Exhortations and warnings. (1-8) Comfort for those who fear God. (9-16) Afflictions to idolaters. (17-22)
Verses 1-8 The prophet is to write on a large roll, or on a metal tablet, words which meant, "Make speed to spoil, hasten to the prey:" pointing out that the Assyrian army should come with speed, and make great spoil. Very soon the riches of Damascus and of Samaria, cities then secure and formidable, shall be taken away by the king of Assyria. The prophet pleads with the promised Messiah, who should appear in that land in the fulness of time, and, therefore, as God, would preserve it in the mean time. As a gentle brook is an apt emblem of a mild government, so an overflowing torrent represents a conqueror and tyrant. The invader's success was also described by a bird of prey, stretching its wings over the whole land. Those who reject Christ, will find that what they call liberty is the basest slavery. But no enemy shall pluck the believer out of Emmanuel's hand, or deprive him of his heavenly inheritance.
Verses 9-16 The prophet challenges the enemies of the Jews. Their efforts would be vain, and themselves broken to pieces. It concerns us, in time of trouble, to watch against all such fears as put us upon crooked courses for our own security. The believing fear of God preserves against the disquieting fear of man. If we thought rightly of the greatness and glory of God, we should see all the power of our enemies restrained. The Lord, who will be a Sanctuary to those who trust in him, will be a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, to those who make the creature their fear and their hope. If the things of God be an offence to us, they will undo us. The apostle quotes this as to all who persisted in unbelief of the gospel of Christ, 1Pe. 2:8 . The crucified Emmanuel, who was and is a Stumbling-stone and Rock of offence to unbelieving Jews, is no less so to thousands who are called Christians. The preaching of the cross is foolishness in their esteem; his doctrines and precepts offend them.
Verses 17-22 The prophet foresaw that the Lord would hide his face; but he would look for his return in favour to them again. Though not miraculous signs, the children's names were memorials from God, suited to excite attention. The unbelieving Jews were prone to seek counsel in difficulties, from diviners of different descriptions, whose foolish and sinful ceremonies are alluded to. Would we know how we may seek to our God, and come to the knowledge of his mind? To the law and to the testimony; for there you will see what is good, and what the Lord requires. We must speak of the things of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, and be ruled by them. To those that seek to familiar spirits, and regard not God's law and testimony, there shall be horror and misery. Those that go away from God, go out of the way of all good; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment. They shall despair, and see no way of relief, when they curse God. And their fears will represent every thing as frightful. Those that shut their eyes against the light of God's word, will justly be left to darkness. All the miseries that ever were felt or witnessed on earth, are as nothing, compared with what will overwhelm those who leave the words of Christ, to follow delusions.
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 Isaiah 8:4 with Isaiah 7:16 ); implying that the interval till the accomplishment is shorter now than then. The tone of Isaiah 8:17 Isaiah 8:21 Isaiah 8:22 , expresses calamity more immediate and afflictive than Isaiah 7:4 Isaiah 7:15 Isaiah 7:22 .
1. great--suitable, for letters large enough to be read by all.
roll--rather, tablet of wood, metal, or stone ( Isaiah 30:8 , Habakkuk 2:2 ); sometimes coated with wax, upon which characters were traced with a pointed instrument, or iron stylus; skins and papyrus were also used ( Isaiah 19:7 ).
man's pen--that is, in ordinary characters which the humblest can read (so Habakkuk 2:2 ). Hebrew, enosh means a "common man," is contrasted with the upper ranks ( Revelation 21:17 , Romans 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 ( 2 Kings 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.
Zechariah--( 2 Chronicles 29:13 ).
3. prophetess--perhaps the same as the "virgin" ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 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" ( Isaiah 8:4 ), we have about three years in all, agreeing with Isaiah 7:15 Isaiah 7:16 .
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 ( John 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 ( Isaiah 8:7 , Revelation 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 ( Isaiah 7:6 ); also to Judah's desire to seek an Assyrian alliance is included in the censure (compare Isaiah 7:17 ). Isaiah 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" ( Isaiah 6:9 ).
7. therefore--for the reason given in Isaiah 8:6 , the Assyrian flood, which is first to overflood Syria and Samaria, shall rise high enough to reach rebel Judah also ( Isaiah 8:8 ).
the river--Euphrates swollen in spring by the melting of the snow of the Armenian mountains (compare Isaiah 8:6 , Isaiah 7:20 ).
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 ( Isaiah 30:28 ).
wings--the extreme bands of the Assyrian armies, fulfilled ( Isaiah 36:1 , 37:25 ).
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 ( Acts 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 Isaiah 6:9 ). The name "Immanuel" in Isaiah 8:8 (compare Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 9:4 Isaiah 9:6 ).
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.
God is with us--"Immanuel" implies this ( Numbers 14:9 , Psalms 46:7 ).
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 ( Jeremiah 15:17 , Ezekiel 1:3 , Ezekiel 3:14 Ezekiel 3:22 , 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."
13. Sanctify--Honor His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety ( Isaiah 29:23 , Numbers 20:12 ).
him . . . fear--"fear" lest you provoke His wrath by your fear of man and distrust of Him.
14. sanctuary--inviolable asylum, like the altar of the temple ( 1 Kings 1:50 , 2:28 , Ezekiel 11:16 ; compare Proverbs 18:10 ); namely, to those who fear and trust in 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 Matthew 21:44 . (Compare Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:15 Deuteronomy 32:18 Deuteronomy 32:30 Deuteronomy 32:31 Deuteronomy 32:37 , Daniel 2:34 , Romans 9:33 , 1 Peter 2:8 ).
gin--trap, in which birds are unexpectedly caught ( Luke 21:35 , 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ). So at the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus.
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 ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 6:9 Isaiah 6:10 ), except in part among God's disciples," that is, those who "sanctify the Lord" by obedient trust ( Psalms 25:14 ). Subsequent revelations would afterwards clear up what now was dark. So the Apocalypse explains what in Daniel was left unexplained (compare Daniel 8:26 , 12:9 ). "The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end"; but Revelation 22:10 , "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy . . . for the time is at hand" (compare Revelation 5:1 Revelation 5:5 Revelation 5:9 ),
testimony--attested by Uriah and Zechariah ( Isaiah 8:2 ).
law--the revelation just given, having the force of a law.
disciples--not as MAURER, Uriah and Zechariah (compare John 7:17 , 15:15 ).
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 ( Isaiah 50:10 , 54:8 , Habakkuk 2:3 , Luke 2:25 Luke 2:38 ).
18. I and the children--Isaiah means "salvation of Jehovah"; His children's names, also ( Isaiah 7:3 , 7:14 , 8:3 ), were "signs" suggestive of the coming and final deliverance.
wonders--that is symbols of the future ( Isaiah 20:3 , Zechariah 3:8 ). "Behold I . . . me" is quoted in Hebrews 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 Isaiah 8:17 Isaiah 8:18 , 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 Isaiah 9:6 , "Wonderful." Hence in Hebrews 2:13 , believers are called His "children"; but in Isaiah 8:11 Isaiah 8:12 , His "brethren." On "the Lord hath given me," see John 6:37 John 6:39 , 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 ( 1 Samuel 28:7 , &c.), consulted the witch of En-dor in his difficulties. These follow in the wake of idolatry, which prevailed under Ahaz ( 2 Kings 16:3 2 Kings 16:4 2 Kings 16:10 ). He copied the soothsaying as he did the idolatrous "altar" of Damascus (compare Leviticus 20:6 , which forbids it, Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 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; Isaiah 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. ( Deuteronomy 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 ( Revelation 16:11 ; compare Jeremiah 18:12 ).
through it--namely, the land.
hardly bestead--oppressed with anxiety.
hungry--a more grievous famine than the temporary one in Ahaz' time, owing to Assyria; then there was some food, but none now ( Isaiah 7:15 Isaiah 7:22 , Leviticus 26:3-5 Leviticus 26:14-16 Leviticus 26:20 ).
their king . . . God--Jehovah, King of the Jews ( Psalms 5:2 , 68:24 ).
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 ( Proverbs 1:27 ).
driven to darkness--rather, "thick darkness" ( Jeremiah 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.