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1. Signs of God’s presence 7:1-9:7
A unifying theme in this subsection is children. The children were understandably a major concern of the Israelites, threatened as they were with invasion. However, the children also embodied qualities that the adult Israelites needed to adopt to survive, such as innocence, trust, and acknowledged weakness (cf. Matthew 18:1-7). Indeed, a child promised in this passage, who turned out to be Jesus, would eventually save them. As Jesus appealed for an attitude of childlikeness in His hearers, so did Isaiah.
The importance of listening to God 8:11-9:1
Clarification of the issue 8:11-9:7
Having received two signs of God’s dealing with them in the immediate crisis that they faced, plus accompanying warnings, the people of Judah next received additional incentives to trust Yahweh.
In contrast to the gloom of the false counselors, the residents of Galilee in Israel, who would experience the Lord’s chastening, would enjoy glory. God would bring light when His people had lost all hope. Galilee, in northern Israel, was the first region in Israel to feel the lash of the Assyrian invaders. It was a melting pot and home to many Gentiles, as well as Jews, because the international highway between Mesopotamia and Egypt passed through it. Glory came to this region later when Jesus lived and ministered there (cf. Matthew 4:13-16). But it will enjoy even greater glory during Messiah’s earthly reign, as will all of the Promised Land.
Light would come to those walking in darkness-the Israelites-as they lived in a dark land (Isaiah 9:1). Many prophetic perfects in this section assure the certainty of the things predicted. In Hebrew, a writer sometimes described as past what was really in the future. He used this verb tense to emphasize that what was future was as sure to happen as if it had happened already. God would enlighten those in darkness by bringing new light to them, even though they did not deserve it (cf. Matthew 4:15-16). This was revelation about the future that was sure, compared to the unreliable predictions of mediums and wizards (cf. Isaiah 8:19).
". . . the very region where Assyrian armies brought darkness and death would be the first to rejoice in the light brought by the preaching of Christ (Matthew 4:15-16)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 720.]
"The darkness-light motif points to a creative work of God, who alone can make such a transformation (cf. Isaiah 4:5; Genesis 1:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:6)." [Note: Motyer, p. 100.]
The faithful king to come 9:2-7
In contrast to Ahaz, who refused to listen to and obey God, the Lord would raise up a faithful king who would be born and reign in the future (the Millennium). This pericope climaxes the present section (Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 9:7) dealing with the signs of God’s presence. Again a child is the centerpiece of the prophecy and provides a sign and hope for the future. Isaiah 9:2 begins chapter 9 in the Hebrew text.
God would reveal His presence to His people, and the results would be national growth (cf. Isaiah 7:20-23; Isaiah 49:19-23) and abundance (cf. Isaiah 5:10; Isaiah 33:23; Isaiah 35:1-2), really every type of joy.
God would deliver them from their enemies, primarily physical but also spiritual enemies. The Assyrians would impose a yoke on the Israelites, but God would break that yoke off (cf. Exodus 1:11; Exodus 2:11; Exodus 3:7-8; Exodus 5:4-7; Exodus 5:10-14; Exodus 6:6-7; Leviticus 26:13; Matthew 11:29-30). This deliverance would be entirely of God and against overwhelming odds, as when God broke the yoke of Midian (Judges 6-7, cf. especially Judges 6:35; Isaiah 7:2-14; Isaiah 7:20).
God would not just give victory to Israel, but He would cause wars to cease (cf. Psalms 46:9-10). His people would enter into the fruits of a past victory, namely, the victory of their Messiah.
The end of war depends on the coming of a person-a royal person-yet one never explicitly called a "king" here (cf. Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18; John 5:22). He would appear as a child (emphatic in the Hebrew text); He would not only be God come to earth, but God born on earth, i.e., both human and divine. The "child born" points to His humanity and the "son given" to His deity. Moslems deny that God could ever have a son. [Note: Koran, Sura 112.] God would not defeat Israel’s enemies by using larger, more powerful armies, but through the influence of a child to be born (cf. Psalms 2:7; John 3:16). This child to be born to Isaiah’s people would have traits that demonstrated God was with them. Thus He would be the ultimate fulfillment of the Immanuel sign (Isaiah 7:14). Four titles underscore His deity and humanity.
"Wonderful Counselor" is literally "wonder of a counselor" (cf. Judges 13:18), though there is nothing in the Hebrew construction to prevent taking these as two separate names. [Note: Delitzsch, 1:252.] This ruler’s counsel would transcend merely human wisdom (cf. Isaiah 11:2); He would have no need of human counselors to guide Him. Jesus advised, for example, that strength lies in weakness, victory in surrender, and life in death. He would be "Mighty God," would possess all the power of God (cf. Isaiah 10:21; Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 9:32; Psalms 24:8; Jeremiah 32:18). He would not only be the father of the nation in the sense that Israel’s kings were, but He would be the "Eternal Father" whose paternal reign would last forever, because He is God (cf. Psalms 72). In climax, He would be the "Prince of Peace," the monarch whose coming results in peace between God and man and between man and man (cf. Micah 5:4).
"Isaiah does not intend that we should understand that in actual life the Child would bear or be addressed by these names, anymore than in actual life He should bear the name Immanuel. . . . The thought is that the Child is worthy to bear these names, and that they are accurate descriptions and designations of His being and character." [Note: Young, 1:331. Cf. Delitzsch, 1:250-51.]
"To summarize, the messianic ruler’s titles depict Him as an extraordinary military strategist who will be able to execute His plans because of His supernatural abilities as a warrior. His military prowess will ensure His beneficent rule over His people, who will enjoy peace and prosperity because of His ability to subdue all His enemies." [Note: Chisholm, A Theology . . ., pp. 313-14. Cf. Wiersbe, p. 21.]
"God’s answer to everything that has ever terrorized us is a child. The power of God is so far superior to the Assyrians and all the big shots of this world that he can defeat them by coming as a mere child. His answer to the bullies swaggering through history is not to become an even bigger bully. His answer is Jesus. . . .
"Look at Jesus. As the Wonderful Counselor, he has the best ideas and strategies. Let’s follow him. As the Mighty God, he defeats his enemies easily. Let’s hide behind him. As the Everlasting Father, he loves us endlessly. Let’s enjoy him. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us while we are still his enemies. Let’s welcome his dominion." [Note: Ortlund, p. 99.]
The first two titles suggest divine wisdom and power, and the second two present the ends He would achieve through the use of those attributes, namely, fatherly care and sovereign peace.
There is an interesting alternation of the human and divine descriptions of the Messiah in this verse, which is especially clear in the Hebrew text.
He would be the final king whose reign would result in increasing peace forever. Most governments increase through war, but this one would grow through peace. He would be an eschatological figure, yet He would be a Davidic king-the perfect Davidic descendant who would accomplish for Israel all God intended in justice and righteousness (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-17). This would happen because Yahweh of armies Himself would bring it to pass for the welfare of His people (cf. Isaiah 37:32). It is, therefore, certain of fulfillment.
"’The throne of David’ is an expression as definite, historically, as ’the throne of the Caesars,’ and does not admit of spiritualizing (Luke 1:32-33)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 721. ]
Amillennialists spiritualize the throne of David by referring it either to the church or heaven.
2. Measurement by God’s standard 9:8-10:4
This section of the book focuses on the Northern Kingdom, and it ties in with the section immediately preceding concerning the Messiah (Isaiah 9:2-7). It explains why Ephraim’s plans against Judah would fail. They would not fail because of Ahaz’s alliance with Assyria but because God would frustrate them. Ephraim would not go into captivity because she lacked sufficient military strength but because she failed to measure up to the standard God had set for her. This standard lay in the area of moral rectitude through covenant obedience rather than military resources.
"The great light would not arise till the darkness had reached its deepest point. The gradual increase of this darkness is predicted in this second section of the esoteric addresses [Isaiah 8:5 to Isaiah 12:6]." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:255.]
This section, a poem, consists of four strophes, each ending with the refrain: "In spite of all this His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out" (Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21; Isaiah 10:4; cf. Isaiah 5:25). The progression of thought is from pride, to flawed leadership, to selfishness, to social injustice.
The prophet announced that God had pronounced a message (Heb. dabar, word) of judgment against the Northern Kingdom. It had all the force of Yahweh’s sovereign power behind it, but it would come subject to Ephraim continuing on the course it presently pursued. Prophetic announcements of judgment usually allowed for the possibility of repentance. If the people under God’s promised judgment repented, the judgment would not fall (cf. Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jonah 3:4-10).
The pride of Ephraim 9:8-12
Isaiah explained that because the Northern Kingdom had not turned to Him for safety but to an alliance with Syria, He would not defend her from her enemy. [Note: See Kemper Fullerton, "Isaiah’s Earliest Prophecy against Ephraim," The American Journal of Semitic Languages 3:3 (1916):9-39.]
". . . the sin for Isaiah, the source of all other sin, is the pride which exalts humanity above God, which makes God but a tool for the achievement of our plans and dreams." [Note: Oswalt, p. 251.]
Everyone in Ephraim and Samaria would know the truth of God’s Word.
These people had demonstrated their pride by claiming that, if some things were destroyed by invaders, they would replace them with better things. They planned to overcome any disaster through their own work rather than by looking to the Lord for help.
Because of this pride, Yahweh would raise up strong adversaries from the northeast and the southwest: the Syrians (Arameans) and the Philistines (cf. Numbers 20:12; 2 Samuel 11:27). He would teach them that they could not overcome these enemies on their own, and that they needed His salvation. Yet in spite of these judgments, the Lord’s anger would still be against Ephraim, and His hand of judgment would be stretched out against her because she would not repent.
"This text is about sinners in the hands of an angry God. In fact, God, the most loving person in the Bible, is also the angriest person in the Bible." [Note: Ortlund, p. 101.]
Since the Lord’s discipline of the nation would not cause her to repent, He would cut off her leadership abruptly and suddenly. This would make her see her need of Him more clearly. Isaiah described the totality of leadership as the head and tail of this national animal. Some leaders were eminent, as the erect palm branch, while others were lowly, like the bowing bulrush.
The corruption of Ephraim’s leaders 9:13-17
"As the first stage of the judgments has been followed by no true conversion to Jehovah the almighty judge, there comes a second." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:258.]
By the "head," Isaiah meant the leading person, and by the "tail," the false prophet. The leaders were leading the people astray by strengthening their self-confidence rather than urging them to trust Yahweh. Typically this results in leaders saying and doing things only to lengthen their own tenure in positions of power.
Therefore the Lord would not give the young men success in battle, nor would He take care of the defenseless at home. The people’s corruption had descended to disregarding God, doing evil, and saying right is wrong and wrong is right. Consequently judgment would proceed.
"What is the wrath of God? His wrath is his active, resolute opposition to all evil. His delight is spontaneous and intrinsic to his being, but his wrath is provoked by the defiance of his creatures. His love will never make peace with our evil. What we must understand is that God’s wrath is perfect, no less perfect than ’the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience’ (Romans 2:4). His wrath is not moody vindictiveness; it is the solemn determination of a doctor cutting away the cancer that’s killing his patient. And for God, the anger is personal, not detached and clinical. This Doctor hates the cancer, because he loves the carriers of the disease and he will rid the universe of all their afflictions. He has already scheduled ’the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed’ (Romans 2:5)." [Note: Ortlund, p. 102.]
Wickedness is not a little misguided playfulness but rebellion against God’s order for life. [Note: Oswalt, p. 257.] It proceeds from a little fire to a raging inferno because, like fire, wickedness has an insatiable appetite.
The selfishness of everyone 9:18-21
The Lord of armies uses human sin to consume sinners, and people consume one another trying to satisfy their own desires.
They even consume themselves to satisfy themselves. The tribes of Israel were consuming each other for the same purpose, even brother tribes like Ephraim and Manasseh that had come from one father, Joseph (cf. Judges 12:1-6). The Hebrews described the members of their own tribe or family as their "arm" because they supported and sustained them. Whereas Judah had defended his brothers in the days of the patriarchs (Genesis 44:18-34), now the descendants of Joseph were trying to destroy the descendants of Judah. For this reason God’s hand of judgment was still extended against Ephraim.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany