A Judean Prophet, Isaiah is believed to have indulged in the act of prophesizing, for forty-four years of his life. He is one of the main figures in the Biblical Book of Isaiah and is sometimes considered as its author also. He immensely believed in the power of God and said that the world belongs to the Almighty and that He would destroy it as well. Isaiah advised people to turn to God for everything in life and was immensely displeased by the lack of faith. Today, in the weekly Sabbath readings, much more Haftaras are taken from the books of Isaiah, than any of the other prophets.
Childhood & Early Life
Isaiah was born in the 8th century BC, to a man named Amoz. In the records, there is no mention of Isaiah's mother as well as his childhood years. Isaiah prophesied when Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and the Kings of Judah were in power. It is predicted that a few years before the death of Uzziah, in 740s BC, Isaiah began his prophesizing career and continued for about forty four years, which rightly explains that he outlived Hezekiah. His foray into prophesy coincided with the time when the Assyrian empire was beginning its westward expansion. A threat to Israel, the expansion was proclaimed by Isaiah as a warning from God, to the group of godless people.
Being one of the most political prophets, Isaiah is known to be a witness to one of the most unstable periods in Jerusalem's history, from both political and religious point of view. He enjoyed a good relationship with the royal members and had free access to the palace. Claiming himself to be one of the Jerusalem aristocracy, Isaiah took an active part in events and guided people of the higher authority. However, this position did not deter him from being outspoken. He is known to have verbally attacked the ruling classes, in defense of common folk, against the corruption that the latter faced.
When Ahaz was in power, the kings of Israel and Damascus had called war against Judah. Isaiah had advised Ahaz to face the enemies and believe in God for support. Though the latter defeated his enemy, in contrast to Isaiah's counsel, he turned to Assyrians, under King Tiglath Pileser, for support. Displeased by the alliance, Isaiah prophesied the oppression of Judah by the Assyrians. The prophecy came true and Judah chafed under bondage to Assyrians.
Hezekiah, much against the willingness of Isaiah, formed an alliance with the Egyptians. Isaiah had advised the king only to turn to Jehovah(the principal and personal name of God in the Hebrew Bible) for assistance. Hezekiah, along with Egyptians, planned a revolt against the oppressors, only to face disastrous consequences. As a result, the Kingdom of Judah was almost destroyed. When the people turned to God, begging Him for help, Isaiah said that they could find a respite only by mending their evil ways.
Isaiah is known for his inspirational and moving works, which have a lyrical beauty to them. Though his works have poetic charm in them, they are depressing in nature, as in them, Isaiah condemns people for their sinfulness and lack of faith in God. However, despite the criticism mentioned in his work, there is a ray of hope for the poor and downtrodden. Isaiah dealt with the issue of hypocrisy and idolatry as well.
Though there is no definite evidence of Isaiah's death, it is believed that he died in the reign of King Manasseh. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Isaiah had been found hiding in a cedar tree. The tree was cut in half, sawing Isaiah into half as well.
Isaiah married a woman named 'the prophetess ' and had two sons - Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. While some believe that his wife carried out a prophetic ministry in her own right, the others are of the opinion that she was thus called only because she was the wife of ' Isaiah, the prophet'.