Consider that there might have been a number of people named Isaiah or who published under that name. The first thirty-nine chapters chronicle the life of a man who lived prior to the birth of King Hezekiah, (remember the reference to Handel's messiah mentioned in parshat Yitro, Isaiah chapter 6 where I mentioned that Isaiah was predicting the birth of Hezekiah, a king who ruled for forty years?) One of the highlights of this Isaiah's life took place in 701 B.C.E., when the Assyrians surprisingly decided not to conquer Jerusalem and Jerusalem was saved. These incidents are recorded in chapters 36-39.
The seven weeks begins with Chapter 40, this morning's haftarah, and reflects a different world and a different time.
Yes, grasshopper that is why it is referred to as Second Isaiah. This morning's haftarah is one of consolation and comfort being delivered to the Judeans who were exiled to Babylon between 597 B.C.E. and 586 and to the destroyed city of Jerusalem. The haftarah also suggests that exile from Jerusalem will shortly come to an end and a return would be possible. This leads us to believe that the author lived after 538. 538 B.C.E. was the year that Cyrus, the Mede, conquered and usurped the Babylonian empire. Cyrus was the ruler who authorized the rebuilding of the Temple.
It is time to let the dialogue found in the seven haftarot of 2nd Isaiah begin. Don't despair my ancestors, “follow the road in the desert” Have faith, move on.
This week's Haftarah commentary is reprinted from one written for the Unraveller on July 24, 2010 by Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of the FJMC and author of "Understanding the Haftarot. An Everyperson's Guide".