The Calling of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 6:1-13
The prophet Isaiah lived during a very troublesome era during the years 742-701B.C.E. He preached during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah (783-742), Jotham (742-735), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezekiah (715-687). Judah faced many challenges and crises throughout those years primarily at the hands of the Assyrian Empire. Isaih interpreted the events as part of the Lord’s will, and he encourages the people to trust in the Lord rather than relying on political alliances.
Isaiah is thought to be one of the greatest poets of the Bible, and his book a classic of the Hebrew language. His writing has a very concise style, effective imagery, and an equilibrium between form and content which classify the type of poetry as classical. From the theological aspect, Isaiah moves in the religious tradition influenced by David’s dynasty and the election of Sion, and also contributed to the shape and expression of the messianic hopes (Obstat, p.278).
The book Isaiah contains mostly oracles from various authors, however the authentic oracles of Isaiah are found in the first part of the book. Chapters 6-12 are considered the oldest collection in the book. It includes the account of the vocation and mission of the prophet, the oracles concerning the Syro-Ephraimite War, oracles referring to the crisis of 701B.C.E., and other salvation passages (Obstat, p.278).
Isaiah chapter 6 versus 1-13 stand apart from the rest of the Bible as a unique record of how God called on and reached out to a man, and in doing so a prophet was born. Interpreting this chapter is of vital importance for the understanding of Isaiah’s teaching as a whole. In it he describes a real experience which effects him both psychologically and spiritually. Through the passage it can be perceived that his ministry was initiated by a soul shaking experience of the reality of God, and it’s authenticity validated by it’s results and influence on the prophet’s life and work (Berrtrick, p 205).
One of the main purposes of any prophet’s call narrative is to justify his right to speak in the name of God. Oftentimes a prophet’s message isn’t accepted of very popular with the people he is preaching to, and in the face of this opposition the prophet’s most valuable defense is that he was sent by the Lord.(Boadt, p.329). Isaiah’s calling launched him into his public life as a prophet and gave him the courage to fulfill the specific task for which he was commissioned, being a spokesperson for God (Clements, p.70).
The narrative opens with “In the year that King Uzziah died”, which gives a chronological indication of when the vision took place. The year in which he died is uncertain but scholars have set it somewhere around the year 74 B.C.E.. Uzziah had been a popular and peaceful ruler, and Issaiah’s reaction to his death can be compared to the shock and disorientation which Americans felt when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The people wondered what would happen to Israel now? What will be the fate of the nation? It was with worries like these that Isaiah experienced his vision of the divine king, the Lord, in the holy temple of Jerusalem (Holladay, p.26).
In the vision Isaiah saw God “sitting upon a throne”. This means that he viewed God as a functioning king full of authority and power. With the death of their king, the nation of Israel was vulnerable to attack by outside violent nations such as Assyria, which could bring the people to a panic. But through Isaiah’s visions, if convincing and conclusive, then the people could see that the king of Assyria isn’t the strongest figure in the universe, God is. It was this simple belief that would rule Isaiah’s life for forty years or more (Holladay, p.29).
The next words “high and exalted”, only reinforce the...
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