Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hashbaz.

Isaiah 8:1-22 and Isaiah 9:7. The first seven verses of Isaiah 9:1-21 belong to this section. Isaiah 8:1-22 continues the subject of Isaiah 7:1-25, but a later period (cf. Isaiah 8:4 with Isaiah 7:16), implying that the interval until the accomplishment is shorter now than then. The tone of Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 8:21-22 expresses calamity more immediate and afflictive than Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 7:22.

The Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll - suitable for letters large enough to be read by all.

Roll - Hebrew, gilaayown (H1549) according to the Chaldaic and others, a tablet of wood, metal, or stone (Isaiah 30:8); a different Hebrew word, luwach (H3871), 'a table,' or tablet: 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). The Syriac, Arabic, and Septuagint support the English version. The root is gaalah (H1540), to reveal; or else gaalal (H1556), to roll (whence mªgilaah (H4039), a roll or volume comes).

Write in it with a man's pen - i:e., in ordinary characters,which the humblest can read (so Habakkuk 2:2). Hebrew, 'ªnowsh (H582) means a common man, as contrasted with the upper ranks (Revelation 21:17, "according to the measure of a man" - i:e., an ordinary measure; Romans 3:5). Compare Habakkuk 2:2, note, Grotius' interpretation. 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.

Mahar-shalal-hash-baz - "They (i:e., the Assyrians) hasten to the spoil (namely, to spoil Syria and Samaria), they speed to the prey (Gesenius). Otherwise, 'the spoil (i:e., spoiler) hastens, the rapine speeds forward' (Maurer). As "Immanuel," the prophet's first son, was given as the sign of deliverance to Judah, so Mahar-shalal-hash-baz, the second sign, is the sign of destruction to Judah's enemies.

Verse 2

And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.

I took unto me faithful witnesses to record - `The Lord said to me that I should take,' etc. (Maurer.) Hebrew, wª'aa`iydaah (H5749) `eediym (H5707) - literally, 'and I will make to witness for me faithful witnesses.'

Uriah the priest - 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; 2 Kings 16:15-16). 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.

And Zechariah - mentioned among the Levite Gershonites in Hezekiah's reign (2 Chronicles 29:13).

Verse 3

And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hashbaz. And I went unto the 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 Mahar-shalal-hash-baz. Thus, at least 19 months intervene from the prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) - 9 months before the birth of Immanuel, and 10 months from that time to the birth of Mahar-shalal-hash-baz: adding 11 or 12 months before the latter could cry, "Father" (Isaiah 8:4), we have about 3 years in all, agreeing with Isaiah 7:15-16.

Verse 4

For 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.

For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father - within a year.

The riches of Damascus, and ... Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

Verses 5-6

The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,

The Lord spake also unto me ... Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go 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 Yahweh in the theocracy, administered through David. Contrast to the violent Euphrates, "the river" that typifies Assyria (Isaiah 8:7). Waters symbolize the peoples of the world-power (Revelation 17:15). "This people" refers both to Israel, which originally under Jeroboam separated from. the crown of David, and now preferred an alliance with Rezin of Syria to one with the kings of Judah, and to Judah, a party in which seems to have favoured the pretensions of the son of Tabeal against David's line (Isaiah 7:6). Also Judah's desire to seek an Assyrian alliance is included in the censure (cf. 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 favour, but "this people" (Isaiah 6:9).

Verse 7

Now 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: Now 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).

Waters of the river. Euphrates, swollen in spring by the melting of the snow of the Armenian mountains (cf. Isaiah 8:6; Isaiah 7:20), is the symbol of the Assyrian power.

All his glory. Eastern kings travel with a gorgeous retinue.

He shall come up over all his channels. The Euphrates had channels, natural and artificial, in the level region, Mesopotamia.

Verse 8

And 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.

And he shall pass through Judah - the flood shall not stop at Syria and Samaria, but shall penetrate into Judea.

He shall reach even to 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).

And the stretching out of his wings - the extreme bands of the Assyrian armies; fulfilled Isaiah 36:1; Isaiah 37:25: cf. as to the last Antichrist, Daniel 9:27, 'the wing of abominations' (Sir Isaac Newton).

Shall fill the breadth of 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' and "restitution" (Acts 1:6; Acts 3:21). In the word "Immanuel" here used the prospect of deliverance is hinted at even in the midst of the threat. 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.

Verse 9

Associate 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.

Associate yourselves `Congregate yourselves' (Vulgate and Chaldaic) [row`uw from raa`aah (H7451) Associate yourselves - `Congregate yourselves' (Vulgate and Chaldaic) [row`uw, from raa`aah (H7451), to associate as flocks do in feeding. Imperative Pual (Rabbi Salomon). But Kimchi derives it from a root, raa`a` (H7489), to shake or agitate. The Syriac translates, 'tremble;' others, 'be broken to pieces,' from a similar root, roang or ruang]; raise tumults, or, rage - i:e., do your worst (Maurer), referring perhaps to the attack of Rezin and Pekah on Jerusalem. But the parallel words in the two corresponding clauses, namely, "gird yourselves," and "take counsel together," confirm the English version.

And ye shall be broken in pieces - yet with all your 'associating' ye shall only get this for your perverse pains, "ye shall be broken in pieces." Rezin's league with Pekah must fail, and Ahaz' league with the King of Assyria only bring sorrow upon him and Judah. The Assyrian associating together of the various world-nations against Judah, and inducing even some in Judah to join him (Isaiah 22:15), must fail against the Holy land ultimately, because it is IMMANUEL'S. 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 (cf. 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, all ye of far countries - witness the discomfiture of Judah's enemies. The prophecy probably looks on also to the final conspiracy of Antichrist and his supporters, the ten kings and the nations of the earth (Psalms 2:1-12; Revelation 17:8-17; Revelation 19:11-19) against the Heir of David's throne in the latter days, and their utter overthrow (Horsley).

Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. The repetition expresses vehemently the certainty of their being "broken in pieces."

Verse 10

Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word - of command, for the assault of Jerusalem.

And it shall not stand: for God is with us - Hebrew, `imaanuw (H5973) 'Eel (H410). Our watchword, IMMANU-EL, 'God with us,' assures us that defeat must attend all who are "against us" (Romans 8:31; Numbers 14:9; Psalms 46:7).

Verse 11

For 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,

For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand - or else, when He grasped me with His hand (Horsley). Maurer, as the English version, 'with the impetus of his hand' - i:e., with the felt impulse of His inspiration in my mind (Jeremiah 15:17; Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14, "the hand of the Lord was strong upon me," Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 37:1). 'In the strong power of prophecy' (Chaldaic; 2 Kings 3:15).

And instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people - in their distrust of Yahweh, and the panic which led them and Ahaz to seek Assyrian aid.

Verses 12-16

Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

The words of Yahweh.

Verse 12. Say ye not, A confederacy - rather. A conspiracy; Hebrew, quesher, 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). Do not ye (the godly, such as Isaiah) join in the cry of this people for a "confederacy," which is rather a 'conspiracy,' by either surrendering to the associated king (Vatablus), or forming an alliance with the Assyrian king (Piscator), or deserting, as Shebna is thought to have done, to the Assyrian king (Isaiah 22:15) (Grotius). A combination of God's people, the Jews, with the pagan Assyrians, is regarded by God, the Head of the theocracy, as a rebellious and unnatural conspiracy against Him. But the "confederacy" or conspiracy, which was constantly on the tongue of the Jews, and which Isaiah and the godly are charged not to have uppermost in their thoughts and words, answers in parallelism to "their fear" - namely, the confederate and conspiring Rezin and Pekah, in contrast to whom is put, 'let the Lord be your fear' (Isaiah 8:13). I therefore prefer, with Gesenius, to explain, Do not be saying continually, like the panic-struck people. 'A conspiracy,' as if you had through fear lost all faith.

To all (them to) whom this people shall say, A confederacy - or else, 'as to lª- all things in which this people saith, A conspiracy.' Do not let your continual cry be, A conspiracy, according as their cry on all occasions is, A conspiracy.

Neither fear ye their fear - namely, object of fear: the hostile conspiracy.

Verse 13. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself - Honour His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety (Isaiah 29:23; Numbers 20:12). In nothing do we more dishonour God's holy name than by distrustful fears.

Let him be your fear - "fear," lest you provoke His wrath by your fear of man and distrust of Him.

Verse 14. He shall be for a sanctuary - an inviolable asylum, like the altar of the temple (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28; Ezekiel 11:16: cf. Proverbs 18:10); namely, to those who fear and trust in Him. But for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel - i:e., a rock over which they should fall to their hurt; namely, those who would not believe.

Both the 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 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30-31; Deuteronomy 32:37; Daniel 2:34; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8).

A gin - a trap, in which birds are unexpectedly caught. So shall Christ's second advent "come as a snare on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). So at the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus.

Verse 15. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken - images from the means used in taking wild animals.

Verse 16. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. What Isaiah had before briefly noted by inscribing Mahar-shalal-hash-baz in a tablet, fixed up in some public place, he afterward 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 6:9-10), except in part among God's "disciples" - i:e., those who "sanctify the Lord" by obedient trust (Psalms 25:14, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant"). Subsequent revelations would afterward clear up what now was dark. So the Apocalypse explains what in Daniel was left unexplained. Compare Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:9, "The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end;" but Revelation 22:10, "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy ... for the time is at hand." The Lamb has opened the seals of prophecy. Compare Revelation 5:1; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 5:9.

The testimony - the prophecy of Isaiah, inspired by God and attested by Uriah and Zechariah (Isaiah 8:2).

The law - the revelation just given, having the force of a law.

My disciples - the spiritually "wise," who alone shall "understand" (Daniel 12:10). "My disciples" are those "taught of the Lord" (the same Hebrew as here, limmudai) (Isaiah 54:13). The Lord's disciples secondarily represent here the elect remnant who, during the period of lsrael's stumbling at Immanuel (Isaiah 8:14-15), accept Him. Compare John 7:17; John 15:15.

Verse 17

And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.

And - i:e., Accordingly. This is the believing response of Isaiah to the encouragement of God to His disciples to "sanctify" Him, even though most of the nation were about to "stumble" in respect to the promised deliverance implied in "Immanuel." I - whatever the rest of the nation may do.

Will wait upon the Lord - I will look to Yahweh alone. This is put into Messiah's mouth, Hebrews 2:13, "I will put my trust in Him." For He is the antitype to the believing Israel, of whom Isaiah is the mouth-piece here (Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 49:6).

That hideth his 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; Isaiah 54:8; Habakkuk 2:3; Luke 2:25; Luke 2:38).

Verse 18

Behold, 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.

Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts. Isaiah means salvation of Yahweh: His children's names also (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:3) were "signs" suggestive of the coming and final deliverance.

For wonders - i:e., symbols of the future (Isaiah 20:3; Zechariah 3:8). The clause, "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me," is quoted in Hebrews 2:13, to prove the manhood of the Messiah. This is the main and ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy; its temporary meaning applied to Ahaz' time. Isaiah typically, as mouthpiece of the believing remnant in the midst of the faithless majority of the Jewish nation, in Isaiah 8:17-18, personates Messiah, who is at once "Father" and "Son," Isaiah and Immanuel, "Child" and "Mighty (Hero) 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 8:11-12, "His brethren." On "the Lord hath given me," see John 6:37; John 6:39; John 10:29; John 17:12.

Which dwelleth in mount Zion - and will therefore protect Jerusalem.

Verse 19

And 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?

Continuation of Isaiah's address to the believing people.

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto - Consult in your national difficulties. Them that have familiar spirits, [ haa'obowt (H173), which in Job 32:19 is used for skin "bottles;" hence, the idea of inflation with the Spirit, as skin bottles full of wine, and speaking from the belly. The form is feminine, as women often exercised this craft] - necromancers, spirit-charmers, who evoked the dead by incantations. So Saul, when he had forsaken God (1 Samuel 28:7, etc.) consulted the witch of Endor in his difficulties. These follow in the wake of idolatry, which prevailed under Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3-4; 2 Kings 16:10). He copied the pagan soothsaying, as he did the idolatrous "altar" of Damascus (cf. Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, which forbids it; also Isaiah 19:3).

Wizards - men claiming supernatural knowledge: from the old English, to wit, i:e., know.

That peep - chirp faintly (Isaiah 10:14), 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 render the Hebrew for "them that have familiar spirits," or necromancers here [engastrimuthous], 'ventriloquists' (cf. Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 29:4).

And that mutter - moan. The Hebrew, haagah (H1897), is properly to meditate, to sigh: here the plaintive voice of the dead. The Septuagint, 'those who speak from their belly.'

Should not a people seek unto their God? - the answer which Isaiah recommends to be given to those advising to have recourse to necromancers.

For the living to the dead? 'Should one, for the safety (or, in behalf of) of the living, seek unto (consult) the dead?' (Gesensius.) Lowth renders it, 'In place of (consulting) the living, should one consult the dead?'

Verse 20

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

To the law and to the testimony - To the revelation of God by His prophet (Isaiah 8:16), he directs them to refer those who would advise necromancy.

If they speak not according to this word, (it is) because (there is) as light in them. The English version understands "they" as the necromancers. But the Hebrew ( 'ªsher (H834)) rendered because, is who: and the Hebrew for if not may be, 'shall they not,' or, 'truly they shall speak according to this word, namely, everyone upon whom (the Hebrew relative is singular) no morning light is dawning' - i:e., who have no morning light (so the Hebrew [shaachaar] - i:e., no prosperity after the night of sorrows) dawning on (i:e., awaiting) them' (Maurer). Too late they shall see their deadly error. The law includes here the law of Moses, the 'Magna Charta' on which all prophecy rests: also all Scripture. Calvin and Grotius support the English version. 'If they turn from the word of God as the only infallible oracle, it indicates that, or it is because (so the Hebrew relative, asher, means, because in 1 Kings 15:13 and Psalms 119:158) there is no light of truth in any one of them; or, as Grotius explains the latter clause, 'it indicates that no light of prosperity shall attend any one of them.' This latter accords best with the description of the adversity which follows under the image of darkness and anguish about to be the portion of those who have deserted the Word of God for lying spirits. So "light" is used for prosperity and joy (Esther 8:16; Psalms 97:11). No light of relief shall succeed to the perpetual night of their calamity, as dawn succeeds night (Job 11:17).

Verses 21-22

And 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.

More detailed description of the despair which they shall fall into who sought necromancy instead of God. Isaiah 8:20 (taking Maurer's translation) implies that too late they shall see how much better it would have been for them to have sought "to the law," etc. (Deuteronomy 32:31). 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 divide plagues (Revelation 16:11, "They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains ... and repented not:" cf. Jeremiah 18:12).

They shall pass 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).

When they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God - Yahweh, King of the Jews (Psalms 5:2; Psalms 68:24). But see closing note.

And look upward. And they shall look unto the earth. Whether they look up to heaven, or down toward the land of Judea, nothing but despair shall present itself.

Behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish - darkness of distress (Proverbs 1:27).

And they shall be driven to darkness - Hebrew, apheelah; to 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 thee awful calamities. In the ulterior reference to the last Antichrist, "their King and their God," probably means the false messiah king whom, when 'coming in his own name,' they will 'receive,' and take as their own, though the true King Messiah, when He came 'in His Father's name, they would not receive' (John 5:43). They shall, too late, curse Antichrist, 'the idol-shepherd' to whom they gave themselves up, and who shall "tear" them (Zechariah 11:16-17). The Assyrian king to whom Ahaz and the Jews were giving theselves as an ally, and who would afterward be their scourge, is the type of Antichrist.


(1) They who try to make a spoil of the Lord's people shall be themselves spoiled. But the Lord's professing people must beware of forfeiting the Lord's continued protection by having recourse to worldly stays, as Judah sought the help of Assyria, the pagan world-power, instead of relying on Yahweh alone. Such carnal policy is sure to bring with it its own punishment. The world shall be employed by God to scourge His people who lean upon it; just as the Assyrian, like an overflowing river, after having flooded Syria and Northern Israel, proceeded onward into Judah.

(2) But the people of God have in the name "Immanuel" the pledge of their ultimate safety, however they may be chastised for a time. So in the last days, when the anti-Christian foe, with "the stretching out of his wings," shall 'come in like a flood' upon Christendom, and 'shall fill breadth of Immanuel's land,' "the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." However the kings of the earth 'associate themselves,' and "the rulers take counsel together," "against the Lord, and against His Anointed," their counsel "shall come to nought."

(3) The danger to God's people in such a crisis is lest, like Ahaz and his people, they should be betrayed into unbelieving panic, which would tempt them to conciliate the world-power by compromise. When the "confederacy" of the enemies is the word oftenest in the mouth of the fearful, then Immanuel, 'God with us' (Isaiah 8:10), "the Lord of hosts himself," the only true object of fear, must be the watchword of His believing people.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.