• by Gordon Franz


    There are four chronological indicators in the first half of the book of Isaiah (Isa. 1-39). They are, the “year that King Uzziah died” (Isa. 6:1), the “days of Ahaz” (7:1), the “year that King Ahaz died” (14:28), and the “fourteenth year of King Hezekiah” (36:1). Using these as a guide, Isaiah 1-35 may take on a chronological order.

    Isaiah 1-6 is set in the reign of King Uzziah. The material prosperity, the military might, the pride of Uzziah and the great earthquake are all attested to in these chapters (Milgrom 1964: 164-182, except for Isaiah 1:2-9 which he places during the reign of Hezekiah).

    Isaiah 7:1-14:27 recount the days of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimite war. It also introduces Assyria as the major threat to the area (Thompson 1982).

    Hezekiah’s reign, in chronological order, is reflected in Isaiah 14:28 to the end of chapter 35. The attack on Philistia, by either Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), Shalmaneser V, or Sargon II in the 720’s is recorded in Isa. 14:29-31 (Ginsberg 1968: 47-53). The burden against Damascus (Isa. 17), includes Samaria (Ephraim) and Judah. In 720 BC, Sargon II put down rebellions in Syria, reconquered Samaria, and brought down Gaza and Raphiah (Tadmor 1958: 94). ¹ At this time he also became the “subduer of the country Judah which is far away” (ANET 287; Tadmor 1958: 38-39, footnote 146). Isaiah 18 and 19 were occasioned by the “peace” between Egypt and Assyria when, in Sargon II’s own words, he boasted, “I opened the sealed harbor of Egypt. The Assyrians and Egyptians I mingled together and I made them trade with each other” (Tadmor 1958: 34-35).  This “peace” was established in 716 BC; however, it did not last long. Isaiah 20-22 depict the campaign by Sennacherib in 713/12 BC. The fall of Ashdod (Isa. 20) and the seeming deliverance of Jerusalem after Hezekiah paid tribute to Sennacherib on Shebna’s counsel (Isa. 22). The prediction of the fall of Babylon in 710 BC is given in Isa. 21. Isaiah continues to preach between 710 and 701 BC, however, nothing is recorded of this period. Isaiah 23-35 deals primarily with the 701 BC campaign. The fall of Phoenicia is described (Isa. 23). A poetic description of Sennacherib’s Judean campaign is composed (Isa. 24-27), along with warnings against depending on the might of Egypt to remove the Assyrian threat (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3).

    Again, Isaiah 36-39 is composed in an inverse order to introduce the second section of the prophecy (Isa. 40-66).


    [1] For the identification of the “Sealed karu of Egypt” see, Reich 1984: 32-38. The temple which Reich identifies as Sargonic, might be the “pillar to the Lord near the border” (19:19).

    Posted by Gordon Franz @ 8:21 pm

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