Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
Isa 7:1-9:7. Prediction of the Ill Success of the Syro- Israelitish Invasion of Judah—Ahaz's Alliance with Assyria, and Its Fatal Results to Judea—Yet the Certainty of Final Preservation and of the Coming of Messiah.
In the Assyrian inscriptions the name of Rezin, king of Damascus, is found among the tributaries of Tiglath-pileser, of whose reign the annals of seventeen years have been deciphered. For the historical facts in this chapter, compare 2Ki 15:37-16:9. Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, as confederates, advanced against Jerusalem. In the first campaign they "smote Ahaz with a great slaughter" (2Ch 28:5). Their object was probably to unite the three kingdoms against Assyria. Egypt seems to have favored the plan, so as to interpose these confederate kingdoms between her own frontier and Assyria (compare Isa 7:18, "Egypt"; and 2Ki 17:4, Hoshea's league with Egypt). Rezin and Pekah may have perceived Ahaz' inclination towards Assyria rather than towards their own confederacy; this and the old feud between Israel and Judah (1Ki 12:16) occasioned their invasion of Judah. Ahaz, at the second inroad of his enemies (compare 2Ch 28:1-26 and 2Ki 15:37, with Isa 16:5), smarting under his former defeat, applied to Tiglath-pileser, in spite of Isaiah's warning in this chapter, that he should rather rely on God; that king accordingly attacked Damascus, and slew Rezin (2Ki 16:9); and probably it was at the same time that he carried away part of Israel captive (2Ki 15:29), unless there were two assaults on Pekah—that in 2Ki 15:29, the earlier, and that in which Tiglath helped Ahaz subsequently [G. V. Smith]. Ahaz was saved at the sacrifice of Judah's independence and the payment of a large tribute, which continued till the overthrow of Sennacherib under Hezekiah (Isa 37:37; 2Ki 16:8, 17, 18; 2Ch 28:20). Ahaz' reign began about 741 B.C., and Pekah was slain in 738 [Winer].
1. Ahaz—In the first years of his reign the design of the two kings against Judah was carried out, which was formed in Jotham's reign (2Ki 15:37).
Syria—Hebrew, Aram (Ge 10:22, 23), originally the whole region between the Euphrates and Mediterranean, including Assyria, of which Syria is an abbreviation; here the region round Damascus, and along Mount Libanus.
Jerusalem—An actual siege of it took place, but was foiled (2Ki 16:5).
And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
2. is confederate with—rather, is encamped upon the territory of Ephraim [Maurer], or better, as Rezin was encamped against Jerusalem, "is supported by" [Lowth] Ephraim, whose land lay between Syria and Judah. The mention of "David" alludes, in sad contrast with the present, to the time when David made Syria subject to him (2Sa 8:6).
Ephraim—the ten tribes.
as … trees of … wood—a simultaneous agitation.
Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field;
3. Go forth—out of the city, to the place where Ahaz was superintending the works for defense and the cutting off of the water supply from the enemy, and securing it to the city. So Isa 22:9; 2Ch 32:4.
Shearjashub—that is, A remnant shall return (Isa 6:13). His very name (compare Isa 7:14; Isa 8:3) was a standing memorial to Ahaz and the Jews that the nation should not, notwithstanding the general calamity (Isa 7:17-25; Isa 8:6-8), be utterly destroyed (Isa 10:21, 22).
conduit—an aqueduct from the pool or reservoir for the supply of the city. At the foot of Zion was Fount Siloah (Isa 8:6; Ne 3:15; Joh 9:7), called also Gihon, on the west of Jerusalem (2Ch 32:30). Two pools were supplied from it, the Upper, or Old (Isa 22:11), or King's (Ne 2:14), and the Lower (Isa 22:9), which received the superfluous waters of the upper. The upper pool is still to be seen, about seven hundred yards from the Jaffa gate. The highway leading to the fullers' field, which was in a position near water for the purposes of washing, previous to drying and bleaching, the cloth, was probably alongside the aqueduct.
And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
4. Take heed, &c.—that is, See that thou be quiet (not seeking Assyrian aid in a fit of panic).
tails—mere ends of firebrands, almost consumed themselves (about soon to fall before the Assyrians, Isa 7:8), therefore harmless.
smoking—as about to go out; not blazing.
son of Remaliah—Pekah, a usurper (2Ki 15:25). The Easterners express contempt by designating one, not by his own name, but by his father's, especially when the father is but little known (1Sa 20:27, 31).
Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:
6. vex—rather, "throw into consternation" [Gesenius].
make a breach—rather, "cleave it asunder." Their scheme was to divide a large portion of the territory between themselves, and set up a vassal king of their own over the rest.
son of Tabeal—unknown; a Syrian-sounding name, perhaps favored by a party in Jerusalem (Isa 3:6, 9, 12).
Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
7. (Isa 8:10; Pr 21:30).
For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.
8. head—that is, in both Syria and Israel the capital shall remain as it is; they shall not conquer Judah, but each shall possess only his own dominions.
threescore and five … not a people—As these words break the symmetry of the parallelism in this verse, either they ought to be placed after "Remaliah's son," in Isa 7:9, or else they refer to some older prophecy of Isaiah, or of Amos (as the Jewish writers represent), parenthetically; to which, in Isa 7:8, the words, "If ye will not believe … not be established," correspond in parallelism. One deportation of Israel happened within one or two years from this time, under Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 15:29). Another in the reign of Hoshea, under Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:1-6), was about twenty years after. But the final one which utterly "broke" up Israel so as to be "not a people," accompanied by a colonization of Samaria with foreigners, was under Esar-haddon, who carried away Manasseh, king of Judah, also, in the twenty-second year of his reign, sixty-five years from the utterance of this prophecy (compare Ezr 4:2, 3, 10, with 2Ki 17:24; 2Ch 33:11) [Usher]. The event, though so far off, was enough to assure the people of Judah that as God, the Head of the theocracy, would ultimately interpose to destroy the enemies of His people, so they might rely on Him now.
And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
9. believe, … be established—There is a paronomasia, or play on the words, in the Hebrew: "if ye will not confide, ye shall not abide." Ahaz brought distress on himself by distrust in the Lord, and trust in Assyria.
Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
11. Ask thee—since thou dost not credit the prophet's words.
sign—a miraculous token to assure thee that God will fulfil His promise of saving Jerusalem (Isa 37:30; 38:7, 8). "Signs," facts then present or near at hand as pledges for the more distant future, are frequent in Isaiah.
ask … in … depth—literally, "Make deep … ask it," that is, Go to the depth of the earth or of Hades [Vulgate and Lowth], or, Mount high for it (literally, "Make high"). So in Mt 16:1. Signs in heaven are contrasted with the signs on earth and below it (raising the dead) which Jesus Christ had wrought (compare Ro 10:6, 7). He offers Ahaz the widest limits within which to make his choice.
But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
12. neither … tempt—hypocritical pretext of keeping the law (De 6:16); "tempt," that is, put God to the proof, as in Mt 4:7, by seeking His miraculous interposition without warrant. But here there was the warrant of the prophet of God; to have asked a sign, when thus offered, would not have been a tempting of God. Ahaz' true reason for declining was his resolve not to do God's will, but to negotiate with Assyria, and persevere in his idolatry (2Ki 16:7, 8, 3, 4, 10). Men often excuse their distrust in God, and trust in their own devices, by professed reverence for God. Ahaz may have fancied that though Jehovah was the God of Judea and could work a sign there, that was no proof that the local god of Syria might not be more powerful. Such was the common heathen notion (Isa 10:10, 11; 36:18-20).
And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
13. Is it a small thing?—Is it not enough for you (Nu 16:9)? The allusion to "David" is in order to contrast his trust in God with his degenerate descendant Ahaz' distrust.
weary—try the patience of.
men—prophets. Isaiah as yet had given no outward proof that he was from God; but now God has offered a sign, which Ahaz publicly rejects. The sin is therefore now not merely against "men," but openly against "God." Isaiah's manner therefore changes from mildness to bold reproof.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
14. himself—since thou wilt not ask a sign, nay, rejectest the offer of one.
you—for the sake of the house of believing "David" (God remembering His everlasting covenant with David), not for unbelieving Ahaz' sake.
Behold—arresting attention to the extraordinary prophecy.
virgin—from a root, "to lie hid," virgins being closely kept from men's gaze in their parents' custody in the East. The Hebrew, and the Septuagint here, and Greek (Mt 1:23), have the article, the virgin, some definite one known to the speaker and his hearers; primarily, the woman, then a virgin, about immediately to become the second wife, and bear a child, whose attainment of the age of discrimination (about three years) should be preceded by the deliverance of Judah from its two invaders; its fullest significancy is realized in "the woman" (Ge 3:15), whose seed should bruise the serpent's head and deliver captive man (Jer 31:22; Mic 5:3). Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained "accommodation"; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Re 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet's son; "virgin" applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she "conceived"; "Immanuel," God with us (Joh 1:14; Re 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah's son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Isa 9:6), "the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Isa 8:18), the mighty God." Local and temporary features (as in Isa 7:15, 16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them.
call—that is, "she shall," or as Margin, "thou, O Virgin, shalt call;" mothers often named their children (Ge 4:1, 25; 19:37; 29:32). In Mt 1:23 the expression is strikingly changed into, "They shall call"; when the prophecy received its full accomplishment, no longer is the name Immanuel restricted to the prophetess' view of His character, as in its partial fulfilment in her son; all shall then call (that is, not literally), or regard Him as peculiarly and most fitly characterized by the descriptive name, "Immanuel" (1Ti 3:16; Col 2:9).
name—not mere appellation, which neither Isaiah's son nor Jesus Christ bore literally; but what describes His manifested attributes; His character (so Isa 9:6). The name in its proper destination was not arbitrary, but characteristic of the individual; sin destroyed the faculty of perceiving the internal being; hence the severance now between the name and the character; in the case of Jesus Christ and many in Scripture, the Holy Ghost has supplied this want [Olshausen].
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
15. Butter—rather, curdled milk, the acid of which is grateful in the heat of the East (Job 20:17).
honey—abundant in Palestine (Jud 14:8; 1Sa 14:25; Mt 3:4). Physicians directed that the first food given to a child should be honey, the next milk [Barnabas, Epistle]. Horsley takes this as implying the real humanity of the Immanuel Jesus Christ, about to be fed as other infants (Lu 2:52). Isa 7:22 shows that besides the fitness of milk and honey for children, a state of distress of the inhabitants is also implied, when, by reason of the invaders, milk and honey, things produced spontaneously, shall be the only abundant articles of food [Maurer].
that he may know—rather, until He shall know.
evil … choose … good—At about three years of age moral consciousness begins (compare Isa 8:4; De 1:39; Jon 4:11).
For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
16. For—The deliverance implied in the name "Immanuel," and the cessation of distress as to food (Isa 7:14, 15), shall last only till the child grows to know good and evil;
for … the land that … abhorrest … forsaken of … kings—rather, desolate shall be the land, before whose two kings thou art alarmed [Hengstenberg and Gesenius].
the land—namely, Syria and Samaria regarded as one (2Ki 16:9; 15:30), just two years after this prophecy, as it foretells. Horsley takes it, "The land (Judah and Samaria) of (the former of) which thou art the plague (literally, 'thorn') shall be forsaken," &c.; a prediction thus, that Judah and Israel (appropriately regarded as one "land") should cease to be kingdoms (Lu 2:1; Ge 49:10) before Immanuel came.
The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
Isa 7:17-25. Fatal Consequences of Ahaz' Assyrian Policy.
Though temporary deliverance (Isa 7:16; 8:4) was to be given then, and final deliverance through Messiah, sore punishment shall follow the former. After subduing Syria and Israel, the Assyrians shall encounter Egypt (2Ki 23:29), and Judah shall be the battlefield of both (Isa 7:18), and be made tributary to that very Assyria (2Ch 28:20; 2Ki 16:7, 8) now about to be called in as an ally (Isa 39:1-6). Egypt, too, should prove a fatal ally (Isa 36:6; 31:1, &c.).
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
18. hiss—whistle, to bring bees to settle (see on Isa 5:26).
fly—found in numbers about the arms of the Nile and the canals from it (Isa 19:5-7; 23:3), here called "rivers." Hence arose the plague of flies (Ex 8:21). Figurative, for numerous and troublesome foes from the remotest parts of Egypt, for example, Pharaoh-nechoh.
bee—(De 1:44; Ps 118:12). As numerous in Assyria as the fly in marshy Egypt. Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled this prediction.
And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
19. rest—image of flies and bees kept up. The enemy shall overspread the land everywhere, even in "desolate valleys."
thorns—wild, contrasted with "bushes," which were valued and objects of care (see Margin).
In the same day shall the Lord shave with a rasor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
20. razor—The Assyrians are to be God's instrument of devastating Judea, just as a razor sweeps away all hair before it (Isa 10:5; Eze 29:19, 20).
hired—alluding to Ahaz' hiring (2Ki 16:7, 8) Tiglath-pileser against Syria and Israel; namely,
by them beyond the river—namely, the Euphrates; the eastern boundary of Jewish geographical knowledge (Ps 72:8); the river which Abram crossed; the Nile also may be included (Isa 7:18) [G. V. Smith]. Gesenius translates, "With a razor hired in the parts beyond the river."
head … feet—the whole body, including the most honored parts. To cut the "beard" is the greatest indignity to an Easterner (Isa 50:6; 2Sa 10:4, 5; Eze 5:1).
And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
Isa 7:21-25. The Coming Desolate State of the Land Owing to the Assyrians and Egyptians.
21. nourish—that is, own.
young cow—a heifer giving milk. Agriculture shall cease, and the land become one great pasturage.
And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
22. abundance—by reason of the wide range of land lying desolate over which the cows and sheep (including goats) may range.
butter—thick milk, or cream.
honey—(See on Isa 7:15). Food of spontaneous growth will be the resource of the few inhabitants left. Honey shall be abundant as the bees will find the wild flowers abounding everywhere.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
23. where there were, &c.—where up to that time there was so valuable a vineyard as to have in it a 1000 vines, worth a silverling (shekel, about 2s. 3d.; a large price) each, there shall be only briers (So 8:11). Vineyards are estimated by the number of the vines, and the goodness of the kind of vine. Judea admits of a high state of cultivation, and requires it, in order to be productive; its present barrenness is due to neglect.
With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
24. It shall become a vast hunting ground, abounding in wild beasts (compare Jer 49:19).
And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.
25. shall be—rather, "were once."
digged—in order to plant and rear vines (Isa 5:6).
there shall not come—that is, none shall come who fear thorns, seeing that thorns shall abound on all sides [Maurer]. Otherwise, "Thou shalt not come for fear of thorns" [Gesenius]. Only cattle shall be able to penetrate the briery ground.
lesser cattle—sheep and goats.