THE PROPHECY GIVEN TO AHAZ
AT THE TIME OF THE SYRO-ISRAELITISH WAR.
The Syro-Israelitish war is touched on both in Kings and Chronicles. In Kings the
alliance between Rezin and Pekah is distinctly declared, as also the fact that they
before the siege, Ahaz was twice defeated with great loss, once by the Syrians
(II Chronicles 28:5), and once by the Israelites (ibid v. 6). He was probably,
therefore, reduced to great straits at the time when Isaiah received directions to
seek an interview with him, and communicate to him a comforting message from
1 “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
son of Remaliah, king of
against it, but could not prevail against it.” In the days of Ahaz.
The reign of Ahaz covered, probably, the space between B.C. 743-727.
The march on
(about B.C. 733). Rezin the King of
seems to belong to B.C. 732 or 731, he states that he defeated Rezin and
slew him. Pekah the son of Remaliah (see II Kings 15:25). Pekah had been
an officer under Pekahiah, the son and successor of Menahem; but had
revolted, put Pekahiah to death in his palace, and seized the crown. It is
probable that he and Rezin were anxious to form a confederacy for the purpose
of resisting the advance of the Assyrian power, and, distrusting Ahaz, desired
to place on the throne of
(see v. 6). It was not their design to conquer the Jewish kingdom,
but only to change the sovereign. Toward
The allies reached the city and commenced the siege (II Kings 16:5).
Could not prevail against it; literally, prevailed not in fighting against it.
2 “And it was told the house
of David, saying,
Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the
trees of the wood are moved with the wind.” It was told the house of David.
Before the actual siege began, news of the alliance reached Ahaz. It is said to
have been “told the house of David," because the design was to supersede
the family of David by another - apparently a Syrian - house (see note on v. 6).
ordinary circumstances the kingdoms of
the relations were changed, and a temporary league was formed. The
inscriptions of Shalmaneser II show such a league to have existed in the
time of Benhadad II and Ahab ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. it. pp. 103, 104).
The invasion of Pul, and the threatening attitude of Tiglath-Pileser. It had
now once more drawn the two countries together. On the use of the word
"Ephraim" to designate the
was moved; or, shook. If the two kings had each been able separately to inflict
on him such loss (see the introductory paragraph), what must he not expect, now
that both were about to attack him together? It is not clear whether Ahaz had
as yet applied to
3 “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;” Thou, and Shear-Jashub thy son. The name Shear-Jashub,
"a remnant shall return," may have been given to Isaiah's son by revelation,
as Ewald thinks it was; or Isaiah may have given it to testify his faith both
in the threats and in the promises of which he had been made the mouth-piece.
The command to take him with him on the present occasion was probably given
on account of his name, that the attention of Ahaz might be called to it. The
conduit of the upper pool is mentioned also in II Kings 18:17. It was
probably a subterranean duct which brought water into the city from the
high ground outside the
order to see that it was made available for his own use, but not for the
4 “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
keep quiet; i.e. "be not disturbed; do not resort to strange and extreme measures;
in quietness and confidence should be your strength" (see ch. 30:15). The two
tails of these smoking firebrands. Rezin and Pekah are called "two tails," or
"two stumps of smoking firebrands," as persons who had been dangerous, but
whose power of doing harm was at the point of departing from them.
They could not now kindle a flame; they could only "smoke." The son of
Remaliah. Pekah seems to be called "Remaliah's son" in contempt (compare
vs. 5, 9), Remaliah having been a man of no distinction (II Kings 15:25).
saying, 6 Let us go up against
breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:”
Make a breach therein. The word employed means properly "making a breach in
but is used also in a metaphorical sense for injuring and ruining a country
(see especially II Chronicles 21:17). The son of Tabeal; or, Tubal. "Tab-el"
appears to be a Syrian name, founded upon the same pattern as Tab-rimmon
(I Kings 15:18), the one meaning "God is good, "the other "Rimmon is good."
We cannot, however, conclude from the name that the family of Tabeal was
monotheistic (Kay), for El was one of the many Syrian gods as much as
Rimmon (see Max Mailer, 'Science of Religion,' pp. 177, 178).
7 “Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.”
48:16, etc. It shall not stand; i.e. "the design shall not hold good, it shall not
be accomplished." Rezin and Pekah have planned to set aside the issue of
and to set up a new line of kings unconnected with David. They think to
frustrate the everlasting counsel of God. Such an attempt was of necessity futile.
8 “For the head of
and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not
people.” For the head of
human heads - the one Rezin, the other (v. 9) Pekah; but Judah, it is implied, has
a Divine Head, even Jehovah. How, then, should mere mortals think to oppose
their will and their designs to God's? Of course, their designs must come to
naught. Within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, etc. If this
prophecy was delivered, as we have supposed, in B.C. 733 (see note on v. 1),
sixty-five years later would bring us to B.C. 669. This was the year in which
Esar-haddon, having made his son, Asshur-bani-pal, King of Assyria,
transferred his own residence to
years earlier, had received a rude blow from Sargon (compare Ezra 4:2, 9-10,
under the circumstances, the prophet can have comforted Ahaz with this distant
prospect, and suggested that in the present chapter prophecies pronounced at
widely distant periods have been mixed up (Cheyne); but there is no such
appearance of dislocation in this chapter, in its present form, as necessitates
any such theory; and, while it may be granted that the comfort of the promise
given here would be slight, it cannot be said that it would be nil; it may,
therefore, have been (as it seems to us) without impropriety added to the
main promise, which is that of v. 7. The entire clause, from "and within"
to "not a people," must be regarded as parenthetic.
9 “And the head of
Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”
If ye will not believe, etc. Translate, If ye will not hold this faith fast, surely
ye will not stand fast. Full faith in the promise of v. 7 would have enabled
Ahaz to dispense with all plans of earthly policy, and to "stand fast in the Lord,"
without calling in the aid of any "arm of flesh." Distrust of the promise
would lead him to take steps which would not tend to "establish" him,
but would make his position more insecure (see II Kings 16:7-18;
THE SIGN OF IMMANUEL
. God had sent Ahaz one message by his prophet (vs. 4-9). It had apparently been
received in silence, at any rate without acknowledgment. The faith had
seemed to be lacking which should have embraced with gladness the promise
given (see the last clause of v. 9). God, however, will give the unhappy monarch
another chance. And so He scuds him a second message, the offer of a sign
which should make belief in the first message easier to him (v. 11). Ahaz
proudly rejects this offer (ver. 12). Then the sign of "Immanuel" is given –
not to Ahaz individually, but to the whole "house of David," and
through them to the entire Jewish people. "A virgin shall conceive, and
bear a son, whose name shall be called Immanuel; and before this
child shall have grown to the age of moral discernment, God's people
will have been delivered, and their enemies made a desolation" (vs. 14-16).
The exact bearing of the "sign" will be best discussed in the comment upon v. 14.
10 “Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,” As before (vs. 3-4)
by the mouth of his prophet.
11 “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the
height above.” Ask thee a sign. Asking for a sign is right or wrong,
praiseworthy or blamable, according to the spirit in which the request is made.
The Pharisees in our Lord's time "asked for a sign," but would not have
believed any the more had they received the sign for which they asked.
Gideon asked for a sign to strengthen his faith (Judges 6:37, 39), and received it,
and in the strength of it went forth boldly against the Midianites. When God
Himself proposed to give a sign, and allowed His creature to choose what
the sign should be, there could be no possible wrong-doing in a ready
acceptance of the offer, which should have called forth gratitude and thanks.
Ask it either in the depth, or in the height above; i.e. "Ask any sign thou
wilt, either in hell or in heaven" - nothing shall be refused thee.
12 “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.”
Ahaz, who has no wish for a sign, because he has no wish to believe in any
other salvation than that which will follow from the realization of his own
schemes, finds a plausible reason for declining to ask for one in those
passages of the Law which forbade men to “tempt God" (Exodus 17:7;
Deuteronomy 6:16). But it could not be "tempting God" to comply with a
Divine invitation; rather it was tempting Him to refuse compliance.
13 “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?” O house of David
(compare v. 2). It is not Ahaz alone, but the "house of David," which is on trial.
Men are conspiring to remove it (v. 6). If it will not be saved in God's way,
it will have to be removed by God Himself. Is it a small thing for you to
weary men? i.e. "Are you not content with wearying men; with disregarding
all my warnings and so wearying me? Must you go further, and weary
God" (or, "wear out His patience") "by rejecting His gracious offers?"
My God. In v. 11 Isaiah had called Jehovah "thy God;" but as Ahaz,
by rejecting God's offer, had rejected God, he speaks of him now as "my God."
14 “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin
shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
Therefore. To show that your perversity cannot change God’s
designs, which will be accomplished, whether you hear or whether you
forbear. The Lord Himself; i.e. “the Lord Himself, of His own free will,
unasked.” Will give you a sign. “Signs” were of various kinds. They might be
· actual miracles performed to attest a Divine commission (Exodus
· judgments of God, significative of His power and justice
(ibid. ch. 10:2); or
· memorials of something in the past (ibid. ch.13:9, 16); or,
· pledges of something still future.
Signs of this last-mentioned kind might be:
· miracles (Judges 6:36-40; II Kings 20:8-11), or
· prophetic announcements (Exodus 3:12; I Samuel 2:34; II Kings 19:29).
These last would only have the effect of signs on those who witnessed their
accomplishment. Behold. “A forewarning of a great event” (Cheyne). A virgin
shall conceive. It is questioned whether the word translated “virgin,” viz. ‘almah,
has necessarily that meaning; but it is admitted that the meaning is borne out by
every other place in which the word occurs m the Old Testament (Genesis 24:43;
Exodus 2:8; Psalm 68:25; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8). The Septuagint,
writing two centuries before the birth of Christ, translate by παρθένος – parthenos –
virgin. The rendering “virgin” has the support of the best modern Hebraists, as Lowth,
Gesenins, Ewald, Delitzsch, Kay. It is observed with reason that unless
‘almah is translated “virgin,” there is no announcement made worthy of the
grand prelude: “The Lord himself shall give you a sign — Behold!” The
Hebrew, however, has not “a virgin,” but “the virgin” (and so the
Septuagint, ἡ παρθένος – hae parthenos – the virgin), which points to some
special virgin, proeminent above all others. And shall call; better than the marginal
rendering, thou shalt call. It was regarded as the privilege of a mother to
determine her child’s name (Genesis 4:25; 16:11; 29:32-35; 30:6-13,18-21, 24;
35:18, etc.), although formally the father gave it (ibid. 16:15; II Samuel 12:24;
Luke 1:62-63). Immanuel. Translated for us by Matthew (Matthew 1:23) as
“God with us” (μεθ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός – meth haemon ho Theos – with us The God ).
(Compare ch. 8:8, 10.)
NOTE ON THE GENERAL PURPORT OF THE IMMANUEL PROPHECY
Few prophecies have been the subject of so much controversy, or called forth such a
variety of exegesis, as this prophecy of Immanuel. Rosenmüller gives a list of
twenty-eight authors who have written dissertations upon it, and himself adds a
twenty-ninth. Yet the subject is far from
being exhausted. It is still asked:
(1) Were the mother and son persons belonging to the time of Isaiah himself,
and if so, what persons? Or,
(2) Were they the Virgin Mary and her Son Jesus? Or,
(3) Had the prophecy a double fulfillment, first in certain persons who lived in
Isaiah's time, and secondly in Jesus and His mother?
· The first theory is that of the Jewish commentators. Originally, they suggested
that the mother was Abi, the wife of Ahaz (II Kings 18:2), and the son Hezekiah,
p. 262). But this was early disproved by showing that, according to the numbers
year of Ahaz, before which this prophecy could not have been delivered
(v.1). The second suggestion made identified the mother with Isaiah's wife,
the "prophetess" of ch. 8:3, and made the son a child of his, called actually
Immanuel, or else his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (ibid. v. 1) under a
symbolical designation. But ha-'almah, "the virgin," would be a very
strange title for Isaiah to have given his wife, and the rank assigned to
Immanuel in ibid. v. 8 would not suit any son of Isaiah's. It remains to
regard the 'almah as "some young woman actually present," name, rank,
and position unknown, and Immanuel as her son, also otherwise unknown
(Cheyne). But the grand exordium, "The Lord himself shall give you a sign –
Behold!" and the rank of Immanuel (ibid.), are
alike against this.
· The purely Messianic theory is maintained by Rosenmüller and Dr. Kay,
but without any consideration of its difficulties. The birth of Christ was an
event more than seven hundred years distant. In what sense and to what
persons could it be a "sign" of the coming deliverance of the land from
Rezin and Pekah? And, upon the purely Messianic theory, what is the
meaning of v. 16?
years of the delivery of the prophecy. Why is their desolation put off,
apparently, till the coming of the Messiah, and even till He has reached a
certain age? Mr. Cheyne meets these difficulties by the startling statement
that Isaiah expected the advent of the Messiah to synchronize with the
Assyrian invasion, and consequently thought that before Rezin and Pekah
were crushed He would have reached the age of discernment. But he does
not seem to see that in this case the sign was altogether disappointing and
illusory. Time is an essential element of a prophecy which turns upon the
word "before" (v. 16). If this faith of Isaiah's disciples was aroused and
their hopes raised by the announcement that Immanuel was just about to
be born (Mr. Cheyne translates, "A virgin is with child"), what would be
the revulsion of feeling when no Immanuel appeared?
· May not the true account of the matter be that suggested by Bishop Lowth –
that the prophecy had a double bearing and a double fulfillment? "The
obvious and literal meaning of the prophecy is this," he says: "that within
the time that a young woman, now a virgin, should conceive and bring
forth a child, and that child should arrive at such an age as to distinguish
between good and evil, that is, within a few years, the
should be destroyed." But the prophecy was so worded, he adds, as to
have a further meaning, which was even "the original design and principal
intention of the prophet," viz. the Messianic one. All the expressions of
the prophecy do not suit both its intentions - some are selected with
reference to the first, others with reference to the second fulfillment –
but all suit one or the other, and some suit both. The first child may have
received the name Immanuel (compare Ittiel) from a faithful Jewish mother,
who believed that God was with His people, whatever dangers threatened,
and may have reached years of discretion about the time
carried away captive. The second child is the true "Immanuel," "God
with us," the king of ch.8:8; it is His mother who is pointed at in the
expression, "the virgin," and on His account is the grand preamble;
through Him the people of God, the true
spiritual enemies, sin and
Satan - who continually threaten it.
15 “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose
the good.” Butter and honey shall he eat. His fare shall be of the simplest kind
(compare v. 22). That he may know; rather, till he shall know (Rosenmüller);
i.e. till he come to years of discretion. (The rendering of the Revisers of 1885,
"when he knoweth," is less satisfactory.)
16 “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.”
The land, etc. Translate, The land shall be desolate, before whose two kings
thou art afraid. The "land" must certainly be that of the two confederate kings,
Rezin and Pekah, the Syro-Ephraim-itic
may be used physically or politically. A land is "desolate" politically when
it loses the last vestige of independence.
The perversity of Ahaz, already rebuked in v. 13, is further punished by a threat, that
upon him, and upon his people, and upon his father's house, shall come shortly a
dire calamity. The very power whose aid he is himself bent on invoking shall be
the scourge to chastise both king and people (vs. 17-20).
Ø The land shall be made bare as by a razor (v. 20).
Ø Cultivation shall cease; its scant inhabitants will support themselves
by keeping a few cows and sheep (v. 21), and will nourish themselves
on dairy produce, and the honey that the wild bees produce (v. 22).
Ø Briers and thorns will come up everywhere; wild beasts will increase;
cattle will browse on the hills that were once carefully cultivated to
their summits (vs. 23-25).
17 “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
even the king of
promises to threatenings is abrupt, and calculated to impress any one who was to
any extent impressible. But Ahaz seems not to have had "ears to hear." From
the day that Ephraim departed from
under Jeroboam (I Kings 12:16-24) - an evil day, which rankled in the mind
of all true Judaeans. Even the King of
since "the King of Assyria' cannot well stand in apposition with "days."
Hence many take the words for a gloss that has been accidentally intruded
into the text (Lowth, Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, Cheyne). Others, however,
see in the grammatical anomaly a grace of composition.
18 “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
the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt. The "fly of
like the "bee of
summons to take part in the coming
may be extended over the entire period
summoned may include
those which clustered about Neco at
carried off Jehoahaz
allusion also to Egyptian ravages in the reigns of Sargon, Sennacherib, and
Esar-haddon. In any general review of the period we shall find it stated that,
from the time of Sargon to that of
upon which the forces
(or Assyro-Babylonia) and
contended for the empire of
this period was produced almost as much by the Egyptian "fly as by the Assyrian
canals by which its waters were
distributed. The bee that is in the
The choice of the terms "bee" and "fly," to represent respectively the hosts of
swarms, hastily levied, and very imperfectly disciplined. Assyrian armies
were bodies of trained troops accustomed to war, and almost as well disciplined
as the Romans.
19 “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.”
And rest; or, settle. In the desolate valleys. Gesenius and Vance Smith translate
"the precipitous valleys;" Mr. Cheyne, "the steeply walled valleys." But the
cognate word used in ch. 5:6 can only mean "waste," which supports the rendering
of the Authorized Version. The exact word used does not occur elsewhere. Upon
all bushes; rather, upon all pastures.
20 “In the same day shall the Lord shave with a rasor that is hired, namely,
by them beyond the river, by the king of
the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.” Shall the Lord shave with a
razor that is hired; rather, with the hired razor; i.e. the razor that Ahaz will
have hired (II Kings 16:8). The metaphor well expresses the stripping of the
land bare by plunder and exaction (compare Ezekiel 5:1,12, and II Chronicles
28:19-21). God would use Tiglath-Pileser as His instrument to distress Ahaz.
By them beyond the river; or, in the parts beyond the river (compare
I Chronicles 19:16). "The river" is undoubtedly the
dwell beyond it are the Assyrians. By the King of
is suspected, as in v. 17. The meaning would certainly be sufficiently plain
without the clause. The head... the hair of the feet... the beard. These three
represent all the hair on any part of the
21 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow,
and two sheep;” A man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; literally,
two ewes. A stop having been put to cultivation, men shall return to the
pastoral life, but shall not possess more than two or three head of cattle apiece,
the Assyrians having swept off most of the beasts. Tiglath-Pileser, in his
inscriptions, mentions his carrying off horned cattle and sheep to the amount
of many thousands from the countries which he overran or conquered
('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. pp. 49, 52).
22 “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.”
For the abundance of milk that they shall give. The small number of the cattle will
allow of each having abundant pasture. Hence they will give an abundance of milk.
He shall eat butter; rather, curds - the solid food most readily obtained from milk
(compare above, v. 15). Curdled milk and wild honey should form the simple diet
of the remnant left in the land. It is, of course, possible to understand this in a
spiritual sense, of simple doctrine and gospel honey out of the flinty rock of
the Law; but there is no reason to think that the prophet intended his words
in any but the most literal sense.
23 “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.” A thousand vines at a thousand silverlings.
By "silverlings" our translators mean "pieces of silver," probably shekels.
"A thousand vines at a thousand shekels" may mean either a thousand vines
worth that amount, or a thousand vines rented at that sum annually (compare
Song of Solomon 8:11). The latter would point to vineyards of unusual goodness,
since the shekel is at least eighteen pence, and the present rent of a vineyard in
would seem to be that not even the best vineyards would be cultivated, but would
lie waste, and grow only "briers and thorns."
24 “With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall
become briers and thorns.” With arrows and with bows. Only the hunter will go
there, armed with his weapons of chase, to kill the wild animals that will haunt the
25 “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.” On all hills that shall be digged; rather,
that shall have been digged in former times, whether for corn cultivation or for
any other. There shall not come thither the fear of briers (so Ewald and Kay).
But almost all other commentators translate, "Thou shalt not come thither for fear
of briers," etc. The briers and thorns of the East tear the clothes and the flesh.
It shall be; i.e. "each such place shall be." For the sending forth of oxen; rather,
for the sending in of oxen. Men shall send their cattle into them, as
alone able to penetrate the jungle without hurt.
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· Rebekah's plan for Esau deprives her of her son's
society for a great part of her life.
· Absalom's rebellion against David raises him to the throne but
to an untimely death within a few months.
· Judas carries out his plan with success and in consequence
IN OUR YOUTH WE FORGE THE CHAINS OF HABIT WHICH MAKE US
MISERABLE ALL OUR LIFE!
REMEMBER, THE CHAINS OF HABIT ARE TOO LIGHT TO BE
FELT UNTIL THEY ARE TOO STRONG TO BE BROKEN!