The book derives its title from the author, whose name means “The LORD is salvation,” and is similar to the names Joshua, Elisha, and Jesus. Isaiah is quoted directly in the NT over 65 times, far more than any other OT prophet, and mentioned by name over 20 times.
During Uzziah’s prosperous 52 year reign (ca. 790–739 B.C.), Judah developed into a strong commercial and military state with a port for commerce on the Red Sea and the construction of walls, towers, and fortifications (2 Chr. 26:3–5,8–10,13–15). Yet the period witnessed a decline in Judah’s spiritual status. Uzziah’s downfall resulted from his attempt to assume the privileges of a priest and burn incense on the altar (2 Kin. 15:3,4; 2 Chr. 26:16–19). He was judged with leprosy, from which he never recovered (2 Kin. 15:5; 2 Chr 26:20,21).
His son Jotham (ca. 750–731 B.C.) had to take over the duties of king before his father’s death. Assyria began to emerge as a new international power under Tiglath-Pileser (ca. 745–727 B.C.) while Jotham was king (2 Kin. 15:19). Judah also began to incur opposition from Israel and Syria to her north during his reign (2 Kin. 15:37). Jotham was a builder and a fighter like his father, but spiritual corruption still existed in the Land (2 Kin. 15:34,35; 2 Chr. 27:1,2).
Ahaz was 25 when he began to reign in Judah and he reigned until age 41 (2 Chr. 28:1,8; ca. 735–715 B.C.). Israel and Syria formed an alliance to combat the rising Assyrian threat from the E, but Ahaz refused to bring Judah into the alliance (2 Kin. 16:5; Is. 7:6). For this, the
northern neighbors threatened to dethrone him, and war resulted (734 B.C.). In panic, Ahaz sent to the Assyrian king for help (2 Kin. 16:7) and the Assyrian king gladly responded, sacking Gaza, carrying all of Galilee and Gilead into captivity, and finally capturing Damascus (732
B.C.). Ahaz’s alliance with Assyria led to his introduction of a heathen altar, which he set up in Solomon’s temple (2 Kin. 16:10–16; 2 Chr. 28:3). During his reign (722 B.C.), Assyria captured Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom, and carried many of Israel’s most capable people into captivity (2 Kin. 17:6,24).
Hezekiah began his reign over Judah in 715 B.C. and continued for 29 years to ca. 686 B.C. (2 Kin. 18:1,2). Reformation was a priority when he became king (2 Kin. 18:4,22; 2 Chr. 30:1). The threat of an Assyrian invasion forced Judah to promise heavy tribute to that eastern power. In 701 B.C. Hezekiah became very ill with a life-threatening disease, but he prayed and God graciously extended his life for 15 years (2 Kin. 20; Is. 38) until 686 B.C. The ruler of Babylon used the opportunity of his illness and recovery to send congratulations to him, probably seeking to form an alliance with Judah against Assyria at the same time (2 Kin. 20:12 ff.; Is. 39). When Assyria became weak through internal strife, Hezekiah refused to pay any further tribute to that power (2 Kin. 18:7). So in 701 B.C. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, invaded the coastal areas of Israel, marching toward Egypt on Israel’s southern flank. In the process he overran many Judean towns, looting and carrying many people back to Assyria. While besieging Lachish, he sent a contingent of forces to besiege Jerusalem (2 Kin 18:17–19:8; Is. 36:2–37:8). The side-expedition failed, however, so in a second attempt he sent messengers to Jerusalem demanding an immediate surrender of the city (2 Kin. 19:9ff.; Is. 37:9ff.). With Isaiah’s encouragement, Hezekiah refused to surrender, and when Sennacherib’s army fell prey to a sudden disaster, he returned to Nineveh and never threatened Judah again.