These chapters are among the most beautiful in the Bible; they are an important part of Western literary culture, even for non-believers. Many scholars see the chapters as part of larger dramatic structure, a larger dramatic script as it were. In contemporary scripts the various parts would be marked clearly: “Chorus,” “Yahweh,” “Earth,” “Heavens,” “Armies,” etc. The fact that we must infer these from what is said makes reading Isaiah more difficult.
As I have done with the previous chapters of Isaiah, I’ll outline how the people of Jerusalem might have understood these prophecies. Doing that will help us understand better the ways in which those prophecies are also about later events. As you read the outline, ask yourself how to understand the verses in question as applying to us—first individually and then as a church? It seems reasonable to assume that the chapter had meaning for the Israelites at the time it was given, as well as it has meaning for later people, for example Abinadi (Mosiah 14:2-12) , who quotes from Isaiah 53, and for example, Jesus speaking to the Nephites, who quotes from Isaiah 52 (3 Nephi 16:18-20). What meaning might these prophecies also have for us today that they didn’t have for others? I will provide a few questions to help generate others.