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Isaiah Gives Ahaz the Sign of Immanuel

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

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9. believe, … be established—There is a paronomasia, or play on the words, in the Hebrew: "if ye will not confide, ye shall not abide." Ahaz brought distress on himself by distrust in the Lord, and trust in Assyria.

11. Ask thee—since thou dost not credit the prophet's words.

sign—a miraculous token to assure thee that God will fulfil His promise of saving Jerusalem (Isa 37:30; 38:7, 8). "Signs," facts then present or near at hand as pledges for the more distant future, are frequent in Isaiah.

ask … in … depth—literally, "Make deep … ask it," that is, Go to the depth of the earth or of Hades [Vulgate and Lowth], or, Mount high for it (literally, "Make high"). So in Mt 16:1. Signs in heaven are contrasted with the signs on earth and below it (raising the dead) which Jesus Christ had wrought (compare Ro 10:6, 7). He offers Ahaz the widest limits within which to make his choice.

12. neither … tempt—hypocritical pretext of keeping the law (De 6:16); "tempt," that is, put God to the proof, as in Mt 4:7, by seeking His miraculous interposition without warrant. But here there was the warrant of the prophet of God; to have asked a sign, when thus offered, would not have been a tempting of God. Ahaz' true reason for declining was his resolve not to do God's will, but to negotiate with Assyria, and persevere in his idolatry (2Ki 16:7, 8, 3, 4, 10). Men often excuse their distrust in God, and trust in their own devices, by professed reverence for God. Ahaz may have fancied that though Jehovah was the God of Judea and could work a sign there, that was no proof that the local god of Syria might not be more powerful. Such was the common heathen notion (Isa 10:10, 11; 36:18-20).

13. Is it a small thing?—Is it not enough for you (Nu 16:9)? The allusion to "David" is in order to contrast his trust in God with his degenerate descendant Ahaz' distrust.

weary—try the patience of.

men—prophets. Isaiah as yet had given no outward proof that he was from God; but now God has offered a sign, which Ahaz publicly rejects. The sin is therefore now not merely against "men," but openly against "God." Isaiah's manner therefore changes from mildness to bold reproof.

14. himself—since thou wilt not ask a sign, nay, rejectest the offer of one.

you—for the sake of the house of believing "David" (God remembering His everlasting covenant with David), not for unbelieving Ahaz' sake.

Behold—arresting attention to the extraordinary prophecy.

virgin—from a root, "to lie hid," virgins being closely kept from men's gaze in their parents' custody in the East. The Hebrew, and the Septuagint here, and Greek (Mt 1:23), have the article, the virgin, some definite one known to the speaker and his hearers; primarily, the woman, then a virgin, about immediately to become the second wife, and bear a child, whose attainment of the age of discrimination (about three years) should be preceded by the deliverance of Judah from its two invaders; its fullest significancy is realized in "the woman" (Ge 3:15), whose seed should bruise the serpent's head and deliver captive man (Jer 31:22; Mic 5:3). Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained "accommodation"; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Re 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet's son; "virgin" applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she "conceived"; "Immanuel," God with us (Joh 1:14; Re 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah's son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Isa 9:6), "the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Isa 8:18), the mighty God." Local and temporary features (as in Isa 7:15, 16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them.

call—that is, "she shall," or as Margin, "thou, O Virgin, shalt call;" mothers often named their children (Ge 4:1, 25; 19:37; 29:32). In Mt 1:23 the expression is strikingly changed into, "They shall call"; when the prophecy received its full accomplishment, no longer is the name Immanuel restricted to the prophetess' view of His character, as in its partial fulfilment in her son; all shall then call (that is, not literally), or regard Him as peculiarly and most fitly characterized by the descriptive name, "Immanuel" (1Ti 3:16; Col 2:9).

name—not mere appellation, which neither Isaiah's son nor Jesus Christ bore literally; but what describes His manifested attributes; His character (so Isa 9:6). The name in its proper destination was not arbitrary, but characteristic of the individual; sin destroyed the faculty of perceiving the internal being; hence the severance now between the name and the character; in the case of Jesus Christ and many in Scripture, the Holy Ghost has supplied this want [Olshausen].

15. Butter—rather, curdled milk, the acid of which is grateful in the heat of the East (Job 20:17).

honey—abundant in Palestine (Jud 14:8; 1Sa 14:25; Mt 3:4). Physicians directed that the first food given to a child should be honey, the next milk [Barnabas, Epistle]. Horsley takes this as implying the real humanity of the Immanuel Jesus Christ, about to be fed as other infants (Lu 2:52). Isa 7:22 shows that besides the fitness of milk and honey for children, a state of distress of the inhabitants is also implied, when, by reason of the invaders, milk and honey, things produced spontaneously, shall be the only abundant articles of food [Maurer].

that he may know—rather, until He shall know.

evil … choose … good—At about three years of age moral consciousness begins (compare Isa 8:4; De 1:39; Jon 4:11).

16. For—The deliverance implied in the name "Immanuel," and the cessation of distress as to food (Isa 7:14, 15), shall last only till the child grows to know good and evil;

for … the land that … abhorrest … forsaken of … kings—rather, desolate shall be the land, before whose two kings thou art alarmed [Hengstenberg and Gesenius].

the land—namely, Syria and Samaria regarded as one (2Ki 16:9; 15:30), just two years after this prophecy, as it foretells. Horsley takes it, "The land (Judah and Samaria) of (the former of) which thou art the plague (literally, 'thorn') shall be forsaken," &c.; a prediction thus, that Judah and Israel (appropriately regarded as one "land") should cease to be kingdoms (Lu 2:1; Ge 49:10) before Immanuel came.