Index/Table of Contents
Old Testament and New Testament  
Credits and Copyright





Students will be able to:

1. define a biblical prophet and identify several terms which are used to characterize the prophetic role.

2. identify expressions common to the prophetic literature such as election, covenant, Baal, Ashtaroth.

3. characterize the historical setting and religious conditions in Judah at the time Isaiah received his call.


Definition of a Prophet: Webster defines prophet as (1) one who utters divinely inspired revelations or (2) one who foretells future events.

The primary responsibility of the biblical prophet was

not to foretell (predict future events)

but to forthtell (speak forth the will of God as it was related to the people of that day).

The word for prophet most frequently found in the Old Testament (Nahbi) is probably derived from the Akkadian verb Nabu which means to summons, announce, call. The prophet was one who announced to leaders and public the vital message from God. He was called by God to proclaim as a herald from the court of Heaven the message to be transmitted from God to man.

The prophet would identify the condition of the people, warn them of judgment, and call for justice and repentance. Beginning with Hosea and Isaiah, God began to reveal his plan to preserve a small group, a remnant, in order to carry out His promise to His people.

Titles of Prophets: Several titles provide insight into the role and responsibilities of the prophets.

1. Seer --The prophet had spiritual insight which allowed the interpretation of present and future events (Note 1 Sam. 9:9). He saw things which were invisible to others.

2. Man of God ­­ This expression suggested an intimate spiritual relationship and identified the source of the prophet's power.

3. Servant of God -- The prophet, like any faithful representative was following orders and demonstrating obedience.

4. Watchman --Like a lookout, the prophet was responsible for sounding the alarm and calling attention to the impending crisis (Ez. 33:6­9).

Distinctive Characteristics:

1. Sovereign call (Note Is. 6, Jere. 1, Amos 7:14,15).

2. Rugged Individualism --The prophets came from all kinds of different backgrounds.

a. Jeremiah and Ezekiel had been priests.

b. Isaiah, Daniel, and Zephaniah were associated with royalty.

c. Amos was a shepherd.

d. Hosea's call came in relationship to his marriage.

Expressions Common to the Prophets:

1. The Word of the Lord--This represents the personal revelation of God through His Word. His Word and who He is are synonymous.

2. Election--This relates to choosing, calling, separating and knowing. God elected Israel in order to accomplish his sovereign purpose.

3. Covenant--An agreement between two parties is indicated; however, when God is involved, the parties are never equals. This agreement is initiated by the senior party (God) as an act of election.

4. Rebellion--The behavior of Israel and Judah is seen as infidelity to their primary relationship and violation of the sacred covenant.

5. High Places of Worship--Baal and other deities were centered around the material needs of the people. The worship of Baal was practiced in order to insure a productive harvest. The shrines which honored these idols were often perched on top of the local hills. The prophets would point to these as visible signs of idolatry.

6. Baal--This fertility god of Canaan was depicted as a helmeted deity striding into action with a thunderbolt as his spear.

7. Ashtaroth--a pole dedicated to the goddess of fertility.

8. Judgment--The subject of judgment is Yahweh; the object of judgment is Israel. God accuses, renders the verdict and proceeds to carry out His just verdict, often using other nations and leaders as the instruments of His judgment.

9. Compassion--Although the prophet has heard the judgment of Yahweh, he has also experienced the grace and longsuffering of God. This quality led to a renewed covenant. "Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him declares the Lord" (Jere. 31:20). "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Jere. 31:34).

Background of Isaiah:

The political world of Isaiah's day was dominated by the threat of Assyria, a brutal military power which refined the art of intimidation. The rise of Tiglath­Pileser (sometimes referred to in the Bible as Pul) in 740 B.C. provided Assyria with a vicious leader for this dark cloud to the North. In 722 B.C., the Northern Kingdom (Israel) fell to the Assyrian forces led by Sargon II, leaving Judah as a weak tributary.

In 701 B.C., the Assyrian king Sennacherib invaded Judah. After destroying several fortified cities along the border, his army laid siege to Jerusalem. The Bible attributes the surprising retreat of Sennacherib to God's providential intervention (2 Kings 19:1­37).

Isaiah prophesied to Judah end Jerusalem during this critical period, functioning as an advisor to the kings.


The fact that the contents of Isaiah speak to three periods of time, two of which extended beyond the physical life of the prophet Isaiah, brings up the possibility of multiple authorship. Chapters 1­39 parallel the time when Isaiah proclaimed his message between 740 and 687 B.C. Yet chapters 40­66 speak to the period of the Babylonian exile (approx. 539 B.C.) and the time of the postexilic return (between 530­510 B.C.). Those who hold to a single author believe that the prophetic role allowed Isaiah to clearly predict events which would occur long after his death (even mentioning Cyrus, King of Persia, by name). Others believe that one or more of Isaiah's disciples contributed to the chapters which record events occurring beyond the prophet's lifetime.


Part 1: The Book of Judgment (chapters 1­39)

I. Rebuke and Promise (1:1­6:13)

A. Introduction: Judah Charged with Breaking the Covenant (1:1­31) (TN#2 )

B. The Future of Judah and Jerusalem (2:1-4:6)

1. Jerusalem's Future Glory (2:1­5)

2. Judah's Future Decline (2:6­4:1)

3. Jerusalem's Future Restoration (4:2­6)

C. Judah Sentenced to Judgment and Exile (5:1­30)

The allegory of the vineyard demonstrates the opportunity and failure of Israel and Judah (5:1­7). In verses 8­23, there are six reproaches:

against covetousness (8­10),

against carousing (11­12),

against hypocrisy (18­19),

against moral depravity (20),

against conceit (21),

against perversity (22­23). (DQ#3)

D. Isaiah's Commission (6:1­13) This takes place in the year that Uzziah died. (TN#4) Isaiah's confrontation with the presence of God

made him aware of his own sinfulness as well as

the condition of his fellow citizens (v. 5).

God purified his unclean lips (v. 7) and

sent him on a challenging mission.

Verses 9­10 indicate that the prophet's ministry would have

a negative effect,

causing their hearts and senses to be unreceptive.

Although the negative reaction was inevitable, it was not intentional or desirable.


1. Read the chapter in text on Isaiah such as chapter 28 in the Hill and Walton text.

2. Read the following sections of Isaiah and record insights and observations: 7:1­12:6, 40:27­31, 52:13­53:12, 55:1­13.


Discussion Questions: #3 which of the reproaches of chapter 5 would seem to be appropriate for western civilization?


Discussion Questions:

#1. At the time of Isaiah's call, what did his sudden awareness of his personal sinfulness indicate about the nature of man and God? Did his response indicate that he was a particularly immoral person?

#2. Just as the death of Uzziah was associated with a spiritual crisis for Isaiah and Israel, do you feel many of the political and personal crises which people face are related to spiritual needs? Explain your answer.

#3. Would modern political leaders be able to benefit from counsel of a seer or prophet? Why might it be hard for a modern prophet to be taken seriously? What might a contemporary prophet see as the spiritual condition of America? What advice do you think he might offer?


Teacher's Notes:

The instructor might begin this lecture by asking students to provide a definition of a prophet or say what comes to mind when they hear the word prophet.


Teacher's Notes:

#1 This outline has been adapted from one provided by NAVPRESS (a ministry the Navigators, P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO 809340)

#2 Students might profitably look through this chapter to see the types of sin which the prophet condemned. Note 1:1­6, 15­20, the expression The Holy One of Israel (v. 4) is frequently found in Isaiah, referring to God's unapproachable separateness. This phrase characterizes Isaiah's concept of God.

#4 The death of Uzziah near 740 B.C. contributed to an unstable situation. At the very moment Judah lost one of its capable political leaders, Assyria presented an ominous threat to Judah's survival. The seraphim which Isaiah saw were creatures associated with God's glory. The six wings probably represent mobility (two wings with which to fly) and modesty (wings covering their face and feet).



Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.

Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.