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Isaiah is the largest book of the major prophets, hence its placement in the Jewish canon at the head of the prophetic books ( Noegel and Wheeler, 2010). Noegel and Wheeler (2010) describe the text as follows:
The book contains the prophecies of at least two different individuals, the first comprising chapters 1-39 and dating to 738-687 BCE, and the second (known as Deutero-Isaiah) comprising chapters 40-66 and dating to the sixth century BCE. Some scholars also propose the existence of a third individual (Trito-Isaiah) whose work appears in chapters 55-66 and dates to the sixth to fifth centuries BCE. The presence of a Deutero-Isaiah seems assured by the reference in Isa 45:1 to Cyrus the Persian king (559-530 BCE). Scholars who propose the existence of a Trito-Isaiah point to the critical attitude of the prophecies toward the restored community's failings.

The first Isaiah lived during the height of Assyrian power, especially under Tiglath-Pileser III, and witnessed the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as the Assyrian invasions that took place during the reign of King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE). A member of the aristocracy and a statesman, this Isaiah was probably multilingual, may have held a priestly position (he has a vision in the temple), and appears to have been the head of a prophetic school. His wife also was a prophet (Isa 8:1). As a political thinker Isaiah advocates a policy of political isolationism and the avoidance of all foreign alliances, a position ultimately grounded in his conception of holiness (lit. "separateness").

Isaiah appears to have been preoccupied with knowing God and his name (Isa 12:4), and he placed great stock in the idea that Yahweh's temple was invulnerable to destruction. The failure of the Assyrian king Seimacherib to seize Jerusalem (Isaiah 36-37) only bolstered this belief. Isaiah also put great faith in Davidic kingship as a source of hope, though he was critical of the kings who sat on the throne. His emphasis on the Davidic line led ultimately to an early form of messianism (Isaiah 9, 11), and it is clear that he expected the appearance of a holy king in his own day. Isaiah's prophecies, especially his oracles against the nations (Isaiah 13-23), demonstrate an awareness of Assyrian oracular traditions. At times, Isaiah engages in shocking prophetic dramas including going naked and barefoot for three years (Isa 20:2-4).

Deutero-Isaiah probably derives from the same school as that of the first Isaiah. It is distinguished from first Isaiah, however, by its absolute monotheism (Isa 45:5-7), which also may reflect the dualism of Persian religion. Deutero-Isaiah places hope in the Persian ruler Cyrus, whom he calls a messiah (Isa 45:1). His message is primarily one of hope for the returning exiles.

Jewish tradition treats the prophecies of the two (or possibly three) authors as the work of a single individual, though the early rabbis were aware of the problems posed by this. At least one tradition sees the book of Isaiah as the work of Hezekiah and his colleagues, along with the books of Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and Qohelet (TB Baba Batra 15a). The first Isaiah's naked prophetic dramas were seen as unpalatable by the rabbis, who treated them as metaphors for prophesying in worn-out clothes and patched shoes (TB Shabbath 114a).

Though the Bible is silent on Isaiah's death, talmudic tradition records his death at the hand of King Manasseh (TB Sanhedrin 103b). The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah describes how he was sawn in half with a wooden saw, a martyrdom also attributed to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist by the Muslim exegete Wahb b. Munabbih.