The Historical Background
Like most of the prophets, Isaiah's ministry took place during troublous times. Ever since the division of the Israelite Kingdom under the reign of Rehoboam, Israel had seen nothing but a succession of evil kings whose apostate ways had all but destroyed the nation. As Uzziah reigned in Judah, Jeroboam II reigned in Israel. Under his rule, Israelite territory was expanded considerably. Under Uzziah's capable hand, Judah's territory had been expanded also with victories over the Ammonites to the east and the Philistines to the west. Even to the very border of Egypt, Uzziah's power was made known (II Chronicles 26:6-8). Undoubtedly, these times of apparent strength and prosperity only encouraged many of the nation's inhabitants to forget God. The opening rebukes of Isaiah's prophecy bear witness to this tragic reality.
To the north, Jeroboam's victories were extremely temporal to say the least. God's grace in giving Israel room for repentance continued to go unheeded. After the death of Jeroboam II, the fourth and last of Jehu's sons (Zechariah) sat upon the throne. His reign would last only six months before he would be murdered by Shallum who then took the throne. After Shallum, only four more kings would reign before Israel would be conquered and deported to foreign lands.
To the east, in the land of Mesopotamia, Assyria had arisen to become the next world ruler under the hand of Adad-Nirari II. Although the Assyrians had not yet made a serious push into Israelite territory, it would not be long before Tiglath-pileser III would embark upon his famous western campaign of 743 BC; and in 722 BC, the Israelite capital of Samaria would fall to the Assyrian king Sargon II thus marking the end of the northern kingdom. After this, the Assyrians would advance toward the capital of Jerusalem while swallowing up the Judean countryside. The knowledge of such events brings to life the Lord's words when He warned Judah of Assyria's coming invasion saying, "And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8)."
Although Assyria would wreak havoc on the small kingdom of Judah, the Lord would deliver His people through a miraculous victory by supernaturally destroying 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night (Isaiah 37:36). After this event, Assyria would never be what it once was. God would remove her presence from Judah thus giving the southern kingdom approximately 115 additional years to repent of its sins before Jerusalem would finally fall under the rule of the Babylonian Empire.