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Chapters 7 - 8
Assyrian Destruction of Israel is Not the End
God Will Bring the Messiah to the Same Territory
and the Same Restored People
1. And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it, but could not overcome it.
Verse 1: The Date of the Prophecy. The events mentioned date the prophecy: Ahaz is king in Judah. That means that Tiglath-Pilezer is king of Assyria. Rezin is king of Damascus so the time is before the fall of Damascus to Tiglath-Pilezer in 731 B.C. Pekah is king of Israel in Samaria so it is not a long time before the fall of Damascus. The attacks on Judah by the allies, Rezin and Pekah, have taken place. That narrows down the time considerably. The time can not be more than one or two, at the most three, years before the fall of Damascus. The invasion of Syria-Israel into Judah against Ahaz was still going on. The attacks will precipitate an invitation by Ahaz for Tiglath-Pilezer to help him fight against Damascus and Israel. Isaiah enters to tell Ahaz to trust God instead of an alliance with the Assyrians.
Verse 1: Alliance of Rezin and Pekah to fail to conquer Judah: The history of the attack against Judah (by the allies, Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Samaria, that is, of Syria allied with the northern kingdom of Israel) introduces the conflict which was to follow, with Assyria, as the most important contemporaneous event in the lifetime of Isaiah. The invasion by Syria and Israel into Judah caused Ahaz to appeal to Tiglath-Pilezer king of Assyria,--an invitation that resulted in the invasions by the Assyrian kings and the consequent loss of statehood for Israel and of the "ten tribes" to historical sight. The assaults of Syria and Israel against Judah were real enough and their intensity is described in a terse section of 2 Chronicles 28:5,6"Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him (Ahaz) into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, [at a different time] who smote him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers."
But Isaiah showed Ahaz that this allied attack from Syria and Samaria, even though intense and destructive, would fail and was only secondary. While the expansion of the Assyrian Empire was the event to which all other actions were simply reactions. It was the main event of the period which made any attempt to alter the outcome an exercise in futility. The Syro-Samaritan attack on Judah was a reaction to Assyrian expansion and was futile. It served only to exhaust the participants and leave them vulnerable to Assyria. Isaiah's message to Ahaz actually is that he should not concern himself about the war with Israel and Syria because the worst is yet to come and will follow shortly,--"even the kings of Assyria." So he says in verses 17 ff. This history needs to be well in mind or the reader will not understand the imagery of Isaiah. An introductory chapter (link below)is added on the history of Assyria and the interaction with Israel, Judah and Syria at this time. The names of the kings in the period are foreign to most readers. Attention to learning the background of those kings and nations and the historical events will open these next chapters (7 - 12) as well as great portions of the rest of Isaiah for you. Without the preliminary historical backgrounds of the Assyrian kings (from circa 735 to 695 B.C.) and their interaction with Israel and Judah, the book will remain closed. Read the chapter on Assyrian Kings and their interaction with Israel and Judah now. A chart showing the interaction is in the chapter on Assyrian kings.
2. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. 3 Then said the LORD to Isaiah, Go out now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shearjashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field;
Verse 3: Hebrew She'ar yashuv means "a remnant will return." So in the very beginning of this section Isaiah, through his son's name, introduces the assurance that the coming deportation of the northern tribes will not be their extinction as the people of God, even though this is the beginning of a long section (chapters 7-12) describing the loss of statehood and political identity for all the northern tribes. So here, very subtly, he astutely implies that there is a future for Israel before he details her demise and disappearance from among the nations of the earth.
4 And say to him, Watch, and be quiet; fear not, neither let your heart fail for these two tails of smoking firebrands, or for the intense anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.
Verse 4: Intense anger: The end of this verse is very different in the LXX. Instead of "the fierce anger of Syria and the son of Remaliah" The LXX says: "for when (or after) the anger of my wrath has been begotten I will again (spiritually) heal also the son(s) of Syria and the son(s) of Remaliah (Israel)." In partial support of a different reading the Hebrew text has (be-char-iy 'aph) which can be translated, "in my wrath" (lit. "in the heat of my face"). Thus the Hebrew text can say that it is God's wrath which is expended. However, the words "I will heal again" are added by the LXX but they are not in the Hebrew text. The LXX translators may have added what they felt was in the larger context and what in the immediate context was implied in Shearyashub's name. (See note above under verse 3.)
5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against you, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach there for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: 7 Thus says the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it happen.
Verse 7: It did not happen, Ahaz was not overthrown by Syria or Israel. Nevertheless, his kingdom was severely damaged because Ahaz did not put his trust in nor seek the protection of God. He actually made things worse by his invitation of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pilezer, to come and help him. The notes under verse one above give an account of the initial bloody successes of Syria and Israel against Ahaz. Their conspiracy against Judah was real and it resulted in great loss of life and of many captives in Judah. Thus the advice, not to get involved with those who had the conspiracy news on their mind (below in chapter 8:11), did not mean that the conspiracy was not true. Isaiah makes it plain in verses 5 and 6 that the conspiracy to depose Ahaz by invading his kingdom is real. It means that these events in history were inevitable but that the true believer needed to trust in the ultimate victory of the plan of God which will not be altered by historical injustice. The advice to trust in God and not get involved with current human political fears even though we are in harm's way and not to seek and trust in human, worldly answers, is correct but would be very difficult for those whose homes and families were being destroyed. But that is the correct advice given to and by Isaiah. Ahaz sought political answers, not just without asking for, but by rejecting the help of God. His refusal to ask God for a sign is not humility but hypocrisy. He was simply an unbeliever.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within sixty five years Ephraim shall be broken, and it will not be a people.
Verse 8: Not be a people. This cannot refer to loss of statehood because loss of statehood happened only a few years later in 722 B.C. and this prophecy was circa 735 B.C.; not nearly 65 years. Nor could it refer to tribal extinction because Ephraimites are mentioned as part of the second commonwealth after 536 B.C. They never ceased to "be a people" in the sense of tribal identity. Israel and therefore Ephraim lost its political identity as a nation among other nations in 722 B.C. That lost "statehood" would never be regained. That event could not have been much more than a few years following the time that Isaiah wrote this prophecy. He could not have had such short a term completion in mind. Furthermore he does not propose loss of statehood as a fulfillment but that the Ephraimites would cease to be a people, likely meaning an ethnic group connected with a territory. What does that imply?
As already said, It can not mean that within 65 years they would lose their tribal identity and that they would cease to be a tribe. Because a remnant of the tribe was later in the return after the Babylonian captivity of Judah (see 1 Chronicles 9:1-3) however the Ephraimites never regained the territory of Mt Ephraim. Not regaining their territory after the return may be the answer to what "not be a people" means. For they had lost statehood in 722 B.C. at the fall of Samaria with a large scale deportation of many of the Ephraimite inhabitants, but many of the Ephraimites must have remained in Mt Ephraim living among the mixed multitude whom the Assyrians had imported. Those brought in were a mixed racial group, displaced from their homelands, who had been forced by Sargon II to immigrate to Samaria in 722 B.C.. Later, more were additionally forced to settle there in the days of Esarhaddon. It was these mixed peoples who, in the period of the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity, later asked the Jews to be allowed a part in Zerubbabel's second commonwealth but were rejected.
Ezra 4:2 Then they came [from Samaria] to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
In the late 600's B.C. Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, invaded Judah, took its king captive to Assyria, and may then have completed the forced removal of the remaining Ephraimites from Samaria, so that they "ceased to be a people." That is, they ceased to be an ethnic group within a specific territory. One might think of the Armenians as an example, who long have been stateless but are still a "people" in their own territory but ruled by others.
If Isaiah penned this prediction in approximately 738 to 733 B.C. then its terminus would be 678 to 673 B.C. (Esarhaddon's reign ended in 668 B.C.) and the deportation may therefore correspond to the latter time of the reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, whom Esarhaddon took captive to Assyria in the latter period of Manasseh's 55 year reign. (See 2 Chron. 33:11-13) In that one group was brought in to settle Samaria by Esarhaddon as recorded in Ezra 4:2, it implies the departure of the then current inhabitants, or the last of the Ephraimites, in the days of Esarhaddon, which would be 65 years after Isaiah said they would lose their identity as "a people."
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If you do not have faith, you shall not be believed. 10. Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
Verse 9, If you do not believe: The verb is used twice here. The first occasion is a causative verb and the second a simple passive. Thus the translation: "If you will not believe you will not be believed" is almost accurate as to verbal idea. However the verbs are both plural second person verbs. The KJV acknowledged this and used "ye" as the subject pronoun. The reason for Isaiah addressing Ahaz in the plural is seen below in verse 13, since Ahaz is spoken to as the representative of the House of David and not simply as a personality. Thus in this whole section the house of David is to be asked to believe and seek a sign from God which God is to give, not to Ahaz only, but to the House of David. Hence the use of the plural verbs as the "sign" is first introduced.
13 And he said, Hear you now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?
Verse 13: House of David. Even though the one addressed is Ahaz and it is he to whom the sign is given it includes the larger audience to whom it is directed. That is, to the whole house of David. It is to them that the sign is given and the house of David would look for the fulfillment of the prophetic sign long after Ahaz was dead.
There is no "Time" as English speakers understand tense in Hebrew verbs. The context sets the time. The word "give" in this sentense is in a future context and requires that the rest of the verbs and participles in this sentense carry future time. Some scholars who oppose accepting Jesus of Nazareth as the virgin birth God-with-us child would change the time to something that was current in Isaiah's time. Whatever their motive, future time is required by the context of the "time" of the first verb and therefore for the rest of the action words in this sentence. See following my comments on the Qumran spelling of this word which differs from the Masoretic or received tect.
The 5th word (Call) in the last line is "ve-qar'a" or may be "yiqar'a." This would be an imp. 3ms 2nd stem (his name) "it shall be called." The Masoretic has "qar'atha" which may be a 2ms pf and the context would require "you will call" (his name). Or: Q = "ve-qar'a" cj + pf 3ms (and he shall call) and M = "ve-qar'at" cj + pf 3fs (and she shall call). Or this latter form may be a feminine participle corresponding with the participle earlier in the verse i.e. "yoledeth be:n" she (shall bear a son) The name which follows is Immanuel which in the Masoretic is written as two words meaning "God [is] with us" and in Q the two words are written as one word, thus acknowledging it as a proper name, Immanuel." All the verbs and participles in this sentense are future since the context sets the time with "yithen" as in (YHWH) shall give you a sign. That sets the time. The tenses following are either complete., incomplete or continuing. The time is set by the context of the main verb.
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Verse 14: A Virgin: The Hebrew word in the text that is translated virgin is "almah." It has a definite article in Hebrew as can be seen in the last word in the first line in the Hebrew text above. It is "ha'almah" or literally "the virgin." Only after the beginning of the Christian dispensation did Jewish scholars insist that the word means a young woman who is not necessarily a virgin and therefore they say a virgin birth was not predicted. Irenaeus is the first one to answer that argument and his points have not been improved upon. One of the most telling arguments he uses is that the Septuagint translators not only translated the verse here but they told what it meant, to them, before the advent of Jesus. It is obvious from their translation that they believed that one who would be called "God with us" required a virgin birth.
Jewish Sages Who Translated the Septuagint Version of Isaiah in 285 BC believed that "ha'almah" meant Virgin and not Young Woman.
Jewish scholars used the words "ha parthenos" (the virgin) for the Hebrew "ha-'almah"
Irenaeus wrote about 140 A.D., and is one of the first to show that Jews before the time of Christ knew that Isaiah 7:14 predicted a virgin birth. Irenaeus points out that the Septuagint translators in 285 B.C. used a word in Greek that means exactly what "virgin" means in English. Since the Jewish Septuagint translators used the Greek word "parthenos" to translate the Hebrew word "almah" in Isaiah 7:14 they therefore "interpreted" the passage as well as translated it to mean that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. Irenaeus said:
" 1. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:] "Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son," as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph;......That is: a "desire to make different translations" than those made by the Septuagint translators whose genius had been approved by Jewish historians like Josephus and Philo and other Jews from the time of Ptolemy Lagos through the first century.
" and [since] this interpretation [of "virgin" by the Septuagint translators] of these Scriptures was made prior to our Lord's descent [to earth], and came into being before the Christians appeared--for our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus; but Ptolemy was much earlier, under whom the Scriptures were interpreted;--[since these things are so, I say,] truly these men are proved to be impudent and presumptuous, who would now show a desire to make different translations,"*
*Irenaeus Book III Chapter XXI
Origen, in the third century, used arguments against the objections of the post first century Jews that are as good today as when first elucidated.
"But that we may not seem, because of a Hebrew word, [almah,] to endeavor to persuade those who are unable to determine whether they ought to believe it [virgin birth] or not, that the prophet spoke of this man being born of a virgin, because at his birth these words, "God with us," were uttered, let us make good our point from the words themselves. The Lord is related to have spoken to Ahaz thus: "Ask a sign for thyself from the LORD thy God, either in the depth or height above;" and afterwards the sign is given, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." What kind of sign, then, would that have been--a young woman who was not a virgin giving birth to a child? And which of the two is the more appropriate as the mother of Immanuel (i.e., "God with us"),--whether a woman who has had intercourse with a man, and who has conceived after the manner of women, or one who is still a pure and holy virgin? Surely it is appropriate only to the latter to produce a being at whose birth it is said, "God with us." And should he be so captious as to say that it is to Ahaz that the command is addressed, "Ask for thyself a sign from the LORD thy God," we shall ask in return, who in the times of Ahaz bore a son at whose birth the expression is made use of, "Immanuel," i.e., "God with us?" And if no one can be found. then manifestly what was said to Ahaz was said to the house of David, because it is written that the Savior was born of the house of David according to the flesh; and this sign is said to be "in the depth or in the height," since "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things." And these arguments I employ as against a Jew who believes in prophecy. Let Celsus now tell me, or any of those who think with him, with what meaning the prophet utters either these statements about the future, or the others which are contained in the prophecies? Is it with any foresight of the future or not? If with a foresight of the future, then the prophet's were divinely inspired; if with no foresight of the future, let him explain the meaning of one who speaks thus boldly regarding the future, and who is an object of admiration among the Jews because of his prophetic powers."*
*Origen Contra Celcus XXXVVerse 14: Immanuel Hebrew 'im-manu 'el: The name appears three times as two words, all in Isaiah, here and 8:8, and 8:10 and no where else in the O.T. It is translated "God is with us" in the KJV and NIV in 8:10 but there it should also be translated as a name and not as "God is with us."
Immanuel is written as two words in the masoretic text.
Immanuel is written as one word in the Qumran Scroll.
See below for further discussion under 8:8, 10. and see the Qumran scroll page where Immanuel is used 2 times in the first 3 lines..
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, for he will know how to refuse evil, and choose good. 16 But before the child shall know to refuse evil, and choose good, the land that you abhor shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Verse 16: Forsaken of both her kings: The general announcement that Damascus and Samaria will lose their sovereignty is given here. It does not have a date for its inception nor completion because no date has been given for the "virgin birth" which is a miraculous sign from God. This sign is included as one of many evidences to show God's future interest in Israel in spite of the loss of statehood that is imminent. The future sign of the "virgin birth" shows that God is not finished in his dealings with the children of Israel even though extinction of the Kingdom of Israel is in the near future. The promise that both of the kings would be gone before and extend to the virgin birth, is incredibly historically correct. It adds an element to the coming messianic period to look for. Isaiah said here that the period of the "virgin birth" will commence with no king having been in Samaria or Damascus from the time of the loss of their sovereignty under the Assyrian kings. In Isaiah's view the coming of the Messiah will be characterized by many things, one of which will be that there will have been no sovereign in Samaria nor Damascus when the "virgin birth" child shall be with us. Damascus lost sovereignty to Tiglath-Pilezer in 731 B.C. Sovereignty of Damascus was held by foreign powers from then until very recently. Syria first lost home rule to Assyria, then Babylon, followed by Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, then Arabs, then Turks and Crusaders reciprocated control until the Turkish Empire took over from the 1200's until 1917. Samaria never seated a king again from 722 B.C. until the present. The "land that you abhor" has certainly "been forsaken" of both her kings.
17. The LORD shall bring upon you, and upon your people, and upon your father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
Verse 17: Assyria: This verse, and verses 18 and 20 and 8:4, 7, name Assyria (not Samaria and Syria) as the real coming scourge which God promised to use to punish and purge Israel. The five fold mention of the name of the nation emphasizes the certainty of the soon coming events to Isaiah's hearers. The Assyrians would bring about the extinction of the political entity of the northern kingdom of Israel and the political existence of the associated tribes erroneously called the "ten tribes." Thus the warning is given and Assyria is mentioned in 5 separate verses in these two chapters as the coming invader of whom Israel and Judah should both fear. See also 10:5 where Assyria is described as the rod of God's punishment.
18 And it shall be in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes. 20 In the same day shall the Lord shave with a hired razor, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
Verse 20: Shave with a hired razor: Assyria is actually to be a tool used by God to do his will of punishing a sinning Israel. This is later elaborated on by Isaiah in chapter 10:5,6 and verse 15 where he shows that Assyria has been chosen to do this task, but there he says Assyria has done much worse than God intended. Thus it is God who is bringing the Assyrians and not Ahaz; all the more reason why he should let the will of God be done and not interfere.
21 And it shall be in that day, that when a man shall nourish only one young cow, and two sheep; 22 That from the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter, and butter and honey shall every one be eating that remains in the land.
Verse 21: Only one cow needed: This is a description of the abundance in the land of Galilee where with minimal effort a man could have a good living. For his family to live a good life he required but one cow and two sheep who would provide more than he needed for sustenance. Galilee is a geological blessing, beautiful scenery, well watered, protected by mountains which surround the whole of the area, amazingly fertile plains and hills which bring forth an abundance of olives and vineyards and the climate enhanced by the location of the Sea of Galilee 650 feet below sea level, where, as a result of a slight salt content from adjacent mineral springs, fish were abundant so that many could make a living on the fishing industry. Isa. 2:7 describes the abundance of the nation just before its destruction: "Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots": It was into this good land that Tiglath-Pilezer was to enter and leave its cities in ruins, its cattle slain or taken as a prize, and its fields filled with stones, and the dead lying unburied in the cities, the region depopulated and the "lucky" ones carried away to a life of servitude. See also Isa 28:1.
23 But then it will happen, that every place, where there were a thousand vines priced at a thousand pieces of silver, that place shall become only for briers and thorns. 24 With arrows and with bows shall men come there; so that all the land will become briers and thorns. 25 But the fear of briers and thorns shall not come on any of the hills cultivated with the hoe, but oxen shall be sent there, and they shall be for the treading of lambs.
Verse 23 - 25: Then it will happen: The condition of the beautiful land is described after the visit of Tiglath Pilezer who left little of any population to till the ground or tend cattle. Even the attempt to repopulate the land with foreigners according to Assyrian policy would create little progress in restoration while the best land would be used only for grazing, while grazing land would grow up in briers and thorns, literally..
1. Moreover the LORD said to me, Take you a large scroll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.
Verse 1: Hebrew written from right to left: Maher-Shalal-Chash-Baz.
Maher mean "hurry" or "fast;" Shalal is the common word for "spoil" or "loot" taken as a result of war; Chash is another word meaning "quickly;" Baz is another common word for "booty." Thus the meaning of Isaiah's son's name predicted the same thing that is spoken of him. That is that the "Shalal" of Samaria and Damascus is soon to be taken by the King of Assyria before the child begins to speak. While She'aryashuv's name predicted the long range future return of the faithful remnant among the Israelites, Mahershalalhashbaz's name predicted the swiftness of the impending destruction coming on Damascus and Samaria soon after the birth of the son.
Also note that the name is given before the son is conceived by the prophets wife. A fact which Isaiah was careful to document and date. It is apparent then that this son is not to be confused with the virgin birth son, Immanuel, of chapter seven who is to be born of a maiden as a sign. Mahershalalhashbaz's birth was not a sign but a time mark from which to measure the truth of Isaiah's prediction. That is the reason for taking the witnesses to record the time and the promise followed by the conception by Isaiah's wife, here called "the prophetess." There is no such time limitation related to the virgin birth child of chapter seven, except that Samaria and Damascus would be kingless when he became aware of his own moral accountability. Here there is a very strict time limit attached to the event predicted. It would be a matter of a few years from the time the prediction was recorded until the beginning of the end for Damascus and Samaria.
2 And I took to me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. 3 And I went to the prophetess; and she conceived, and bore a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. 4 For before the child shall have knowledge to call, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away by the king of Assyria.
Verse 4: Before the child shall have knowledge: The imminence of the overthrow of both Damascus and Samaria is spoken of here. This dates the prophecy at just a year or two before the fall of Damascus which took place in 731 B.C. Whatever the time frame, from the commandment to beget a son, until Isaiah's wife conceived, it would then be only a period of gestation and a year or two until he could cry "Mother or Father." There were nine years between the fall of Damascus which fell first, and the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. Thus the prophecy probably was uttered in 733 or 734 B.C. and its fulfillment began a short time later with the fall of Damascus to Tiglath-Pilezer in 731 B.C. and was completed in the fall of Samaria nine years later.
Verse 4: The king of Assyria: This verse introduces the coming punishment to be brought on the northern kingdom of Israel through the agency of the kings of Assyria, called in the text "the king." However several kings of Assyria from Tiglath-Pilezer to Sennacherib would be used to fulfill God's purpose in punishing Israel and Judah and fulfilling these next 4 chapters. Judah would be invaded in this period but not conquered by the Assyrians which is made plain in the prophecy. Afterward the Assyrians would be punished by God because they went beyond his will in what they did to Israel and the other nations whom they destroyed. The description of punishment of Israel by the kings of Assyria introduces a contrast at the end of this chapter in both the level of destruction wrought by them and that to be wrought by the future Messiah, the latter being far worse. After the Messianic portions are introduced they will then be brought up again in the ensuing paragraphs describing the Assyrian assault and contrasting it with the messianic coming, as will be noted in the verses below. These seemingly unintelligible verses (8:22-9:2&ff) are opened to clear understanding when the two visitations are seen as being contrasted in the next several chapters.
The first, or "light," visitation of the kings of Assyria is to be drenched in blood. The second "heavier" visitation is described as a visitation of burning and of fire. The second visitation is to be understood as a spiritual visitation which is greater in destructive force because the spiritual is real while the physical is transitory and will not have eternal consequences on the true remnant of Israel who will unfortunately have to endure the physical calamities while they remain in the love of God. With this in mind, read chapters 8 through 12 and see the contrast continued. The main theme will be the imminent, that is, Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and the invasion of Judah and Assyria's punishment in the not too distant future placed in contrast with the future Messianic visitation to the same people and area that was visited by the Assyrians. Those who believe in God are exhorted to await God's purpose for the nation in the future restoration of the purged remnant as well as the not too distant future destruction of the Assyrians. But their destruction will not be until after they have been used as a "rod of God's anger" upon Israel.
5 The LORD spoke also to me again, saying, 6 Forasmuch as this people refuses the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son;
Waters of Shiloah Euphemism for Jerusalem. See Chapter 22.
Verse 6: This is a further dating of the prophecy. Rezin was still king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah was still king of Israel at Samaria. Thus it must be shortly before 731 B.C.
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his embankments: 8 And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.
. Verse 8: He will pass through Judah. "He" meaning the king of Assyria, probably refers to the kings of Assyria from Tiglath-Pilezer to Sennacherib, rather than to any one king. "But not take it captive" as he is said to do to Israel. This came to pass in the way that Isaiah described it. Sennacherib raised a siege against Hezekiah's Jerusalem but was not able to conquer it. However the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital at Samaria were lost forever through the invasions of Tiglath-Pilezer, Shalmanezzer, and Sargon II, all kings of the Assyrian Empire who were followed by Sennacherib.
Verse 8: O Immanuel: The mention of the virgin birth child assures the "inhabitants of Zion" but not those who "look to the earth" that "God with us" is still in control and the land belongs to him and his will in spite of the Assyrians. It is actually Immanuel's will that the Assyrians come into the land to punish a sinning Israel. The LXX translates Immanuel as "God with us" here and not as a name. The Hebrew text (Masoretic and Qumran) writes the words as one word indicating they understood it as a name.
9. Associate yourselves, O you people, but you are broken in pieces; and give ear, all you in far countries: gird yourselves, but you shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, but you shall be broken in pieces. 10 Take counsel together, but it shall come to nothing; speak words, but it shall not stand: because Immanuel has spoken.
. Verse 10: Immanuel: All three occurrences are meant as a name with meaning. The name is Immanuel: the meaning is "God with us." See notes on 7:14 and 8:8 above for the reason for not following the traditional translation here of "God is with us.". Isaiah obviously meant Immanuel as a name. The translation of the Hebrew form "immanu el" as "God is with us" follows the example set by the Septuagint translators who chose these words in 8:8 and 8:10 instead of seeing the form as a name which Isaiah intended. The Qumran text is interesting as it does not follow the Masoretic text in writing the form as two words but writes it as a name, Immanuel, as one word in each of the three verses in which it occurs, thus: ['imanu'el] . The Qumran copyists saw, as we do, that it is the name that is intended and that the assurance that God is with us in the destruction by the Assyrians is not what is meant. But this is rather further assurance that "God with us" has invited the Assyrian scourge into the land (his land) and that any alliances, associations, plans of men, or pleas to other nations for help to oppose the Assyrians are in vain and futile since he, Immanuel, has decreed their success. In the next verses he further states that Isaiah is not to involve himself, nor should any of the "inhabitants of Zion," in the political realities of the time but they should place their trust in God. Don't fear the Assyrian, fear God, it is his land and he is in control. See notes on 10:24 for the meaning of the "inhabitants of Zion."
11 For thus the LORD spoke to me with a strong hand, and caused me to turn from walking in the way of this people, saying, 12 Do not say, A conspiracy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A conspiracy; neither fear their fear, nor be terrified.
Verse 12: A conspiracy: See previous comment under 7:7
13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 Then he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Verse 14: Stone of Stumbling: God warns his people "dwelling in Zion" in these passages that the coming of Immanuel will cause confusion. The irony and paradox is that the savior is to be rejected and become a stumbling stone and an offense to many in both Judah and Israel and the natural Jerusalem. He gives strong encouragement to learn these details in advance which are given in these passages where there are thrilling descriptions of Immanuel, the virgin birth child who is in control now and in the future, will control this land which belongs to him. Bind these messages up so you will understand them when the time comes. The restoration of Israel and Judah is again taken for granted in this passage. See notes under 10:24 for the meaning of those "dwelling in Zion."
15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait upon the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, but I will look for him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells in mount Zion.
Verse 18: Glory of the LORD: "me'im YHWH tseba'oth ha-shokeyn be-har tsion." (From YHWH of hosts the one dwelling in Mount Zion) The word "shokeyn" (one dwelling) is the masculine form of the feminine "shekinah." This is a reference to the Shekinah of which there are several in Isaiah. (See Isaiah 4:5;and 37:16; and 57:15; and 63:11ff.)
19 And when they shall say to you, Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep and mutter: should not a people seek answers from their God, instead of seeking from the dead on behalf of the living, concerning the law and its witness?
Verse 19 and 20: "concerning the law and its witness" This phrase, which usually begins the next verse, is placed here for clearer conclusion of the idea in verse 19. The phrase belongs also at the beginning of verse 20 which continues the same thought. The LXX reading of this and verse 20 is a variant from the usual translations of the verse. Considering the difference between God's revelation in the Torah and psychic wizardry, the LXX reads: "Because the law has been given for a help, in order that they might not be as this (psychic) utterance, concerning which (utterance) it is not a gift of theirs to give."
20 If they will not speak according to this word, which has no darkness in it, 21 Then they shall pass through this, hard pressed and hungry: and it shall be, that when they are hungry, they shall enrage themselves, and curse their king and their God, and turn from him above.
The Crisis of the Assyrian Captivity and the Extinction of Israel
Verse 21: Turn from him above: This means that they reject Godly advice while they "look to the earth" for human answers, but only to their own anguish.
22 But they shall look to the earth; and find trouble and darkness, and they shall be driven to darkness and dimness of anguish;
Verse 22: Dimness of Anguish: Isaiah is noted for poetic hyperbole and the use of "play on words." The meaning of the text is often dependent on these untranslatable literary devices. Sometimes these are merely rhyming words which do not rhyme in translation and therefore the play upon words is missed. At other occasions there is the use of "double meaning" or a similarity in sound and meaning that continues the idea in the context of a passage as the form of the word may continue to be used to carry along what is being spoken about in the context. When the device of "double entendre" is connected to words that have similar written configuration and /or sound it is not possible to show it in translation as the translated words will have no such similarities and the original meaning is obscured or at least less certain, unless we are told. This is noticed by Keil and Delitzsch's commentary on Isaiah in the use of the terms that are repeated in Isaiah 8:22 - 9:1. There is a play on the words "mu'aph and mutsaq," that are properly commented on by Delitzsch as such a play on similar sounding and similar meaning words. The literary device of "play on words" is more pronounced in Isaiah than any other prophet. Rawlinson says:
"Play upon words is also a common feature in Hebrew literature but only a few of the sacred writers use it so frequently or give it such prominence as Isaiah...As, however, this ornament, depending generally on the assonance of the Hebrew words, is necessarily lost in translation and can only be appreciated by a Hebrew scholar, we do not propose further to dwell on it."*
* Rawlinson, G.; Commentary on Isaiah in Pulpit Commentary; Erdmans, pg xiv.Even though the subtlety of the use of play on words is lost in translation it should not be thought of as an ornament. It is a part of the inspired thought process and in at least one case it is a vehicle of miraculous revelation. (The use of the word Nazar or Branch) It is also an essential part of the connecting thoughts in the context of 8:22 to 9:2, where the sense is lost by not seeing the mind of Isaiah. "Play on words" establishes "dimness of anguish" as that which is left unmentioned in the contrasts of verse 9:1 following. It also makes it clearer that the verses are linked and it identifies the "first affliction" with Tiglath-Pilezer. The "play on words" also requires that the contrast of the "second time" will also be "dimness of anguish."
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