Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PREDICTION OF THE
SUCCESS OF THE
PRESERVATION AND OF THE
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
Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, as confederates, advanced against
Jerusalem. In the first campaign they "smote Ahaz with a great
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
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
occasioned their invasion of Judah. Ahaz, at the second inroad
of his enemies (compare
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
and probably it was at the same time that he carried away part of
unless there were two assaults on Pekah--that in
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
2Ki 16:8, 17, 18;
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
(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
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
Ephraim--the ten tribes.
as . . . trees of . . . wood--a simultaneous
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
Shearjashub--that is, A remnant shall return
His very name (compare
was a standing memorial to Ahaz and the Jews that the nation should
not, notwithstanding the general calamity
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
called also Gihon, on the west of Jerusalem
Two pools were supplied from it, the Upper, or Old
and the Lower
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.
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,
smoking--as about to go out; not blazing.
son of Remaliah--Pekah, a usurper
The Easterners express contempt by designating one, not by his own
name, but by his father's, especially when the father is but little
(1Sa 20:27, 31).
6. vex--rather, "throw into consternation"
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).
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
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
or else they refer to some older prophecy of Isaiah, or of Amos (as the
Jewish writers represent), parenthetically; to which, in
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
Another in the reign of Hoshea, under Shalmaneser
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;
[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.
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.
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
or, Mount high for it (literally, "Make high"). So in
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.
12. neither . . . tempt--hypocritical pretext of
keeping the law
"tempt," that is, put God to the proof, as in
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).
13. Is it a small thing?--Is it not enough for you
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.
14. himself--since thou wilt not ask a sign, nay, rejectest the offer
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
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"
whose seed should bruise the serpent's head and deliver captive man
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
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
cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah's son, but only to Him who is
presently called expressly
"the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare
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).
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,
name--not mere appellation, which neither Isaiah's son nor Jesus
Christ bore literally; but what describes His manifested attributes; His
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].
15. Butter--rather, curdled milk, the acid of which is grateful in
the heat of the East
honey--abundant in Palestine
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
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
that he may know--rather, until He shall know.
evil . . . choose . . . good--At about three years of age moral
consciousness begins (compare
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
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
before Immanuel came.
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
and Judah shall be the battlefield of both
and be made tributary to that very Assyria
2Ki 16:7, 8)
now about to be called in as an ally
Egypt, too, should prove a fatal ally
(Isa 36:6; 31:1,
18. hiss--whistle, to bring bees to settle
fly--found in numbers about the arms of the Nile and the canals from
(Isa 19:5-7; 23:3),
here called "rivers." Hence arose the plague of flies
Figurative, for numerous and troublesome foes from the
remotest parts of Egypt, for example, Pharaoh-nechoh.
As numerous in Assyria as the fly in marshy Egypt. Sennacherib,
Esar-haddon, and Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled this prediction.
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).
20. razor--The Assyrians are to be God's instrument of devastating
Judea, just as a razor sweeps away all hair before it
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
the river which Abram crossed; the Nile also may be included
[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
2Sa 10:4, 5;
STATE OF THE
OWING TO THE
21. nourish--that is, own.
young cow--a heifer giving milk. Agriculture shall cease, and the
land become one great pasturage.
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.
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.
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
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
24. It shall become a vast hunting ground, abounding in wild beasts
25. shall be--rather, "were once."
digged--in order to plant and rear vines
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.