VI. ASSUMPTIONS CONCERNING THE BOOK OF ISAIAH.
"Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?" Jeremiah 32:27.
"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God." Psalm 62:11.
"Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite." Psalm 147:5.
"He revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and that the light dwelleth with him." Daniel 2:2.
"Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" Acts 15:18.
"The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men." Psalm 33:13.
"Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." Exodus 4:12.
"And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not." Isaiah 6:9.
The critics claim to have discovered, on literary and other evidence, that the Church of Christ, in all its branches, has been mistaken in all the past concerning the author of the book known as the Prophecies of Isaiah. They assume that all the foremost scholars of the world, and the faith of God's people, have been misled. Our critical advisers profess to have discovered that there were at least two, and probably many more prophets, whose writings compose the book. They refuse to recognize Isaiah alone as the author; and for several reasons:
First—Because of the change of style of composition from the thirty-ninth chapter to the close of the book.
Second—On the ground that the theme is more exalted than in the first thirty-nine chapters. Hence, it is assumed that these last chapters could not have been written by Isaiah.
Third—On the ground that Cyrus is mentioned by name, in the forty-fourth and forty-fifth chapters of the book, as the restorer of Jerusalem. Hence, our critics conclude that this part of the book must have been written after the event, as the prophet (it is assumed) could not name Cyrus before his birth.
Fourth—The critics assume that the prophet must prophesy out of his immediate surroundings, whatever that may mean. They furnish their troubled disciples the comforting assurance that these discoveries do not diminish the value of the book, but render it more accurate and interesting as a literary work. The professor already quoted, a fair representative of the critical school, in his recent lectures, referred to on a preceding page, distinguished the authors of the book as "Isaiah and the Great Unknown Prophet." Other critics multiply, somewhat indefinitely, the number of "The Unknowns." Our critic regards the change in style and theme from the thirty-ninth chapter to the end of the book as valid proof of at least the dual authorship of the book.
This assumption instantly raises the question as to who is the author of prophetic themes. Is it the prophet himself or the Holy Spirit? Does the prophet himself bring forth the prophecy of his own foreknowledge? Or, is the Holy Spirit the inspirer of themes new and old? Happily God has settled the question for us. He declares by his Apostle Peter "that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation"; that is, of the prophet's own disclosure. "For prophecy came not of old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20, 21.) It is, therefore, bold assumption to affirm that God could not give to the same prophet new and more exalted themes in his progressive revelation of truth. It is a limitation of God himself to the critic's notion of what should, or should not be. This would eliminate the divine element of the book by a sweep of the critic's pen. It is an assumption too groundless to need a reply.
Further, as to the change of style. Nothing is more natural or reasonable than the fact that a change of theme should produce a change of style. A more exalted theme must quicken the imagination, set the emotions aflame, stimulate all the mental and moral powers of the author. A historical statement, a commonplace theme, can be dealt with in a commonplace style, while new and uplifting truth awakens new powers in the writer. Milton's Paradise Lost was entirely different from his ordinary prose composition. Dr. John Watson's sermons were on a higher level than his books of fiction. Writers who do much of their literary work on the level plain on which the people move, frequently rise to mountain peaks of sublime composition when the occasion and theme demand it.
The style in the later chapters of the book of Isaiah is just what we would expect from the prophet when the Holy Spirit opened to his enraptured mind the theme of redemption through a suffering Messiah, in the fifty-third and following chapters of the book.
The objection to conceding the authorship of the entire book to Isaiah, because the prophet mentions Cyrus by name before his birth, is made in the face of the fundamental fact already stated that God inspired the writer, and is therefore the author of prophecy, "declaring the end from the beginning." (Isaiah 46:10.) He knows all the future and whom he will choose to accomplish his glorious purposes. To deny this fact is to deny all prophecy. If God can not foretell future events and the instruments for their accomplishment, there can be no prophecy, and God's omniscience is impeached. Isaiah prophesied in the seventh chapter and fourteenth verse: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Matthew affirms that this prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. (Matthew 1:22, 23.) He also declares in the same connection that the announcing angel foretold that the name "Jesus" was to be given to the Messiah at his birth. These preannouncements must be cast aside if the critic's dictum is accepted. Shall we discredit Isaiah, the announcing angel, and Matthew on the ground of the critic's literary acumen?
Further, the student of the Word will remember that when Jeroboam was bringing disaster upon Israel, God sent his prophet to declare: "Behold a son shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee (the altar at Bethel) shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee." More than three hundred years after this prophecy was given, according to Usher's Chronology, Josiah was born and did the precise things that were predicted concerning him. (See 1 Kings 13:2 and 2 Kings 23, 15, 16.) The omniscience of the Holy Spirit can predict the name of the instrument as readily as the event which is to be accomplished.
Again, undoubtedly the prophet must speak out of his own environment. He can speak only where he is. But who is to decide how many and what allusions he must make to custom or incident in order to satisfy the critic, as to his time and place in history?
The tailor who decides that he must have twenty yards of cloth to make a suit of clothes, when ten yards are sufficient, will shortly be wanting customers. The critic who has decided how many and what kind of synchronous events must be furnished by the prophet, in order to secure his credence as to authorship, will be left without a prophet or a Bible.
The erection of an arbitrary law, by which to interpret history or prophecy in the Bible, is contrary to all the treatment which secular literature receives from these same critics.
From these strained, forced and unphilosophical methods of dealing with prophecy, we turn to the testimony of the inspired book itself. The book of Isaiah is distinguished by a phraseology peculiar to this prophet. He speaks of God as "The Holy One of Israel." This title, as applied to God, is used only seven times in the entire Old Testament; once in 2 Kings, three times in the Psalms, twice in the prophecies of Jeremiah, and once in Ezekiel, but never in the minor prophets. But Isaiah uses this title as applied to God, twenty-two times, running through the entire book from the first to the sixtieth chapter.
The reader will be interested to note how the repeated use of the phrase—"The Holy One of Israel"—attests the unity of the authorship of the entire book. Hence the passages ("line upon line, line upon line") are here presented to give their unequivocal testimony to our Sabbath School teachers.
1: Isaiah I:4—"They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger."
2: Isaiah v:18, 19—"Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: that say ... let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it."
3: Isaiah v:24—"Because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."
4: Isaiah 12:6—"Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."
5: Isaiah 17:7—"At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel."
6: Isaiah 29:19—"The poor among man shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."
7: Isaiah 30:11—"Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." (The language of a rebellious people.)
8: Isaiah 30:12—"Wherefore, thus saith the Holy One of Israel, because ye despise this word ... therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall."
9: Isaiah 30:15—"Thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved."
10: Isaiah 31:1—"They look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord."
11: Isaiah 41:14—"Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, I will help thee saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
12: Isaiah 41:16—"Thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel."
13: Isaiah 41:20—"That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it."
14: Isaiah 43:13—"I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior."
15: Isaiah 45:11—"Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come, concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me."
16: Isaiah 47:4—"As for our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel."
17: Isaiah 48:17—"Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go."
18: Isaiah 49:7—"Thus saith the Lord ... Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee."
19: Isaiah 54:5—"For thy Maker is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name, and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called."
20: Isaiah 55:5—"Nations that knew not thee, shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel."
21: Isaiah 60:9—"The Isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee."
22: Isaiah 60:14—"And they shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel."
The reader will notice that this phrase, as applied to God is a characteristic of Isaiah. We have not found it in any of the minor prophets, and but twice in the prophecies of Jeremiah, and once in Ezekiel. But Isaiah uses it more than twenty times, running from the first to the sixtieth chapter. He uses it ten times before reaching the fortieth chapter, and twelve times in the chapters following, which the critics have assigned to some unknown author or authors. Shall we be asked to conclude that the unknown authors adopted Isaiah's style, his phraseology, from the fortieth chapter to the end of the book? For what motive? To conceal themselves? The assumption is too large. If the first thirty-nine chapters of this book are accepted, as the prophecies of Isaiah, by every law of fair criticism the whole book must claim this prophet as its author.