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The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary Paperback – December 15, 1993
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"Motyer's greatest contribution yet to Old Testament scholarship." (The Church of England Newspaper)
"Highly recommended." (BTS Booklist)
"Exceptional." (The Communicator)
"Winner of a 1994 Critics Choice Award." (Christianity Today)
About the Author
J. Alec Motyer (1924–2016) was a renowned Old Testament pastor and scholar. With extensive experience in parish ministry, he was principal of Trinity College in Bristol, England, and was well known as a Bible expositor. His books include The Prophecy of Isaiah, and he was the Old Testament editor of The Bible Speaks Today commentary series.
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Top Customer Reviews
Motyer's exegesis of the text mostly consists of analyzing individual words and showing parallels, both with other parts of Isaiah and with other portions of Scripture. He does not include a translation of the text, so you'll need to have a Bible open while reading this to follow his points (although if you're reading any commentary, you should really be doing that anyways!) I found a number of his literary considerations to be helpful. He also takes the New Testament use of Isaiah seriously, which adds an additional level of insight to the text.
The only criticism I have is that sometimes Motyer's outlines of specific passages strike me as arbitrarily contrived. It is as if he is trying too hard to make parallels and chiasms "fit" with each other. For instance, in the section on the oracles against the nations (chs. 13-27), he argues that the section breaks into three cycles (13-20, 21-23, 24-27), but then tries to make each individual element in the cycle parallel to each other, resulting in some rather awkward parallels. (One wonders, for instance, how what the oracles against Moab and Arabia have to do with each other, and furthermore, how they would be parallel to the "banquet" passage in 25:1-12). I am also not sure I agree with his overall three-fold division of Isaiah into: "The Book of the King" (1-37), "The Book of the Servant" (38-55), and "The Book of the Anointed Conqueror" (56-66). However, these concerns are really secondary compared to the value of this 500+ page work.
Overall, I would still recommend Motyer's commentary. He has a number of useful exegetical insights. If I could only have one Isaiah commentary, Oswalt would be my first choice. If I could have a second, I would get Motyer and use him to supplement Oswalt.
But the heart of this commentary is not about literary design or textual criticism. The heart of this commentary is about explaining in a well reasoned way the basic exegetical idea paragraph after paragraph with references to related issues sprinkled throughout the commentary.
One negative is that the format of the text is condensed in my view and therefore a little less comfortable to read than say the NICOT or NIVAC formats.
This past Sunday I worked on Isaiah 38-39. Motyer sees that as the beginning of a new section that ends in Isaiah 55. His outline is interesting and his explanations defending his outline are good. In Isaiah 38-39 he deals with Hezekiah's predicatment and outlines the passage with a Chiastic structure that points to Hezekiah's deeper challenge that seems to underlie the text. I found that in this passage at least, Motyer's comments were more illuminating than even the excellently written NIVAC by Oswalt or the NICOT by Oswalt. Motyer sees the Chiasm in Isaiah 38-39 as pointing to Hezekiah's difficulty in obeying the point of the law where Judah is not to make alliances with foreign nations.
The poetic structure with an emphasis on the dedication of Hezekiah in 38:8-22 and the defection of Hezekiah in 39:1-2 is a fresh and preaching alliterated point that I actually ended up using in my sermon on Hezekiah.
My respect for this author has been on the rise the more I look into his work. He packs a lot into every page. Excellent book, well worth the shekels.
I am a senior at a biblical university with plans to go on to seminary. This book will not leave my side as I study Isaiah in the future. Often times conservative scholars are looked down upon for poor scholarship, but Motyer's work is certainly erudite. Isaiah is rich in vocabulary and fond of metaphor which Motyer captures well. In addition, one does not need a working knowledge of Hebrew grammar/vocabulary to keep up with his teaching. I would recommend this book for the pastor, adult sunday school teacher or serious student. Enjoy!