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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 7

 

 

Verses 1-16

Isaiah 7:1-16. Isaiah Gives Ahaz the Encouraging Sign of Immanuel when he is Dismayed by the Alliance of Syria and Ephraim against him.—For the historical circumstances see pp. 59, 70f. Apart from Isaiah 7:1, which is derived from 2 Kings 16:5 and is out of chronological order, this section seems to have been written by an editor on the basis of Isaiah's autobiography (contrast the 1st person of the preceding chapter with the 3rd of this). The alarm, described in the picturesque metaphor of Isaiah 7:2, specially affected "the house of David," since its position was menaced by the project of the allies to abolish the Davidic dynasty and install a creature of their own. The news which caused such dismay was that Syria had alighted on Ephraim (Isaiah 7:2, cf. mg.), i.e. it was on the march, and was already within striking distance of Jerusalem. Apparently the enemy was prevented from making an assault by news that Assyria was on the way to Philistia. While Ahaz attends to the water supply, in view of the siege, Isaiah is sent with a message of encouragement. His foes are but two fag-ends of firebrands, they only smoulder; their smoke may annoy, but they have lost all power for mischief, exhausted by strife with each other and Assyria and by civil war. Their project will fail, for Rezin is head of Syria and Pekah head of Ephraim. These are their Divinely appointed spheres, they have no control over Judah. But its security depends on its faith. Unbelief will bring ruin, i.e. at the hands of Assyria. The king seems to have expressed his doubt of the policy recommended, so Isaiah offers him a sign, deep in Sheol (mg.) or in the sky. He places the whole realm of the universe at his disposal for the purpose, and therefore confidently offers a miraculous sign. Ahaz has faith, he believes that the miracle can be wrought. But he has not the right kind of faith, he does not obediently trust in God for deliverance. Hence he refuses the sign, just because he does not doubt that it will be given, for then he will have to abandon his own cherished plan. He hypocritically declines under the pretext that he will not tempt God, as if it could be tempting Him to accept what He freely offered. Angered by his refusal, the prophet still does not change his attitude. Yahweh will Himself give a sign that the attack of the confederates will not succeed. Some now expectant mother will shortly bring forth a son to whom she will give the name Immanuel, thus by her faith that God is with His people shaming the king's unbelief. The child will be fed on curds and honey as soon as he has become old enough to distinguish between wholesome and harmful food (cf. Isaiah 8:4 for a similar time limit). Before he has reached this age Syria and Ephraim will be devastated.

Isaiah 7:3. Shear-jashub: the name means "a remnant shall return" (mg.). This is not a prophecy of disaster to the army of Judah, meaning that only a remnant is to come back from the war, but it embodies one of Isaiah's most important doctrines, that a remnant of the people should turn to God. It is a name both of judgment and promise—only a remnant, but still a remnant. Since this son was old enough to accompany his father, he must have received the name some years before. The scene is that of the Rabshakeh's speech to the people of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2). Its identification is uncertain.

Isaiah 7:6. Tabeel: an Aramaic name. Possibly as Pekah is designated Remaliah's son, the son of Tabeel may be Rezin.

Isaiah 7:8-9 a. The meaning may perhaps be, "The head of Syria is after only Rezin, and the head of Samaria is but the upstart son of Remaliah, while Yahweh is the head of Jerusalem."

Isaiah 7:8 b is clearly a gloss, irrelevant to the situation, and indeed inconsistent with Isaiah's purpose, which was to assert almost immediate relief. It refers probably to events connected with the planting of foreign colonists in Samaria by Esarhaddon or Asshurbanipal (Ezra 4:2; Ezra 4:10).

Isaiah 7:14-16. Space will not permit of any thorough discussion; for a fuller treatment the editor may refer to his article "Immanuel" in DCG. He is now inclined to give Isaiah 7:15 a favourable interpretation, and treat it as part of the original prophecy. The following points may be emphasized: (a) The character of the sign is not altered by the king's unbelief; it is significant of deliverance, not of disaster (cf. Isaiah 8:1-4). (b) A sign may be miraculous, or it may not. Here it is probably not miraculous. For (c) the rendering "virgin" is unjustifiable; for this bethulah would have been used; the word employed here, ‘almah, means a young woman of marriageable age, without any suggestion that she is not married. (d) The sign is to be fulfilled in the near future, since it is given for a pressing emergency. It has therefore no reference to the birth of Jesus more than seven hundred years later. (e) Isaiah has no particular woman in view. Any young woman who shortly gives birth to a son may call him Immanuel, and by this expression of faith that God is with His people will rebuke the king's unbelief. (f) Her faith will be vindicated by the desolation of the enemy's land. (g) The sign accordingly consists not in the birth of the child, nor in his character, position, or destiny, nor yet in his conception by a virgin. He has in himself no significance. The sign consists in the name he bears, and in that name as expressive of his mother's faith (cf. Isaiah 8:18). (h) The name Immanuel means "God is with us," not "God with us"; there is no reference in it to an Incarnation of God. (i) If Isaiah 7:15 implies the desolation of the land, it is out of harmony with the rest of the passage, and must be struck out. But the prediction that curds and honey will be Immanuel's diet may quite well be interpreted as implying plenty rather than privation.


Verses 17-25

Isaiah 7:17-25. The Devastation of Judah.—Probably an independent prophecy rather than a continuation of Isaiah 7:2-16; it strikes a very different note. It may belong to the same date, but may quite well be later. Disaster unparalleled since the revolt of the ten tribes (note the Southern point of view) is coming on Judah, an Assyrian invasion. Yahweh will whistle for the enemy, who will penetrate the most inaccessible retreats of the land, and humiliate and spoil the people. The population that will remain will be so scanty that very few cattle will yield an abundance of milk. The land will not be cultivated; the vineyards, where the most valuable vines grew, those worth a shekel apiece, will be overrun with briers. The thorn thickets will be the lurking-place of wild beasts, and cannot therefore be safely approached without weapons.

Isaiah 7:18. The text apparently means that the swarming tribes of Egypt, numerous but not formidable, and the compact, fierce, and well-marshalled Assyrians, would meet for battle in Judah. If we read simply, "the Lord shall hiss for the fly and the bee," omitting the descriptions as glosses, Assyria only is intended.—hired: possibly a reference to the purchase by Ahaz of Assyria's help. Shaving is a mark of degradation.

Isaiah 7:25. The text may be corrupt; the meaning is very uncertain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-7.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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