Isaiah 8

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

8:1.  “Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.”


“... a roll” was a large tablet of wood, metal or stone; and “a man’s pen” was a writing tool with which the prophet was to write the message in large, plain letters.  The prophecy was to be recorded so that its later fulfillment would prove that it had been given by God.


Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning rush quickly to the spoil, haste to the prey,  was to be the name of the son God was going to give Isaiah, the name being indicative of the coming conflict between the Assyrians, and Israel and Syria.


8:2.  “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”


Uriah means my light is Jah (Jehovah); Zechariah remembered of Jehovah; Jeberechiah whom Jehovah will bless.  The association of their names with Jehovah is understood by some to attest the reliability of their testimony; but others, The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, e.g., point out that Uriah was an evil man, whose compelled testimony would therefore carry all the more weight when the prophecy would be fulfilled, since he would have no wish to advance the cause of Jehovah.


8:3.  “And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son.  Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.”


The prophetess was his wife, it being unclear, and unimportant, whether she was a prophetess in her own right, or was so-called because she was the prophet’s wife.


Maher-shalal-hash-baz means quickly the spoil, hasting the prey.


8:4.  “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”


God foretold that before the prophet’s son would have passed infancy, Damascus [Syria’s capital], and Samaria [Israel’s capital], would have been captured and plundered by Assyria, so that Judah need have had no anxious care relative to her own safety.


8:5.  “The Lord spake also unto me again, saying,”


8:6.  “Forasmuch as this people [Israel] refuseth the waters of Shiloah [Siloam] that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son [Pekah];”


Shiloah, meaning sent, the waters of which “go softly”, i.e., gently, was the name of Jerusalem’s secret water supply, and here represents God’s Word, and His tender care for His people.  As those waters went “softly” i.e., in just the right amount, neither too much nor too little, so does God supply the needs of His own, His supply being in exact proportion to the degree of need.  But Israel in their folly had turned their backs on Jehovah, and looked to the evil Rezin and Pekah to deliver them


8:7.  “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:”


The invading hordes of the Assyrians are presented here under the figure of their river, the Euphrates, in flood overflowing its banks, and destroying Israel and Syria.


8:8.  “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of the land, O Immanuel.”


There are two widely held views of this verse: one, and the more preferable, being that it refers to the almost total annihilation of Judah by Assyria, the surviving remnant being represented by just the head, the rest of the body being destroyed; the outstretched wings filling the land being the figurative description of the broad extent of the invasion, the lament being addressed to Immanuel.


The other view is that only the first part of the verse “even to the neck” has the same meaning; but that the latter part “and the stretching out of his wings ....” describes Jehovah’s overshadowing protection of His people.


8:9.  “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.”


The warning is addressed to Syria and Israel, and all others who may be tempted to attack Judah; its three-fold repetition emphasizing the certainty of their destruction.  His care for believers of this present dispensation is no less zealous, and is expressed in the words of Zechariah 2:8, “... for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye,” and again “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” Jeremiah 31:3.


8:10.  “Take counsel together and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.”


All the schemes conceived for Judah’s destruction would be brought to nothing, for those who opposed her made themselves also the opponents of Jehovah, as do those who plot against believers today.  The success of the enemies’ evil devices is not to be measured in present results, for even God’s permitted death of His own simply transports them into heaven, while the lake of fire and its eternal torment will be the portion of the enemy who dies unrepentant.


8:11.  “For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,”


Taylor has translated this verse, “The Lord has said in strongest terms: Do not under any circumstances, go along with the plans of Judah to surrender to Syria and Israel.”


God’s warning to Isaiah not to acquiesce in any way with Judah’s plan to surrender to the enemy, applies also to believers today. Apostate Christendom is doing everything in its power to entice genuine believers to be more liberal in their views, and to be willing to join the travesty which is Satan’s counterfeit of the true Church; but God’s word against such folly is conveyed in His call to the genuine believers already in that evil system to come out of it, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partaker of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” Revelation 18:4.


8:12.  “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.”


This verse is also translated, “Call not alliance what this people calls alliance, and fear not, nor stand in awe of what they fear,” NAB; “Pay no attention to the rumors of this people, and do not be afraid of what they fear nor be in dread of it,” Phillips; “Don’t let people call you a traitor for staying true to God.  Don’t you panic as so many of your neighbors are doing when they think of Syria and Israel attacking you,” Taylor


God continues to warn Judah against forming any alliance in hope of saving themselves from the invading enemy.  They were to put their trust in Jehovah, and to be fearless, knowing that He is omnipotent.


The same warning and encouragement are given us, for nothing can happen without God’s permission; and even when He permits adversity to touch us, we should remember that it by just such testing that He strengthens our faith.  Professed faith that crumbles under testing isn’t faith at all.  Relative to the testing of faith it is written, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 1:6-7.


8:13.  “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”


In the present context “sanctify” means to venerate, to stand in awe of.  It was God the people were to fear, not out of slavish dread, but for fear of sinning against Him, thus forfeiting His blessing, and provoking His anger.


The admonition applies also to us; but regrettably is largely ignored even by many genuine believers, our response to this command being manifested more often in the breach than in the observance.


8:14.  “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin (trap), and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”


To believers the Lord Jesus Christ is a sanctuary, i.e., a cover, a hiding place, a protection, from the wrath which God must execute against every rebel.  But to unbelievers He is not the great Rock on which believers fall repentantly, and rest the eternal security of their souls; but rather the great crushing Rock that will fall upon them in judgment, casting them down first into hell, and eternally into the terrible torment of the lake of fire.  See 1 Peter 2:6-8, “Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the tone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient ....”


In the context of this verse “both houses of Israel” may represent both Jew and Gentile; and Jerusalem, the religious system of each.  Men however, are not saved by religious practices, no matter how punctiliously performed, but by confession of utter sinfulness, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. 


8:15.  “And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.”


The Christ, Who trusted as Savior, is the believer’s Way to heaven, is a stumbling block to the mere religious professor; and only eternity will reveal the myriads who have doomed themselves to hell and the lake of fire, by putting their faith in a religious ritual which has Christ as its icon, but who have never trusted Him as Savior.


8:16.  “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”


This is more clearly rendered by Taylor, “Write down all these things I am going to do, says the Lord, and seal it up for the future.  Entrust it to some godly men to pass on down to godly men of future generations.” 


There is no stronger testimony to the Divine Authorship of Scripture than fulfilled prophecy; nor is there any better guarantee of the fulfillment of the small part of prophecy remaining to be completed, than that which has already become history.


8:17.  “And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.”


To wait upon the Lord involves patient obedient waiting for the clear revelation of His will before embarking on any activity, for His timing is always perfect.  To act before His time is as worthless as to do so after His appointed time; and relative to being saved, it is written, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2.  Tomorrow may be too late!


Jacob is always associated with the flesh, as his new name Israel is with the spirit, that new name being given Jacob at the time of his conversion. God’s hiding “his face from the house of Jacob” therefore, translates into the truth that men must trust in Christ as Savior before God will reveal to them either Himself or His truth, as it is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.


In the present context “I will look for him” means simply that the prophet would continue to wait for God’s leading; but this doesn’t forbid our seeing in it the reminder that we too should wait, not only for His leading, but also for His coming to rapture His Church to heaven.  That coming could be today.


8:18.  “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.”


It is in the meanings of their names that Isaiah and his children were “for signs and for wonders in Israel ...” for Isaiah means save thou, Jehovah; Jehovah will save; Shear-jashub, a remnant shall return; Maher-shalal-hash-baz, your enemies will soon be destroyed; quickly the spoil, hasting the prey.  Few will have difficulty seeing in the meanings of these names the outline of Israel’s history right up till the Millennium.


It is to be noted incidentally, that the study of the meanings of biblical names affords a wealth of instruction; and a tool I highly recommend in connection with such a study is the Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names by J. B. Jackson, published by, and available from, Loizeaux Brothers of Neptune N.J., or from most Christian book stores.


8:19.  “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead”


Taylor translates this, “So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting witches and mediums? Don’t listen to their whisperings and mutterings.  Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God?  “Check these witches words against the Word of God!”  He says, “If their messages are different than Mine, it is because I have not sent them: for they have no light or truth in them.”


That the people did consult mediums is certified in 1 Samuel 28:7-20, which records Saul’s attempt to know the future by having the witch at Endor bring up the spirit of Samuel.  It might have been expected that necromancy would be scorned by today’s educated society, but the truth is that the evil practice still flourishes.


8:20.  “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”


Moffatt’s rendering of this verse is, “When they tell you to consult mediums and ghosts that cheep and gibber in low murmurs, ask them if a nation should not rather consult its God.  Say, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  Consult the Message and the counsel of God!”  But that will only be their cry, when there is no dawn of hope for them any more.”


Taylor has translated it, “So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting witches and mediums?  Don’t listen to their whisperings and mutterings.  Can the living find out the future from the dead?  Why not ask your God?  Check these witches’ words against the word of God!”  He says, “If their messages are different than Mine, it is because I have not sent them; for they have no light or truth in them.”


8:21.  “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead (hard pressed) and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.”


8:22.  “And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.”


Phillips has translated these two verses, “They will wander through the land, miserable and hungry.  Hunger will drive them to fury and they will curse their king and their God.  They will look up to heaven and they will look round upon the earth only to see darkness and distress, misery and gloom - darkness that no light can pierce.”


Taylor’s rendering is, “My people will be led away captive, stumbling, weary and hungry.  And because they are hungry they will rave and shake their fists at heaven and curse their King and their God.  Wherever they look there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair.  And they will be thrust out into the darkness.”


Their “passing through it, etc.,” refers to their passing through the land on their way to captivity in Assyria; and their fretting themselves means that they will rant and rave and revile their king and their false gods.


While this describes their misery as they went away into captivity in Assyria, there can be little question that the same description applies also to their state following the sack of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70.  All of these however, are also foreshadowings of the still more terrible calamities that will overtake them, and the whole world, in the now imminent Great Tribulation, the rebels of that coming day being as described in Jude 13, “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”

[Isaiah 9]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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