Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.
My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about Isaiah.
J. Alec Motyer – The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Motyer has written a couple of commentaries on Isaiah; this is the longer and better of the two and should not be confused with his contribution to the Tyndale Commentary on the Old Testament (though that one is also worth consulting). It is widely regarded as the best, or at least one of the best, commentaries on Isaiah and a must for any theological library. Tremper Longman says, “It represents the best of conservative evangelical approach to the book at the end of the twentieth century” and praises it for being well-researched, well thought-out, and especially helpful in theological matters. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
John Oswalt – The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Like Motyler, Oswalt has written multiple volumes on Isaiah. His contribution to the NIVAC is regarded as top-notch but this, his entry in the NICOT, is far more thorough. Keith Mathison says, “The completion of John Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah in 1998 was a major blessing to the Christian church. This work, which replaced E. J. Young’s older three-volume commentary on Isaiah in the NICOT series, is a model of careful evangelical scholarship. It should be on the desk of every student of the Old Testament.” (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2; Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)
Edward Young – The Book of Isaiah (3 Volume Set). While this set is no longer part of the NICOT, it is still regarded as one of the finest commentaries on Isaiah. While the commentators on the commentaries note that Young’s writing can be tedious at times, the volumes are commended for their sound exegesis and their firmly evangelical theology. The volumes are now sold together as a three-book set. The price is a bit on the high side, but it will prove worth the cost, I am sure. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
G.W. Grogan – Isaiah (Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary). I found many of the experts commending this volume from Grogan. Longman says, “Grogan has produced one of the best short commentaries on the prophet Isaiah” and commends him for being adept at bringing out the theological meaning of the book. He also presents a strong argument for the authorial unity of the book. This one will probably not be necessary if you own the three above. (Amazon)
Barry Webb – The Message of Isaiah (The Bible Speaks Today). I always like to include at least one volume written for a general or devotional reader, and in this case, Webb’s is a good fit. Mathison says, “Those who are looking for a brief non-technical commentary on the book of Isaiah would do well to consider the volume by Barry Webb in the Bible Speaks Today series. Although the series does not give the space to go into great detail, Webb makes the most of it and offers very illuminating insight into the text.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)
Let me close with a couple of questions: Have you ever preached through Isaiah? What are your preferred commentaries? Are there some you’ve found particularly helpful for preaching or devotional purposes?
More in Best Commentaries:
- A La Carte (8/5)
- Best Commentaries on Genesis
- Best Commentaries on Matthew
- Best Commentaries on Exodus