Isaiah : biography
According to the Rabbinic literature, Isaiah was a descendant of the royal house of Judah and Tamar (Sotah 10b). He was the son of Amoz (not to be confused with Prophet Amos), who was the brother of King Amaziah of Juda. (Talmud tractate Megillah 15a). at Jewish Encyclopedia
Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah, 18th century (iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia).]]
The first verse of the Book of Isaiah states that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah (). Uzziah’s reign was 52 years in the middle of the 8th century BC, and Isaiah must have begun his ministry a few years before Uzziah’s death, probably in the 740s BC. Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (who died 698 BC), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for as long as 64 years.
Isaiah’s wife was called "the prophetess" (), either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah () and Huldah (), or simply because she was the "wife of the prophet" (as he is named, for instance in ). The second interpretation, that it was simply an honorary title is likely.Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009, p.273. They had two sons, naming one Shear-Jashub, meaning "A remnant shall return" () and the younger, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, "Spoil quickly, plunder speedily." ()
In early youth, Isaiah may have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III (); and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel ( ). Humbled, Ahaz sided with Assyria and sought the aid of Tiglath-Pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria ( ; ). Isaiah, by [[Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City)]] Soon after this, Shalmaneser V determined to subdue the kingdom of Israel, Samaria was taken and destroyed (722 BC). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah, who was encouraged to rebel "against the king of Assyria" (), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (701 BC) led a powerful army into Judah. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (). But after a brief interval war broke out again. Again Sennacherib led an army into Judah, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem ( ). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he "spread before the Lord" ().
According to the account in Kings (and its derivative account in Chronicles) the judgment of God now fell on the Assyrian army and wiped out 180,000 of its men. "Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either southern Palestine or Egypt."Sayce, Archibald Henry. The ancient empires of the East. Macmillan, 1884, p. 134.
The remaining years of Hezekiah’s reign were peaceful (). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are not specified in either the Bible or recorded history. There is a tradition (reported in both the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Lives of the Prophets) that he suffered martyrdom by Manasseh due to pagan reaction.