THE SIGN OF MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ
The sign of Immanuel is deep and hard to understand. In its more spiritual sense it
appealed to faith in an event far distant. Even in its literal import, it was not calculated
to cheer and encourage more than a few, since neither the maiden nor the child was
pointed out with any distinctness. A fresh sign was therefore given by God's goodness
to reassure the mass of the people - a sign about which there was nothing obscure or
difficult. Isaiah himself should have a son born to him almost immediately, to whom
he should give a name indicating the rapid approach of the spoiler, and before this
child should be able to utter the first words which childhood ordinarily pronounces,
1 Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and
write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.”
Take thee a great roll; rather, a large tablet. The word is the same as that used
for "mirror" in ch. 3:23. Write in it with a man's pen; i.e. "write upon it with the
pen used by ordinary men" - in opposition to the implements of an engraver.
The tablet was probably to be hung up to view in a public place (compare ch. 30:8),
so that all might read, and the writing was therefore to be such as was in ordinary
use. Concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. These were the words which were to
be written on the tablet, which was to be otherwise left blank. They would
naturally excite curiosity, like the strange names placarded in modern streets.
The name is literally, "Plunder speeds, spoil hastens." It has been imitated
by Goethe in his "Habebald-Eilebeute" ('Faust,' act 4. sc. 3).
2 “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and
Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” And I took unto me; rather, and I will
have taken for me. It is still God who is speaking. Uriah the priest. Probably the
high priest of the time, mentioned in II Kings 16:10-16, as the ready tool of Ahaz
at a later date. Though a bad man, he may have been a trustworthy witness to
a fact. Zechariah. Perhaps the father of Abi or Abijah, Ahaz's queen
more to the tablet, if it bore the names of two such eminent persons as witnesses.
3 “And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son.
Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.”
The prophetess. It is not necessary to suppose that the wife of Isaiah must have
uttered prophecies because she is called "the prophetess." Titles were given
in the East to the wives, daughters, etc., of officials, which merely reflected
the dignity of their husbands, fathers, etc. Even Miriam seems to be
called a "prophetess" (Exodus 15:20) from her close relationship to Moses,
rather than from any supernatural power that she had. In the Mishna,
a priest's wife or daughter is called "priestess" (Cheyne). Call his name.
There is no reason for doubting that the name was actually given.
Other Israelites had such names as Jushab-hesed (I Chronicles 3:20),
(Ezra 10:40), and the like. Assyrian names were even longer; e.g.,
As-shur-bel-nisi-su, Asshur-kinat-ili-kain, etc. In ordinary parlance, names
of this type were commonly shortened, "Shalman-eser' becoming "Shalmau"
4 “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother,
the first utterances of childhood - simple sounds, combinations of primary vowels
with labials, corresponding in easiness of utterance to "Pappy," "Mammy,"
rather than to the expressions of the text. A child commonly utters such
sounds when it is about a year old. The riches of Damascus. The position
between the West and East, which was conducted by the merchants of
Tadmor to Nineveh and Babylon. This commerce greatly enriched the cities
lying upon its route. "
merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all
riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool" (Ezekiel 27:18). The
"palaces of Benhadad" seem to have been noted for their magnificence
before the King of
prophecy, which makes the same Assyrian king carry off the spoil of
and the spoil of
a few years of the time when the prophecy was given. But the inscriptions
of Tiglath-Pileser himself supply the deficiency. They state that this monarch
"sent the population, the goods of the people of Beth-Omri, and their
furniture to the
to the dominion ever them," and fixed their annual tribute at two talents of
gold and a thousand talents of silver (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 52).
THE FLOOD OF
WILL THERE BE ARRESTED
invasion, and be a defense to
were overwhelmed, the waters would have free course, and the submersion of
so long as the people, or even a remnant of them, remained faithful, but only
through the might of the name Immanuel, "God with us."
5 “The LORD spake also unto me again, saying, 6 Forasmuch as this people
refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's
son;” Forasmuch as this people. It is
a question which people is intended,
understands the charge against
Rezin, but that it fell into the same sins. Other commentators suggest that
v. 4, where the word "
Refuseth the waters of Shiloah. The "pool of Siloah" (Nehemiah 3:15) was
the tank or reservoir at the southwestern foot of Ophel, which is supplied
with water by a narrow conduit cut through the limestone rock for a distance
of 1750 feet from the "Pool of the Virgin" on the opposite side of Ophel,
in the Kedron valley. This pool itself is fed from reservoirs under the temple
area, which have not yet been fully explored. It is probable that Isaiah
uses the expression "waters of Shiloah" in a general sense for the streams,
springs, reservoirs, conduits, which supplied the temple, and were connected
with its service. "Refusing the waters of Shiloah" would then be, without
any violent metaphor, refusing the temple service and worship, which was
exactly what the Israelites had done from the time of Jeroboam. That go softly.
In contrast with the "waters of the river, strong and many," of the next
verse. They who refused the mild and gentle government of Jehovah should
experience the impetuous and torrent-like rush of the Assyrian
armies. Rejoice in Rezin; rather, rejoice with Rezin; i.e. sympathize with him,
rejoice when he rejoices.
7 “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the
strong and many, even the king of
shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:”
The waters of the river, strong and many. "The river" is,
of course, the
as in ch. 7:20.
In its lower course the
inundates the adjacent districts, causing vast damage to crops, and sometimes
threatening to break down the walls of cities (Loftus, 'Chaldea and Susiana,' p. 7).
It is scarcely likely, however, that Isaiah had any acquaintance with this fact.
His experience would probably have been limited to the "swellings of
He shall come up over all his channels. A graphic description of the swelling
of rivers in the East. These, when they are low, contract their waters from
the many channels, in which they ordinarily flow, into some one or two,
leaving the others dry. The first effect of a flood is to fill all the channels,
after which it may proceed further and overflow the banks.
he shall pass through
reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the
of thy land, O Immanuel.” And he shall pass through
shall pass on into
The Assyrians will
not be content with invading
"pass on into
Tiglath-Pileser, or by one of his successors at a later date. There is reason to
believe from Tiglath-Pileser's inscriptions that he used the
the passage of his armies as those of a vassal king, but did not ravage them.
He shall reach even to the neck. The Assyrian attacks on
stop short of destroying it. The flood shall not submerge the head, but
only rise as high as the neck. This prophecy was fulfilled, since it was not
Assyria, but Babylon, which destroyed the Jewish kingdom. The stretching
out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land. The Assyrian armies shall
visit every part of the land. The sudden change of metaphor is in the manner
of this address, as indicating the kingly, and so (probably) the Divine
character of Immanuel, see the notes on ch. 7:14. Isaiah could not speak of
the land as belonging to his own infant son.
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.”
Associate yourselves. It is impossible to obtain this meaning from the existing
Hebrew text, which must be translated, "Be angry," or "Rage" ("Make an uproar,"
Revised Version). The prophet passes from the consideration of the
opposition offered to Jehovah by
consideration of all the nations of the earth. He challenges them to the
combat against Jehovah, and confidently predicts their defeat. O ye people;
rather, O ye peoples (compare the corresponding expression in the next clause,
"All ye of far countries").
10 “Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and
it shall not stand: for God is with us.” Take counsel together; literally,
devise a device; i.e. form some plan, even the cleverest possible, against
God's people, and the result will be utter failure. It shall not stand
(compare ch. 7:7). For God is with us. In the Hebrew, ki 'immanu-El,
"for with us (is) God" words declarative of the true meaning of the name
which God had made a sign to His people (ibid. v.14). It was His being
"with them" that could alone save them from their enemies.
THE GROUNDS OF ISAIAH'S CONFIDENCE
Having declared his absolute confidence, not only that the attack of Pekah and Rezin
will fail (vs. 1-4), but that
(v. 9) will fail, and bring destruction upon themselves, if they "devise devices"
against God's true people, the prophet explains the ground of his confidence by
relating a special "instruction" which he had received from God some time
previously, he had been bidden to separate himself from the mass of his
countrymen in thought and feeling, and to cling only to Jehovah, who would
"be for a Sanctuary" (v. 14) to His own, but "for a Stone of stumbling and
a Rock of offence" to all others.
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,” For the Lord.
Mr. Cheyne regards this passage as "a short oracle, complete in itself," and
entirely unconnected with what has preceded. But the initial ki, "for," is in
that case inexplicable. Spake thus to me with a strong hand; literally, with
strength of hand - i.e. laying a strong grasp upon him; and, as it were,
not walk in the way of this people. Isaiah was bidden not to "follow a
multitude to evil" (Exodus 23:2). It was not merely idolatry against which he
was warned, BUT THE WHOLE SPIRIT AND TONE OF THE SOCIETY
OF HIS DAY! He was not to entertain their suspicions, or to hope their hopes,
or to fear their fears. He was to take a line of his own, to fear God and Him only;
then God would be "for a Sanctuary" to him.
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.”
Say ye not. The transition from the singular to the plural is noticeable. It implies
that Isaiah did not stand alone, but had followers - a "little flock," it may be –
but still enough to give him the support of sympathy (compare v. 16).
A confederacy; rather, treason, or conspiracy (see II Samuel 15:12;
The command is, not to call a course of conduct treasonable simply because
the people generally so call it. Jeremiah was charged with treason for
preaching the hopelessness of offering resistance to Nebuchadnezzar
probably now taxed with treason. To all them to whom; rather, everything which.
Translate the entire clause thus: Call ye not conspiracy everything which this
people shall call conspiracy. Neither fear ye their fear. They feared man
(ch. 7:2). Isaiah and his disciples are commanded to fear no one but GOD!
13 “Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him
be your dread.” Sanctify the Lord of hosts. God was sanctified by being believed
in (Numbers 20:12). They who feared Rezin and Pekah, despite of God's
assurances that their design should fail, did not believe in Him, and so did not
14 “And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for
of offence to both the houses of
Ezekiel 11:16, "Yet will I be to them as a little Sanctuary"). A sanctuary is
a place which is a refuge because of its holiness. Its material counterpart in
the Mosaic system is, not "the city of refuge," but the altar (I Kings 1:50;
). Both the houses of
forsake Jehovah, and find in Him a "Snare" and a "Rock of offense."
15 “And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be
snared, and be taken.” Many among them (so the Vulgate, Ewald, Delitzsch, and
Knobel). But most others translate, "Many shall stumble thereon," i.e. on the
stone and the rock (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Vance Smith, Kay, Cheyne).
Fall, and be broken. The effect of stumbling against a stone (Matthew 21:44;
Luke 20:18). Be snared, and be taken. The effect of being caught in a gin
16 “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”
Bind up the testimony, etc. The words are still those of Jehovah, addressed
to His servant Isaiah. God commands that the prophecy shall be written in
a roll, which is then to be carefully tied with a string and sealed, for future
use. Seal the Law; rather, the instruction - the advice given in vs. 12-15
(compare Daniel 12:4).
ISAIAH DEFINES HIS OWN ATTITUDE
THAT OF HIS CHILDREN.
It is questioned whether something has not fallen out between vs. 16 and 17. The
transition is exceedingly abrupt, undoubtedly; but perhaps not more abrupt than
elsewhere in Isaiah and the prophets contemporary with him. The Divine "instruction"
comes to an end in v. 16; and Isaiah might have been expected to comment on it, or
enforce its teaching; but he does neither. He simply states what his own attitude will be
under the coming calamity (v. 8). He will "wait for the Lord and look to him"
(v. 17), and consider himself and his children as doing a work for God in being
"signs" (v. 18) - signs to which the
may derive sufficient hope and confidence to carry them through the dark time
which is approaching.
17 “And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth His face from the house of
Jacob, and I will look for Him.” I will wait upon the Lord; rather, I will
That hideth His face from the house of Jacob (compare the threats in
what that of the sun is to the material world. All life, health, joy, happiness,
proceed from it. This light was now to be withdrawn for a time on account of
the people's sins. But Isaiah would "wait" for its reappearance.
18 “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and
I and the children... are for signs. Isaiah's children seem to have been "for signs,"
especially in respect of their names. Shear-Jashub meant "A remnant shall return"
(ch.10:21), and thus held
out two hopes; one that a remnant of
return to God and become His true servants, another that a remnant would return
from the captivity that had been prophesied (ch. 5:13). Maher-shalal-hash-baz –
"Plunder speeds, spoil hastens" - was a "sign" of a different kind. Primarily,
his name referred to the spoiling of
may further have indicated a time of general disturbance, plunder, and ravage.
It is not quite clear in what respects Isaiah was a "sign." Perhaps he, too,
in his name, which meant "(Our) salvation is Jehovah" - certainly also in his
symbolical acts (ch. 20:3), and possibly in the firmness of his faith, which
never wavered. From the Lord of hosts; literally, from by the Lord of hosts –
an expression like the French de chez. God had supernaturally appointed the
sign in one case (vs. 1-4), but in the other two had merely brought them about
by the secret working of His providence. But the prophet treats all three
as coming equally from Him. Which dwelleth in Mount Zion. Here, again,
is encouragement. God has not quitted
the cherubim in the holy of holies. While this is so, God is still with His people
ISAIAH RECOMMENDS LOOKING TO GOD
AND THE REVEALED WORD
RATHER THAN TO NECROMANCY.
AFFLICTION WILL BRING
Isaiah returns, in v. 19, to the consideration of his disciples. In the terrible times
impending, they will be recommended to have recourse to necromancy; he urges
that they should look to God and the Law. He then further suggests that, in the
coming affliction which he describes (vs. 21-22), men will generally turn for relief
to the same quarter (v. 20).
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?” Seek unto them that have familiar spirits.
In times of great distress the Israelites seem always to have been tempted to
consult those among them who pretended to magic and divination. So Saul in the
Philistine war resorted to the witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:7-20); Manasseh,
threatened by Esar-haddon, "used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits
and wizards" (II Kings 21:6).
"used divination and enchantments" (ibid. ch. 17:17). There was the same
inclination now on the part of many Jews. The vexed question of the actual
powers possessed by such persons cannot be discussed within the limits of a
footnote. It has, moreover, already been treated in the present Commentary, in
connection with Leviticus 19:31. Wizards that peep, and that mutter; rather,
that chirp and mutter. Tricks of the ventriloquists, probably, who disguised their
voices, and represented that they were the voices of ghosts (compare ch. 29:4).
The natural speech of some tribes has been compared to the "chirping of birds"
(Herod., 4:183; Hornemann, 'Travels,' p. 119). Should not a people seek unto
their God? Very abrupt and elliptical Isaiah means to say, "Do not attend to
them; but answer, Should not a people," etc.? For the living. This may either
mean "instead of the living," or "on behalf of the living seek to the dead?" or,
Would not that be plainly preposterous?
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.” To the Law and to the testimony. A sort
of watchword or battle-cry, to be used by the faithful when God's enemies assailed
them. Compare Gideon's cry (Judges 7:18), "For the Lord and for Gideon."
If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;
rather, Surely they will speak according to this word, when there is no dawn for
them; i.e. when they are plunged in darkness (v. 22) and distress, and see no
prospect of better days, surely they - the people generally - will rally to this
cry, and repeat it, "For the Law and for the testimony." They will not always
trust in necromancy.
Vs 21-22 are supposed by some to be out of place, and to belong properly to the
description of the Assyrian invasion, given in vs. 7-8. But this bold solution of
a difficulty is scarcely to be commended, there being no limit to its use. An order
followed in all the manuscripts should not be disturbed, if it gives any tolerable
sense. Such a sense can, it is thought, be found here by regarding the two verses
as exegetical of the last clause of v. 20 - "when there is no dawn for them."
21 “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead 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.” They shall pass through it. "It," which is
feminine, must mean "the land." The Jews left in it shall wander about it
(compare ch. 7:21-25), seeking pasture for the remnant of their cattle. They shall
fret themselves; rather, they shall be deeply angered (Cheyne). And curse their
king and their God. As the causes of their sufferings. And look upward. Not in hope,
but in rage and defiance.
22 “And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness,
dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.”
They shall look unto the earth. For necessary nutriment, or simply as the
place to which downcast and despairing eyes are turned naturally. They
shall be driven to darkness. So Kay, who thinks the Captivity is meant; but
it seems better to render the whole passage, with Mr. Cheyne, "They shall
look to earth, and behold, distress and darkness, gloom of affliction, and thick
darkness driven (upon them)." The darkness is spoken of as if it were
a thing palpable, like rain or snow (comp. Exodus 10:21).
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at:
If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.