This book is an exposition of Isaiah 6-12. Arguably, these chapters are a microcosm of Isaiah as a whole, containing Isaiah’s commission, warnings of judgment against both Israel and Assyria, promises of the virgin birth and reign of Christ, and songs of praise for salvation.
One benefit of isolating this section of text is that it helps focus on the flow of biblical thought and recurring themes across these chapters. The title refers to the picture of the remnant of God’s people as the ‘stump’ in chapter 6, and again to the prophecy of a ‘shoot’ from the stump of Jesse in chapter 11.
Davis vividly describes the climate of fear in 8th century BC Judah, the apparent unlikeliness of the hope offered through Isaiah’s prophecy, and the close connection between this assurance for those who believe and inevitable judgment for the nation as a whole. He reminds us that the reign of the Prince of Peace is no mere abstract thing, but presupposes absolute defeat of Christ’s enemies.
Isaiah 7 is dealt with in particular detail. The author seeks to ground the messianic prophecy in its setting (addressed to King Ahaz) and show how a single fulfilment can be found in Christ. Davis emphasises the tone of judgment that puts this hope beyond Ahaz’s reach: ‘Immanuel will come in spite of Ahaz and his unbelief — but he will not come for Ahaz. This means we should quit looking for a “contemporary fulfilment” in Ahaz’s own time’ (p.31). The analysis is necessarily complex, but thorough and clear.
Readers familiar with Dale Ralph Davis’ books will recognise the distinctive mix of careful exegesis and humorous anecdote, recounted in a lively style.
At 128 pages, including the biblical text, this is just a tantalising dip into Isaiah. Perhaps the length suits today’s appetite, but it seems a pity to stop so soon. This is a genuinely enjoyable commentary and I would hope that further material on the rest of Isaiah will follow.