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© Rosemary Bardsley 2024


Isaiah’s message concerns ‘Judah and Jerusalem’.

Isaiah received this message/vision during the reigns of the four kings mentioned in verse 1. ‘Judah’ refers to the southern kingdom of Israel, which was ruled by Davidic kings. Its people were the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, plus various people from the other tribes who did not agree with the political and religious position of ‘Israel’, the northern kingdom made up of the other ten tribes. This division of the kingdom occurred after the death of Solomon.

During the reigns of Uzziah (Azariah) and Jotham in Judah, and during the beginning of Ahaz’s reign, the northern kingdom, ‘Israel’, still existed. During this period, while Isaiah preached the word of God in Judah, Amos and Hosea preached the word of God to a persistently idolatrous Israel. In 722BC, during the reign of Ahaz in Judah, the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom, deporting its surviving citizens, and settling other people in the land. In this the Assyrians were agents of God’s judgement, which fell on Israel because of their consistent unrepentant idolatry.

(After the end of the northern kingdom, Judah is sometimes called ‘Israel’.)

For further detail about the historical background, and these four kings of Judah, go to this study.


Although three of the kings mentioned in verse 1 were godly kings, they were not able to carry the nation with them. This is obvious in God’s description of the nation in chapter one. While individual people within the nation were people of faith, the nation as a whole did not have faith – they did not have, and they did not value, a relationship with God.

Answer these questions about verses 2 – 6:
What one word describes Judah’s attitude to God? (verses 2 & 5)

Why did they do this? (verse 3)

What did God see when he looked at these people? (verse 4a)

What had they done to God? (verse 4b)


How extensive was their sin? (verses 5 & 6)


[1] God uses several different images to convey what he thinks about sin. How do these various images help you to understand how offensive sin is to God?


[2] In what ways are these verses relevant to Christians, and to you personally, today?


[3] What challenges you most in these verses?



These three verses look ahead to the judgement that would ultimately fall on Judah.

Read the verses. What do you learn about:
The extent of the devastation?

The perpetrators of this devastation?

The reason the devastation was not total?


Here we are reminded that God is sovereign. As sovereign, as the King, he is also the Judge. When the judgement comes, although God uses foreign powers and their armies as the agents/instruments/executors of his judgement, it is he who is in control. He sets the limit, the boundary. Those invading armies are not autonomous, even though they might think they are. They can go only as far as God allows them to go.

Although the northern kingdom would be totally destroyed, never to rise again, when the judgement fell on Judah, the southern kingdom, it would not be total. God would leave some survivors. In keeping with his promises to Abraham and to David, in keeping with his eternal purpose to send his Son into the world to save us, a remnant of the descendants of Abraham and David would survive.


Although Judah had rejected God, they still observed the various rituals that were defined in the Law of Moses as part of the old covenant obligations. Isaiah mentions:

Sacrifices and burnt offerings – listed in Leviticus 1 – 7, and included in the daily, monthly and annual observances.

Incense offerings – described in Exodus 30:1 – 9, and involved in many rituals.

New Moon festivals – referred to in Numbers 10:10 and Psalm 81:3.

Sabbaths – included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8 – 11) and involved in many rituals.

Appointed feasts/convocations/assemblies – the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:1 – 30, 43 – 49; Leviticus 23:4 – 8); the Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost); the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles (all in Leviticus 23).

And then he mentions their prayers.

From verses 10 – 15 answer these questions:
[1] Suggest why God called the people of Judah ‘rulers of Sodom’ and ‘people of Gomorrah’? (You can read the history of these two towns in Genesis18:16 to 19:29.)


[2] What words and phrases does God use to express what he thinks of their various acts of worship?


[3] What was God’s response to their prayers?



As we read what God says here about Judah’s worship and prayers, it is important to remember that these are people who have rebelled against God (verse 2), who neither know nor understand God (verse 3), who have forsaken the LORD and spurned the Holy One (verse 4). In other words, although they belong to God’s chosen people (nation), the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, they are not people of faith. They neither believe in God nor believe God. Because they are not people of faith, they have not received from God the forgiveness of sins nor the gift of righteousness that is credited to all who believe. Both their sin and their guilt is still upon them. Their sins still separate them from God and incur God’s wrath and judgement. Separated from God by their unforgiven sins, they have no right of access to God. Just as their acts of worship, coming from an unbelieving heart, are worthless, even so their prayers, coming from unbelieving hearts, are also worthless.

It is inappropriate, therefore, to apply these words in 1:10 – 15 to people today who are people of faith, and who, by faith, are credited with righteousness, and who, through Christ, have permanent, uninhibited access to the Father.

Check these scripture texts for affirmation of our access to God through Christ:
Psalm 32:1, 2

Jeremiah 31:34

Ephesians 2:18

Hebrews 4:14 – 16

Hebrews 10:19 – 22



The people of Judah have deliberately distanced themselves from God, and God knows it. He is not deceived by their hypocritical worship. He is not deceived by their prayers. He knows that these external expressions of religion do not come from a heart and mind that is fixed on him. Yet in his grace he pleads with them to repent. Only genuine faith and repentance can avert the impending judgement.

Make a list of the different ways God commands repentance in verses 16 & 17:




True faith is made evident in action. In all of these phrases God commands a change of action that requires acknowledgement of him as the Sovereign Lord. A refusal to make these changes in their lives would demonstrate a refusal to believe him – a rejection of God and his word that paralleled Adam and Eve’s rejection of God and his word in Genesis 3. If the people of Judah really believe in God, and really believe his word, radical changes will be evident in their lives.

When Isaiah is proclaiming God’s message, Judah was ripe for God’s judgement. But God commanded a repentance which, if embraced by Judah, would totally change their situation: instead of the impending and predicted judgement there is the offer of forgiveness, and along with it, a continuing future in their land.

Answer these questions from verses 18 – 20:
What do you learn of God’s heart?


How is forgiveness expressed in these verses?


What two alternatives are put before the people?



Isaiah’s first chapter concludes with further descriptions of Judah’s sin and its impact, and of the judgement that must follow. But a new concept is introduced: that the judgement is not only punitive – it is also, for some, corrective. Beyond the judgement there is hope of restoration.

And here we need to look at a question that is relevant to any study of the biblical prophets: At what level are we to understand prophecies of hope and restoration beyond the judgement?

Is the prophet talking about the physical restoration of the Jews to their land after the judgement – that is, after the seventy years of exile in Babylon?

Is he talking about an as yet future restoration, a permanent re-establishment of the political sovereignty of the Jews over their own land, a land restored to its maximum boundaries and its maximum productivity?

Or is he talking, with symbols of physical restoration and prosperity, of the eternal, spiritual restoration that is enjoyed by all, both Jew and non-Jew, who believe in Jesus Christ?

Christians are divided about this, particularly in relation to the second. Old Testament history tells us that there was a restoration after the Babylonian exile. Both and Old and New Testaments affirm the spiritual restoration that is accomplished by Jesus Christ for all who believe in him. [See Study 26]

Read verses 21 to 31. Answer these questions:
What extra descriptions of Judah’s sins does Isaiah give us? (verses 21 – 23)



How does God intend to correct and reform the people of Judah? (verses 25 – 27)



What will happen to those who fail to respond to his corrective punishment? (verse 28, 30, 31)




Forgiveness of sins is promised in verse 18.

Righteousness and faithfulness
In verse 26 Isaiah uses the terms ‘the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City’ and in verse 27 says that ‘penitent ones’ will be redeemed ‘with righteousness’. This concept of ‘righteousness’ as a salvation concept is repeated later in Isaiah. It is also a key factor in the Gospel – where ‘a righteousness from God is made known that is by faith from first to last’ – Romans 1:17. Paul speaks of this gospel righteousness at length in Romans 3 to 5.

Think about verses 25 – 27:
In what ways does the New Testament use the concepts of ‘righteousness’ and ‘City’ when referring to the church of Jesus Christ?


How does verse 27 point ahead to the spiritual salvation we have in Jesus Christ? [Check Romans 1:15 – 17; 3:21 – 24; 4:3, 23 – 25.]