Isaiah 7
Isaiah 7 Kingcomments Bible Studies


Here a new section begins. It is about the question of whether Israel satisfies as a servant of the LORD, with as touchstone whether there is faith. This chapter shows in Ahaz, the king and representative of Israel, a picture of a servant without faith. This prophetically refers to the antichrist in whom faith in the LORD is utterly lacking. Later we will see in Hezekiah, as the representative of the faithful remnant, the true faith (Isa 36:1-7; 13-22; Isa 37:1-20).

After the death of Uzziah (Isa 6:1), Jotham became king. During his reign, that is over a period of four years, Isaiah received no prophecy from the LORD, at least not one that had to be written down. Although King Jotham does what is right in the eyes of the LORD, the people continue to do evil (2Chr 27:2).

Then Ahaz, the wicked son of Jotham, comes to the government. This creates a new series of prophecies of the LORD in the section of Isaiah 7:1-9:6. The central subject is Immanuel, the Son of the virgin, of Whom we have the first direct prophecy in this chapter (Isa 7:14).

The events in the coming chapters up to and including Isaiah 12 are more or less chronological.

Rezin and Pekah Against Jerusalem

What is described in Isa 7:1 can be found in more detail in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 (2Kgs 16:5-20; 2Chr 28:5-27). There it is told how, because of the threat of the great empire of Assyria, the small kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim, the ten tribes realm, form an alliance. Ahaz, king of Judah, does not want to participate in this alliance. That is why Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel attack Ahaz. They want to replace Ahaz with the son of Tabeal, of whom we can assume that he is a Syrian man (Isa 7:6). Ahaz panics and seeks refuge with Assyria (2Kgs 16:7). When Rezin and Pekah attack him, Assyria comes to help him (2Kgs 16:9). In this way evil is averted and Ahaz seems to have succeeded in his intention.

Ahaz is the son of faithful Jotham and the grandson of faithful Uzziah (Isa 7:1). Faith, however, is not a heritage. Ahaz is one of the most wicked kings of Judah. In God’s discipline over him, the kings of Syria and Israel enter Judah together. They have won victories and inflicted a great stroke on Judah, but they have not been able to achieve a final victory. They did not succeed in conquering Jerusalem.

When “the house of David” – Ahaz is seen here as its representative – hears that an expedition is being prepared against them by the allies, Ahaz and the people become very frightened (Isa 7:2). Whenever ‘the house of David’ is spoken of, the thought of the Messiah, the Son of David, is always connected to it. This is at the same time the reason why a message of the LORD follows.

The message about the imminent expedition causes a crisis in Judah. A crisis, also in our lives, is a test to see how it is responded to. Are we going to the Lord or are we resorting to a human being and human resources? Ahaz and the people, however afraid they may be, do not think of the LORD. The powerful message He has sent through His prophet Isaiah does not change that. In this history the prophecy of the LORD about unbelief in Israel (Isa 6:9-10) is fulfilled.

Isaiah Is Sent to Ahaz

In view of the threat of war Isaiah receives the command of the LORD to meet Ahaz, together with his son Shear-jashub (Isa 7:3). The son of Isaiah is present for a reason. This son has been given to him, together with another son, “for signs and wonders in Israel” (Isa 8:18). It does not say that the boy says or does anything. Only his name is mentioned.

That is exactly the reason why he is mentioned and present at the meeting, namely because of the meaning of his name. “Shear-jashub” means “the remnant will return”, a name that indicates that God will always have a remnant according to the election of His grace (Rom 11:5). Here we see a continuation of the message from the previous chapter about “a stump”, “the holy seed” that remains (Isa 6:13).

When Isaiah introduces his son to Ahaz and mentions his name, it should have a meaning for Ahaz. It should lead him to return to the LORD, that is, he should repent. It also includes the warning that if he refuses, he will not participate in the restoration of that part of the people which is referred to as ‘remnant’.

The LORD designates Isaiah the place of meeting. It is a double indication: “The end of the conduit of the upper pool” and: “On the highway to the fuller’s field” (cf. “the lower pool”, Isa 22:9). There the LORD will make known His grace to Ahaz. He wants to encourage him and take away his fear. Ahaz will be present at the indicated place to see how he can secure the water supply, which is necessary in view of the upcoming siege of Jerusalem.

At exactly the same place the faith of Hezekiah is later put to the test (Isa 36:2). The Holy Spirit mentions this place extensively twice with the purpose that we as readers will compare these two Scriptures with each other. The first Scripture (here) shows unbelief and the second (Isa 36:2) shows faith. The Lord expects faith from His own.

If it were only a geographical place, the place of encounter would be indicated sufficiently clearly with the first indication. But the Holy Spirit gives as a further indication “on the highway to the fuller’s field”. The “fuller’s field” is the field where the fuller washes and dries dirty clothes. Clothing that needs to be washed suggests that we condemn our sinful deeds, our sinful life practice and start living a cleansed life. Then we walk on the path of purity and holiness (cf. Isa 35:8; Isa 1:18b; Isa 4:4).

In the fuller we see a picture of the Lord Jesus. His garments are “radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk 9:3). His clothes, His life’s practice does not need cleaning. He is in the process of cleansing us, His own, what we see in the washing of His disciples’ feet, so that they can have fellowship with Him and the Father (Jn 13:1-10).

In the picture Isaiah meets Ahaz in a place where purity and holiness are connected with God as the origin of blessing. He who stands by God’s blessing in faith will also want to live pure and holy. Faith also sees that purity and holiness are necessary to receive God’s blessing. He who does not care about God and His blessing is blind to these things and, like Ahaz, follows his own darkened mind.

In His patience and goodness the LORD shows His grace to Ahaz in spite of his iniquity. He proves His mercy to lead him to repentance. If he does not repent because of the hardness of an unrepentant heart, he will have to deal with the severity of God (Rom 2:4-5; Rom 11:22). In His mercy the LORD promises him that the plan of the northern alliance will not succeed and that Ephraim will be shattered (Isa 7:4-9).

Isaiah assures him on behalf of the LORD that he can remain calm (Isa 7:4). There is no reason to panic. God has not sent these enemies, so they will not succeed in their purpose. What do these two enemies mean after all? They do pretend that they will consume Judah in “fierce anger”, but to the LORD they are nothing more than “two stubs of smoldering firebrands” from which the fire has vanished and which will soon turn to ashes. He knows their plans in detail (Isa 7:5-6) and will thwart their counsel (Isa 7:7). He communicates those plans to Ahaz, who probably knew nothing about them at all.

They will both only continue to rule over their original territory (Isa 7:8). Their idea of expanding their territory – they want to add Judah under the son of Tabeal, a puppet king appointed by themselves – will come to nothing. Who Tabeal or the son of Tabeal is, is not known.

It is yet another foolish plan to place someone of one’s own choosing on the throne promised by God to the Son of David. In addition, the word about Ephraim will soon be fulfilled, that is, “within … 65 years,” it will no longer exist as a people. This refers to the carrying away of the ten tribes by the king of Assyria in 722 BC.

In order to make the promise of the LORD his own, Ahaz must put his trust in God’s promise (Isa 7:9). Therefore he is warned that he will be excluded from the promised blessing if he persists in his unbelief. If he is not powerful in believing what Isaiah has spoken, he will not be powerful in his actions.

The text part “if you will not believe, you surely shall not last [or: not be established]” (Isa 7:9b), is a key text in this section. It is another pun. It means: if Ahaz does not have a firm faith, he will not stand firm either. The words ‘believe’ and ‘established’ are related in Hebrew. In Hebrew it says: im lo ta-aminu, ki lo te-amenu. Ta-aminu and te-amenu are both derived from the Hebrew root aman. Ta-aminu means to believe and te-amenu means established. Literally it says: ‘If (im) do not (lo) believe, then (ki) do not (lo) establish.’ Freely translated this is: ‘Without believing there is no stability.’

This warning serves as a positive reminder of the power of faith. Faith is encouraged and strengthened by difficulties. Faith faces things that are impossible for the natural mind. While faith rests on the promises of God, it trusts in Him to fulfill His counsel and that He accounts for the obstacles for His glorification.

Ahaz May Ask For a Sign

Isa 7:10 is a proof that the preceding verses are a speaking of the LORD. Isaiah does not speak about the LORD, but on behalf of the LORD, for the LORD is going to speak “again”. However, it does not only indicate the fact of speaking. These words also indicate that He is going to speak about more far-reaching and deeper things.

The LORD says to Ahaz that he may ask for any sign from Him (Isa 7:11). He gives Ahaz as it were a blank cheque. In order to win the trust of Ahaz He does so as “the LORD your God”. A sign is something – an event, a prophecy or a miracle – given by the LORD as a pledge or confirmation of His word or message. It can be compared to the signature of a director under a letter written by the secretary. A sign is God’s signature under the message of His prophets.

Ahaz may ask for a sign “deep as Sheol”. Perhaps in veiled terms, this is a protest against his habit of resorting to consulting the dead. For example, a sign in the deep could be an earthquake. He may also ask for a sign “high as heaven”, for example a sign at the sun or the moon (cf. Isa 38:7-8). The choice is up to him.

His choice makes it clear that he is not a real child of Abraham, that he does not possess the faith of Abraham. Shrouded in a veil of piety, his answer is a testimony of willfulness (Isa 7:12). It is a hypocritical answer because the LORD Himself offers that he may ask Him. How can such a thing be finished up with a remark that he does not want to test the LORD! Ahaz even dares to quote something from God’s Word as a cover for his unbelief (Deu 6:16). This is pious unbelief.

He just doesn’t want to ask for a sign because he relies on Assyria. Why would you ask the LORD when you have help from people? Surely you don’t hand yourself over to Him, do you? If he asks for a sign, it also means that the LORD comes too close to him. That thought is always frightening for someone who knowingly refuses to believe and who refuses to break with unbelief.

Isaiah blames him for his lack of trust (Isa 7:13). He does not address the apostate Ahaz personally, but he speaks to the “house of David”. With this he addresses the royal line of privileges and honor with all further generations. On the one hand it indicates how much the royal line with a king like Ahaz has deviated from what the LORD purposed and may expect from it. On the other hand, the sequel shows that that line will not end with the wicked, unbelieving Ahaz, but will continue to exist through a merciful intervention of the LORD.

By his refusal to take the LORD at His word, Ahaz tries the patience of men, of people like Isaiah, and others with him, who mourn the rebellious attitude of the king. Is he also trying the patience of God by an attitude of so much unbelief, as if it would be impossible for God to give a solution in His grace?

The Sign of the Lord

If Ahaz then in unbelief refuses to ask for a sign, the Lord (Adonai) Himself in His grace will give a sign (Isa 7:14). This sign will be chosen by no one but He as the sovereign Lord Himself. It is a sign far beyond the unbelief that prevails in the days of Ahaz. It becomes a permanent sign. With this sign, which is Christ, the prophecies and promises made to “the house of David” will be fulfilled in the future. Ahaz and people of his kind will neither experience nor participate in the blessings and glories of its fulfillment.

In the book of Isaiah, the word “behold” with which the sign is introduced is usually the introduction to something related to future circumstances. It is a call to look into the distance, into the future. What will be seen there is then presented. What the eye of faith is focused on here, is on the virgin who will become pregnant.

Already in the beginning of the Bible, just after the fall into sin, God said that the Conqueror of satan will be born of a woman (Gen 3:15). But the announcement of this could only be fully revealed in the New Testament: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal 4:4).

The Hebrew word for “virgin” here is almah and not betulah. Almah is the young woman who is ready for marriage, she is sexually mature and has the desire to marry, but she is still unmarried (cf. Gen 24:43). Betulah is the more specific word for ‘virgin’, but without the thought of age or sexual maturity (cf. Joel 1:8). The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament from the third century BC, translates the Hebrew word almah with parthenos, a word that only can mean ‘virgin’. We see that in Matthew's citation of this quotation of Isaiah from the Septuagint (Mt 1:23).

The various conditions associated with this prophecy make it clear that its only possible fulfillment is communicated in the Gospels. They make it clear that the birth of the Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy (Mt 1:22-23; Lk 1:31-35). After this sign has been fulfilled in the coming of Christ, the Jews have cunningly tried to obscure the virginal aspect of this word. To this day, they are followed by unbelieving Christians.

The Lord Himself will give as a wonder sign that an ordinary (unmarried) woman will become pregnant. But that is not a wonder, is it? It is an everyday event and therefore a sign of much lower quality than what Ahaz was allowed to ask. What is so special about this? The wonder is that a virgin will become pregnant without the intervention of a man and that the Child That will be born will be the Son of God (Isa 9:6; Psa 2:7). It will happen because the virgin will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). This Child will reign as the true Son of David (Isa 11:1-5; Lk 1:31-33).

The sign is also associated with a name, “Immanuel”, which means “God with us”. That name means that God comes to us, that He visits us, that He comes among us to be with us and to help us (Lk 1:68; 78; Lk 7:16). That Name is a great indictment against Ahaz and his way of acting through which he says as it were: Assyria with us.

In the name Immanuel we see the sign “in the deep” (Isa 7:11), for Immanuel – ‘God with us’, or more literally ‘with us is God’ – is God Who descends to become Man. And as Man He will descend even further into the depths of substitutionary judgment and death. In that Name we also see the sign “in the high” (Isa 7:11), for Immanuel is none other than God (Isa 8:10). Christ, the sign, first “descended into the lower parts of the earth” and then “ascended far above all the heavens” (Eph 4:9-10).

The food He will eat consists of “curds and honey” (Isa 7:15), in which we see the food of the promised land summarized (Exo 3:8). He will eat curds and honey “at the time He knows [enough] to refuse evil and choose good”.

Curds and honey are the only foods available when all arable farming has been destroyed by war. It is the food of the poor remnant. We see in it a reference to the circumstances of the birth and youth of Christ. There is no prosperity in the house of Nazareth where He grows up. He has become poor (2Cor 8:9). Israel became poor because of their unbelief, but Christ became poor because He identified Himself with the people.

Christ, as a Baby, depends on the care of His parents, until the time when He is able to choose for Himself. It shows that He is truly and utterly Human, with the exception of sin (Heb 4:15). As a Man, He increases “in wisdom and stature” (Lk 2:52), which of course can never be said of Him as the true, eternal God. As Man He has gone through the development of every human being.

Before the boy, Shear-jashub, the son of Isaiah, refuses evil and chooses good, the countries of Syria and Israel, the ten tribes realm, will also have fallen into poverty (Isa 7:16). The age at which a child knows the difference between good and evil, in other words, that conscience is going to work, can roughly be put at around two years of age. That is the length of time during which the two kings of whom Ahaz is still so afraid will forsake the land.

Prediction of the Assyrian Invasion

Isaiah has a good message and a bad message for Ahaz. The good message is that Israel and Syria will be defeated soon (Isa 7:16). This will happen through Assyria (2Kgs 16:9). Ahaz will have listened to that message with pleasure. But then the tone changes and he also hears bad news and that is that Assyria, on whom Judah put his trust, will also invade Judah afterward (Isa 7:17). Here too Isaiah connects the events of his time with those of the end time.

Here, for the first time Isaiah mentions Assyria, the enemy that will play such a significant role in the history of Israel. Within a few years Assyria will defeat Israel, the ten tribes realm. Then Isaiah speaks about Assyria also attacking Judah. What happens then overshadows everything that has already happened to Judah since the tearing of the realm in a northern ten tribes realm and a southern two tribes realm. By Ephraim is meant the northern ten tribes realm that has been separated from Judah since the days of the break-up under Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. Assyria will also invade Judah after the carrying away of the ten tribes. That will be in the days of Hezekiah. Although a restoration will be given in those days, it will only be of a temporary nature.

The Egyptians, “the fly”, and the Assyrians, “the bee”, have often fought their battle for world domination in the territory of Judah. These two superpowers, to whom Judah goes alternately for help, will destroy the land and thus fulfill Isa 7:18-19. In order to create heaven and earth, God only had to speak. To gather together the instruments of His judgment He only has to “whistle” (Isa 7:18).

“Fly” and “bee” are insects that penetrate every nook and cranny and cause irritation and pain to people. Flies bring dirt and destruction. Bees are aggressive and chase and surround fugitives (Psa 118:12a). The inhabitants of Judah will try to escape from the enemy forces. To do so, they will hide in all sorts of places that are difficult to access (Isa 7:19). But no place is safe, because wherever they are, the enemies will find them.

The details of Isa 7:18-19 have been only partially fulfilled in the past. Only in the end time will they be fully fulfilled. It is remarkable that in Isa 7:18 first ‘the fly of Egypt’ and only then ‘the bee of Assyria’ is called. Daniel 11 makes that clear. We read there that first the king of the South (Dan 11:40) takes the initiative to attack Israel and only then the king of the North.

They will both attack Israel. So far, the state of Israel has won every war, such as the liberation war in 1948, the six-day war in 1967, the Yom Kippur war in 1973. But they will lose this war, with all its disastrous consequences. In this war, the king of the North will be stronger and more dangerous than the king of the South, just as bees are more dangerous than flies. If Israel is destroyed, the king of the North will go on and go to destroy the king of the South (Dan 11:42).

The king of Assyria is called “a razor” which was “hired” by “the Lord” (Adonai) (Isa 7:20). Ahaz has decided to hire Assyria to help him avert the imminent danger of Syria and Ephraim. The LORD will hire the same Assyria – there is a certain sarcasm in the use of the same words – to shave Judah with it.

Shaving off the “head” is a humiliation of the position of the people; shaving off “the hair of the legs” points to a great libel; “remove the beard” means inflicting a great humiliation on the masculinity. We can apply this in such a way that from Judah the royal authority (hair of the head), the national dignity (hair of the legs) and the masculine strength (the beard) will be taken away.

If a Nazirite has defiled himself in his dedication to the LORD, he must shave off his hair (Num 6:9). Israel had to be dedicated to the LORD, but defiled itself. The leper must also get rid of all hair (Lev 14:9). In the same way, Israel has defiled itself and has become leprous. The same applies to the Levite, the servant of the priest (Num 8:7). Israel is also no longer able to serve the LORD.

Consequences of the Assyrian Invasion

These verses describe the consequences of Assyria’s invasion, the condition that will come after Assyria has raged in Judah. This description will be fully fulfilled in the future when the king of the North will invade Israel (Dan 11:40-44). Of the abundance of the land, only a miserable rest remains, no large flocks, only a heifer and a pair of sheep (Isa 7:21).

However, the remaining population is so small that the few cattle will give enough milk (Isa 7:22). A heifer gives about five liters of milk a day, small cattle give one liter of milk a day. From the remaining milk even curds can be made. There is also enough honey in the wild, because instead of a land of agriculture, the land will be a wilderness.

The food mentioned here is also the food of the Messiah (Isa 7:15). Here the deep meaning of it becomes clear. Here it appears that the Messiah identifies Himself with the poor and small remnant. Especially in the Gospel according to Luke we see how the Lord Jesus identifies Himself with the poor, like the poor Joseph and Mary and the poor shepherds in the field.

Where vineyards were abundant, now only briars and thorns grow (Isa 7:23). Here happens what Isaiah announced (Isa 5:6). Not only in vineyards grow briars and thorns. All the land is full of briars and thorns. Anyone who thinks that the land yields something, is ashamed. It is best to enter the land with bows and arrows, because then one can chase away the wild beasts that will be present in the resulting wilderness.

When a company of God’s people leaves the straight way of the Lord, fruitless and pernicious products of the human spirit will develop. This will result in spiritual dryness and painful experiences instead of fertility that glorifies God (Jn 15:8).

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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