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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 8

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 8:1. Moreover, the Lord said unto me — Here begins “the second section of this discourse, which reaches to the seventh verse of the next chapter, and is nearly of the same argument with the preceding; being prophetical, and containing matter both of comfort and reproof. It may be divided into two parts. The first part, in the first four verses, contains a confirmation and sign of the prediction concerning the sudden subversion of the kingdoms of Syria and Israel. The second part more fully and distinctly explains the purpose of God with respect both to the Israelites and Jews, for the consolation of the pious, and the terror of the impious and carnal, among them.” Take thee a great roll — Or, a great volume, because the prophecy to be written in it was large: and God would have it written in very large and legible characters; and write in it with a man’s pen — With such a pen as writers use, that so all may read and understand it. Bishop Lowth, deriving the word גליון, here rendered roll, from גלה, to show, to reveal, rather than from גלל, to roll, translates it, a large mirror, or polished tablet of metal, like those which were anciently used for mirrors, and also for engraving on. Accordingly, he renders the word חרשׂ, which we translate a pen, a graving tool. “In this manner,” says he, “the prophet was to record the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus and Samaria by the Assyrians: the subject and sum of which prophecy are here expressed, with great brevity, in four words, maher, shalal, hash, baz; that is, to hasten the spoil, to take quickly the prey: which was afterward applied as the name of the prophet’s son, who was made a sign of the speedy completion of it; Haste-to-the-spoil, Quick-to-the-prey. And that it might be done with the greater solemnity, and to preclude all doubt of the real delivery of the prophecy before the event, he calls witnesses to attest the recording of it.” Concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz — Concerning that thing which is signified by the name of the child, which is here mentioned by way of anticipation, as not being given him till Isaiah 8:3; that is, concerning that which God is making haste to do, the giving up Syria and Israel for a prey to the Assyrians.


Verse 2-3

Isaiah 8:2-3. And I took me faithful witnesses — Persons of unquestionable reputation, who should bear witness that the following name and prophecy were written and published by me, according to God’s command. It is likely these witnesses signed a copy of the prophecy with their own hands, and dated it according to the time it was declared by the prophet. And I went unto the prophetess — His own wife, so called, because she was the wife of a prophet, wives being frequently denominated from their husband’s titles. Or possibly she herself might be endowed with the gift of prophecy. Some commentators suppose that Isaiah married another wife on this occasion, and that the witnesses above mentioned were called to attest the matrimonial contract, according to the custom of the Jews. But there are no indications of this, and, as it is certain from the preceding chapter that he already had a wife, the mother of Shear-jashub, it seems highly improbable that he should take another. Others again suppose, that these witnesses, who were persons of rank, “were called on to attend the circumcision of the prophet’s son, and to attest the name by which he was called, as well as the prophecy, confirmed and illustrated by that name.”


Verse 4

Isaiah 8:4. Before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, &c. — To speak and know his parents; which is within the space of two years. And this agrees with the other prophecy, Isaiah 7:16. For it requires a longer time for a child to know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, than to distinguish his parents from strangers; and Shear-jashub, being born some years before this child, was capable of that higher degree of knowledge as soon as this was capable of the lower degree. The riches of Damascus, &c., shall be taken away — The kingdoms of Syria and Israel, here signified by their two capital cities, shall be stripped of their wealth and power, as they were by Tiglath-pileser, within the time here limited, 2 Kings 15:29.


Verse 5

Isaiah 8:5. The Lord spake also — “After having given 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 he had advised in the former prophecy concerning them. See chap. 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 Isaiah 8:11, 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.” — Vitringa and Dodd.


Verse 6

Isaiah 8:6. Forasmuch as this people — The people of Israel, of whom he last spake, and who are the chief subject of this whole prophecy; and who did rejoice, not only in their own king Pekah, but also in the assistance of so powerful an ally as Rezin was; refuseth — Or, rather, despiseth, as the word מאסmore properly, and most frequently, signifies; the waters of Shiloah that go softly — That small and contemptible brook which ran gently (as little rivers generally do) by Jerusalem, and which is here opposed to the great rivers of Tigris and Euphrates, by which the Assyrian empire was fortified. By these waters of Shiloah, he intends the munitions and strength of the Jews, including the kingdom of David, and the divine protection and promise engaged to support it, all which their enemies despised. And, as the people of Judah, from a consideration of their own weakness, and a distrust of God’s promises, applied for assistance to the Assyrians, they also might properly be said to despise or refuse these waters of Shiloah, although they could not be said to rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son. Here, therefore, the prophet assigns the reason which moved God to punish both the Ephraimites and the Jews by the Assyrians. They disbelieved his word, distrusted his protection, and confided in an arm of flesh, and therefore the Lord chastised them.


Verse 7-8

Isaiah 8:7-8. Now, therefore — Because the Israelites and their army, combined with the Syrians, despise the weak state of the Jews, and the kingdom of David, now brought very low, and having no such defence as can be compared to a great river, but only one that resembles a small brook that glides gently along; behold, the Lord bringeth upon them the waters of the river — Of Euphrates, often called the river, for its eminent greatness; whereby he understands the Assyrian forces, as the next words explain the metaphor, which should overwhelm the whole kingdom of Israel under Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser; the king of Assyria and all his glory — His numerous and puissant army, in which he gloried, Isaiah 10:8. He shall come up over all his channels — This great river shall overflow its own proper channels: that is, this great monarch shall not keep within his own proper bounds, but invade and overrun the whole land of Syria and Israel, as an overflowing river does the neighbouring meadows. As multitudes of people are often spoken of in Scripture under the emblem of great waters, so an invading army is very fitly represented by the inundation of a rapid river, which carries all before it, and leaves the ground waste and desolate. And he shall pass through Judah — Having overrun the land of Israel he shall invade the land of Judah, as Sennacherib did a few years after the conquest of Samaria by Shalmaneser; see 2 Kings 18:9; 2 Kings 18:13. And he shall reach even to the neck — So that they shall be in great danger of being destroyed. He persists in the metaphor of a river swelling so high as to reach to a man’s neck, and be ready to overwhelm him. Such was the danger of Judah’s land when Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah, (2 Kings 18:13,) and sent his army against the capital city of Jerusalem. The stretching out of his wings — Of his forces, or of the wings of his army, as they anciently were, and still are, called. Shall fill the breadth of thy land — Of the land of Judah, so called, because the Messiah, who is called Immanuel, (Isaiah 7:14,) should certainly be born, and live, and die there. And this is added emphatically for the consolation of God’s people, to assure them, that notwithstanding this dreadful scourge, yet God would make a difference between Israel and Judah; and whereas Israel should be so broken by the Assyrian, that they should not be a people, Judah should be restored, for the sake of the Messiah, to be the place of his birth and ministry, according to Genesis 49:10.


Verse 9-10

Isaiah 8:9-10. Associate yourselves, O ye people — O ye Syrians and Israelites; and ye shall be broken in pieces — Your attempts against the house of David, and kingdom of Judah, will be fruitless, yea, will issue in your own ruin. And give ear, all ye of far countries — Immanuel’s name inspires the prophet with new courage, and makes him send a challenge to all God’s enemies, and foretel their certain downfall. He is, indeed, wrapt, as it were, into an ecstasy, upon considering the land as belonging to Immanuel, and foreseeing the future interposition of God for its protection. Gird yourselves — With armour: prepare for war; and ye shall be broken in pieces — He repeats it again for the greater assurance of the thing, and the comfort of God’s people. Take counsel together — Against the Lord, and against his anointed, Psalms 2:2; and it shall come to naught — All your counsels shall be defeated, and your designs rendered abortive. Speak the word — Not only fix, but declare your purpose, and make your boast of it; and it shall not stand — Still you shall fail of accomplishing what you so ardently desire; for God is with us — The Almighty and only true God fighteth for us and against you. This address of the prophet, to the confederate nations, is most elegant and spirited; and the foundation of his confidence is finely expressed in this last clause, in which he himself interprets the name Immanuel before given to the Messiah.


Verse 11-12

Isaiah 8:11-12. For the Lord spake thus unto me — Here 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 Messiah, of whose manifestation this instruction contains a repeated prophecy for the consolation of the pious, together with a denunciation of the most grievous judgments, spiritual and temporal, upon the impious, incredulous, and profane. See Vitringa. With a strong hand — With a vehement and more than ordinary inspiration. The Chaldee renders it, In the strength of prophecy; perhaps it refers to those ecstasies into which the prophets were frequently wrapt. That I should not walk in the way of this people — Of the generality of the people of Judah; whose imminent danger and calamity he foretold, (Isaiah 8:8,) giving them, however, full assurance that God would deliver them out of it, Isaiah 8:9-10. Say ye not, A confederacy, &c. — You, my people, be not associated with them in the confederacies which they are projecting: do not join with those that, for the securing of themselves, are for making a league with the Assyrians, through unbelief, and distrust of God and their cause: do not come into any such confederacy. Neither fear ye their fear — Be not afraid of the confederacy with which they frighten themselves and one another, namely, that between Syria and Ephraim; or that thing which they fear, that, if they do not call in the Assyrian succours, they shall be destroyed by those two potent kings. Thus, when sinful confederacies are formed against God’s church and people by their enemies, they should guard against sinful fears of such confederacies.


Verses 13-15

Isaiah 8:13-15. Sanctify the Lord of hosts — Give him the glory of his power, and goodness, and faithfulness, by trusting in his promises for deliverance; and let him be your fear — Let God, and not the kings of Syria and Israel, be the chief object of your fear. And he shall be for a sanctuary — A sure refuge to all that truly fear him, and rely upon him; but for a stone of stumbling — An occasion of sin and ruin, at whom they will take offence, and stumble, so as to fall and be broken, as it is expressed Isaiah 8:15; to both the houses of Israel — To the two kingdoms, that of the ten tribes, and that of the two tribes. And for a gin, &c., to the inhabitants of Jerusalem — This is distinctly mentioned as a wonderful thing, because Jerusalem was the seat of the temple, and of God’s solemn worship; where all the means of knowledge and grace were in the greatest plenty; where the thrones of civil and ecclesiastical judicature were established; where the most wise and learned doctors had their constant abode. And that such a place and people should reject Immanuel, when he should appear, was so strange an occurrence, that the prediction of it was highly necessary, lest otherwise, when it came to pass, it should shake the faith of all who did believe on him; whereas, now the accomplishment hereof was a notable confirmation of their faith. And many among them — Not all; for there shall be a remnant, as was foretold, Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 6:13; shall stumble — At that stone or rock, mentioned Isaiah 8:14. The writers of the New Testament, who have so frequently quoted this passage, prove, beyond all controversy, that the subject of it is, God manifest in the flesh; the Messiah, who performed for his people all those benefits of grace which this promise implies, being a sanctuary, or place of refuge to them; and who, at the same time, became to the hypocrites and unbelievers in Judea, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, to the destruction of the far greater part of that people. See the margin.


Verse 16

Isaiah 8:16. Bind up the testimony — There seems no doubt that the person here introduced speaking, is God the Father. By the testimony, and the law or doctrine, the prophet understands one and the same thing, as he doth also Isaiah 8:20, namely, the word of God, and especially that which is the main scope thereof, the doctrine of the Messiah, which, though now professed by all the Israelites, should be disowned by the generality of them, when the Messiah should come. Bind up and seal are to be understood prophetically, that is, declare and prophesy, that it shall be bound up and sealed; as Isaiah is said to make fat, and to blind, &c., Isaiah 6:10; and Jeremiah, to root out, and pull down, &c., Jeremiah 1:10, when they foretel these events. Moreover, the expressions, bind up, and seal, design the same thing; and that Isaiah , 1 st, Security, as things are bound up and sealed, that they may not be lost. So he signifies, that although this doctrine should be lost among the body of the Israelites, yet it should be preserved among his disciples; and, 2d, Secrecy, as many things are bound up, or sealed, that they may be hid from the eyes of others. And so he informs them that this doctrine now was, and should be, hid, in a great measure, from all God’s people, till the accomplishment of it; and that even when it was accomplished, it should still continue to be as a secret and mystery, known, indeed, to God’s true disciples, but hid from the body of the nation, who would not see it, and therefore should be blinded by God’s just judgment, that they should not see it, as was prophesied Isaiah 6:9-10. By God’s disciples, Hebrew, למדי, he means those who were taught of him, as it is expressed Isaiah 54:13, where this very word is used; or, every one that hath heard and learned of the Father, and therefore cometh unto Christ, as it is explained, John 6:45.


Verse 17-18

Isaiah 8:17-18. And — Or yet, as the same particle is translated, Jeremiah 2:32; Jeremiah 2:35, and elsewhere; I will wait on the Lord — Notwithstanding this dreadful prophecy, concerning the unbelief and rejection of Israel, I will cast my care upon him, and expect the accomplishment of his promise, in sending the Messiah, and in conferring upon me, and all believing Israelites, all his mercies and blessings, to be procured for mankind by his merits; that hideth his face from the house of Jacob — That now doth, and threatens that he will hereafter, withdraw his favour and blessing from the family or people of Israel. And I will look for him — With an eye of faith and expectation, till his time come. Behold, I, &c. — These words were literally spoken by Isaiah concerning himself, but mystically concerning Christ, of whom the prophet was a type, and therefore they are fitly applied to Christ, Hebrews 2:13; and the children whom the Lord hath given me — His spiritual children, whom he had either begotten or instructed by his ministry; are for signs, &c., in Israel — Are a gazing-stock; are derided and ridiculed, for our folly in believing God’s promises, and this even among the Israelites, who have been taught and who profess better things. From the Lord of hosts — Which comes to pass by the wise counsel and providence of God; which dwelleth in Zion — Where the temple was now, and where the Messiah was to set up his kingdom.


Verse 19

Isaiah 8:19. And when, &c. — The prophet, having foretold the coming of the Messiah, and spoken of the disciples he should have, takes this occasion of addressing the Jews, and reminding them of their duty, as he had done, Isaiah 2:6, compared with Isaiah 8:1-2. He saw the nation much inclined to foreign superstitions, particularly to the divinations, soothsayings, and astrology of the Syrians, Egyptians, &c., but not regarding the pure doctrine of God’s word as they ought: he therefore warns them against placing any dependance on such follies, and exhorts them to disregard all merely human teaching and assistance, and to apply solely to the divine law and testimony. When they — Those Israelites, to whom I and my children are for signs and wonders, and who are fallen from God into superstition and idolatry; shall say unto you — Who are the true people of God; Seek unto them that have familiar spirits — For advice and help; and unto wizards — Of whom, and of familiar spirits, see on Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; that peep and mutter — That speak with a low voice, as the two words here used signify, which they affected to do, speaking rather inwardly in their bellies, than audibly with their mouths. Should not a people seek unto their God? — This answer the prophet puts into their mouths; doth not every nation, in cases of difficulty, seek to their gods? Much more should we do so, that have the only true God for our God. For the living to the dead — That is, for living men to inquire of the living God, is proper and reasonable; but it is highly absurd for them to forsake him, and to seek dead idols, either to the images, or to the spirits of dead men, which are supposed to speak in them.


Verse 20

Isaiah 8:20. To the law and to the testimony — Let this dispute between you and them be determined by God’s word, which is here, and in many other places, called the law, to signify their obligation to believe and obey it; and the testimony, because it is a witness between God and man, of God’s will, and of man’s duty. If they speak not, &c. — Your antagonists, who seek to pervert you. No light — This proceeds from the darkness of their minds; they are blind, and cannot see. But these words are understood by divers learned interpreters, not as a declaration of their ignorance, but a prediction of their misery, light being most commonly used in Scripture for comfort and happiness, and darkness for sorrows and calamities. And this sense seems to be much favoured by the following passage: and then the words, אין לישׁחר, mean, no light, or no morning, shall be to them; that is, a night of misery shall come upon them, and they shall never have a morning of deliverance from it; they shall be swallowed up in endless calamities, as is farther declared in the following verses.


Verse 21-22

Isaiah 8:21-22. And they — The idolatrous and apostate Israelites; shall pass through it — Namely, their own land, into captivity; or, as עבר בה may be rendered, shall pass to and fro, or wander hither and thither, in it, like distracted men, not knowing whither to go, or what to do; whereas, if they had not forsaken God, they might have had a quiet and settled abode in it. Hardly bestead and hungry — Hebrew, נקשׁה ורעב, distressed and famished, as Bishop Lowth translates the words: they shall fret themselves, &c. — Shall be impatient under their pressures, and, in the rage of their despair, curse their king — To whose ill conduct they impute a great part of their miseries; and their God — Their idol, to whom they trusted, and whom now, too late, they find to be unable to help them; and look upward — To heaven for help, as men of all nations and religions, in great calamities, are wont to do. And they shall look unto the earth — Finding no help from heaven, they turn their eyes downward, looking hither and thither for comfort; and behold trouble and darkness, &c. — Many words, expressing the same thing, are put together, to signify the variety, and extremity, and continuance of their miseries. Bishop Lowth, who connects with this verse the last clause of the twenty-first, renders the passage thus: “He shall cast his eyes upward, and look down to the earth; and lo! distress and darkness! gloom, tribulation, and accumulated darkness!”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 8:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-8.html. 1857.

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