'Studies in the Old Testament'

Accuracy of the Canon - 3

October 2008

(Continued from page 472)

The significance of Isaiah 44:28

The study of chronology is vital for us to determine the truths which are crammed in the 39 books which make up the Old Testament. Isaiah 44:28  admirably demonstrates the importance of Old Testament chronology.  We might well come across this passage without fully comprehending its prophetic importance unless we come to an understanding of when Isaiah lived and what other current events affected the social, political and historical situation in Jerusalem in the kingdom of Judah in Isaiah's day.  The way in which the invasions and battles of history affected the Jewish nation are seen through the eyes of the prophets, but if we are unaware of the situation that they were speaking into we will not fully grasp the spiritual significance and impact of their words.  We have seen how a knowledge of chronology becomes an important apologetic for the accuracy of the Old Testament and this remains of vital importance in a day when attacks on the veracity of God's Word continue from people who have a vested interest in the truth, e.g. A.N. Wilson, who has a reputation as a historian, but now chooses to use it as a vehicle for purely speculative attacks on the Bible to support his loss of faith.  Men like this refuse to allow the possibility of the supernatural element of prophecy because they cannot accept the existence of an eternal, omnipotent, and sovereign God who can, through His prophets, see and record future events which will affect men and nations - and then bring them to pass in the future.  Thus they have to insist that the prophetic record - where they even concede that it exists - had to be written after the event and is therefore no prophecy at all.  It is therefore important for us to know the accurate chronology so we are able to recognize the time span between the recording of a prophecy and its fulfilment so that we can reflect full confidence in God's Word.

A prime example of this is found in Isaiah 44:28:

"It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'"

Anyone reading this statement without a knowledge of chronology would be exercising considerable guesswork - unless the Holy Spirit instills supernatural insight - because they are almost certain to  be ignorant about the social and historical situation in Jerusalem at this time.  By researching the period when Isaiah lived, the situation in Jerusalem and Judah at that time and when other events took place, we can obtain a better understanding of the prophetic significance of this statement.

Isaiah reveals through the Spirit that it was in the year of King Uzziah's death that he began his official prophetic ministry, for Isaiah 6:1 tells us:

In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.

We learn historically and from chronology that Uzziah died in 739B.C. and thus we know that the relatively young man, Isaiah, began his important prophetic ministry in this year.  If we assume that Isaiah lived for no more than about 80 years after Uzziah's death (and tradition has it that he was martyred in the reign of Mannaseh), then we can conclude that  he died in about 660BC (739 - ~80 = ~659BC).

How does the Biblical record describe the situation in Jerusalem during this time span of ~739BC. to ~660BC.?  The city of Jerusalem was still complete, although the Northern Kingdom was later dispersed in 721BC., and, although the worship system in the temple had been contaminated by idolatry, it was still a vigorous focal point for the nation. Knowing this we can picture the disbelief that would have greeted Isaiah's revelation - for he is describing a scene that they could not recognize from their viewpoint of apparent security.  So, when Isaiah speaks the words recorded in verse 28:

"It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares
of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'" 1

the onlookers might have looked around them at the complete city and the temple being used for regular offerings and struggled to comprehend the words describing an event to occur in the future which would seemingly restore a city and temple that was in existence before their eyes!  The eyes of the spiritually blind will even today deny that Isaiah could have been led by the Spirit of God to see down through the centuries to the time in 586 BC (at least 70-80 years later and well after the death of Isaiah) when Nebuchadnezzar breached the Jerusalem walls and pillaged and demolished the temple, leaving it in fire-razed ruins.  Isaiah saw even past this time to 539 BC when Cyrus gave the command for the rebuilding of the city and for the temple to be reconstructed.  Scripture confirms this historic event, as we can read in 2 Chronicles 36v23:

"Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!'"

This is also recorded in Ezra 1v1-3:

1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
2  "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
3  'Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.

So some 200 years after Isaiah began his prophetic office, the destroyed Jerusalem and the sacked temple were restored (as he prophesied) by a man, King Cyrus, who was obviously unknown to the prophet - for he lived and reigned in an era of which Isaiah knew nothing - but God put Cyrus in the right time and place to be able to decree these things.

So we see that when God determines a sequence of events in history and prophesies through a man or woman he will often separate the prophesy and fulfilment with substantial time and through complex events so that we cannot mistake the fulfilment of prophecy as coincidence.

(Continued on page 474)

'Accuracy of the Canon'

Internal evidences help us confirm that thirty-nine books comprise the complete Old Testament canon

An accurate understanding of the Old Testament chronology is important!

The significance of Isaiah 44:28

1 Kings 6:1 can be used as a starting point to highlight four important Old Testament dates

The importance of the Assyrian Eponym List!

An understanding of when the Patriarchs lived contributes to our understanding of that time period

Archaeology contributes to our understanding of the period of the patriarchs

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