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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 8

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


CONSOLATIONS OF IMMANUEL, Isaiah 8:1 to Isaiah 9:6.

The prediction of the overthrow of Syria and Ephraim is repeated soon after the previous prophecy, (probably in the second year of Ahaz,) in the form of another symbolical name namely, of a child to be born of the prophet’s wife to be inscribed on a tablet in the presence of two witnesses, with their indisputable attestation; witnesses, too, leaning to the king’s side; and the stage of the infant growth is to be made the measure of the time of the event, as in Isaiah 7:1-4. The fulfilment of the prediction by the early birth of the child would be type and confirmation of the far-distant fulfilment by the birth of Immanuel.

Verse 1

The Roll, Isaiah 8:1-4.

1. Take thee a great roll This was a wooden or metallic tablet, probably covered with a surface of wax for writing on with a stylus; large, so as to be easily read by the public when put up as an inscription. See note on Luke 1:63.

Write… with a man’s pen In the regular letters of a human alphabet, so as to be readily read and understood by men. See note on Revelation 13:18.

Concerning That is, it relates to, or, it is in these words. Maher-shalal-hash-baz Which, translated, means, Hastens booty, prey hastens. The spoils of war are at hand. Capture and pillage are close upon the assailed.

Verse 2

2. Uriah the priest The same that was sent for to Damascus by Ahaz to take a complete pattern of a heathen altar which the king desired to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem. 2 Kings 16:10. He was a bad man; a willing accomplice of Ahaz to introduce a corrupt religion into Jerusalem. Who Zechariah was is not so clear; possibly he was a Levite mentioned in 2 Chronicles 29:13. Both were of the king’s party, as against the reform party of Isaiah; so that it could not be pretended that it was a prediction forged after the event.

Verse 3

3. Then said the Lord The prophetic inscription is fulfilled so far by the child’s birth; and Jehovah requires his symbolic name to be conferred, like a prophetic inscription, on the child.

Verse 4

4. Before this it was known the inscription meant “plunder and spoils;” but which the plundered party was to be was not known.

Shall have knowledge to cry Shall know how to speak the name My father. The date of the prophecy’s fulfilment is determined by the infant’s growth, about two years from its birth. And now who the vanquished party are becomes known. The Assyrian power, hired by Ahaz, will pillage Damascus, and spoil Samaria before the boy-child shall know how to lisp “My father,” etc.

Denunciation of the foreign parties in Judah, and assertion for Jehovah and his adherents, Isaiah 8:5-22.

The prophet denounces the despisers of Siloah, the emblem of the mild Davidic kingdom, and threatens that they shall be overwhelmed with the Euphrates, the emblem of the terrible Assyrian empire, 5-8. He bids the enemies of Jehovah defiance, 8-10; calls upon the people to reject their clamors, and to turn to the law and to the Jehovistic signs presented in himself and family, 11-18. He denounces the deserters from God’s law who resort to sorcerers for guidance.

Verse 6

6. Forasmuch as this people Israel is especially meant, though Judah, in a general sense, is included.

Refuseth the waters of Shiloah The “waters of Shiloah,” or Siloah, are doubtless the same which are better known under their later name of Siloam, (see note and cut, John 9:7,) the only perennial spring in Jerusalem, supplying the pool of that name at the foot of the hill Ophel in the southeast part of the city. (See Thomson’s “Land and Book,” vol. 2.)

Softly Its waters gently flowing, typical of the true Davidic sovereignty, as the mighty Euphrates here symbolizes the distant Assyrian monarchy proudly crowning its banks. (See map.) So in the Apocalypse the Euphrates symbolizes the world-power Babylon. Revelation 9:14; Revelation 16:12.

Verse 7

7. Therefore As a direct consequence.

The Lord bringeth up upon them By his willing permission they come, because all else has failed to correct and reform.

Waters of… river Literally, the Euphrates; figuratively, the multitude of the invading army.

Strong and many Expressive both of power and number. The Lord is about to permit the great nation to overrun Syria and Israel, and Judah too, in good time.

Verse 8

8. He shall pass through Judah This calamity shall come when the Assyrian shall be on his way to conquer Egypt. Israel and Syria fallen, Judah will secretly seek protection from Egypt. In punishment for this, on discovery or even suspicion of treachery, he shall overflow and go over. The mixed metaphor of the river (Isaiah 8:7) is used, denoting Assyria’s great marching army as sweeping the hills of Judah and moving on Jerusalem.

Even to the neck Perhaps an intimation that though the Israelites would be greatly oppressed the kingdom would not at this time be wholly subverted.

Stretching out of his wings His army wings, right and left.

Thy land, O Immanuel The land of Judah, quite submerged, quite covered with soldiery, but not destroyed, because it belongs to “Immanuel.” “This passage supplies a point of connexion between Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:1. Isaiah recollects the promise of the wonderful child, and seems to feel that this not exhausted by the overthrow of the Syrians and Ephraimites; he already sees dimly the triumph of the Messiah over Assyria. This seems to be involved in Isaiah 8:8, and the challenge of Isaiah 8:9-10, both of which are founded upon the word, ‘God with us.’” Cheyne.

Verses 9-10

9, 10. In full prophetic knowledge of how the results will be, the prophet, with impetuous transition, defies the foreign partisans. Associate yourselves, etc. Rather, (Hebrews,) Rage ye. That is, do your utmost, it will end only in your tearing yourselves to pieces; all ye world-kingdoms far away, look on and see the ever-doubtful odds of contest ye undertake with Jehovah. These seem all but ironical commands, like Isaiah 6:9-10. They imply that though those world-kingdoms may have partial and temporary successes over Judah, their utter overthrow of its holy remnant is an impossible thing.

Take counsel together Devise whatever plans ye may on this head of destroying God’s people; it shall be entirely vain.

Speak the word Give forth your order; it cannot be carried into execution, for God is with us. It is Immanuel’s land. To Isaiah’s vision the antitypical Immanuel was already born. All the banded nations of the world could not dispossess Immanuel of his own possessions. Psalms 2:0. In the next verse Isaiah gives the reason why.

Verse 11

11. The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand With strength of hand, that is, with mighty inspiring power. Passages in Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 11:5; Ezekiel 33:32; Ezekiel 37:1, offer the same or similar usage of the word “hand,” “hand of God upon,” etc., and justify this interpretation. God imparted to Isaiah on the matters stated above, an especially strong prophetic impulse.

And instructed me Warned me against walking in the way of this people in their distrust of Jehovah, in their inclination to the court policy and to popular factions, or clamouring for foreign human aid. And for persuading this people to trust in Jehovah only, and to sever themselves from those rejecting Jehovah, a cry was probably raised against the prophet and his adherents. In this crisis, imparting a mighty influence to Isaiah, Jehovah spake thus, that is, what follows in the next verse.

Verse 12

12. Say ye not Rather, Ye shall not say, a prohibition.

A confederacy כשׁר , ( kesher,) “conspiracy.” In other places, (2 Samuel 15:12; 1Ki 16:10 ; 2 Kings 11:14, etc.,) this word means treason. Most commentators, since Jerome, do not apply this to the arts of Pekah and Rezin, for theirs was a real conspiracy against Judah. Jehovah could not refer to this, but to the charge of disloyalty to the king, Ahaz, upon Isaiah and his friends. This charge they were to disregard utterly, and go on in the performance of duty boldly.

To all them to whom Rather, concerning every thing of which this people shout, “Treason!”

Neither fear ye their fear Or, that which they fear. The fear that ruin will follow if Judah rejects foreign alliance and trusts in Jehovah alone.

Verse 13

13. Sanctify, etc. Regard Jehovah as immutably true.

Let him be your fear Literally, He is your fear and your dread; one whom alone you have true occasion to fear as your sovereign, and love as your protector.

Verses 14-15

14, 15. He shall be for a sanctuary The context and its scope require this word to mean here, refuge, place of safety a figure for the MESSIAH himself.

Stone of stumbling A stone against which one dangerously strikes; over which, too, it is perilous for one to fall. Similar is the meaning of the next phrase.

A gin The figure is changed a trap to express another side to the peril of Israel and Judah in neglecting to make Jehovah their absolute trust.

Many among them Many, by the invasion which the Assyrian shall make. The repetition, here, of figures synonymous as to meaning is to be regarded as a strong poetic emphasis, and by such emphasis certainty of peril to unbelieving Israel and Judah is intended.

Verse 16

16. Bind (thou) up The Septuagint and the Targum, and the greater majority of commentators, regard this verse as God’s command to the prophet, and Isaiah 8:17 as the prophet’s answer. The reason for the command is, that warnings to the ungodly factions and the duty of Jehovah’s adherents have been sufficiently presented; the divine voice, inwardly heard by the prophet, now urges to close this strain, and to seal up the roll containing the preceding truths the testimony which the mass of the people, in their blindness, do not apprehend, and, in their self-hardening, despise. See note at Isaiah 6:9-10. It is as if God was now saying to Isaiah, “The prophecy is complete; close it up.”

Seal the law The mode of sealing rolls was, by uniting the end to the body of the roll by adhesive paste or glue, then tying the volume with a cord. Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:4. “The law” is the inspired communication within the roll.

Among my disciples The roll thus bound was to be kept with the adherents of Jehovah and the prophet, who were composed of the few believing people, and the members of the prophetic school at Jerusalem, of which, no doubt, Isaiah was the head. These were witnesses, like those in Isaiah 8:1-4.

Verse 17

17. And I The person “I” is Isaiah, (not Messiah, as Henderson, Alexander, Cowles, etc.) The prophet, at least, will wait upon the Lord; that is, he who had been seized by “the strong hand,” (Isaiah 8:11,) the mighty inspiring power of Jehovah, and whose will and thought are in complete union with him, “will wait upon”… and… look for him. Such a one surely is prepared to trust God absolutely, and to inspire such trust in others who are but faintly cleaving to Jehovah.

That hideth his face As God had said he should, in case of their rebelling. Deuteronomy 31:17-18; Deuteronomy 32:20.

From the house of Jacob From all his descendants, the houses of Judah and Israel.

Verse 18

18. The prophet points to himself and family as signs of the rightfulness of relying on Jehovah rather than looking to Assyria. The import of the name Isaiah is, Salvation of the Lord; and thus in his name the prophet becomes a type of Christ, and this accounts for Hebrews 2:13, where there is a blending of type and antitype, as the abstract meaning of both is the same.

Behold A call to a momentous wonder.

I and the children As expressed in their several names, (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:3-4;) signs predicting certain deliverance, already coming, and sure to continue to the last. These facts were wonders, and challenged the gravest attention and examination of Judah.

Whom the Lord hath given me The Psalmist, the Evangelist John, and the Apostle Paul interpret this passage of the Christ and his spiritual progeny.

Dwelleth in… Zion instead of Assyria’s gods, that dwelt in Nineveh. Isaiah’s exalted virtue, profound sincerity, and remarkable genius must have commanded respect and secretly exercised great restraining power. Ewald (in History of Israel,) vol. iv, p. 174,) says, “He was an absolutely immovable refuge in the tempest.” And again, (p. 202,) “At this crisis the eternal and glorified expectation of the kingdom of God was… placed in antagonism to all heathen dominion by violence, and nothing is more marvellous than the undaunted attitude of Isaiah in encountering the fury of the dreaded king [of Assyria] with the calmness of this blessed hope.”

“No adequate explanation of this wonder,” says Kay, “can be given except that which Isaiah himself assigns. It was the result of an express communication to him of a divine word, accompanied by a divine action upon his spirit.

Verse 19

19. Distrusting Jehovah, and afraid of Assyria, some of the people were resorting to sorcerers for counsel. The blended folly and impiety of this our prophet now exposes.

Familiar spirits These were necromancers, conjurers, supposed to be able to call up the dead, who could give information of the future world or future events. Obhath is the plural of a word meaning hollow, and in its secondary or concrete tropical sense it means the conjurers themselves evoking, as with ventriloquising voice, spirits from the regions of the dead. Deu 18:11 ; 1 Samuel 28:8, etc.

Wizards Knowing ones, or sorcerers, magicians, adduced along with obhath, and spoken of lying prophets, Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11.

That peep… mutter In the original, chirp, whisper, tricks of ventriloquism, no doubt.

Should not a people seek unto their God This is the reply which the believers in Jehovah. who “wait upon him” and “look for him” in times of peril, are instructed to give to the half-idolatrous ones tempting them to consult necromancers and the like. The prophet says to his adherents: “When they call you off to such responses by means of their miserable tricks of spiritism, [for this is not a modern invention,] should you not seek answers from your own living, almighty Jehovah?”

For the living to the dead A continued expression of the prophet’s astonishment. “Go to the dead to inquire in behalf of the living!” The meaning turns on the preposition בעד , (bead,) instead of, or better, in behalf of. The best critics adopt the latter; so, literally, the phrase is, In behalf of the living to the dead!

Verse 20

20. Instead of resorting to such forbidden and abominable sources, to the law and to the testimony resort ye, continues the prophet.

If they speak not according to this word If they, if any one.

This word The law of Moses, and the testimony of Jehovah’s true prophets. Whatever lines of action deviated from these prescriptions are to be avoided as leading to ways prescribed by counsels of darkness.

Because there is no light in them Or, surely no morning dawn is in them. No dawning hope of salvation for the land against her confederate enemies can spring from sorcery. It must come from Jehovah’s law and testimony alone.

Verse 21

21. They shall pass through it “They” the king, the court, and their supporters among the people, who have gone to necromancers for light.

Hardly bestead In great straits disappointed, oppressed with anxiety.

Hungry As the effect of calamity from not looking to God, “to the law and to the testimony.” A moral famine befalls them, more grievous than the temporary one in Ahaz’s time.

Look upward Seeing no light they look to heaven in vain. They despised the true God, and he is shut off from their view.

Verse 22

22. Then from looking upward they look to earth again; to enchantments and sorcery they look, only to feel woes more bitter, and to see forever no dawn, NO dawn.

Trouble… darkness… dimness… anguish Accumulated images. Each one, as it rapidly flits before Isaiah, deepens the horror of gathering gloom and darkness. So fearful are God’s moral judgments on men when they to the last refuse to look to him for aid and guidance.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/isaiah-8.html. 1874-1909.
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