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8. Assyria, the Lord's Instrument
Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 2And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. 3And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
5The Lord spake also unto me again, saying, 6Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son; 7Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth 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 banks: 8And 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 thy land, O Immanuel.
9Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. 10Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
11For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
19And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.
The first seven verses of the ninth chapter belong to this section. The eighth chapter continues the subject of the seventh chapter, but at a later period (compare Isa 8:4 with Isa 7:16); implying that the interval till the accomplishment is shorter now than then. The tone of Isa 8:17, 21, 22, expresses calamity more immediate and afflictive than Isa 7:4, 15, 22.
1. great—suitable, for letters large enough to be read by all.
roll—rather, tablet of wood, metal, or stone (Isa 30:8; Hab 2:2); sometimes coated with wax, upon which characters were traced with a pointed instrument, or iron stylus; skins and papyrus were also used (Isa 19:7).
man's pen—that is, in ordinary characters which the humblest can read (so Hab 2:2). Hebrew, enosh means a "common man," is contrasted with the upper ranks (Re 21:17; Ro 3:5). Not in hieroglyphics. The object was that, after the event, all might see that it had been predicted by Isaiah.
concerning—the title and subject of the prophecy.
Maher-shalal-hash-baz—"They (that is, the Assyrians) hasten to the spoil (namely, to spoil Syria and Samaria), they speed to the prey" [Gesenius]. Otherwise, "The spoil (that is, spoiler) hastens, the rapine speeds forward" [Maurer].
2. I took—rather, "The Lord said to me, that I should take," &c. [Maurer].
Uriah—an accomplice of Ahaz in idolatry, and therefore a witness not likely to assist the prophet of God in getting up a prophecy after the event (2Ki 16:10). The witnesses were in order that when the event should come, they might testify that the tablet containing the prophecy had been inscribed with it at the time that it professed.
3. prophetess—perhaps the same as the "virgin" (Isa 7:14), in the interim married as Isaiah's second wife: this is in the primary and temporary sense. Immanuel is even in this sense distinct from Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Thus nineteen months at least intervene from the prophecy (Isa 7:14), nine before the birth of Immanuel, and ten from that time to the birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz: adding eleven or twelve months before the latter could cry, "Father" (Isa 8:4), we have about three years in all, agreeing with Isa 7:15, 16.
4. before, &c.—within a year.
6. waters of Shiloah … softly—Their source is on the southeast of Zion and east of Jerusalem. It means "sent," the water being sent through an aqueduct (Joh 9:7). Figurative for the mild, though now weak, sway of the house of David; in the highest sense Shiloah expresses the benignant sway of Jehovah in the theocracy, administered through David. Contrast to the violent Euphrates, "the river" that typifies Assyria (Isa 8:7; Re 17:15). "This people" refers both to Israel, which preferred an alliance with Rezin of Syria to one with the kings of Judah, and to Judah, a party in which seems to have favored the pretentions of the son of Tabeal against David's line (Isa 7:6); also to Judah's desire to seek an Assyrian alliance is included in the censure (compare Isa 7:17). Isa 8:14 shows that both nations are meant; both alike rejected the divine Shiloah. Not "My people," as elsewhere, when God expresses favor, but "this people" (Isa 6:9).
all his glory—Eastern kings travel with a gorgeous retinue.
channels—natural and artificial in the level region, Mesopotamia.
8. pass through—The flood shall not stop at Syria and Samaria, but shall penetrate into Judea.
the neck—When the waters reach to the neck, a man is near drowning; still the head is not said to be overflowed. Jerusalem, elevated on hills, is the head. The danger shall be so imminent as to reach near it at Sennacherib's invasion in Hezekiah's reign; but it shall be spared (Isa 30:28).
thy land, O Immanuel—Though temporarily applied to Isaiah's son, in the full sense this is applicable only to Messiah, that Judea is His, was, and still is, a pledge that, however sorely overwhelmed, it shall be saved at last; the "head" is safe even now, waiting for the times of restoration (Ac 1:6); at the same time these words imply that, notwithstanding the temporary deliverance from Syria and Israel, implied in "Immanuel," the greatest calamities are to follow to Judah.
9. Associate yourselves—rather, "Raise tumults," or, Rage, that is, Do your worst [Maurer], referring perhaps to the attack of Rezin and Pekah on Jerusalem.
and … be broken in pieces—rather, "yet ye shall be thrown into consternation." Imperative in the Hebrew, according to the idiom whereby the second of two imperatives implies the future, namely, the consequence of the action contained in the first (so Isa 6:9). The name "Immanuel" in Isa 8:8 (compare Isa 8:10) suggests the thought of the ultimate safety of Immanuel's land, both from its present two invaders, and even from the Assyrians, notwithstanding the grievous flood, wherewith the previous verses foretell they shall deluge it. The succession of the house of David cannot be set aside in Judah, for Immanuel Messiah is to be born in it as heir of David, of whom Isaiah's son is but a type (Isa 9:4, 6).
give ear … far countries—witness the discomfiture of Judah's enemies. The prophecy probably looks on also to the final conspiracy of Antichrist and his supporters against the Heir of David's throne in the latter days and their utter overthrow [Horsley].
gird yourselves … gird yourselves—The repetition expresses vehemently the certainty of their being thrown into consternation (not as English Version, "broken in pieces").
10. the word—of command, for the assault of Jerusalem.
11. with a strong hand—or else, "when He grasped me with His hand" [Horsley]. Maurer, as English Version, "with the impetus of His hand," that is, the felt impulse of His inspiration in my mind (Jer 15:17; Eze 1:3; 3:14, 22; 37:1).
way of … people—their distrust of Jehovah, and the panic which led them and Ahab to seek Assyrian aid.
12-16. The words of Jehovah.
confederacy—rather, a conspiracy; an appropriate term for the unnatural combination of Israel with Syrian foreigners against Judea and the theocracy, to which the former was bound by ties of blood and hereditary religion [Maurer].
to all … say—rather, of all which this people calleth a conspiracy [G. V. Smith].
their fear—namely, object of fear: the hostile conspiracy.
be afraid—rather [Maurer], "nor make others to be afraid."
him … fear—"fear" lest you provoke His wrath by your fear of man and distrust of Him.
but … offence—that is, a rock over which they should fall to their hurt; namely those who would not believe.
both … houses—Israel and Judah. Here again the prophecy expands beyond the temporary application in Ahaz' time. The very stone, Immanuel, which would have been a sanctuary on belief, becomes a fatal stumbling-block through unbelief. Jesus Christ refers to this in Mt 21:44. (Compare De 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; Da 2:34; Ro 9:33; 1Pe 2:8).
15. stumble … taken—images from the means used in taking wild animals.
16. Bind up … seal—What Isaiah had before briefly noted by inscribing Maher-shalal-hash-baz in a tablet, fixed up in some public place, he afterwards wrote out more in detail in a parchment roll (Isa 30:8); this he is now to seal up, not merely in order that nothing may be added to, or taken from it, as being complete, but to imply that it relates to distant events, and is therefore to be a sealed and not understood testimony (Isa 6:9, 10), except in part among God's "disciples," that is, those who "sanctify the Lord" by obedient trust (Ps 25:14). Subsequent revelations would afterwards clear up what now was dark. So the Apocalypse explains what in Daniel was left unexplained (compare Da 8:26; 12:9). "The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end"; but Re 22:10, "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy … for the time is at hand" (compare Re 5:1, 5, 9),
testimony—attested by Uriah and Zechariah (Isa 8:2).
law—the revelation just given, having the force of a law.
17. I—Whatever the rest of the nation may do, I will look to Jehovah alone.
that hideth … face—though He seems now to withdraw His countenance from Judah (the then representative of "the house of Jacob"). Let us wait and trust in, though we cannot see, Him (Isa 50:10; 54:8; Hab 2:3; Lu 2:25, 38).
wonders—that is, symbols of the future (Isa 20:3; Zec 3:8). "Behold I … me" is quoted in Heb 2:13 to prove the manhood of the Messiah. This is the main and ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy; its temporary meaning is applied to Ahaz' time. Isaiah typically, in Isa 8:17, 18, personates Messiah, who is at once "Father" and "Son," Isaiah and Immanuel, "Child" and "Mighty God," and is therefore called here a "wonder," as in Isa 9:6, "Wonderful." Hence in Heb 2:13, believers are called His "children"; but in Isa 8:11, 12, His "brethren." On "the Lord hath given me," see Joh 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:12.
which dwelleth in … Zion—and will therefore protect Jerusalem.
19. Seek unto—Consult in your national difficulties.
them … familiar spirits—necromancers, spirit charmers. So Saul, when he had forsaken God (1Sa 28:7, &c.), consulted the witch of En-dor in his difficulties. These follow in the wake of idolatry, which prevailed under Ahaz (2Ki 16:3, 4, 10). He copied the soothsaying as he did the idolatrous "altar" of Damascus (compare Le 20:6, which forbids it, Isa 19:3).
wizards—men claiming supernatural knowledge; from the old English, "to wit," that is, know.
peep—rather "chirp faintly," as young birds do; this sound was generally ascribed to departed spirits; by ventriloquism the soothsayers caused a low sound to proceed as from a grave, or dead person. Hence the Septuagint renders the Hebrew for "necromancers" here "ventriloquists" (compare Isa 29:4).
should not, &c.—The answer which Isaiah recommends to be given to those advising to have recourse to necromancers.
for the living, &c.—"should one, for the safety of the living, seek unto (consult) the dead?" [Gesenius]. Lowth renders it, "In place of (consulting) the living, should one consult the dead?"
20. To the law, &c.—the revelation of God by His prophet (Isa 8:16), to which he directs them to refer those who would advise necromancy.
if they speak not … it is because—English Version understands "they" as the necromancers. But the Hebrew rendered "because" is not this but "who"; and "if not," ought rather to be "shall they not"; or, truly they shall speak according to this word, who have no morning light (so the Hebrew, that is, prosperity after the night of sorrows) dawning on them [Maurer and G. V. Smith]. They who are in the dark night of trial, without a dawn of hope, shall surely say so, Do not seek, as we did, to necromancy, but to the law," &c. The law perhaps includes here the law of Moses, which was the "Magna Charta" on which prophetism commented [Kitto].
21, 22. More detailed description of the despair, which they shall fall into, who sought necromancy instead of God; Isa 8:20 implies that too late they shall see how much better it would have been for them to have sought "to the law," &c. (De 32:31). But now they are given over to despair. Therefore, while seeing the truth of God, they only "curse their King and God"; foreshadowing the future, like conduct of those belonging to the "kingdom of the beast," when they shall be visited with divine plagues (Re 16:11; compare Jer 18:12).
through it—namely, the land.
hardly bestead—oppressed with anxiety.
look upward … unto the earth—Whether they look up to heaven, or down towards the land of Judea, nothing but despair shall present itself.
dimness of anguish—darkness of distress (Pr 1:27).
driven to darkness—rather, "thick darkness" (Jer 23:12). Driven onward, as by a sweeping storm. The Jewish rejection of "their King and God," Messiah, was followed by all these awful calamities.