly supposable that any one will argue that the present order, whether chronological or not, is the one in which it was divinely intended to be studied, and consequently that any attempt to change this order should be discountenanced.

3) The volume on Isaiah in Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is not yet out. " Isaiah and his Times," by S. R. Driver, is announced, but the writer has been unable to secure it up to this date.

4) Consult any commentary on Isaiah (especially Cheyne), or any Old Testament history.

5) At this stage, stop and recall the substance of the passage studied. Make an oral statement to yourself, if to no one else, of, not what the passage is about, but of what it actually says.

6) It is impossible to specify each phrase in so large a section. In a class, the leader should point out beforehand the particular expressions which are to be taken up. Those who are studying alone would do well to pursue the following method: (1) Read the section, marking every phrase which at first sight does not seem plain; (2) read again and again, with these phrases particularly in mind; in this way many will become clear; (3) consult commentaries on those which still remain obscure.

7) Except for archaeological purposes it is not worth while to consider in detail the material in 3:16-26.

8) In this comparison, (1) remember that the Messianic teaching, heretofore somewhat general and indefinite, is now growing more clear and specific, (2) endeavor to obtain a knowledge of the great purpose of each writer studied, and above all (3) familiarize yourself with the historical situation of each utterance.

9) Many scholars understand Zech. chs. 9-11 to have been written about this period; in this case Zech. 9:9,10; 10:3-12; 11:7-14 may also be compared to advantage.

10) See suggestion on preceding page.