Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 8

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Verses 1-4

Swift Is the Booty, Speedy Is the Prey

The events in this chapter are closely related to those of the previous chapter. It is also about the liberation of Judah from the threat of the Syrian-Israeli alliance and the subsequent Assyrian invasion that will finally also reach Judah. In view of this, Isaiah is given the task to write down a message and to do so in such a way that everyone can take note of it as he passes by (Isaiah 8:1; cf. Habakkuk 2:2). It must be easy to read. God’s warnings are always perceptible and understandable to everyone. The LORD tells him what he should write down: “Maher-shalal-hash-baz”, which means ‘swift is the booty, speedy is the prey’.

Isaiah also has to take two for the people “faithful witnesses: Uriah … and Zechariah” (Isaiah 8:2; cf. Deuteronomy 19:15). Uria means ‘the LORD is my light’ and Zechariah ‘the LORD remembers’. The meaning of their names contains a hopeful message in the midst of spiritual darkness. The names testify that the LORD gives light on the path of the believer and that He never forgets His people.

We know of Uriah that he is an ungodly priest (2 Kings 16:10-Nehemiah :). He will therefore not be a faithful witness because of his personal credibility, but because of his ministry. Who Zechariah was is not known. With the people both witnesses will have had authority. Their testimony at the appointed time about what Isaiah preached will be a confirmation of what he wrote on the large tablet.

The LORD has the written message of Isaiah confirmed by a living message in the person of a son whom He promises to give him. He also tells him how the name of his son should be. To give him that son the LORD uses the natural relationship between Isaiah and his wife in sexual intercourse (Isaiah 8:3). The LORD blesses the intercourse with pregnancy and the birth of a son. When the child is born, He tells Isaiah to call his son “Maher-shalal-hash-baz”.

Isaiah’s wife is called “the prophetess” here. This means that she herself is a prophetess in the sense that she receives messages from God to pass on, like Hulda and Deborah. Isaiah and his wife are a beautiful couple who in unity in the midst of an apostate people pass on the words of God.

The LORD also tells Isaiah why he should give that name to his son. It has to do with the plans of Syria and Israel to invade Judah. Isaiah has already written about this on a tablet (Isaiah 8:1). Now it is said that it will not take long. The LORD says that He will give a solution and will do so soon. Before the child can say his first words, ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’, the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, will have conquered the capitals of Syria and Israel, which are Damascus and Samaria (Isaiah 8:4). This means that this will happen shortly after the birth of this second child of Isaiah.

Verses 5-8

Assyria Invades Judah

What is in Isaiah 8:1-Numbers : is good news for Ahaz. There will soon be booty and prey for him from the enemies he is so afraid of. But the LORD continues to speak with a new and also surprising message (Isaiah 8:5). For the prophecy has another aspect, in which there is no immediate encouragement for Ahaz. He is told that the success of the king of Assyria will be the stepping stone to attack Judah.

The king of Assyria will do so, because “these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” (Isaiah 8:6). Shiloah is a stream that flows from the source Gihon of Mount Zion and supplies Jerusalem with water. The stream ends at the pond Siloam.

Isaiah uses symbolic language that contains a spiritual message. The people have rejected what God has sent to them in goodness and grace of refreshment – “Shiloah” means “Sent” (John 9:7). That refreshment is sent in the promises of God of the throne and offspring of David. Instead of counting on those promises, they have placed their hopes in earthly powers. After all, Israel relies on Syria, while Judah relies on Assyria.

Above all ‘Shiloah’ refers to the Son sent by the Father. How softly goodness and grace have flowed through Him into this world. Where this stream came, he brought life and healing. Yet this ‘gently flowing’ river of life and blessing was rejected. The cross is proof of this. Now the waters of Shiloah flow into the Scriptures and can be drunk by anyone who is thirsty (John 7:37-Zechariah :). Sadly, these “waters of Shiloah”, the gospel of the grace of God, are also now despised and rejected.

Israel, with the son of Remalia at its head, entered into an alliance with Rezin, the king of Syria (Isaiah 7:1). They both rejoice at this. But they will not laugh for long. Judah trusts in the support of Assyria. By the way, it can also be translated that ‘there is joy about Rezin’ and so on. The meaning is then that Judah rejoices at the failure, announced by Isaiah, of the plan the allies forged to conquer Judah. In any case it is a misplaced joy.

Both Judah and Israel with Syria will be overwhelmed by the king of Assyria through the hands of “the Lord” (Adonai), the sovereign Ruler (Isaiah 8:7; Isaiah 7:16-Esther :). The king of Assyria is compared to “strong and abundant waters” that “will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks”, which accentuates the contrast with the “gently flowing waters of Shiloah” mentioned in the previous verse. Now that they have despised the gently flowing waters of life and refreshment, they will come to know the devastating waters of death and destruction.

Yet there will be a difference between the overflowing of Israel and that of Judah. Judah will be “overflowed” for the most part, but not in its entirety. It is “even to the neck” (Isaiah 8:8). Isaiah sees it happening before his mind’s eye. He feels the tightness when the water comes to the neck. For him, the arrival of Assyria in the land is also like the arrival of a huge bird of prey spreading its wings over the land to make it its prey. Overwhelmed by distress, he suddenly turns to the LORD in his great distress and exclaims that it is “your land, O Immanuel”.

It is first and foremost “your land”, which is the land of the LORD. Immanuel is the LORD Himself. He is the reason why Jerusalem will be spared and that the city will be redeemed in the future. The exclamation of Isaiah is the call for the Messiah, for He alone can give a solution. He is Immanuel, God with us.

Verses 9-10

God Thwarts the Plans of the Peoples

When Isaiah – as a type of the faithful remnant – has his eye on the glory of Immanuel, he sees how things will go in the distant future. In the light of Immanuel, he sees the fate of all enemies of Israel as sealed. He mentions the raging or association of the peoples (Isaiah 8:9, Darby Translation; Psalms 2:1-Deuteronomy :). In one breath he mentions the outcome. They gird themselves to fight, they associate themselves, but immediately after that they are shattered. Isaiah says as it were: ‘Associate yourselves, you will be shattered anyway.’

All their plans will come to nothing (Isaiah 8:10). The words of their propaganda have no effect. What is the cause of this? That God is with His people. The secret of the failure of all the peoples’ evil plans to destroy God’s people lies in the great name Immanuel, God with us. That Name means the judgment on all peoples that have been gone up against God’s people, resulting in the complete liberation of Israel in the last days. Which way the remnant should follow until that moment has come, is mentioned from Isaiah 8:11 onwards.

Verses 11-12

Do Not Walk in the Way of This People

These verses continue to denounce “the way of this people,” that is, the way of trusting Assyria instead of God. The LORD has forcefully – literally: with strength of the hand – made it clear to Isaiah that he should not go in this “way of this people” (Isaiah 8:11). A prophet does not follow the way of the majority. The expression that the hand of the LORD is upon the prophet indicates that the LORD incites the prophet to service and gives him the power to do so (cf. 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 3:15; Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14; Jeremiah 15:17). Perhaps Isaiah needs Divine insistence for his service because the people always reject his words and thereby he might become despondent.

It seems that Isaiah has been inclined to go along with the thinking of Ahaz and Judah who seek their strength in an alliance, here translated as “conspiracy”, with Assyria (Isaiah 8:12). The heart of the prophet is by nature no better than the heart of the people. He is not allowed to change or even stop his message. In the future, the remnant will also have to distance themselves from the conspiracy of the antichrist who connects Israel with the beast of the restored Western Roman Empire or Europe.

Those who constantly pay attention to the fact that ‘God is with us’ are not afraid of the things that people who do not have a living faith in ‘Immanuel’ are afraid of. God encourages everyone to trust in Him and not to put their trust in the power of human covenants.

Verses 13-15

A Sanctuary and a Stone to Strike

The LORD points out to Isaiah that instead of being afraid of people and of things that people are afraid of (Isaiah 8:12), he should only have “the LORD of hosts” for his attention (Isaiah 8:13). The LORD of hosts is He who possesses all the heavenly and also earthly powers, the good and also the evil. He is in control of everything.

To “regard” Him “as holy” means to live in the constant awareness that He has absolute authority and control over the heart and the will, so that they are completely separated for Him. Then we will not have to be afraid of anything or anyone. Whatever someone is planning or saying (Isaiah 8:10), he will not be able to do anything against us if we regard Him as holy.

Living in fear of God means that every activity of life, the whole walk, contains nothing that is not pleasing to Him. It is the opposite of fearing people in general and not only the kings of the world. That He must be our “fear” and “dread” does not mean that we flee from Him, but that our attitude is one of reverence and awe.

It is about knowing ourselves in His presence and not in the presence of people. It is about a holy fear of God opposite to an unholy fear of men. This is the only and fitting answer to the redeeming grace and love of Christ (1 Peter 3:14-Ezra :; Isaiah 29:23; cf. Numbers 20:12). Peter’s reference to this verse in Isaiah shows that Christ, or the Messiah, is the same as “the LORD of hosts”.

The consequence of regarding the LORD as holy is that He will be “a sanctuary” for the remnant (Isaiah 8:14). “Sanctuary” here has the meaning of a refuge (cf. Ezekiel 11:16). Just as the temple to Israel is meant to be the center of their spiritual life, of their joy in worship and praise, as a place of holiness and peace, and also of protection, so is Christ for the believer. Christ not only has a holy place in our hearts, but He Himself is a holy place where we can take shelter.

But to the unbelievers of all Israel He will be “a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over” (Isaiah 8:15; Romans 9:32-Micah :; 1 Peter 2:7-Ruth :). In Romans 9:33, Paul, like Peter, applies what is said here of the LORD to the Lord Jesus. Faith in Christ is the dividing line that runs right through His people. “Both the houses of Israel” – the ten tribes realm of Ephraim and the two tribes realm of Judah – and “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” will reject Him. Not only the two tribes will reject Him, but also the ten tribes. In the course of time quite a few of them have come to live in Judah (2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 30:11; cf. Luke 2:36-Zechariah :).

All twelve tribes will therefore reject Him because He does not meet what a Messiah in their eyes should be. They stumble over Him because of their unbelief. By their rejection of Him, many will “fall and be broken”. Those who do not fall and become broken will “snared and caught”. A first fulfillment of this happens in the year 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. At the time of the great tribulation, the majority of Israel will stumble, fall and caught in the snare of the antichrist.

Verses 16-18

Isaiah and His Children

Because of their rejection of the Messiah, the judgment of blindness takes place. They will be blind and deaf to the words of God. All the study of the Torah, which points to the Lord Jesus in all its parts, by orthodox Jews does not bring them anything (John 5:39; John 5:46-2 Corinthians :). They discover nothing of the Messiah. Their eyes are closed (2 Corinthians 3:14). It is the judgment of hardening that for a part, that is the mass, has come over Israel (Romans 11:25). Therefore they will accept the antichrist (John 5:43).

By “the testimony” (Isaiah 8:16) is meant what Isaiah said about Immanuel and the future condition of Israel. It is the prophetic testimony. It must be secured and preserved for the remnant in those days and also for the remnant in later generations. That is what is meant by “bind up”. With “the law”, which is the law of Moses rejected by the people (Isaiah 5:24), the same must be done, which is indicated by the command “seal”. Only the faithful remnant, “my disciples”, those who open themselves to be taught by the LORD through the mouth of Isaiah, and later the followers of the Messiah, will be encouraged by it.

This also applies to us. After Paul has foretold the elders of Ephesus the coming apostasy, he commends them, and us, to God and the Word of His grace (Acts 20:32). For all those who want to be faithful in a time of apostasy, the Word of God is full of encouragement. As times get darker, the Word of God will become increasingly valuable to the pupil-disciple.

In the midst of the people from whom the LORD has hidden His face because of their sins, Isaiah is determined to persevere and wait for Him (Isaiah 8:17). Waiting for the LORD is, just like praying, an acknowledgement of one’s own powerlessness and being completely dependent on Him. When the LORD “is hiding His face”, it means that he withholds the blessing from his people. Man then cannot see Him. God is there, but man does not perceive that blessing.

Every true believer, just like Isaiah, will, despite the lack of blessing, trust in God and look forward to His salvation. In times of need due to the sins of God’s people, when God does not openly connect with His people, the individual believer knows that God’s heart goes out to him. He knows this because he draws from the enduring Word of God. This testimony of God’s Word remains sealed for the masses of the people who persist in their sins; it remains illegible and misunderstood.

The last part of Isaiah 8:17, “I will even look eagerly for Him”, is quoted in Hebrews 2. It is rendered there with “I will put My trust in Him” (Hebrews 2:13). The Speaker there is Christ, the Messiah. The quote proves that Christ is truly Human. That proof is seen in the trust He places in His God as a Man.

Herein lies a valuable lesson. We too live in a state of decay and refusal to listen to God’s Word. If we remain faithful and remain standing in God’s purposes, we will focus our hearts all the more steadfastly on Him in this state. Also our expectation will be from Him. It can depress us when we see the decline of those who once gave hope for fruit through our service. Then the Spirit of God wants to bring us closer to the Lord, so that we will find our sources in the power He has to still glorify His Name through us.

The prophet finds comfort in the two children the LORD has given him (Isaiah 8:18). In the meaning of the name of his first son, Shear-jashub (Isaiah 7:3), we hear a word of grace. He is the sign that ‘a remnant will return’. This will happen in the future. In the meaning of the name of his second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:3), we hear a word of judgment. He is the sign that there will be ‘swift booty, speedy prey’. That judgment will be carried out quick and soon.

The two children are “signs and wonders” of the redemption of Israel. “Signs” means that their names have a deeper meaning that includes a message from God for the people. We have had that meaning several times before. “Wonders” are the designation of the Divine, supernatural source of this message. The redemption of Israel will happen through judgment on the enemies. Those enemies are there on two sides. Internally it is the wicked mass of the people and externally it is the hostile surrounding peoples.

The prophet Isaiah, together with the children whom God has given him, is also a type, a symbol of Christ together with the children whom God has given Him (cf. John 17:2; John 17:6John 17:24). We see this in the quotation of the first part of Isaiah 8:18 in Hebrews 2 (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13). As a Man Christ has connected Himself with the children whom God has given Him, that is the remnant of Israel. The Spirit of God applies Isaiah 8:18 in Hebrews 2 to the spiritual children of God at this time (Hebrews 2:13). They are in connection with Christ.

They are not ‘children of Christ’ or ‘children of the Lord Jesus’. The Bible does not use such expressions for believers anywhere. They are incorrect expressions. They are the children of God whom He, God, gave to the Lord Jesus. The natural children of Isaiah are the symbolic representatives of the believers who must be a witness to the world in the same way.

Verses 19-22

Consulting Demons

He who does not listen to God’s words turns to powers of darkness. The difference between them is like the difference between the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and the wild waters of Assyria (Isaiah 8:6-Judges :). One brings blessing, the other destruction. Now that the LORD hides His face from the house of Jacob, the people seek salvation with spiritistic mediums (Isaiah 8:19). Spiritism has penetrated into Judah (Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 3:2-Leviticus :). These mediums try to influence the family and disciples of Isaiah. Thus, believers today also undergo attempts by evil spirits to influence them.

Here we see that “the living” consult “the dead” and that while the law and the testimony are with them in which the light of God shines. This practice is strongly condemned by God in His Word (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-2 Kings :). Those who do not believe in the Word of God seek counsel and help from other sources (1 Samuel 28:6-Ruth :). The LORD reproaches the people for this way of acting by asking two questions, the answer to which is contained in the question. Instead of consulting the living God, the dead idols are consulted, behind which there are demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-Proverbs :).

Around every major crisis in human affairs an eruption of spiritism often takes place. This is the case in Judah and Israel. This is the case in the time of Christ’s coming to earth. It is the same today, just before Christ’s return. In times of need, man massively prefers to resort to divination rather than to God. People see the uncertainty of the future and want information about it. Instead of turning to the God of truth one turns to the father of lies. And that, while God in the holy Scriptures has provided everything necessary for our guidance and all our spiritual needs (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).

The people are reminded of the Word (Isaiah 8:20). The teaching of the law answers the questions of life and leads to a life in the light (Isaiah 2:5). Those who ignore this will end up in eternal darkness. For such a person there is no future, “no dawn”. The way to that awful future is horrible and becomes more and more terrifying (Isaiah 8:21). There is a lack of everything that is necessary to live. There is also total darkness inwardly. The blame is placed on everyone who, in their eyes, has the power to change their misery.

In the future, when the king of the North (Daniel 11:40-Acts :) invades, the antichrist, who will be the king of Israel, will not be able to do anything. The people will then realize that their king is in fact a worthless shepherd who abandons the sheep (Zechariah 11:17) and will then curse their king. This will be partly justified because the king of the North invaded the land because of him. But instead of repenting and acknowledging their guilt, they will blame God for all this, as many do today. Instead of blaming themselves, they will harden their hearts and curse God.

They will be driven away (Isaiah 8:22). This concerns the nation. They will be expelled from the land of Immanuel and taken away to a strange and dark land. There they will be deprived of all light in which they refused to walk when they had it at their disposal. They have chosen the darkness and it is now available to them in abundance. On the outside and on the inside, above and below, there is darkness and fear everywhere.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 8". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-8.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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