In this interview, Kelsey Wilding asked Ann Madsen, who at the time of this recording (2018) was a senior lecturer in ancient scripture at Brigham Young University: “If people are just starting Isaiah and want to learn more, what would be one piece of advice you’d give them?”
Madsen answered as follows:
Well, there would be a couple, beginning with learning the history of the Jews at that time.
Included my DVD “Opening Isaiah;” there is a little booklet; it’s a kind of teaching guidebook. But I didn’t make the DVD to be listened to and then thrown away. It should be listened to and then used to learn more. Included with this guidebook, there is a timeline and a whole bunch of different little things that may help you understand Isaiah.
The first thing I offer to help with this is the concept of knowing the history of the time of Isaiah. Because he refers to the kings that were living then. And to what was going on in the culture, which was this big, invading Assyrian Army.
There were many other things happening the prophet references in his prophecies. If you don’t know that, and if you don’t know his history, then you won’t have a clue. That’s why it sounds like Greek to you.
Just look at it and think, well, who were the Assyrians? Who were the Moabites? What were they doing in Jerusalem?
And this is interesting because Isaiah was living in the seven hundred BC. And then if you think of the Book of Mormon, which was 600 BC with Lehi and his family who read Isaiah, much like we read Joseph Smith today.
It’s that same period that helps you understand why there’s so much Isaiah in the Book of Mormon because he really affected their lives. He was their contemporary prophet when they were alive—you know, well, recently enough.