Why this commentary on the writings of Isaiah? The endeavor began as a personal study project, but then various people began to express interest in it. Part of my motivation is that I want my children to benefit from my lifetime interest and study so that they might be better prepared for the future. Isaiah’s latter-day message is of prophecies that are to be fulfilled in our own time.
No commentary should take the place of a first-hand reading of the scriptures. Our primary source of meaning to be gained from inspired writings has always been, and will ever remain, the influence of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this commentary is to serve as a secondary source—merely a course of instruction that will assist in mastering a methodology for studying the scriptures. Once we discover and master the methodology, our capability for understanding the scriptures through personal inspiration is enhanced.
The main benefit from pursuing a project like this is personal. It has been my desire to acquire a greater understanding of the teachings of Isaiah. Further, in going through the process of praying, reading, pondering, analyzing, cross-referencing, understanding, and writing, my own spiritual edge has been honed and my resolve to live in accordance with the principles of the gospel has been strengthened. Most of all, I have come to know with even greater surety that Jesus Christ, the Messiah foretold by Isaiah and many other prophets, is truly the Savior of the entire human family. Through His Atonement—and our repentance and obedience—we may return to our heavenly home to live with God, our Eternal Father.
In gaining an understanding of the writings of Isaiah, the reader need not feel intimidated by a lack of knowledge of the Hebrew language nor of ancient Jewish or Middle Eastern history. His message to us is of climactic events that will occur in our day. Isaiah’s message is not simply a summary of God’s dealings with man during a time long past; extensive historical knowledge of that period is therefore not needed.
In writing this commentary, I avoided comparisons with other commentaries during the initial process of research and writing. I consulted these commentaries only after a rough draft had been written for all 66 chapters of Isaiah; thus I was encouraged to “pay the price” in acquiring the desired knowledge from primary sources. Where different interpretations are presented in other commentaries I have cited them in the text, usually without analysis or comment.
Early in the development of this project it became apparent that structural elements—such as parallelisms and chiasmus—provide a rich interpretive resource. Parallel structures are almost universal in Isaiah’s writings; they are identified and diagrammed extensively by Parry, et al.1 Hence, they are not mentioned in this commentary except where they provide useful interpretive information. On the other hand, chiasms are a source of interpretive information that has been less thoroughly utilized. In many instances chiasms contain encoded meanings and concepts placed there by Isaiah. Parry, in his work Harmonizing Isaiah, identifies numerous chiasms including some that are recognized only in Hebrew.2 In this commentary chiasms that provide doctrinal information or describe fulfillment of prophecy are diagrammed and analyzed for interpretive meaning. Other chiasms that have been identified are placed as endnotes in each chapter.
This commentary follows a predictably uniform format for each chapter so that discussions of particular passages may be found quickly. The numerous scriptural references are placed as endnotes rather than appearing parenthetically in the text so that the text would be uncluttered and easier to read. By following the endnotes, the more scholarly reader may satisfy the need for extensive documentation that a work such as this requires. Also to avoid placing stumbling blocks in the way of the reader, Hebrew words are presented only sparsely. Typically, only the English meaning for Hebrew words is presented, where doing so provides additional understanding.
Interpretive discussions are presented generally on a verse-by-verse basis. The commentary for each verse begins with the complete King James text so that the reader need not refer continually to the Old Testament to make sense of the commentary. Introductions of topics presented by Isaiah that occupy several verses are placed at the beginning of the sequence, and discussions of chiasms and other structures that usually involve more than one verse are placed at the end of the pertinent sequence.
I am deeply indebted to others for assistance and encouragement in writing this commentary. My mother Glenna C. Sanderson read and critiqued every word I have written. My son Alan B. Sanderson first pointed me in the direction of chiastic structures and their interpretive value. My daughter Emily Sanderson unflinchingly applied her editorial and formatting skills to my writing. My son Mark J. Sanderson made valuable contributions to the formatting and organized an effective advertising program.
I alone am responsible for the content of this work. I am an ordinary man who has led an ordinary life, except that I have been greatly blessed by the Lord. I make no claim as to the correctness of the interpretations contained herein, and I profess no authorization to set forth doctrines binding upon anyone. My hope is that the reader will gain a better understanding of how Isaiah’s prophecies are being fulfilled in our own time and how this enables us to better prepare for what is to come. May this work inspire the reader to seek and search diligently, obtaining greater insight into the blessings and opportunities that have been provided for us.
—Ivan D. Sanderson, February 6, 2009