In our lost blog, we studied Isaiah 7:1-25 to see how God promised salvation to Judah from the threats of Syria and Israel who were both seeking to overthrow the Davidic Dynasty to force Judah into a military alliance in standing against the Assyrians. The sign of this promised salvation consisted of the promise that a young maiden would soon have a baby boy, and before this boy would be old enough to understand moral distinctions (ca. 2 years of age), God would destroy the Syrian/Israelite threat by bringing having mighty Assyria invade and crush Syria and Israel. God gave these promises in 734 B.C., and it was only two years later in 732 that Tiglath Pileser began his invasion of Syria and Israel, bringing an end to their threat of overthrowing the Davidic Dynasty (see the last blog on how the birth of this child served typologically for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ). Chapter 8 is strongly parallel to chapter 7 and repeats several of the same ideas found in chapter 7. May the power and faithfulness of God encourage your heart as you dive into God’s glorious Word.

In chapter 7 God gave Ahaz a sign that revolved around the birth of a special son with a symbolic name.  This same theme shows itself again in chapter 8.  Martin explains, “This section is closely related to the previous chapter. It concerns the same event, namely, the deliverance from the Aram-Israel alliance and the subsequent Assyrian invasion that would eventually extend to Judah.”[1]

Once again, God speaks about the birth of a special child who will be given a symbolic name.  We can break chapter 8 down into four explanations of God’s promise of another sign child.

First explanation:  God offers Israel another sign (vv. 1-4)

The first sign was the Immanuel child in chapter 7.  Chapter 8 gives us a second prophecy, one that is parallel to chapter 7.

God commands Isaiah to make a written prophecy (vv. 1-2)

God’s command is to write, “swift is the booty and speedy is the prey” on a large tablet (gilllayon)—a flat piece of wood or metal that can be posted as a placard (cf. Isa. 3:23; Ezek. 37:16).[1]  God’s intent is that this message was to be a prophecy of an imminent event,[2] so Isaiah took with himself two respected members of the community to be witnesses that he had made this prophecy (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

The child is born and named (vv. 3-4)

One should not miss the similarity between this section and 7:14ff.  The language and details strongly suggest the two passages are parallel and speak about the same child.

Isaiah had relations with his wife to conceive a child (v. 3).  The expression “approached” (qarab:  literally, “drew near”; NIV:  “made love to”) is a euphemism used several times in the Old Testament for the first intercourse between a man and his wife.[3]  This idea is consistent with the explanation that Isaiah’s first wife, the one who gave him She’ar Yashub (7:3), had died earlier and Isaiah was now about to have a remarriage to a young maiden (the ‘almah of 7:14) who would soon conceive and bear another son to Isaiah.  Isaiah’s new wife is called “the prophetess.”  Either this woman is actually a prophetess (cf. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Neh. 6:14) or she is being called this since she is the wife of Isaiah.  Once the child was born, God instructed Isaiah to name him Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz, a name meaning “swift is the booty and speedy is the prey,” the words Isaiah had written on the tablet.

The child’s name will be symbolic (v. 4).  God explains the reason for this symbolic name:  “for before the boy knows how to cry out My father or My mother, the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”  That is, within two to three years, Syria and Israel are going to be brought to ruin by Assyrian armies.  Clearly, this is the same child of 7:14-16.  Pfeiffer explains,

This assault would crush both those kingdoms before the infant boy would be old enough to utter, “Mummy” or “Daddy,” i.e., within three years. (This prophecy was fulfilled in the capture of Damascus and the spoliation of Samaria in 732 by Tiglathpileser III).[4]

Second explanation:  God explains their rejection (vv. 5-8)

God warned Ahaz in chapter 7 that disbelief would bring tragedy.  God’s anger against Ahaz and Judah is evident again in the way God describes them as “these people” (literally, “this people,” ha‘am hazzeh).

The disbelief is like a rejection of the waters of Shiloah (vv. 5-6)

This statement refers to the waters that flowed out of the Gihon spring at the bottom of the Kidron Valley in the center of Zion, the City of David.  Within one generation Hezekiah would carve a tunnel that would bring all the Gihon waters into the Pool of Siloam (cf. John 9:7), but it is possible that natural conduits may have brought small amounts of water into storage pools even at that time.[5]  Ahaz and Judah were rejoicing in the defeat of Syria and Israel, but they still were not trusting in the Lord.

The consequences of disbelief (vv. 7-8)

The key point is that Ahaz did not trust in God’s promises to the House of David (i.e., the gentle waters of Shiloah), and for this reason God would bring upon Ahaz and Judah the mighty Euphrates river.  That mighty river is the King of Assyria—the river that will completely overflow the land of Judah:  “it will overflow and pass through; it will reach even to the neck, and the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”  As noted earlier, God’s use of the name Immanuel (“God is with us”) is best understood as being a sarcastic taunt against the faithless people of Judah.  The people made empty chants that they were safe from invasion because of their belief that God was with them (cf. Jer. 7:1-8).  God makes it clear that their election was no guarantee against invasion.

Third explanation:  God shows mercy despite disbelief (vv. 9-15)

God judges unrepentant sin, but He is also a God of mercy.  Judah was about to suffer a judgment, but this would not be the end of the story.

God interjects a message to Syria and Israel (vv. 9-10)

The heart of God’s message to the nations in verses 9-10 is that they can make plans to overthrow His people, but no matter what they plot, it will not succeed.[6]  Martin explains, “Even though they would carefully work out a strategy and a plan for battle they would not succeed.”[7]  The reason is because “God is with us.”  God is angry, but He will not let Judah fall.

God turns His message directly to Isaiah (vv. 11-12)

The immediate prophetic promises are now complete, so God turns his attention to His prophet.  The Lord tells Isaiah that he is not to embrace the conspiracy theories that were circulating among “this people.”  Apparently certain people were circulating theories that obedience to Isaiah’s prophecies were tantamount to a political conspiracy (qesher) against Judah, i.e., an alliance with foreign powers against your own country (cf. 2 Sam. 15:12; 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Chron. 23:13; Isa. 8:12).[8]  God tells Isaiah that he was not to give heed to such folly.  The real problem was that instead of looking to the root evils of their own hearts, the people were looking around for something to blame for their woes.  God tells the people of Judah they were not to live with a fear and dread of man.

The cure will always be the fear of the Lord (vv. 13-14a)

The real cure, says God, is that, “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy [qadash].[9]  And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”[10]  The true solution is trusting God (cf. Matt. 6:33).  Believers are not to live in fear of man, but fear of God (Matt. 10:28).  Those who live with such faith will find Him to be a safe sanctuary (miqdash).[11]

Those who refuse to trust the Lord will find ruin (vv. 14b-15)

For unbelieving Israel (God is not yet finished with the northern kingdom), the Lord will not be a sanctuary, but “a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”  God is patient in calling sinners to repentance (cf. Amos 4), but those who harden their hearts will eventually fall under judgment (Prov. 29:1).

For the believer God is a Rock in the good sense of strength and stability (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18; Pss. 18:2; 71:3), but for those who disbelieve He becomes a Rock that people stumble over.  So it is with Jesus Christ (Matt. 21:44; Luke 2:34; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8).  Isaiah uses a second metaphor to describe the ruin that comes to the disbeliever, they get caught in the snare (pach) and trap (moqesh) of their own disbelief like an animal destined for slaughter (Isa. 24:17, 18; cf. Prov. 7:23).  Pfeiffer applies it all:

No matter how unfavorable present circumstances are, true believers will sanctify Jehovah by continuing to regard him as supreme in governing human affairs, and the fulfiller of his promises. They are to fear and revere him only; they are never to fear men.[12]

Fourth explanation:  Israel’s judgment for its disbelief (vv. 16-22)

Isaiah resigns himself to leave the messages of chapters 7-8 with the people.  They will have to decide what to do with the Lord and His Word.  Verses 16-22 reflect two kinds of responses.

First, we see the response of the believer (vv. 16-18)

Men need God’s truth.  Men need to preserve God’s truth (v. 16), believe it (v. 17), and learn to appreciate its depths (v. 18).

Truth must be preserved (v. 16).  Isaiah gives the command to preserve the prophetic instruction.[13]  God’s Word, i.e., His testimony and instruction, has been given, and now it must be preserved (cf. Jer. 32:14).[14] 

Truth must be believed (v. 17).  Isaiah knows God’s Word will be fulfilled, so he is resigned to “wait” for the Lord (chakah, tarry[15]) and “look eagerly” (qawah, wait, hope) for the fulfilling of His promises (cf. Num. 6:25-26; Pss. 31:16; 80:3, 7, 19; Hab. 1:13).  Isaiah knows God’s Word never fails, so he is content to trust the Lord.  Sin has separated Israel from God (Isa. 59:1-2), but God’s promise is that one day He will restore them.  Until that day, believers patiently wait on Yahweh (Isa. 30:18; 40:31; Ps. 118:8-9).

Truth is very deep (v. 18).  Part of Isaiah’s aith is in knowing that his own life and his own children (children with symbolic names) have been part of God’s prophetic messages here in chapters 7-8 as “signs” (’oth) and “wonders” (mopheth).  As Martin explains, “Each one had a name that held significance for the nation’s future.”[16]  Isaiah’s own name means “the Lord saves.”  His first son’s name (She’ar Yashub) speaks about the remnant who will return one day (cf. 10:20-22), and his second son’s name (Immanuel/Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz) emphasized God’s protection for His chosen people.

One of the challenges here is to understand how these historical concepts relate to the New Testament use of this passage in reference to Christ (Heb. 2:13).  What we see here is another one of the illustrations of the marvelous ways that God bears witness to the Messiah.  By the Spirit, Isaiah understood that not only did his children have prophetic significance for prophetic events in the immediate context, but he also understood that these messages would also have an ultimate, typological fulfillment in Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 10-12).  At a textual level, Isaiah’s prophecies dealt with immediate near-term events, but the New Testament shows that they also had relationship to Christ (e.g., Isa. 7:14 and Matt. 1:18-25).  Thus, the children born to Isaiah had prophetic significance to Israel’s immediate future and also to the ultimate salvation God would bring through Christ (Isa. 9:6-7; 10:20-22; 11:1-10).  Furthermore, Hebrews (2:13-14) uses Isaiah to demonstrate the solidarity that Messiah has with the human race in that there is only one Father to all humanity, and that Messiah Himself came to share in this humanity to bring redemption by His own sacrificial death (Heb. 2:14-18).  The key point is that God’s people believe God’s Word.

Consequences of disbelief (vv. 19-22)

Much of Isaiah’s discussion revolves around God’s truth.  God’s people believe His truth, but the unsaved reject His truth (vv. 19-20), and consequently pay a huge price (vv. 21-22).

The unsaved reject God’s truth (vv. 19-20).  Isaiah condemns those who reject God’s Word and rely on the words of demonically-driven witchcraft.  The terms “mediums” (’ob) and “spiritists” (yidde‘onim), both speak about necromancers who try to gain power through communication with the dead (cf. Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:11; 1 Sam. 28:7-8; 2 Kings 21:6; 1 Chron. 10:13; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 8:19; 19:3).[17]  God severely rebukes them for consulting the dead, reminding them that they should be seeking God’s Word as their source of light and truth (v. 19).   He also makes it clear that if they reject the Word of God for witches (cf. 1 Sam. 28:13), the reason why is because they are not His people (i.e., there is no dawn within them).[18]  Oswalt notes that “those who lack a truly transcendent perspective on their affairs, who succumb to the occult for their guidance, plunge themselves further into gloom, spiritual famine, and despair.[19]

The unsaved get judged for rejecting God’s truth (vv. 21-22).  The consequences of disbelief would mean invasion and exile (vv. 21-22).  Famine and hopeless despair (cf. 3:1; 7:23-25) will eventually cause them to not only become enraged at their king, but also God.  They rejected the Lord, so the curses of the covenant (Deut. 28:15-68) would come upon them with the result that they would look to the earth and find distress (tsarah), darkness (chashekah), and gloom of anguish (me‘uph tsuqah), being driven away into darkness (’aphelah) (v. 22).  These covenant judgments began with the Assyrian invasions, but they have continued to this very day.  This is what happens when men reject God. 

The consequences for Israel have included over 2,600 years in exile.  Is there any hope?  The answer is “Yes.”  One day God will lift the darkness off of His chosen people and place that darkness on the nations seeking their destruction (ch. 9; cf. Isa. 60:1-2), and this is what we see in chapter 9.

Summary and application Israel was a nation with tremendous privilege, but sadly she would not trust the Lord.  Her lack of trust eventually brought her under long ages of God’s chastising judgment.  God’s people today should apply the lesson that we must never stop believing and obeying the Word of God.

[1] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 221.

[2] The developing context says that this imminent event is the Assyrian invasion spoken of in chapter 7.  The words themselves reflect the reality that in a very short time the armies of Assyria would be coming to take booty (shalal, the more valuable plunder) and prey (baz, the less valuable plunder).

[3] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 222.

[4] Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:  Old Testament, Is 8:1.

[5] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 225.

[6] It is important that we recognize the distinction between God speaking about the efforts of Syria and Israel (to overthrow the Davidic dynasty) that were doomed to certain failure (vv. 9-10), versus the reality of an Assyrian invasion that would bring great devastation to the land (as seen in both chs. 7-8).

[7] Martin, “Isaiah,” 1051.

[8] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1154.  In particular, some were probably demanding that Judah join the alliance of Syria and Israel, and that any resistance to this idea was nothing but an anti-Judah conspiracy.

[9] The Hiphil use of qadash carries the force of declaring or regarding the Lord as holy.  Ezekiel and Jesus both teach that one day a redeemed world will hold this holy view of God when Christ brings the kingdom (Ezek. 36:23; Matt. 6:9).

[10] The former term “fear” (mora’) conveys the idea of fear or awe, while the synonym “dread” (‘aratits) conveys the idea of terror or dread.  Both speak about genuine faith and trust in the living God (Pss. 25:12-14; 34:8, 12-15; Prov. 1:7).

[11] Young says the Lord surrounds them like a temple wall (Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1, 312).

[12] Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:  Old Testament, 8:9.

[13] These two verbs may be Qal imperatives.  Oswalt sees them as Qal infinitive constructs used imperatively (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 230, n. 4).

[14] The act of binding and sealing was an affirmation of the message (Isa. 29:11; cf. Neh. 9:38; 10:1; Jer. 32:10-12, 14; Josh. 24:14-15).

[15] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 313.

[16] Martin, “Isaiah,” 1052.

[17] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 20.  Such people used incantations and spells to seek occultic knowledge by summoning the dead, but Scripture indicates that this is the work of demons.  It was a belief in the ANE that the dead spoke in birdlike, whispered voices, and it is to this that Isaiah refers (cf. Isa. 29:4) (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 230, n. 6, 237).

[18] A true believer hears (John 18:37) and listens to God (John 15:20; 1 John 4:5-6).

[19] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1-39, 238.

[1] Martin, “Isaiah,” 1049.

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