The Glory of Zion will be a Defense" (Isaiah 1–6)
The official church guide can be seen at the Official LDS Church site for Lesson 36
We encourage you to make sure you are familiar with the official church curriculum as the first step in your lesson preparation, as this is the material recommended by the General Authorities of the church.
Supplementary material here is not intended to substitute for lesson preparation, but hopefully it will enhance your preparations for Sunday School.
Historical Setting for Isaiah
Isaiah lived during the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, which was a difficult period in the history of Jerusalem. He was part of the upper class but urged care of the downtrodden. At the end, he was loyal to King Hezekiah, but disagreed with the King's attempts to forge alliances with Egypt and Babylon in response to the Assyrian threat.
Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of four kings -- Uzziah (Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Legend has it that he was martyred during the reign of King Manasseh, who came to the throne in 687 BCE. That he is described as having ready access to the kings would suggest an aristocratic origin.
This was the time of the divided kingdom, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. There was prosperity for both kingdoms during Isaiah’s youth with little foreign interference. Jeroboam II ruled in the north and Uzziah in the south. The small kingdoms of Palestine, as well as Syria, were under the influence of Egypt. However, in 745 BCE, Tiglath-Pilasser III came to the throne of Assyria. He was interested in Assyrian expansionism, especially to the west. Tiglath-pileser took Samaria and a lot of Galilee in 732. Shalmenezer V (727-722) and then, Sargon II (722-705) attacked Samaria. Samaria fell in 722, this marking the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel forever, as its population was taken into exile and dispersed amongst Assyrian provinces. It is as a result of this exile that reference is made to Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Egypt recovered to a degree around the end of the century and Babylon exerted some independence as well. Because of this, Judah and other states rebelled against Assyria, only to have Sennacherib (705-681) invade and capture 46 Judean towns. Isaiah reports that Jerusalem was spared when God miraculously struck down the Assyrian army plundering it.
Isaiah is concerned with the connection between worship and ethical behavior. One of his major themes is God's refusal to accept the ritual worship of those who are treating others with cruelty and injustice.
Isaiah speaks also of idolatry, which was common at the time. The Canaanite worship, which involved fertility rites, including sexual practices forbidden by Jewish law, had become popular among the Jewish people. Isaiah picks up on a theme used by other prophets and tells the Kingdom of Judah that the nation of Israel is like a wife who is committing adultery, having run away from her true husband, God.
An important theme is that God is the God of the whole earth. Many gods of the time were believed to be local gods or national gods who could participate in warfare and be defeated by each other. The concern of these gods was the protection of their own particular nations. Isaiah's God is a conceived as the only true god, and the god of all humankind, not just the Israelite nation.
No one can defeat God; if God's people suffer defeat in battle, it is only because God chooses for that to happen. Furthermore, God is concerned with more than the Jewish people. God has called Judah and Israel His covenant people for the specific purpose of teaching the world about Him.
A unifying theme found throughout the Book of Isaiah is the use of the expression of "the Holy One of Israel". This is a title for God that is found 12 times in chapters 1-39 and 14 times in chapters 40-66. This expression is unique within the Old Testament to the book of Isaiah which suggests that, although some scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was written in various sections by different authors, the work was intended to be a unified body evidenced with the attention to literary consistency.
A final thematic goal that Isaiah constantly leans toward throughout the writing is the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, with rulers and subjects to who strive to live by the will of God.
Chapter 1 is kind of a preface, similar to section 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants. David J. Ridges has an outstanding book mentioned in the Additional Teaching materials that helps deal with the imagery that is foreign to most people who read the Book of Isaiah, and it is a valuable way to understand some of the imagery. Chapter 1 also deals with the latter-day temples established in the "tops of the mountains."
Chapter 3 introduces chaismus where Isaiah poetically repeats major themes.
Additional Teaching Materials
- Prophets. A&E Home video. Chapter 4. 1994. ISBN 0-7670-8501-9.
- Old Testament Institute Manual
- The Old Testament Made Easier Part 3. David J Ridges, 2006. ISBN 1-55517-957-6
- Isaiah Made Easier in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. David J Ridges, 2002. ISBN 1-55517-615-1