How to Study Isaiah

 

General Instructions

The basic structure of Isaiah is easy to remember if it is compared to the Bible's structure. The Bible is comprised of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Isaiah, which focuses on the Holy One of Israel, has 66 chapters, which fall into two main divisions: Isaiah 1 through 39 reveals God's character and judgment, and Isaiah 40 through 66 shows God's comfort and redemption. Because Isaiah is a long book filled with discourses and songs, it need to be studied segment by segment so that you don't miss the wonder of its promises and prophecies. Ask God to help you understand the important message of this book.

  1. As you read through Isaiah one chapter at s time, observe each chapter in the light of the "5 W's and an H." Ask general questions such as: Who does this chapter focus on? What happens or what is this about? When is this happening? Where will it happen? Why is this going to happen and how?

  2. Mark any reference to God with a ∆ and observe any insights into His character, His power, His ways. Note these in the margin. If the verse mentions the sovereignty of God, note it in the margin with "∆ Sovereignty" Also, watch for and mark any references to God as Creator. Note these in the margin with "∆ Creator."

  3. Isaiah as a set of discourses, songs, or oracles rather than a historical chronology of events in the life of Israel.  Periodically there are historical interludes, which are very important. In these interludes God often will tell Isaiah to do something that will act as a sign to the people. For instance, in Isaiah 8:3 Isaiah is to name his son  Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means "swift is the booty, speedy is the prey." His name pointed the people to the Assyrian invasion, which would come before Maher-shalal-hash-baz would learn to say Momma or Daddy. Observe these interludes carefully.  

  4. Isaiah recorded many prophecies regarding future events, including the captivity, the birth of the Messiah, the reign of the Messiah, and the last days. Watch for these prophecies and mark them in a significant way.   

    1. As you read some of these prophecies, you will see that the first and second comings of the Messiah (Christ) are prophesied without any indication that there is an interval of time between these comings. For instance, Isaiah 61:1-2a covers the first coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus read this passage  in the synagogue in Nazareth and stopped at this point (Like 4:18-19). Why? Because the next part of the verse, "And the day of vengeance of our God," skips to the day of the Lord, which encompasses Christ's judgment and His second coming.

  5. Mark the key words in a distinctive way: in that day, Lord of hosts, Holy One of Israel, earth, Babylonians (Chaldeans), nations (other than Israel), Israel (Jacob), Judah, covenant, Zion (Jerusalem), sin (sinners, evil, iniquity, transgressions, transgressed), every reference to the Lord's coming, redeemed, woe.  Put these on an index card now and use it as bookmark. As you mark in that day, carefully observe what day it is referring to. Start a chat notebook on the day of the Lord (the day of wrath, the day of God) and use it throughout your study of the Bible. You might have four headings for this chart: the biblical reference, how the Bible describes the day, what happens in nature, and signs of the beginning or end of the day.

  6. Babylon plays a significant prophetic role throughout Scripture, even in the day of the Lord. List what you learn about Babylon. Note the reference (book, chapter, and verse) from which you took your information. You will want this for future reference.

  7. Note any references to time with a clock ¹

  8. Finally, there's much you can learn about Isaiah himself. Mark in a distinctive color every reference to Isaiah that tells you something about him. You may want to record these insights at the end of Isaiah 66.     

 

Isaiah 1 - 39: God's Character and Judgment

Chapters 1 - 12: Discourses Regarding Judah and Jerusalem

  1. Read Isaiah 1 to get the spiritual and moral condition and the historical setting of this book.

    1.    Read Isaiah 1 and color in a distinctive way every reference to God's people, Israel. Then on a separate piece of paper list what you learn about Israel just from this chapter. 

    2. There is much to learn about Israel as a society around 700 B.C Mark any reference that will give you insight into this nation's status or condition at this time. 

    3. To put the book into its chronological setting, compare Isaiah 1:1 with the historical chart.  Record your insights under "Author" and "Date" on the Isaiah Structure chart.

  2. As you read Isaiah 2-12 one chapter at a time:

    1. Add the following key words and mark them through Isaiah 39: Samaria, Assyria, woe (also 45:9-10), and remnant (also in 46:3)

    2. Mark references to time with a clock. ¹

  3. As you read each chapter observe the following:

    1. Note to whom God is speaking and what He says about their behavior.

    2. Observe the consequences of the behavior.

    3. See if there is an exhortation or plea followed by a promised of how God will cleanse them, bless them, or move on their behalf.

  4. Isaiah 6 is a strategic chapter. It records Isaiah's call and commission from the Lord.

    1.  To get the historical setting of this chapter, read 2 Kings 15. Uzziah is called Azariah in 2 Kings 15:1 (see 2 Chronicles 26:1). The reigns of Uzziah and Jotham overlapped because they served as co-regents for a time.  

    2. Observe the progression of events in this chapter and note them in the margin.

  5. As you study each chapter, don't forget the "General Instruction." These are an important part of the process of carefully observing the text.

  6. When you finish observing each chapter, record the theme of that chapter on Structure of Isaiah and in your Bible.

 

Chapters 13 - 23: Oracles Against Various Nations

  1. As you read this section chapter by chapter, watch for and mark in a distinctive way the key repeated phrase, the oracle concerning. Note who the oracle concerns and locate each of these on a map.

  2. As you observe each chapter, note the following in the margin or mark it in the text:

    1. Observe if there is any judgment connected with those to whom the oracle is given and why.

    2. Watch where the judgment comes and if there is any effect on Israel.

    3. Watch for when something happens. Note this with symbol of a clock.

    4. Notice how God's purpose are being worked out in history.

    5. Mark references to the day of the Lord.

  3. Record the theme of each chapter in the same way you did previously. However, remember that this will not always be easy. The chapter divisions in the Bible are not part of the original Scripture. Therefore, if you have a hard time summarizing the theme of each chapter, don't be discouraged. When it is not easy to settle on a chapter theme,  pick a key verse that the truths of the chapter seem to pivot around, or simply choose some words from the first verse and record  these on Structure of Isaiah. 

 

Chapters 24 - 27: Discourses Regarding "That Day"

  1. As you read this segment, add covenant to your key words list.

  2. As you read each chapter observe the following:

    1. What happens to the earth and its inhabitants (humans and animals)

    2. What the Lord of hosts will do and where He will be

    3. What the people's response will be

  3. Record the theme of each chapter on Structure of Isaiah and in the text

 

Chapter 28 - 33: Six Woes

  1. Mark the keywords, and add the (or My) Spirit to your list. It is also used in Isaiah 11:2, so go back and mark it.

  2. As you read each of these chapters, mark in the text the following:

    1. To whom the woe is given

    2. What was done to cause the woe

    3. What the Lord will do and what the result will be

  3. Record the chapter themes on Structure of Isaiah and in your Bible.

 

Chapter 34 - 35: God's Recompenses and Ransom for Zion

  1. As you read these two chapters, add the following key words and watch for them from this point onward: sword, recompense, glory (the Lord's), and ransomed.

  2. Look for and record in you notebook on whom God's recompense will come, what it will be, and what will follow. Make sure you note what happens to the ransomed and the redeemed. Also note what will mean to Zion.

  3. Record the chapter themes on Structure of Isaiah and in your Bible. 

 

Chapters 36 - 39: Historical Account from the Threat of Assyria to the Threat of Babylon

  1. Read these chapters and mark the following words: Assyria, Sennacherib, Rabshakeh, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Babylon, remnant, Lord of hosts, and prayer (prayed).

  2. Now read the chapters again, observing the words you marked. In your notebook, note what you learn about each of the characters and what they do, what happens as a result, and how God intervenes. List what you learn about God from these chapters. Don't miss what happens to Assyria and Babylon. This is a pivotal point in respect to these two powers and the nation of Israel.

  3. For additional insight into Hezekiah, read 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.

  4. Record the chapter themes on Structure of Isaiah and in your Bible. 

 

Isaiah 40 - 66: God's Comfort and Redemption

Chapters 40 - 48: Behold the Lord, Your Redeemer

  1. Continue to mark any key words on your list. Also mark the following reference to God in a distinctive way: I am the Lord (God), no one besides Me (no other God), and Redeemer. Then list in your notebook all you see about God that you want to remember for future reference. Note God's character, what He does, and to what or whom He is compared.

  2. As you do all this don't simply mark these and move on. Meditate on what you see. Think of what these insights can do for your relationship with God. Remember, He is not only Israel's redeemer but yours also if you have repented and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. Also add and mark servant. As you read each chapter, check the context (the surrounding verses) in which servant is used. This is vital. Note whether servant refers to Israel (Jacob) or to the Lord Jesus Christ. Record your insights in you notebook. If it seems to be a prophetic reference to Jesus, check your Bible's reference notes and see if the New Testament verses show how this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus. When you make your list in the margin put it under "Israel the Servant" or "Messiah the Servant."

  4. Once again mark remnant (used only one time in this segment), glory of the Lord, salvation, nation (nations), and Babylon.  Record in your notebook what you learn about each.

  5. Record your chapter themes as before. Fill in the second line of the segment division for these chapters: Discourses Regarding_______.

 

Chapters 49 - 57: Your Redeemer Will Save

  1. Do everything you did under numbers 1 through 4 in the previous segment. Watch carefully all that the Lord can and will do; you might want to note it in your notebook. Observe the text carefully to see why this segment is titled "You Redeemer Will Save." Watch for God's instructions and take them to heart.

  2. Watch for prophetic verses that come in the midst of what Isaiah is saying. Give special attention to 50:6 and 52:13-53:12. After observe Isaiah 53, read it through on your knees and substitute your name every time you see we or us. Mark every reference to He and Him from verse 2 onward. Then list all that the test tells you about.

  3. Look for and record the theme of each chapter. If you think it will be helpful, summarize and list in the margin the sub points covered in the chapter. Fill in the second line of the segment division for these chapters.

 

Chapters 58 - 66: Your Redeemer Will Come

  1. Once again mark the key words on your bookmark. Also mark redemption and the references to fasting. Servant becomes servants in this segment; don't miss it.

  2. There is much in this segment about the events that surround or accompany the Lord's coming to reign and what will follow, even in regard to the new heaven and new earth. In your notebook list what you observe. Also watch for practical lessons and list what you learn. For instance, in Isaiah 58 you will gain insights on fasting.

  3. Once again continue marking everything as you did under steps 1 through 4 (Isaiah 40-48)

  4. Record your chapter themes and then complete Structure of Isaiah. Fill in the second line of the segment division for these  chapters. Write in any new segment divisions you have seen.

 

 

Key Words in the NIV and KJV

 

NASB key words NIV related words NASB key words KJV related words
-Lord of hosts
-Rabshakeh
-recompense
-Lord Almighty
-commander
-retribution
-the oracle concerning
-nations
-the burden of
-Gentiles 




Work Sheets