Structure of Isaiah 1-12
July 29, 2021

The first twelve chapters of Isaiah form a chiasm:

A. Lord’s opposition to Judah, 1:1-31

    B. High things cut; Jerusalem restored, 2:1-4:6

             C. Parable of Vineyard and woes, 5:1-30

                       D. Isaiah and Ahaz, 6:1-9:7

             C’. “Hand stretched out”; woe, 9:8-10:4

    B’. Woe to Assyrian axe, 10:5-32

A’. Restoration of Judah, 10:33-12:6

The overall storyline of this section is that Judah has become an Egypt, and needs to be delivered.  They are a Sodom and Gomorrah, or nearly so, at the beginning, but by the end of chapter 12, they are singing a variation of the Song of Moses, an exodus from the Egyptian state that they have been in, and an exodus from the devastating judgment that Assyria is bringing.

The A and A’ sections are linked in part by the repetition of the root “yasha,” which is part of Isaiah’s name and is not repeated until 12:2-3, where the noun form is used 3x.  12:3 also reverses the water imagery of 12:22, 30; in chapter 1, the wine is diluted with water, the garden is going to become dry because of the lack of water, but in chapter 12 there is abundant water from the “springs of salvation.”  It is an exodus image: Chapter 1 depicts a nation in the wilderness, a dry and weary land, but chapter 12 shows water in the wilderness.  The Lord rejects the bulls and lambs that Judah offers in the temple (1:11), but in the restored world the bull and lamb will be safe (11:6).  Israel does not know the Lord (1:3), but in the end the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (12:9).

The B and B’ sections are more clearly linked.  Chapter 2 begins with a vision of the restored and exalted Zion, to which all the nations are streaming, while the B’ section deals with the devastation of Zion (10:12).  More importantly, chapter 2 continues with a description of the Lord’s reckoning against the cedars and oaks, and His work of destroying the high and lofty things in Israel (2:12-17).  This links nicely to chapter 10, where Assyria is the Lord’s axe, chopping down the forest of Israel (10:5).  The recurring theme of the humbling of the lofty (2:11-14, 17) returns in 10:33, the transitional verses to A’.  The daughters of Zion who are a central focus in 3:16-17, 4:4 return in 10:32.  In 4:4, Zion will be purged by a burning spirit, and in 10:16-17, the glory of the Lord kindles a fire.

The C and C’ sections are so closely knit together that the central narrative is an intrusion.  Chapter 5 begins with the parable of the vineyard, which is then made literal with a series of woes, interspersed with explanations of the consequences for Judah.  Six woes are pronounced, and 5:25 includes the refrain “for all this His anger is not spent, but his hand is still stretched out.”  The word for “woe” in chapter 5 is hoy, and that word is not used again until 10:1, which contains the seventh woe (the “woe” of 6:5 is ‘oy). The seven woes are arranged chiastically:

1. Add house to house

    2. Drink wine

             3. Drag iniquity

                       4. call evil good and good evil

             3’. Wise in their own eyes

    2’. Drink wine and justify for a bribe

1’. Woe to those who derive orphans and widows

The refrain “for all this His anger is not spent. . . ,” first used in 5:25 is picked up again four times in chapters 9-10 (9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).  Yahweh’s hand is stretched out five in a rank against Judah. This section thus wraps around the narrative of Isaiah’s call, his confrontation of Ahaz, and the promises and threats that follow from that.  This central section seems to have a rough chiastic shape:

       1. Death of King; Isaiah’s commission; “throne”, 6:1-13

                2. Ahaz, Israel, and Aram, 7:1-9

                         3. Immanuel, 7:10-19

                                   4. Assyria, 7:20-25

                         3’. Maher and Immanuel, 8:1-8

                2’. Shattering of nations, 8:9-9:1

       1’. Birth of Davidic king, “throne,” 9:2-7

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