Ahaz threatened by Israel and Syria; and is assured their attack would be in vain. (1-9) God gives a sure sign by the promise of the long-expected Messiah. (10-16) The folly and sin of seeking relief from Assyria are reproved. (17-25)
Verses 1-9 Ungodly men are often punished by others as bad as themselves. Being in great distress and confusion, the Jews gave up all for lost. They had made God their enemy, and knew not how to make him their friend. The prophet must teach them to despise their enemies, in faith and dependence on God. Ahaz, in fear, called them two powerful princes. No, says the prophet, they are but tails of smoking firebrands, burnt out already. The two kingdoms of Syria and Israel were nearly expiring. While God has work for the firebrands of the earth, they consume all before them; but when their work is fulfilled, they will be extinguished in smoke. That which Ahaz thought most formidable, is made the ground of their defeat; because they have taken evil counsel against thee; which is an offence to God. God scorns the scorners, and gives his word that the attempt should not succeed. Man purposes, but God disposes. It was folly for those to be trying to ruin their neighbours, who were themselves near to ruin. Isaiah must urge the Jews to rely on the assurances given them. Faith is absolutely necessary to quiet and compose the mind in trials.
Verses 10-16 Secret disaffection to God is often disguised with the colour of respect to him; and those who are resolved that they will not trust God, yet pretend they will not tempt him. The prophet reproved Ahaz and his court, for the little value they had for Divine revelation. Nothing is more grievous to God than distrust, but the unbelief of man shall not make the promise of God of no effect; the Lord himself shall give a sign. How great soever your distress and danger, of you the Messiah is to be born, and you cannot be destroyed while that blessing is in you. It shall be brought to pass in a glorious manner; and the strongest consolations in time of trouble are derived from Christ, our relation to him, our interest in him, our expectations of him and from him. He would grow up like other children, by the use of the diet of those countries; but he would, unlike other children, uniformly refuse the evil and choose the good. And although his birth would be by the power of the Holy Ghost, yet he should not be fed with angels' food. Then follows a sign of the speedy destruction of the princes, now a terror to Judah. "Before this child," so it may be read; "this child which I have now in my arms," (Shear-jashub, the prophet's own son, ver. ( Isaiah 7:3 ) ,) shall be three or four years older, these enemies' forces shall be forsaken of both their kings. The prophecy is so solemn, the sign is so marked, as given by God himself after Ahaz rejected the offer, that it must have raised hopes far beyond what the present occasion suggested. And, if the prospect of the coming of the Divine Saviour was a never-failing support to the hopes of ancient believers, what cause have we to be thankful that the Word was made flesh! May we trust in and love Him, and copy his example.
Verses 17-25 Let those who will not believe the promises of God, expect to hear the alarms of his threatenings; for who can resist or escape his judgments? The Lord shall sweep all away; and whomsoever he employs in any service for him, he will pay. All speaks a sad change of the face of that pleasant land. But what melancholy change is there, which sin will not make with a people? Agriculture would cease. Sorrows of every kind will come upon all who neglect the great salvation. If we remain unfruitful under the means of grace, the Lord will say, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth for ever.
Isaiah 7:1-9:7'. PREDICTION OF THE ILL SUCCESS OF THE SYRO-ISRAELITISH INVASION OF JUDAH--AHAZ ALLIANCE WITH ASSYRIA, AND ITS FATAL RESULTS TO JUDEA--YET THE CERTAINTY OF FINAL PRESERVATION AND OF THE COMING OF MESSIAH.
In the Assyrian inscriptions the name of Rezin, king of Damascus, is found among the tributaries of Tiglath-pileser, of whose reign the annals of seventeen years have been deciphered. For the historical facts in this chapter, compare 2 Kings 15:37-16:9'. Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, as confederates, advanced against Jerusalem. In the first campaign they "smote Ahaz with a great slaughter" ( 2 Chronicles 28:5 ). Their object was probably to unite the three kingdoms against Assyria. Egypt seems to have favored the plan, so as to interpose these confederate kingdoms between her own frontier and Assyria (compare Isaiah 7:18 , "Egypt"; and 2 Kings 17:4 , Hoshea's league with Egypt). Rezin and Pekah may have perceived Ahaz' inclination towards Assyria rather than towards their own confederacy; this and the old feud between Israel and Judah ( 1 Kings 12:16 ) occasioned their invasion of Judah. Ahaz, at the second inroad of his enemies (compare 2 Chronicles 28:1-26 and 2 Kings 15:37 , with Isaiah 16:5 ), smarting under his former defeat, applied to Tiglath-pileser, in spite of Isaiah's warning in this chapter, that he should rather rely on God; that king accordingly attacked Damascus, and slew Rezin ( 2 Kings 16:9 ); and probably it was at the same time that he carried away part of Israel captive ( 2 Kings 15:29 ), unless there were two assaults on Pekah--that in 2 Kings 15:29 , the earlier, and that in which Tiglath helped Ahaz subsequently [G. V. SMITH]. Ahaz was saved at the sacrifice of Judah's independence and the payment of a large tribute, which continued till the overthrow of Sennacherib under Hezekiah ( Isaiah 37:37 , 2 Kings 16:8 2 Kings 16:17 2 Kings 16:18 , 2 Chronicles 28:20 ). Ahaz' reign began about 741 B.C., and Pekah was slain in 738 [WINER].
1. Ahaz--In the first years of his reign the design of the two kings against Judah was carried out, which was formed in Jotham's reign ( 2 Kings 15:37 ).
Syria--Hebrew, Aram ( Genesis 10:22 Genesis 10:23 ), originally the whole region between the Euphrates and Mediterranean, including Assyria, of which Syria is an abbreviation; here the region round Damascus, and along Mount Libanus.
Jerusalem--An actual siege of it took place, but was foiled ( 2 Kings 16:5 ).
2. is confederate with--rather, is encamped upon the territory of Ephraim [MAURER], or better, as Rezin was encamped against Jerusalem, "is supported by" [LOWTH] Ephraim, whose land lay between Syria and Judah. The mention of "David" alludes, in sad contrast with the present, to the time when David made Syria subject to him ( 2 Samuel 8:6 ).
Ephraim--the ten tribes.
as . . . trees of . . . wood--simultaneous agitation.
3. Go forth--out of the city, to the place where Ahaz was superintending the works for defense and the cutting off of the water supply from the enemy, and securing it to the city. So Isaiah 22:9 , 2 Chronicles 32:4 .
Shearjashub--that is, A remnant shall return ( Isaiah 6:13 ) was a standing memorial to Ahaz and the Jews that the nation should not, notwithstanding the general calamity ( Isaiah 7:17-25 , Isaiah 8:6-8 ), be utterly destroyed ( Isaiah 10:21 Isaiah 10:22 ).
conduit--an aqueduct from the pool or reservoir for the supply of the city. At the foot of Zion was Fount Siloah ( Isaiah 8:6 , Nehemiah 3:15,,Joh 9:7 Nehemiah 3:15,,Joh 9:7 ), called also Gihon, on the west of Jerusalem ( 2 Chronicles 32:30 ). Two pools were supplied from it, the Upper, or Old ( Isaiah 22:11 ), or King's ( Nehemiah 2:14 ), and the Lower ( Isaiah 22:9 ), which received the superfluous waters of the upper. The upper pool is still to be seen, about seven hundred yards from the Jaffa gate. The highway leading to the fullers' field, which was in a position near water for the purposes of washing, previous to drying and bleaching, the cloth, was probably alongside the aqueduct.
4. Take heed, &c.--that is, See that thou be quiet (not seeking Assyrian aid in a fit of panic).
tails--mere ends of firebrands, almost consumed themselves (about soon to fall before the Assyrians, Isaiah 7:8 ), therefore harmless.
smoking--as about to go out; not blazing.
son of Remaliah--Pekah, a usurper ( 2 Kings 15:25 ). The Easterners express contempt by designating one, not by his own name, but by his father's, especially when the father is but little known ( 1 Samuel 20:27 1 Samuel 20:31 ).
6. vex--rather, "throw into consternation" [GESENIUS].
make a breach--rather, "cleave it asunder." Their scheme was to divide a large portion of the territory between themselves, and set up a vassal king of their own over the rest.
son of Tabeal--unknown; a Syrian-sounding name, perhaps favored by a party in Jerusalem ( Isaiah 3:6 Isaiah 3:9 Isaiah 3:12 ).
7. ( Isaiah 8:10 , Proverbs 21:30 ).
8. head--that is, in both Syria and Israel the capital shall remain as it is; they shall not conquer Judah, but each shall possess only his own dominions.
threescore and five . . . not a people--As these words break the symmetry of the parallelism in this verse, either they ought to be placed after "Remaliah's son," in Isaiah 7:9 , or else they refer to some older prophecy of Isaiah, or of Amos (as the Jewish writers represent), parenthetically; to which, in Isaiah 7:8 , the words, "If ye will not believe . . . not be established," correspond in parallelism. One deportation of Israel happened within one or two years from this time, under Tiglath-pileser ( 2 Kings 15:29 ). Another in the reign of Hoshea, under Shalmaneser ( 2 Kings 17:1-6 ), was about twenty years after. But the final one which utterly "broke" up Israel so as to be "not a people," accompanied by a colonization of Samaria with foreigners, was under Esar-haddon, who carried away Manasseh, king of Judah, also, in the twenty-second year of his reign, sixty-five years from the utterance of this prophecy (compare Ezra 4:2 Ezra 4:3 Ezra 4:10 , with 2 Kings 17:24 , 2 Chronicles 33:11 ) [USHER]. The event, though so far off, was enough to assure the people of Judah that as God, the Head of the theocracy, would ultimately interpose to destroy the enemies of His people, so they might rely on Him now.
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 ( Isaiah 37:30 , Isaiah 38:7 Isaiah 38:8 ). "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 Matthew 16:1 . Signs in heaven are contrasted with the signs on earth and below it (raising the dead) which Jesus Christ had wrought (compare Romans 10:6 Romans 10:7 ). He offers Ahaz the widest limits within which to make his choice.
12. neither . . . tempt--hypocritical pretext of keeping the law ( Deuteronomy 6:16 ); "tempt," that is, put God to the proof, as in Matthew 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 ( 2 Kings 16:7 2 Kings 16:8 2 Kings 16:3 2 Kings 16:4 2 Kings 16:10 ). 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 ( Isaiah 10:10 , 11:36:18-20 ).
13. Is it a small thing?--Is it not enough for you ( Numbers 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 ( Matthew 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" ( Genesis 3:15 ), whose seed should bruise the serpent's head and deliver captive man ( Jeremiah 31:22 , Micah 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 ( Revelation 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 ( John 1:14 , Revelation 21:3 ), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah's son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly ( Isaiah 9:6 ), "the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Isaiah 8:18 ), the mighty God." Local and temporary features (as in Isaiah 7:15 Isaiah 7:16 ) 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 ( Genesis 4:1 Genesis 4:25 , 19:37 , 29:32 ). In Matthew 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" ( 1 Timothy 3:16 , Colossians 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 Isaiah 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 ( Judges 14:8 , 1 Samuel 14:25 , Matthew 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 ( Luke 2:52 ). Isaiah 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 Isaiah 8:4 , Deuteronomy 1:39 , Jonah 4:11 ).
16. For--The deliverance implied in the name "Immanuel," and the cessation of distress as to food ( Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:15 ), 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 ( 2 Kings 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 ( Luke 2:1 , Genesis 49:10 ) before Immanuel came.
Isaiah 7:17-25 . FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF AHAZ' ASSYRIAN POLICY.
Though temporary deliverance ( Isaiah 7:16 , 8:4 ) was to be given then, and final deliverance through Messiah, sore punishment shall follow the former. After subduing Syria and Israel, the Assyrians shall encounter Egypt ( 2 Kings 23:29 ), and Judah shall be the battlefield of both ( Isaiah 7:18 ), and be made tributary to that very Assyria ( 2 Chronicles 28:20 , 2 Kings 16:7 2 Kings 16:8 ) now about to be called in as an ally ( Isaiah 39:1-6 ). Egypt, too, should prove a fatal ally ( Isaiah 36:6 , 31:1 , &c.).
18. hiss--whistle, to bring bees to settle
fly--found in numbers about the arms of the Nile and the canals from it ( Isaiah 19:5-7 , 23:3 ), here called "rivers." Hence arose the plague of flies ( Exodus 8:21 ). Figurative, for numerous and troublesome foes from the remotest parts of Egypt, for example, Pharaoh-nechoh.
bee--( Deuteronomy 1:44 , Psalms 118:12 ). As numerous in Assyria as the fly in marshy Egypt. Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled this prediction.
19. rest--image of flies and bees kept up. The enemy shall overspread the land everywhere, even in "desolate valleys."
thorns--wild, contrasted with "bushes," which were valued and objects of care (see Margin).
20. razor--The Assyrians are to be God's instrument of devastating Judea, just as a razor sweeps away all hair before it ( Isaiah 10:5 , Ezekiel 29:19 Ezekiel 29:20 ).
hired--alluding to Ahaz' hiring ( 2 Kings 16:7 2 Kings 16:8 ) Tiglath-pileser against Syria and Israel; namely,
by them beyond the river--namely, the Euphrates; the eastern boundary of Jewish geographical knowledge ( Psalms 72:8 ); the river which Abram crossed; the Nile also may be included ( Isaiah 7:18 ) [G. V. SMITH]. GESENIUS translates, "With a razor hired in the parts beyond the river."
head . . . feet--the whole body, including the most honored parts. To cut the "beard" is the greatest indignity to an Easterner ( Isaiah 50:6 , 2 Samuel 10:4 2 Samuel 10:5 , Ezekiel 5:1 ).
Isaiah 7:21-25 . THE COMING DESOLATE STATE OF THE LAND OWING TO THE ASSYRIANS AND EGYPTIANS.
21. nourish--that is, own.
young cow--a heifer giving milk. Agriculture shall cease, and the land become one great pasturage.
22. abundance--by reason of the wide range of land lying desolate over which the cows and sheep (including goats) may range.
butter--thick milk, or cream. Food of spontaneous growth will be the resource of the few inhabitants left. Honey shall be abundant as the bees will find the wild flowers abounding everywhere.
23. where there were, &c.--where up to that time there was so valuable a vineyard as to have in it a thousand vines, worth a silverling (shekel, about fifty cents; a large price) each, there shall be only briers ( Solomon 8:11 ). Vineyards are estimated by the number of the vines, and the goodness of the kind of vine. Judea admits of a high state of cultivation, and requires it, in order to be productive; its present barrenness is due to neglect.
24. It shall become a vast hunting ground, abounding in wild beasts (compare Jeremiah 49:19 ).
25. shall be--rather, "were once."
digged--in order to plant and rear vines ( Isaiah 5:6 ).
there shall not come--that is, none shall come who fear thorns, seeing that thorns shall abound on all sides [MAURER]. Otherwise, "Thou shalt not come for fear of thorns" [GESENIUS]. Only cattle shall be able to penetrate the briery ground.
lesser cattle--sheep and goats.