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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 8

 

 

Verses 1-4

Isaiah 8:1-4. The Sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.—The date of the incidents is some time before the fall of Damascus in 732 B.C. The writing of the tablet may be as early as 735 B.C., the birth of the child as 734. The prophet is bidden take a large tablet, since it is to be used as a public placard, and write on it in common characters that all may read, "For Maher-shalal-hash-baz." He is to take responsible witnesses, that when the prediction is fulfilled they may be able to assure the people that by this enigmatic inscription Isaiah foretold the speedy downfall of Syria and Ephraim. He is bidden call his son, born some time later, by the name on the placard, for before he utters a child's first words, Damascus and Samaria will be despoiled by the Assyrians.

Isaiah 8:1. pen of a man: mg., "in common characters," is perhaps correct. The name means "Swift is the spoil, speedy the prey," i.e. the spoliation of Damascus and Samaria will speedily take place.

Isaiah 8:2. Read "and take" (LXX).


Verses 5-18

Isaiah 8:5-18. More Extracts on the Crisis from Isaiah's Autobiography.—It is not clear how many bits of the autobiography are included here, but the section for the most part probably deals with the coalition of Syria and Ephraim.

Isaiah 8:5-10. Date of the earlier part about 735. The latter part (from "and the stretching") is apparently a late addition. Judah despises the trickling waters of Shiloah, i.e. Yahweh's gentle working; her desire for measures less tame and more heroic shall be satisfied by the waters of the Euphrates, which shall burst their bounds and flood into Judah, reaching to the neck and threatening the existence of the nation. The reference is to the Assyrian armies (cf. Isaiah 28:9-11). Then with an abrupt transition and a change in metaphor we read of the sheltering wings protecting Judah, and of the futility of the coalition formed by the nations of far countries against her. The situation does not suit Isaiah's time; it has its parallels rather in the later Apocalyptic.

Isaiah 8:6. rejoice in: Judah did not rejoice in Rezin and Pekah, but was in terror of them. Possibly we should read despond because of" (umaṣoṣ mippene).—The waters of Shiloah flowed in a channel with a slight fall from the Virgin's Fountain, a spring with an intermittent flow, so that the waters went softly.

Isaiah 8:8. Read at the end "the land, for God is with us." We thus get a refrain which recurs at the end of Isaiah 8:10.

Isaiah 8:9. Make an uproar: read "Know" with LXX (de‘u), which gives a good parallel to "give ear." The text has apparently been expanded by mistaken repetition.

Isaiah 8:11-15. Beyond the fact that this is earlier than the fall of Samaria (cf. Isaiah 8:14), nothing certain can be said about its date, but probably it belongs to the same period as the earlier part of the chapter. Isaiah had felt the pressure of the Divine hand upon Him, casting Him into the prophetic ecstasy (cf. Jeremiah 15:17; Ezekiel 1:3*, Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 37:1). In it he had been cautioned against acquiescence in the popular way; he and his associates (note the plural "ye") had been forbidden to adopt the popular catchwords, and call the coalition of Syria and Ephraim "a conspiracy"; it is no serious peril to the State (cf. Isaiah 7:4); rather let them call Yahweh the conspirator. Well may He be their dread who will overthrow both the houses of Israel! Do the people boast of Yahweh as the Stone of Israel (Genesis 49:24), as their strong Rock? They will find Him a stone against which they will stumble, a rock on which they will be wrecked; not only so, but a snare luring them to ruin. As the bird is attracted to it and rests upon it, and by this very act of trust springs the trap upon itself, so Judah's false confidence will seal her doom.

Isaiah 8:12 f. Very difficult. Isaiah 8:12 and Isaiah 8:13 should correspond; we should assimilate one to the other, probably (as above) Isaiah 8:13 to Isaiah 8:12, rather than Isaiah 8:12 to Isaiah 8:13, by reading "a holy thing" for "conspiracy" in Isaiah 8:12. a truism needing no special revelation. We should also omit the words "for a sanctuary but" in Isaiah 8:14 as incorrect repetition of the word rendered "snare."

Isaiah 8:16-18. Isaiah seems in these words to announce the close for a time of his ministry. His protest had been unavailing; Yahweh had hidden His face from His disobedient people. He entrusts his testimony as to the failure of the allies and his teaching (mg.) on faith in God to his disciples. That faith, vainly required from king and people, he will still exhibit, and, while he has to wait in silence, he and his children are a perpetual message—they by the names they bear (Isaiah 7:3, Isaiah 8:3 f.), he by his name, his personality, and his work.

Isaiah 8:16 f. Render, "I will bind up the testimony, seal the teaching." The mention of his disciples suggests that he had formed a religious brotherhood, held together by his prophetic teaching. This was epoch-making. It secured the preservation of his own prophecies, and perhaps those of others. It created a religious organisation to carry out the programme of the prophets, which, when it could no longer work openly, as in the time of Manasseh, could work underground and issue in the Deuteronomic reformation. Recognising that his labours among the people at large had been a failure, he gathered the nucleus of the remnant to which was entrusted the future of spiritual religion.

Isaiah 8:18. Notice that nothing miraculous is necessarily implied in "signs" and "wonders."


Verses 19-22

Isaiah 8:19 to Isaiah 9:1. Some Fragmentary Utterances.—These fragments are of uncertain date and authorship, corrupt in text and obscure in sense. The first, Isaiah 8:19 f., is a warning against necromancers. Probably the words of those who advocate consulting them continue to the end of Isaiah 8:19. We should render Isaiah 8:19 b, "should not a people seek unto their elohim? on behalf of the living should they not seek unto the dead?" The elohim are the spirits of the dead, so described in 1 Samuel 28:13. Possibly Isaiah 8:20 gives the reply which is to be made. They must bring the sorcerers to the test of the teaching and testimony (Isaiah 8:16); if they do not conform to this, no morning will dawn after their night of distress. But the translation and sense are quite uncertain. The revival of necromancy was due to the circumstances of the time. When the small states were falling before the irresistible power of a great empire, the national deities seemed powerless in face of the new foe. In such a collapse of faith some would resort for help to other powers, especially occult powers such as the spirits of the dead. In a well-ordered State of antiquity such practices were sternly repressed as inimical to the welfare of the State which had a religion of its own. But when this religion received these severe blows, old superstitions which had maintained an underground life came once more to the surface.

In Isaiah 8:21 f. we have the picture of a man (the pronouns are singular) driven by distress and famine to desperate straits. He goes "through it," i.e. the land, which was no doubt mentioned in the context from which this was taken, vainly seeking relief. In his agony he curses God (mg.) because He will not, and the king because he cannot, help (Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21)—a blasphemy punishable with death (1 Kings 21:9-13). He looks up to heaven, then down to earth, but wherever he looks there is nought but trouble. Isaiah 9:1 is a connecting link with what follows. The first sentence is obscure. The next affirms that the parts which bore the brunt of invasion will in the latter time be made glorious. For "the way of the sea" cf. p. 29.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 8:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-8.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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