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Go to Bible: Isaiah 8
“Take a large tablet.” This announcement of the Assyrian invasion (of Syria, Israel, and then Judah) was to be public. The tablet, and the baby that was to be born, were to be signs to Judah (cp. Isa. 8:7). The Hebrew word for “tablet” is gillaovn (#01549 גִּלָּיוֹן), which generally refers to a tablet of wood or metal that would be capable of being put up as a placard to be read by many people, and that is likely the case here.
“stylus of a man.” This is most likely an idiomatic way of saying, “an ordinary stylus.” In other words, Isaiah was not to engrave the tablet with some special instrument. However, because the phrase is an idiom, different scholars have different ideas about the emphasis it is bringing to the text. For example, the ESV has, “write on it in common characters.” In that case, the stylus would be a metonymy for what the stylus wrote, but there does not seem to be any good reason for importing the metonymy into the verse.
“Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” Biblical names, especially when they were given by God, were always descriptive of the person in some way; they were mini portraits of the person or some aspect of the person’s life. It is impossible to give an exact translation of a name for several reasons. First, it is not written as a sentence so the connectors have to be supplied. Secondly, the Hebrew words involved can often be translated differently. For example, in this name, the Hebrew form of the first word, maher, can either be an infinitive verb or an imperative verb, and the way those can be brought into English can differ. Thirdly, the words themselves have different definitions, but the translator has to choose one for his translation. This explains why different commentaries or study Bibles have somewhat different meanings for the name. The essence of the name is something like: “Haste to the spoil; hurry to the prey (or plunder),” or “speeding to the plunder; hurrying to the spoil.” In this case, the name foretold the conquests of the Assyrian Empire over Syria and Israel (Isa. 8:4), and even over much of Judah as well (Isa. 8:8).(top)
“and call reliable witnesses.” The Masoretic Hebrew text has “I [God] will call,” but it stands alone. The Dead Sea scrolls, Septuagint, Syriac, and Aramaic Targums all read “call” in the imperative, and the Vulgate reads “I called” in the past tense. In this context it makes much more sense that God told Isaiah to call faithful witnesses to hear his prophecy than that God would say He would call them.
Uriah and Zechariah are called “reliable witnesses” or “faithful witnesses,” which may be a reflection of the fact that they were generally good men who were living in the time of an ungodly king, or it may mean that they were known by the people to be generally reliable.
“Uriah the priest.” The fact that he is simply named and not further described makes it almost certain that he is the same man as the high priest in 2 Kings 16:10-11 who was commanded by Ahaz to replace Solomon’s bronze altar with the replica of the pagan altar from Damascus. He may have been a good man who was forced by the king to do evil. In any case, God wanted to be sure he heard this prophecy about the Assyrian invasion.
“Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” The identity of Zechariah is not known with certainty. He may have been Ahaz’s father-in-law (cp. 2 Kings 18:2).(top)
“And I went into the prophetess.” The Hebrew uses an idiom, literally, “I drew near the prophetess.” So Isaiah had sex with the prophetess. From the scope of Scripture and the holiness of Isaiah we can conclude that “the prophetess” was Isaiah’s wife. As the wife of a prophet she may well have been known as “the prophetess,” or she may have been a prophetess in her own right, the Bible does not say.
“Then Yahweh said to me, ‘Call his name.’” Here, with the birth of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, it was Isaiah the father who was to name the child. In Isaiah 7:14, at the birth of Immanuel, the mother was to name the boy.(top)
“For before the child knows how to say, ‘My father,’ and, ‘My mother,’” It is noteworthy that with both the birth of the baby boy Immanuel, and with the birth of the baby boy Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, it is the age of the child that is the marker of when the prophecies will be fulfilled (Isa. 7:15-16; Isa. 8:4). It is not clear how old the child has to be to be able to say “My father” and “My mother.” Does he have to say it clearly and know what he is saying, or does he just have to utter the equivalent of “da-da” and “ma-ma?” The difference would mean the fulfillment of the prophecy about a year after the birth or perhaps two or even three years.
The destruction of Damascus and the spoiling of the provinces of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, here called “Samaria,” took place in 732 BC. That would put Isaiah’s prophecy in 735-733 BC. It would be about a dozen years later, in 723/22 BC that the city of Samaria would be conquered and the people of Israel scattered around Assyria (2 Kings 17:6).(top)
“Yahweh spoke to me again.” The Bible does not say how much time elapsed between Isaiah 8:1 and Isaiah 8:5, but it could not have been shorter than about two years or much longer than four.(top)
“this people.” Most likely Judah and Jerusalem (cp. Isa. 1:1), however, in this context it well could include all of the twelve tribes and include Israel, which was destroyed by Assyria, and then Assyria attacked Judah.
“the waters of Shiloah that go softly.” Although the reference is unclear, it seems to be a reference to the waters that flowed under and around the Temple, such as fed the Gihon spring. God is saying that the people of Judah refused the living water of the Word of God that should have been available at the Temple, they will be attacked by the Assyrians, which they were. Shiloah is the name of the pool that is referred to as the “pool of Siloam” in John 9:7, “Siloam” being the Greek spelling. The stream from the Gihon spring and the pool of Shiloah represented the Davidic dynasty, which Judah had refused.
“and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son.” Rezin was the king of Syria, and Pekah was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the son of Remaliah. The fact that the text says that the people of Judah “rejoice in” Rezin and Pekah is a problem for commentators. Judah seems to be afraid of Syria and Israel (Isa. 7:2). It has been proposed by some scholars that there were Israelite sympathizers in Judah that rejoiced at the thought of removing the Davidic King Ahaz, and that may be the case but there is no mention of such sympathizers in the Bible. Other scholars suggest that the Masoretic Hebrew text has been miscopied here and that the text should be amended, but there is no evidence that the text is wrong. It seems a likely possibility that God is speaking from His point of view. King Ahaz of Judah, and the Judean people in general, had rejected Yahweh and His temple and His Law. In that, they acted exactly like the Syrians and the Israelites who also rejected Yahweh. It could well be that in regard to the mutual rejection of Yahweh, Judah “rejoiced” in Syria and Israel and acted like they did.(top)
“the River.” A common biblical idiomatic name for the Euphrates River. The people rejected the water in Judah, so metaphorically the water of Assyria will flood upon them, as the Assyrians attack. The Assyrians will overflow their channels and banks and flow out of Assyria and into Israel and Judah. The Euphrates River was much larger than any river in Israel, and it was known for its sudden and violent floods.
“the king of Assyria.” Isaiah had already foretold the invasion of the Assyrians privately to King Ahaz (Isa. 7:17-20), now, in Isaiah 8:1-7, Isaiah declares it in a very public way.
“in all his glory.” Edward Young writes, “Accompanying the king of Assyria would be all his glory. In their historical inscriptions, the Assyrian kings often spoke of the power of the glory of their might as overwhelming the enemy” (Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 1, chapters I-XVIII, NICOT).(top)
“it will reach even to the neck.” The “waters of Assyria” overflowed into Judah and got deeper and deeper, but they only reached Judah’s neck. Judah did not drown in the metaphorical waters of Assyria as Israel did, which was destroyed. Although almost all the major cities of Judah were destroyed, Jerusalem was rescued by Yahweh.
“Immanuel.” The word means “God is with us.” Here it is a name, while two verses later the same Hebrew word refers to God being with Israel.
“O, Immanuel.” The Assyrians will attack, but they will not conquer Judah. At the close of the verse, God is speaking and notes that the rightful owner of the land (“your land”) is “Immanuel,” which in this context refers to the Messiah, who will ultimately, in the future, control the land.(top)
“Make an uproar.” The Hebrew phrase is unclear and it is translated in different ways in the English versions. The variations include making some kind of uproar (ASV, CJB, JPS; NIV); gathering together or uniting (CEB, CSB, KJV, NAB, NLT, NRSV); and being broken (ESV, NASB, NET, RSV). In any case, the verb is imperative and in the context whether the nations make an uproar, band together, or are broken, they will eventually be shattered and God’s people will prevail. The Assyrians did invade Judah and devastated it, but when they attacked Jerusalem their army was shattered (2 Kings 19:35-37). The ultimate fulfillment of the shattering of the nations that oppose God will occur when Christ fights the Battle of Armageddon and conquers the earth (Rev. 19:11-21).(top)
“Take counsel together, and it will be brought to nothing.” Although the enemies of God enjoyed some success, ultimately their plans will fail and their words will not stand. Some of the plot of the enemies is stated in Isaiah 7:5-7.
“God is with us.” This is the same Hebrew word, and the same inflection, as the name “Immanuel” in Isaiah 8:8. In Isaiah 8:8, “Immanuel” is the child’s name, while here in Isaiah 8:10 it refers to God being with Judah.(top)
“For Yahweh spoke thus to me with a strong hand.” This is idiomatic for Yahweh speaking to Isaiah in an especially powerful and memorable way. So it is with some emphasis that Yahweh commands Isaiah not to say what the other people of Judah were saying about there being a conspiracy.(top)
“Do not say, ‘A conspiracy!” Exactly what the conspiracy was and who was involved is not stated. One likely possibility is that Ahaz, the king of Judah had made an agreement with the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-9) to defeat the enemy, Syria and Israel (cp. Isa. 7:2), and the people of Judah were in agreement with the king’s actions, relying on human strength instead of relying on Yahweh for deliverance. Isaiah and other prophets warned Judah about this (cp. Isa. 7:17-25), but that made them the enemy of the State, and the people accused them of conspiring against the king and his plans. So God warned Isaiah not to be swayed by the massive public opinion and follow the people (Isa. 8:11) and begin to think that it was those people who were against the king who were part of a conspiracy against Judah. Isaiah 8:11-12 should be read together because it was the people who thought that what the prophets were saying was a conspiracy, and God warned Isaiah of that.
It is also possible that the “conspiracy” was a general term being thrown around in Judah as different forces allied with each other and some supported one group and others supported others, but no one seemed to be turning to Yahweh for His reasons about what was happening in Israel and Judah.
“And do not fear what they fear.” The people of Judah were afraid of Israel and Syria, but they should have been afraid of ignoring Yahweh and his prophets (Isa. 8:13), and afraid of what the Assyrians would do to Judah after they conquered Syria and Israel.(top)
“you all must regard as holy.” God had been speaking to Isaiah, but that changes here. The pronouns “you” throughout this verse are plural, “you all,” so God is not just speaking to Isaiah here, but to all His faithful people, and indeed, the message of Isaiah 8:13 applies to all of God’s people.
“He is the one you must fear.” Jesus taught the same thing in Matthew 10:28.(top)
“he can be a sanctuary or he can be a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” God can either be an ally or He can be against you, depending on whether or not you are obedient to Him. By his very nature, God causes a division between those who accept Him and those who reject Him. Similarly, God’s Son, Jesus, can also be a stone of help or a stone of stumbling (cp. 1 Pet. 2:8; Luke 2:34; Matt. 21:42-44; Rom. 9:33).
“for both houses of Israel.” That is, for Israel in the north and Judah in the south. They are called “Israel” here, calling into remembrance that they are all tribes of Israel and God’s intention was that they be united.(top)
“Many will stumble over it.” The rejection of the Messiah, the “stone of stumbling,” will result in total destruction, a point that is made by paring five different verbs pointing to the demise of those who reject God. They will “stumble, fall, be broken, be snared, and be captured.” But there seems to be a hidden message in this passage, because if the total meaning was that those who reject the Messiah would be destroyed and die, we would expect a list like, “stumble, be broken, be destroyed, die, and be annihilated,” but included in the list are verbs such as “be snared” and “be captured.” This hints at the fact that those who reject the Messiah are not immediately destroyed but are pulled into the snare of the Devil (2 Tim. 2:26), and they often turn to the Devil’s ways including magic and the occult, as well as emotional troubles like envy, jealousy, anger and hatred. The “works of the flesh” often manifest themselves in those who stumble over Jesus Christ (cp. Gal. 5:19-21).(top)
“Bind up the testimony.” That is, roll up the scroll and tie it so it is preserved as a testimony against the people. The Law and what God revealed to Isaiah are not going to change.(top)
“who hides his face from the house of Jacob.” God hides His face from people who practice evil and ignore or defy Him and His Law. God said that He hid His face when the people prayed because they were so wicked (Isa. 1:15; cp. Isa. 1:10-15).(top)
“I and the children whom Yahweh has given me are for signs.” The children that Yahweh had given Isaiah were Shear-jashub (“A remnant will return”) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (“Haste to the spoil; hurry to the prey”). They were signs to Israel that Yahweh was God, and they should know that because He foretold what would happen to them.
“Yahweh of Armies who dwells on Mount Zion.” Yahweh was “Yahweh of Armies” and He was willing to fight for Israel and Judah if they would return to Him. And He did not live far away but in their midst, right in His temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.(top)
“Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists.” When people leave their trust in God and their commitment to Him, they frequently turn to the occult.(top)
“Turn to the law and to the testimony!” The answers to human need are not to be found in the occult or in fleshly practices, but in obeying the Word of God.(top)
“And they will pass through it.” The close of Isaiah chapter 8 is confusing at best and there is no consensus among the scholars as to how to translate it correctly or as to what it means. The REV gives a possible reconstruction of Isaiah 8:21-22. Although the “it” is unstated and debated by scholars, the most likely thing it refers to is the darkness which is the last thing mentioned in Isaiah 8:20.
“and they will turn their faces upward.” The people, desperate for help, turn their faces upward to see if their gods, the stars, or whatever, can help, but there is no help for those who have rejected God.(top)
“And they look to the earth and see distress, darkness.” Those who reject God only have darkness on earth. But look at Isaiah 9:1! “There will be no more gloom for those who were in anguish.” Why? Because the Messiah is coming. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” i.e., the Messiah (Isa. 9:2). “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders” (Isa. 9:6). The people who reject God have only darkness, but those who accept the Messiah as their Lord will have great light and everlasting life.(top)