Isaiah 1:1 places Isaiah within history: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Uzziah reigned from 792-740 BC; Jotham reigned from 750-735 BC; Ahaz reigned from 735-715; Hezekiah reigned from 715-686.
King Uzziah is also known as Azariah. He reigned 52 Years, a very long time. Isaiah 6:1 indicates that Isiah began his ministry in the year Uzziah died. 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26 give an account of Uzziah’s reign. Uzziah fortified Jerusalem (2 Chron. 26:9-10, 15) and he reorganized Judah’s army with 2,600 mighty men of valor who oversaw an army of 307,500 men (2 Chron. 26:12). Uzziah experienced great prosperity during his long reign and was able to extend Judah, taking back land from the Philistines, while also extended Judah into the lands of the Arabians and the Meunites (2 Chron. 26:6-7). He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 15:3 and 2 Chron. 26:4), but the high places remained and sacrifices were still offered at these locations dedicated to false gods.
Despite doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, Uzziah’s success led to pride that brought him great punishment from the Lord. 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 recounts that Uzziah took the place of the priests, burning incense in the House of the Lord. And as a result, “The Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5).
King Jotham reigned for 16 years. 2 Chronicles 27:2 summarizes his reign as follows: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the Lord. But the people still followed corrupt practices.” Two of his major accomplishments as king were fortifying the hillsides of Judah and beating the Ammonites, receiving a huge tribute from them. (2 Chronicles 27:3-5) During his reign, northern Israel was taken by the Assyrians.
2 Chronicles 28:1-2 tells us that King Ahaz “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.” During his reign Aram led by King Rezin and Israel led by King Pekah partnered against Judah. (Isaiah 7:1-16) Isaiah told Ahaz to not be afraid of them. Isaiah prophesied that their invasion would fail, that their lands would be taken down by the Assyrians. (Isaiah 7:3-9) Despite this prophesy of safety from his adversaries, Ahaz sought to partner with King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria for protection. (2 Kings 16:7-9, Isaiah 7:13, 20) In an attempt to show his submission to Tiglath-Pileser, Ahaz instructed Uriah the priest set up an altar like the one he saw in Damascus. He had the altar to the Lord brought out to sit alongside this altar pagan altar. (2 Kings 16:10-18) During Ahaz’s reign, Assyria defeated Israel in 722 BC.
King Hezekiah was the last king of Isaiah’s time of prophetic ministry. Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3). During Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria threatened Jerusalem. (Isaiah 36:1-22) Against this threat, Isiah Prophesies that Judah will be delivered. (Isaiah 37:6-7) Even though this prophesy is given with the assurance of protection for Jerusalem, Hezekiah still prays in response for deliverance. (Isaiah 37:14-20) The angel of the Lord fulfills Isaiah’s prophesy and answers Hezekiah’s prayers by utterly wrecking the Assyrians, striking dead 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians while the slept. (Isiah 37:6) Sennacherib was later cut down by the sword by his sons while he was worshipping his god, Nisroch. (Isiah 37:7-8)
As noted in the opening of this paper, many have noted that the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are predominantly law based, focusing on the wrath of God against a rebellious people, and that is the message of chapter 39. Isaiah prophesies to Hezekiah that Judah will be taken by the Babylonians:
“Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (Isaiah 39:5-7)
Sticking to the concept that the last 27 chapters of Isaiah focus on God’s redemption of his rebellious people, chapter 40 opens up with the good news that God will restore Judah:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isiah 40:1-5)