The Book of Isaiah 1-39, in NICOT

By John N. Oswalt
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (1986). 746 Pages.

Reviewed by
5.2 (Fall 1994) : 226-227

Dr. John Oswalt, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, formerly at Asbury Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and now at Asbury, has released the first volume in his two-volume series on Isaiah.

Though Isaiah addresses his book to three different settings` chaps. 1`39 (739-701 B.C.), chaps. 40`55 (605-539 B.C.), and chaps. 56-66 (539-500 B.C.)`the author finds no concrete evidence that any part of the book ever existed without the others (18). So he concludes that "the original transmitters of the book intended it to be understood as a unit whose meaning was to be found solely by reference to the life and teachings of the prophet Isaiah" (4). Indeed, "continuation of recent trends to interpret small sections of the book without reference to their larger context must inevitably be self-destructive" (23).

One's understanding of the book's message results from his perspective of the book's unity. Because the author affirms the unity of Isaiah, he also traces a unified theme which answers the question, "How can a sinful, corrupt people become the servants of God?" (21).

This theme is developed in the following way: Chs. 1-6 set forth the problem (chs. 1-5, sinful yet called) and the solution (ch. 6, a vision of the Holy One). The rest of the book works out the ramifications and the implications of this introduction (21-22).

The author identifies four theological themes which, like threads, tie the book together: God, humanity and the world, sin, and redemption. These he develops in his commentary on the Hebrew text of Isaiah 1-39. Indices include subject, author, Scripture, and Hebrew words.

This commentary will help pastors, teachers, and others interested in a careful interpretation of Isaiah 1-39. This reviewer eagerly awaits the second volume to complete Oswalt's work on Isaiah.