(When I taught my two year long Bible study on Isaiah, I used The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell to give me a starting point and rough outline of the material covered in the chapters. In this article, when you read the phrase “my commentary”, I am referring to this volume.)
In this chapter we have three groups of speakers, the seraphs (a special kind of angel), the Lord and Isaiah. This is the first time that we see the Lord speaking to Isaiah on personal matters; previously it was only in regards to prophecy regarding Judah. Read Isaiah 6:1
We can date this chapter from this verse “in the year King Uzziah died”, which according to my Dad’s biblical archeology notes was in 740 BC. Uzziah’s son Jotham is now king of Judah.
(for your reference Pekah is King of Israel and Ashur-niraii V is King of Assyri, though he is not mentioned by name in the Bible.)
In the next chapter in Isaiah Ahaz, Jotham’s son, is king, so Isaiah 6 is the only chapter that is specific to Jotham’s reign. Before we study our chapter in Isaiah, let’s get a feel for what the spiritual and political climate was like during Jotham’s reign. Jotham had actually been king in all but name before his father died for about 7 years. Read 2 Chronicles 26:21-23.
We have only two brief sections of scripture that talk specifically about Jotham’s reign. Read 2 Kings 15:32-38, 2 Chronicles 27
From these verses, what kind of king was he? Apparently he was much like his father in that he was listed as a good king (and God honored that in that He gave the Ammonites into his hand) but with obvious weaknesses.
Uzziah, if you can remember, had problems with pride, so God struck him with leprosy. Jotham, while he did work to rebuild the Upper Gate of the temple, did not remove the altars and high places his people had set up to other gods. The picture I have is of a king who loved the Lord, but was too afraid of his people to risk their displeasure by interfering in their “religious” lives. A sort of “live & let live” attitude. One does not doubt his personal salvation, but one doubts his ability to model a true and vibrant righteousness to others.
We can assume there was some sort of spiritual weakness in him from how his son Ahaz turns out: Read 2 Chronicles 28:1-4
Ahaz, as a child, most likely assumed that idol worship was acceptable, perhaps even preferrable, since his father never took a strong stance against it.
So the picture we have of Judah at the time of Isaiah’s throne vision is a kingdom with a ruler who has a desire to follow God (though spiritually weak), but with a citizenry that runs after idols.
Does Isaiah have a vision or did he actually visit heaven? We really don’t know. Isaiah in this first verse does not describe what the Lord looks like, he just says “I saw the Lord.”
We have descriptions of what the Lord looks like on the throne from other sources.
From the Apostle John in Revelation 4:2-3: jasper & carnelian
These are both precious stones, of the chalcedony (kal-sedn-e) variety. My dictionary describes this as “a translucent to transparent milky or grayish quartz with distinctive microscopic crystals arranged in slender fibers to parallel bands.” (color ranges from red to yellow to brown)
From the prophet Daniel in Daniel 7:9 and from the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:26-28.
The Lord on the throne brings to mind an image of ruler and judge. Interestingly in these verses the throne is described as sapphire (or lapis lazuli) a blue color, or flaming with fire, while it is described as white in Revelation 20:11. (Side note, white light contains all other colors.)
In all three images of God, He is shown as shining brightly, with a holy radiance.
And in Isaiah the throne is in the temple; this is very interesting because we know there is no temple building in Heaven today, from John’s vision. Read Revelation 21:22
With the coming of Jesus and the making of the new covenant there is no longer a need for a temple building or temple rituals and sacrifices in order to be in right relationship with God. You can speak directly to God through Jesus: He is our high priest. Read Hebrews 4:14-16.
Notice that here the throne is called a “throne of grace.”
However, in Isaiah’s time, your relationship with God was through the temple and the temple sacrifices, so he would expect to see the Lord within the temple. (You can read a description of Solomon’s temple, the first temple built, in 1 Kings 6. This temple was later destroyed. Prior to this, the Lord’s presence was associated with the ark of the covenant, which was kept in the tabernacle (tent of meeting.) A description of the tabernacle is given in Exodus 25-27.) God said that He would dwell among the Israelites within these places.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah