Isaiah wrote the prophetic book that bears his name from about 739 B.C. to 681 B.C. Little is known about him, although he is often mentioned in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In Isaiah chapter 6, we learn of the prophet's call, which he dates from the year King Uzziah died.
As we are commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible (1611) I have decided to share some of the beautiful poetry of that translation, which has perhaps had more influence on English poetry than any other publication. The following passage is well known, because it significantly prophesied Christ’s crucifixion. In Handel’s great oratorio, Messiah, portions of this and other texts from the King James Version were incorporated.
From The Servant Songs (Isaiah 52:13 — 53:12)
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently,
-----he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were astonied at thee;
-----his visage was so marred more than any man,
-----and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle many nations;
-----the kings shall shut their mouths at him:
for that which had not been told them shall they see;
-----and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report?
-----and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
-----and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him,
-----there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men;
-----a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
-----he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs,
-----and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
-----smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
-----he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
-----and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
-----we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD hath laid on him
-----the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
-----yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
-----and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment:
-----and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
-----for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked,
-----and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
-----neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:
-----when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
-----and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul,
-----and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
-----for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
-----and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
-----and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
-----and made intercession for the transgressors.
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca