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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 8

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



In Maher-shalal-hash-baz, he prophesieth that Syria and Israel shall be subdued by Assyria; and Judah likewise for their infidelity. God's judgments shall be irresistible. Comfort shall be to them that fear God; great afflictions to idolaters.

Before Christ 760.

Verse 1

Isaiah 8:1. Moreover, the Lord said The other section of this discourse, which reaches to the 7th verse of the next chapter, is nearly of the same argument with that preceding: it is prophetical, and contains matter of comfort and reproof. It may be divided into two parts; the first part, in the four first verses, contains a confirmation and a sign of the promise concerning the sudden subversion of the kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim. The first part more fully and distinctly explains the purpose of God, with respect both to the Israelites and the Jews, for the consolation of the pious, and the terror of the impious and carnal Jews; and it contains, first, a prophetical enarration of the events which should happen in the times immediately preceding those of the Messiah, from Isaiah 8:5-11. Secondly, a redargutory, as well as prophetic instruction, in which the prophet teaches the people by his own example, as one immediately taught by God, with what dispositions they should receive all the attempts of their enemies to subvert the kingdom of God in their land, even to the time of the manifestation of Christ; and this instruction contains a repeated prophesy concerning Jesus, most certainly to be manifested for the consolation of the righteous, as a public teacher: Isa 8:11 to ch. Isaiah 9:7. See Vitringa, who leaves out the word concerning in this verse.

Verse 2

Isaiah 8:2. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record These witnesses were called in to sign the instrument or writing wherein Isaiah, according to God's command, was to write the name mentioned in the preceding verse. It is not to be supposed that they were witnesses of a new marriage, as there are no indications thereof, and as it is plain from the preceding chapter, Isa 8:3 that Isaiah was married. This instrument was to be signed, and preserved as a public testimony to the time and manner of the delivery of this prophesy, and consequently to its truth and divinity. Isaiah's wife might be called a prophetess, as being the wife of a prophet; or possibly she herself might be endued with the gift of prophesy.

Verse 3

Isaiah 8:3. And I went unto the prophetess And I had gone unto the prophetess, and she had conceived; and she bare a son; and the Lord said unto me, &c. Vitringa.

Verse 5

Isaiah 8:5. The Lord spake also After having delivered the promise concerning the deliverance of the people from the fear of the two adverse kingdoms, God, by a new, or a continued revelation, (for it was not very distant in time from the former) more distinctly unfolds his purpose concerning the fate not only of Israel, but of Judah, and confirms what in the former prophesy he had advised the prophet concerning them. See ch. Isaiah 7:17, &c. For this is of nearly the same argument, except that it is more extensive, and involves many more mysteries: the first part is entirely prophetical, from this to the 11th verse, and contains a declaration of the events of the subsequent period, immediately leading to the time of fulfilling the promise respecting Immanuel: of these events the first is the subversion of Ephraim, Isaiah 8:6-7.; the second, the affliction of Judah by the Assyrians also; Isaiah 8:8.; the third, the destruction of the hostile counsels and attempts of future times, which seemed to threaten a total excision of the church of God, Isaiah 8:9-10. To this prediction the reason is added which moved God not only to punish the Ephraimites, but also the Jews, by the Assyrians, Isaiah 8:6. The waters of Shiloah, according to some, mean the kingdom of David; but Vitringa is of opinion, that the expression here means the kingdom of God among the people of the Jews, as it was manifest in the kingdom of the house of David, as in the next verse the kingdom of Assyria is signified by the river Euphrates. For the waters of Shiloah, flowing from the bottom of mount Sion, which was sacred to God, and the seat of his kingdom hereby represented the kingdom of God. They flowed too from a perennial fountain, and hereby well denoted that eternal kingdom which was promised to David and his seed; and they are said to flow softly, gently, silently; hereby properly denoting that kingdom which is internal and spiritual, and which cometh not with observation. On account of this kingdom, Judah was chosen and established a people; and it was singly from the want of faith in this kingdom, that they ever sought for support and assistance from the kings of the earth, who were always to them like the staff of a broken reed; for God alone was their king, and in him alone, and his sure promise, was their true confidence.

Verse 8

Isaiah 8:8. And he shall pass through Judah The meaning is, that the Assyrian, after he had swallowed up Syria, and then the kingdom of Ephraim, should pass into Judaea, and occupy with his forces the whole of it, except Jerusalem, its metropolis; which refers to the time of Sennacherib. See 2 Kings 18:13-14. The reader will observe, that in this and the preceding verses, the ideas are taken from the overflowing of the river Euphrates except that in the latter clause a new metaphor is introduced where the spreading of the wings alludes to the wings of Sennacherib's army. See Daniel 9:27.

Verses 9-10

Isaiah 8:9-10. Associate yourselves, &c.— Rapt as it were into extacy, upon considering the land as belonging to Immanuel, the prophet beholds the future assistance which should be given to that land, and the vanity of all attempts utterly to destroy the kingdom of David. His address to the confederate nations is most elegant and spirited; and the foundation of his confidence is finely expressed at the end of the 10th verse, where he himself interprets the name before given to the Messiah, For God is with us. See Vitringa

Verse 11

Isaiah 8:11. For the Lord spake thus In the subsequent part of this sermon; the prophet sets forth with what disposition of mind those worldly events are to be received, which threaten destruction to the church: he renews, for the comfort of the pious, the great promise of the Messiah, and denounces the most grievous judgments, spiritual and temporal, upon the impious, incredulous, and profane. We have, first, a reproof of the depraved and improper disposition of the carnal and profane men among the Jews towards God and his providence, Isaiah 8:11-12. Secondly; advice concerning a proper disposition towards God, a sound judgment of his ways, and our necessary duty in doubtful cases, Isaiah 8:13. And, thirdly, a prophetical declaration of the tremendous judgment of God, which would be manifested towards men of either disposition in the time of the Messiah; for the consolation and salvation of the good, though few, and for the destruction of the evil: Isa 8:14 to ch. Isaiah 9:7. With a strong hand, in this verse, is rendered in the Chaldee, In the strength of prophesy: it seems to refer to those extasies wherein the prophets were frequently rapt. See Eze 1:3 and Jeremiah 15:17. The prophet observed, that his former prophesy was received by many with admiration; it promised safety and deliverance to the people, when all things appeared desperate: he therefore thinks proper to explain the reason upon which he had spoken so confidently respecting these things; and at the same time sets forth such other matters as refer to this prophesy; namely, that God, while the prophet himself was rather inclined to fear amid such great dangers, and began to hesitate in his mind, laid hold of him with a strong hand, restrained him in his office, and efficaciously persuaded him not to fear that which was not to be feared, like a carnal people void of all confidence in God; that he should not suffer himself to be terrified with the name or the reality of a confederacy between two associated kings, a confederacy which raised so much terror in the mind of an unbelieving and fearful people; but that he should regard Jehovah only, by whose favour or wrath the state of this people was to be estimated. See Vitringa.

Verse 13

Isaiah 8:13. Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself The Lord of Hosts, him shall ye sanctify, &c. The duty opposite to the vice of the Jewish people is here set forth, Sanctify the Lord; that is to say, so worship and reverence him, as to attribute to him all that glory which properly belongs to him. See Numbers 20:12. Deu 32:51 and ch. Isa 29:23 of this book. Perhaps the word sanctify in this place contains a more sublime sense; leading us to understand, that he gives the greatest honour to God, who acknowledges him not only able to protect his people against all worldly power, but also to perform, and about to perform to the whole believing world, that spiritual deliverance in his Son, figured out by every other deliverance, the basis and foundation of every other, and the promise of which was wrapped up in the name Immanuel. He who believes God in this great promise, will never distrust him in lesser ones: and to this what follows has an immediate respect.

Verses 14-15

Isaiah 8:14-15. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone We have here, in this third part of the present discourse, first, a prophetic denunciation of the judgment to be displayed in the time of the Messiah, both upon the pious and the impious,—in these verses. Secondly, an exposition of that judgment, in the manner of a dialogue between two persons; God, and a certain illustrious teacher: the former explaining his design concerning the disciples of the latter; the latter assenting to that design, and explaining it, Isaiah 8:16-18. Thirdly, a prophetic exhortation subjoined, directed to the Jews, to receive the doctrine of God and his Messiah, with a prediction of the evils which should follow a rejection of this doctrine, Isaiah 8:19-22. Fourthly, a more plain and full description of this great Teacher, the Messiah, with many of his attributes, ch. Isaiah 9:1-7. In the verses before us, we have a prophetic denunciation of the two-fold judgment in the time of the Messiah. The subject of the discourse, which is not mentioned, must either be the Lord of Hosts, mentioned in the preceding verse, or Immanuel, mentioned in the 8th. The writers of the New Testament, who have so frequently quoted this passage, prove beyond all controversy, that the subject of it is the Messiah; the Lord Jesus Christ, God over all, blessed for ever; and in whose humanity Jehovah dwelt, and performed for his people all those benefits of grace which the extent of this promise implies, in which it is said that he should be for a sanctuary; and who at the same time became to the hypocrites and unbelievers in Judaea, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, to the destruction of the far greater part of that people. See ch. Isaiah 28:13.

Verse 16

Isaiah 8:16. Bind up the testimony Engrave the testimony, seal up the law in my disciples. There seems no doubt that the person here introduced speaking is God the Father, in whose will the Messiah immediately after professeth his acquiescence. The testimony and law, mean the doctrine and the law of the Messiah, at which many should be offended; and the words are frequently used in the prophets and the sacred writers for the doctrine of Christ. The engraving or sealing of this in men, is that efficacious operation of Christ and his Spirit, whereby men are brought to a belief of, and an obedience to the word of truth written in their hearts. See Jeremiah 33:2

Cor. Isa 3:3 and 1Co 1:6 in which last passage the apostle seems to have had his eye on these words of Isaiah, as also in 2Co 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Verses 17-18

Isaiah 8:17-18. And I will wait, &c.— These words belong to the Messiah. The Messiah here answers God the Father, that he perfectly acquiesces in his counsel, waiting with confidence reposed in him for the completion of those great promises which were made to him by the Father, as well as those in ch. 49 though God hid his face from the greater part of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews. The children, mentioned Isa 8:18 are generally thought to refer to the apostles, and first disciples of Christ, who were indeed for signs and for wonders in Israel. See Vitringa.

Verses 19-20

Isaiah 8:19-20. And when they shall say Here follows the address of the prophet to the Jewish nation, drawn from the argument of the preceding prophesy,—to the first verse of the 9th chapter; and then a remarkable illustration of the prophesy concerning Jehovah the teacher, who was hereafter to appear to the Jews,—from Isaiah 8:2-7. The connection is this: the prophet having foretold the coming of the Messiah, and the disciples which he would have, takes this occasion of addressing the Jews, and reminding them of their duty, as he had done, ch. Isa 2:6 compared with Isa 8:1-2 where he first delivers that memorable prophesy concerning Jehovah, or Messiah, the teacher. He saw the nation in his time most propense to foreign superstitions, particularly to the divinations, soothsayings, and astrology of the Syrians, Egyptians, &c. ch. Isa 2:6 but not regarding the pure instructions of God as they ought: he therefore warns them against placing any dependance on such follies and absurdities, and exhorts them to disregard all merely human teaching and assistance, while they applied solely to the divine law and testimony. See Vitringa. Instead of it is because, &c. Isa 8:20 we may read, whoever it be, to him shall there be no morning: that is to say, "Upon them Christ, the light of the world, shall not arise." See Hosea, ch. Isaiah 6:1.

Verses 21-22

Isaiah 8:21-22. And they shall pass through it The attentive reader must observe, that the 21st verse is connected with the last clause of the preceding one; no light, no morning to them. The prophet had here denounced to those who should despise the institution of God and the Messiah, a great evil, that they should have no part in the true light and consolation which the Messiah should bring to his people, according to the ancient prophesies, nor even in the resurrection of the just to life. On the contrary, they should be in dire and thick darkness, excluded from the communion of God and the saints, and should be oppressed with evils and calamities of every kind, by which they should be driven to extreme necessity and desperation, joined with final destruction. This is the argument of the present period, the expressions in which are very emphatical; nor could the highest desperation be painted in more lively colours than in these words, which are stronger than in the parallel passage, ch. Isa 5:30 though that is equally sublime and efficacious. This prophesy was most strikingly fulfilled in the last times of the Jewish polity, before its final destruction by the Romans. The following passages will serve greatly to explain the prophet, Luke 21:23-25.Revelation 11:19; Revelation 11:19. Michaelis observes, that nothing can afford the human mind such a picture of horror, as that of a man blaspheming God, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, the thunder interrupting his execrations, and succeeded by the darkest night; for the passage might be rendered, "He shall pass through the land, having suffered the greatest tortures, but still apprehending greater; and as he trembles, he shall grow angry, and shall curse his God and King, [i.e. the Messiah] and look upward. Towards the earth it shall thunder, and behold, trouble, darkness, dimness of anguish, and darkness which might be felt." The impostor Mahomet makes use of the same image in Surat. ch. Isaiah 2:16; Isa 2:19 which throws much light on this passage. See Michaelis's notes, and Vitringa.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The destruction of Damascus and Samaria is here threatened, and the rod of warning shaken over Judah.

1. The prophet is commanded to write this, with the four following chapters, on a large roll; and, as a title, to inscribe on it Maher-shalal-hash-baz, hasten to the spoil, hasten to the prey; an invitation to the king of Assyria, and repeated to shew the certainty of the event. Note; It is an unspeakable mercy that the holy Scriptures are committed to writing, and not handed down to us by uncertain tradition.

2. The prophet, having obeyed the divine injunction, gets it attested by two credible witnesses, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah, probably a Levite, 2Ch 29:13 that when the event should correspond with the prediction, his divine mission might incontestably appear.

3. On the conception of the prophetess his wife, so called from her relation to him, and the birth of a second son; to engage greater attention to the prophesy, he by divine command gives the child the same name as was inscribed on the roll. The design of which,
4. He explains; that before the infant could speak plainly, Damascus and Samaria should be spoiled by the Assyrian king; which was fulfilled, 2Ki 16:9; 2Ki 17:3 and more fully 2 Kings 18:9-10. Note; (1.) War is God's scourge over guilty lands. (2.)

They who have been troublers of other's repose, are justly doomed to suffer in return.
5. Judah also shall not go unpunished, because many of the faithless Jews despised the waters of Shiloah that go softly—the gentle government of David's race, or the weakness of their kingdom, eclipsed by the greater dominions of Rezin and Pekah, whom, though avowed enemies, these traitors of their country applauded and honoured. Therefore, to punish them, the Assyrian king, like a flood rapid and resistless, with his armies should cover the land, reaching to the neck, even to Jerusalem the metropolis, 2Ki 18:13-17 and, spreading his wings, should fill the breadth of Immanuel's land; so called, because there he should in the fulness of time be born, live, and die. Note; (1.) To affect the fashions, admire the manners and government of our inveterate enemies, and to despise our own, betrays a heart destitute of the love of our country. (2.) Though the waters of trouble reach to the neck, yet even then can God say, Here shall thy proud waves be stayed, and save us out of the floods, when we most despair of ourselves.

2nd, In Judah's distressed case the prophet encourages and instructs them,
1. With a promise of their enemies' disappointment and defeat: though strongly confederate, the expedition deeply planned, and the troops well armed and ready for the battle, they shall be broken to pieces. This is repeated, to shew the certainty of the event, and the vanity of their enemies' hopes of success; when God should infatuate their councils, and Immanuel defend his own land. Note; (1.) Though power and policy unite to crush the church of Christ, their efforts will prove the confusion of her enemies. (2.). God's promise is sure, and they who trust it will never be disappointed. (3.) If God be with us and for us, we need neither fear nor care who are against us.

2. He directs them how to speak and act in their present situation. The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, in the spirit of prophesy, not to walk in the way of this people, dejected with their fears, or flying with them to Assyria for help against their invaders, Pekah and Rezin, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to call them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; join not in the general cry for a foreign aid, or in any factious party at home; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid on account of the confederate armies of Syria and Israel. Sanctify the Lord God of Hosts, by your professed dependance upon, and subjection to him, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, who is the only worthy object. And he shall be for a sanctuary; a sure protection to those who trust him in every time of trial and distress. Note; (1.) In time of danger good men need divine encouragement against their fears. (2.) They who would follow Christ, must renounce the ways of a wicked world; a holy singularity is the inseparable badge of a holy conversation. (3.) In whatever difficulties we are involved, let us never use undue means for relief. (4.) The fear of God upon the heart, will preserve us from being terrified with the threatenings of men. (5.) God is sanctified, when by patient resignation we are content to wait for his salvation.

3. He threatens with ruin those who continued rebellious; if they would not trust God as their sanctuary, they should find him, a stone of stumbling, and rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, and for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; which was soon verified in the destruction which the king of Assyria, at God's command, brought upon them; and has a farther reference to the day of Christ, when, offended at the Lord Jesus, his character, birth, disciples, &c. the Jews, unable to reconcile it to their proud expectations of a conquering Messiah, rejected him, many among them stumbled and fell, and were broken, and snared, and taken, as was here predicted, and thereby perished under their unbelief and hardness of heart. Note; The same Jesus who is a sanctuary to the poor and helpless sinner, to the proud and self-righteous is still a stone of stumbling; they will not renounce themselves to trust in him, and therefore perish in their iniquities.

3rdly, We have,
1. The command given to the prophet. Bind up the testimony; the prophetic word concerning the Messiah, more precious than bags of gold, to be preserved for futurity; seal the law among my disciples; the disciples of Christ, to whom the law of the Spirit of life was intrusted, and, though a sealed book to others, revealed to them, and transmitted faithfully to their successors. Note; (1.) We can never be thankful enough for the inestimable treasure of God's word. (2.) Till God opens our understanding to understand the Scriptures, they are a book sealed, and a gospel hid.

2. The prophet professes his earnest expectation and hope. I will wait upon the Lord, the Redeemer of his people, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, either in frowns of displeasure, or as being yet hid from them, until his glorious manifestation in the flesh; and I will look for him, in confidence of his coming, and in joyful hope of the blessed issue of his appearing. Note; (1.) Patient waiting upon God will never be disappointed. (2.) When God hides his face, we must not think that he has forsaken us for ever, but be stirred up to pray, Lift up again upon us the light of thy countenance.

3. Christ, in answer to the prophet's expectation, appears to cheer and comfort him; of whom the words seem rather spoken than of the prophet himself and his two sons, though they were probably types of Christ and his people, for to him the words are expressly ascribed, Hebrews 2:13. Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me: but the world knoweth them not, because it knew him not; they are for signs, and for wonders in Israel; signs and wonders were wrought by them, yet Israel would not believe; yea, derided and reviled them; and still they continue in the world a people every where spoken against, and bearing the reproach of the cross; from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion, who freely gave his Son for us. Note; (1.) The relation between a minister, and those who are begotten by him in the Gospel, is as near and dear as between the parent and his natural offspring. (2.) We must not be ashamed of the reproach of Christ; nor, however strange the men of the world may think us, join with them in their ways.

4. Christ cautions his disciples to beware of deceivers, and to keep close to the word of revelation: primarily it may refer to the Jews, who in their distresses were readier to recur to any help than to God, 2Ki 1:2 but it contains also a warning against the false doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees, whose principles and practices were as contrary to God as those of wizards; them, therefore, it were folly to consult: should not a people seek unto their God, who can give a satisfactory answer to the questions of the guilty, and the cries of the distressed soul? it were highly absurd for the living to apply to the dead; to images, or necromancers, or the scribes and Pharisees, and all like them, who, though pretending to teach others, are themselves dead in trespasses and sins. To the law and to the testimony; the Scriptures, which are the only tests of truth: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them; they are blind leaders of the blind. Note; (1.) The superstitious folly of many professed Christians, who trust in charms and fortune-tellers, and the like, is as scandalous as sinful. (2.) If God be our God, we may always seek, and always find help in him in every trial. (3.) The more we examine the Bible for ourselves, the less liable shall we be to be deceived. (4.) No doctrine is to be received as genuine, which has not Scripture proof to support it. (5.) A minister whose own soul has never felt the enlivening influences of God's word and Spirit, can scarcely be expected to guide others aright in the way to glory; the living might as soon expect instruction from the dead, as the soul edification from such.

5. The doom of the wicked is read, who forsake God for familiar spirits, the truth or falsehood. And they shall pass through it (the land) hardly bestead and hungry; when in their captivity, they should scarce have bread to support their miserable lives, and with madness and vexation under their calamities blaspheme God and their king Messiah, and look upwards in vain for help from their false Christ, having rejected the true Redeemer: wherever they turned their eyes, darkness, distress, and wretchedness should appear, till a miserable life should close in a more miserable death; which was fully verified in the judgments brought on the Jews by the Roman sword. Note; (1.) The unhumbled fret and kick against the pricks; but they only thereby aggravate their own sufferings. (2.) God's judgments upon hardened sinners, instead of bringing them to repentance, provoke their blasphemies. (3.) They who forsake the God of their mercies, find in death all their prospects terminated with darkness and despair.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/isaiah-8.html. 1801-1803.
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