Isaiah 1-39 (CSC) by Gary V. Smith

The Christian Standard Commentary (CSC) series continues its early trend of nabbing the most well-received volumes of its predecessor, the NAC series, with this release by Gary V. Smith covering Isaiah 1-39. He also did the Isaiah 40-66 volume, which some thought was even better, in the old series, so we can assume it will be soon to follow in this new series. To be sure, this volume was always ranked as one of the most competent conservative volumes in the old series and it gets updating here. As for me, I had often used it over the years.

The Introduction is thorough with particularly fine historical background. He describes what can be known about the man Isaiah, though the Bible does not present a strait forward history of him. Isaiah also does not always run chronologically, but he does a good job keeping you on track. He covers more information about the text than most will need, including showing that the Dead Sea Scrolls varied little from the Masoretic text. Since Isaiah has often been attacked by redactional critics, he does a convincing job encouraging confidence in the text including seeing clear evidence of structure in 1-39 as a whole. In fact, he works out a lot of fine information about structure in sections. He further discuss theological themes that makes sense for Isaiah.

The commentary proper bears evidence of a skilled commentator. Since there are so many sections that are hard to comprehend on first reading, he digs beautifully into the historical background as well as explaining the theology backed up with good exegesis. For these many good traits, this commentary is indispensable.

Though I would hate to be without it, I do have one problem with this commentary. I noticed it in the old edition, and though this update improves the commentary throughout, that problem remains. Just where you will most likely turn for commentary in the Book of Isaiah, such as 7:14 and 9:6 for example, is exactly where this commentary will fail you. In 7:14 that is quoted often every Christmas season, he never mentions Christ! He makes the surprising conclusion for a conservative commentary that the word often translated “virgin” means only a young woman and not necessarily a virgin. He does not seem to subscribe to the idea that many prophecies have a near and far meaning. When it comes to the near meaning, like what might be happening in Isaiah‘s day, he cannot be beat. You’ll have to go somewhere else for help with the other. In 9:6 he is unnecessarily vague about Christ though he mentions the future Messiah. Perhaps I am being hard on him because he is an acknowledged conservative scholar.

Caveats notwithstanding, I would never do important study in Isaiah without consulting this work. It is just simply too good a resource in many important ways.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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