Everyone who has a passion for preaching or expositing God’s Word has felt this tension, “Which kinds of commentaries should I invest in?” Some feel that buying a commentary series, made up of different authors, looks best on a shelf and stays united in their overall method and intent. While those might be true, I would argue that it’s most of the time more beneficial for us to search for commentaries book by book, looking for the cream of the crop for each individual book. While it may not look as nice, this is truly the best practice for faithful study. And, not to mention, a commitment to commentary series would leave out a work like Dr. Motyer’s volume on Isaiah.
The late Alec Motyer is certainly one of our time’s most renowned theologians and scholars, but he lived, by comparison, a fairly quiet life in the publishing world. While he didn’t publish more books than one could occupy, the books, particularly the commentaries that he did publish, carry with them extreme worth. Many feel that this volume, The Prophecy of Isaiah, towers above all of his other works, and is one of the most “must-have” commentaries on Isaiah in print. If you’re building your commentary library (as you should) with the best of the best for each book, here’s a good place to start.
Motyer’s style in The Prophecy of Isaiah is to strive for clarity and brevity in the midst of massive theological ideas. In this commentary, one does not find an exhaustive exploration of original languages, or historical theology tangents. Motyer, for the most part, just sticks to the text at hand and truly seeks to aid us in our Bible reading. Sometimes commentaries easily draw our attention away from the text and try to enrapture us in their own work, but Motyer’s Isaiah volume seems always to be saying, “Go read this in Scripture!” For that, I really appreciate Motyer’s approach.
But it is not as if Motyer is not offering us a fresh perspective and new insight. As I turn to each new chapter, I find very stirring quotes and thoughts that help me better interpret Isaiah’s message, and in turn the truth of who God is. The commentary is structured by a highly detailed and very expository outline, which will greatly aid teachers of these texts. Littered throughout are various chiasms as well, which really help us see how Isaiah intended to get his points across and organize his writings.
Motyer’s careful study has proved to be a faithful companion to me as I study the book of Isaiah in my devotional times. It’s my go-to resource on this big book of the Old Testament, and for his work, I’m extremely grateful. If I had a whole commentary set on the Old Testament and didn’t have this volume on Isaiah, I would truly be missing out.