For the last two weeks I’ve been reading Isaiah in my daily bible reading. And at my current rate of a chapter a day, I’ll still be reading Isaiah for another seven-or-so weeks.
As I’ve read I’ve been a little confused trying to follow the line of narrative or prophecy from chapter to chapter or even within chapters. My normal bible only contains paragraph headings but nothing in the way of cross references or study notes I can readily refer to.
To attempt to alleviate my confusion I read through the book introductions in the NKJV Spirit Filled Life Bible and the ESV Study Bible. Both shed some light on such things as authorship, dates, themes, outlines, etc, but one paragraph in the ESV Study Bible under the topic of ‘Literary Features’ stood out:
A book this large, and lacking a narrative line, must be viewed as an anthology or collection of individual compositions. It is often futile to look for a smooth flow from one unit to the next. The book swings back and forth between oracles of judgment and oracles of salvation. The general movement of the book is from an emphasis on evil and judgment to rapturous visions of a coming redemption, a movement from bad news to good news. But this is only a general pattern that should not lead readers to distort the smaller swings, between evil/judgment and redemption/restoration, which persist to the very last verses of the book.
Good news indeed! I had been looking for some flow or connection between passages or chapters but such a flow doesn’t necessarily exist.
In many ways this makes Isaiah easier to read because you can read a passage or chapter almost in isolation from its neighbours, but still being cognisant of the overall movement to the ultimate redemption and restoration of God’s people.