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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 7

 

 

Verses 1-7


The Syro-Ephraimite Invasion

The group of prophecies contained in this section belongs to the reign of Ahaz, when Judah was threatened by the allied forces of Syria and Israel (Isaiah 7:1; 2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:5-9; 2 Chronicles 28:5-15). With the reign of Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian empire entered on a new epoch, that monarch aiming at bringing the whole of W. Asia under his sway. With a view to resisting the Assyrian advance and preserving their independence, Rezin, of Syria, and Pekah, of Israel, formed an alliance, and their war against Ahaz was apparently undertaken in order to force Judah to join the coalition, the immediate object of the invaders being to dethrone Ahaz and set over the kingdom one who would be willing to favour their projects (Isaiah 7:6). Isaiah foresaw that Syria and Israel were doomed to fall before the Assyrian power, and, therefore, exhorts to calmness, and confidence in Jehovah (Isaiah 7:4, Isaiah 7:8, Isaiah 7:16; Isaiah 8:4). Ahaz, on the other hand, was set upon seeking aid from Tiglath-pileser, a policy which Isaiah reprobated as indicating want of trust in Jehovah, and as certain to lay Judah also open to disaster from Assyrian inroads (Isaiah 7:17-25).

Isaiah 7:1-2. The occasion of the prophecies following.

3-9. In view of the panic caused by the Syro-Israelite invasion, Isaiah is sent to the king with a message of encouragement (10-16), which is confirmed by the sign of Immanuel.

17-25. The disastrous consequences of the policy of seeking aid from Assyria foretold.

Isaiah 8:1-4. The speedy ruin of Syria and Israel foretold by the sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

5-8. The Syrian invasion of Judah foretold.

9-15. The nations' fear in the present crisis contrasted with the assurance that should spring from trust in Jehovah.

16-20. Isaiah's own confidence in his message. 21-Isaiah 9:7. The coming calamity and the bright future that lies beyond. Those parts of the land which first suffered from the Assyrian shall be correspondingly glorified, for the Messiah shall appear and the kingdom of David shall be established on an indestructible foundation.


Verses 1-25

1-16. Isaiah assures Ahaz by a sign that Judah will be delivered from Syria and Israel.

1. See prefatory note to the section.

2. Ephraim] the popular name for the northern kingdom (Isaiah 9:8-9). His heart was moved] i.e. the heart of king Ahaz, because of the formidable confederacy against him. Serious reverses suffered by Judah at this time are recorded in 2 Chronicles 28:5-15.

3. Shear-jashub] i.e. 'a remnant shall return.' Already in the reign of Ahaz the prophet had summed up the characteristic feature of his teaching (see on Isaiah 6:13) in a symbolic name given to his son. Similarly he called another son Maher-shalal-hash-baz ('spoil speedeth, prey hasteth') that he might impressively indicate the speedy spoliation of Syria and Israel (Isaiah 8:3-4). Thus the prophet and his family were for signs to the people (Isaiah 8:18). There is a special significance in the presence of Shear-jashub at this meeting of Isaiah with king Ahaz. The prophet has to foretell invasion and spoliation of Judah by the Assyrians (Isaiah 7:20), but the presence of Shear-jashub gives assurance that a remnant shall return. The conduit] The king's object doubtless was to stop the waters outside the walls of the city (2 Chronicles 32:3), so that the enemy, in the siege that was imminent, might be without supply of water. Upper pool] probably the same as the upper watercourse of Gihon on the W. of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:30). A lower pool is mentioned in Isaiah 22:9.

4. Neither be fainthearted, etc.] RV 'let not thine heart be faint because of these two tails of smoking firebrands.' The prophet regards them as no more than expiring torches.

6. Tabeal] the name is Syrian, not Hebrew: see prefatory note.

8. Within threescore, etc.] We should probably regard this prophecy as fulfilled when the power of the northern kingdom was finally broken by the importation of foreigners under Esarhaddon (Ezra 4:2). On account of the manner in which this prediction interrupts the parallelism, some modern scholars regard it as an addition by a later editor.

9. The need of faith is emphasised; without it there is no security.

11. Ask thee a sign] to prove that he may trust in Jehovah's promise. Ahaz's choice should be unlimited, he might ask a sign in heaven or from the nether world.

12. Neither will I tempt, etc.] Ahaz gives utterance to a sound principle (Deuteronomy 6:16). But Jehovah had offered a sign, and to refuse it showed distrust of God. Ahaz had already made up his mind to the Assyrian alliance and cloaks his self-will with the language of faith.

13. The prophet's indignation.

14. A virgin] The Hebrew word is not the distinctive one for virginity, but denotes rather one of maturing and marriageable age: cp. e.g. Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8. In the first place, this prophecy must have been intended by Isaiah as a sign of encouragement to Ahaz—before a child, shortly to be born, could arrive at years of observation the enemies of Judah would be brought to nought. At the same time, it is evident that the child is no ordinary one, from the way in which the prophet refers to him as Lord of the land (Isaiah 8:8), and from the titles given to him in Isaiah 9:6. The child is, in fact, the Messiah, whose advent Isaiah seems to have expected in the near future in connexion with the Assyrian invasion (Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 11:1-9). The prophet's anticipations were realised, but in a manner far surpassing his expectations, in the birth of our Lord.

Immanuel] i.e. 'God is with us' (Isaiah 8:10). The child whom the prophet has in mind received this symbolic name as being a pledge of God's presence with His people. Christ, the true Son of David, is in the highest conceivable sense Immanuel. The sign given by Isaiah is not concerned with the manner of the child's birth, but rather connected with his name Immanuel. Accordingly in Matthew 1:23 the emphasis is upon the name.

15. Butter (RM 'curds') and honey] i.e. simple pastoral products, not bread and meat, because the land has gone out of cultivation: the 'honey' was probably wild honey. That privation is implied is clear from the context (Isaiah 7:20-22). That he may know] so some ancient versions, but better, 'when he knoweth' (RV), or 'till he know.'

16. Though the child about to be born must in his early years endure privation, yet before he comes to years of discretion Judah's present enemies shall be brought to nought. The land, etc.] RV 'the land whose two kings thou abhorrest' (i.e. 'fearest horribly) 'shall be forsaken.'

17-25. The disastrous consequences of any alliance between Judah and Assyria foretold.

17-19. Isaiah foresees that Judah will be involved in the struggle between Egypt and Assyria and will be invaded by both powers, their armies penetrating everywhere like swarms of insects.

17. Ephraim departed] alluding to the disruption of the kingdom in Rehoboam's reign. Since Ephraim was the most powerful of the seceding tribes the northern kingdom was called by its name (Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 9:8-9).

18. Hiss] see Isaiah 5:28.

19. Desolate] RV 'rugged.' Bushes] RV 'pastures.'

20. A razor that is hired] The reference is to Ahaz's policy of calling in the aid of Tiglath-pileser. Retribution would come through that very power on which Ahaz relied, and the land would be laid bare.

21-25. A pastoral life will be the only possible one, because the land is laid waste, and where vineyards once flourished men will hunt wild beasts in the thickets, or seek pasturage for their cattle.

22. The v. means there will be curds and wild honey, and nothing else.

23. Every place, etc.] RV 'every place, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, shall even be for briers and thorns.' Silverlings] i.e. pieces of silver, shekels; 1,000 shekels would be an average price.

25. RV 'And all the hills that were digged with the mattock, thou shalt not come thither for fear of briers and thorns.' Vines were usually grown on terraces on the hills of Palestine. Lesser cattle] RV 'sheep.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 7:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/isaiah-7.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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