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When I was 13 years old and couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve I read Isaiah so that I would fall asleep. I’m not making that up.
When I was a seminary teacher, I tried to avoid teaching Isaiah. If I was teaching 1 Nephi 20-22, I would spend all my time on 1 Nephi 22 (20-21 are Isaiah). If I was teaching 2 Nephi 6-9, I’d spent 90% of the time on 2 Nephi 9 (Jacob, instead of Isaiah in 6-8).
All that changed several years ago, when I was fortunate enough to sit across the aisle from my colleague Matt Grey on a flight to Chicago. He sketched out a little map of the Ancient Near East and showed me how on just one page you could summarize a lot of history and geography that is really important for understanding Isaiah.
It completely changed the way I read Isaiah.
Here’s a video I made that walks you through the Isaiah Map and gives some examples of how it can help us understand Isaiah.
If you’d like to use any of the PowerPoint slides used in the video, you can access them here.
I also published an article that goes into detail about this map, and gives some examples of how to use it. It’s especially helpful for 1 Nephi 20-21 (Isaiah 48-49), 2 Nephi 7-8 (Isaiah 50-51) and 2 Nephi 12-24 (Isaiah 2-14).
This approach focuses on understanding the geography and historical context of Isaiah’s day and the following generations as suggested by Nephi (see 2 Nephi 25:6). I’m not suggesting this is the only or even best way to understand Isaiah; however, I have found this background information is helpful for people to gain confidence that they can learn to study Isaiah.