THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 5: Chapters 7-9
Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
The Immanuel Prophecies
Throughout human history conflicts between people and nations have let to violence. The result is always the same: human suffering is increased. Sometimes the reasons for going to war are just: when a nation is defending itself against an aggressor or fighting against an enemy whose thirst for violence threatens the very existence of entire regions or humanity as a whole. Send us just and competent leaders, Lord, who are neither rash nor motivated by vengeance but who are thoughtful and capable in making decisions that will affect our nation and other nations in the pursuit of peace and justice. Do not withdraw Your hand of protection over our people, as You did the Israelites and Judahites, but, for the sake of our "faithful remnant," continue to call our nation to repentance and restoration. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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In the seventeenth
year of Pekah son of Ramaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham became king of Judah. Ahaz
was twenty years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for sixteen
years in Jerusalem. He did not do what Yahweh his God regards as right, as his
ancestor David had done. He followed the example of the kings of Israel, even
causing his son to pass through the fire of sacrifice, also copying the
disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the
Israelites. He offered sacrifices and incense on the high places, on the hills
and under every luxuriant tree.
2 Kings 6:1-4
Chapter 7:1-16 ~ Isaiah and King Ahaz
Historical Background: When the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom in 737 BC, King Menahem of Israel (743-738 BC) submitted and become a vassal of the Assyrians. He made two tribute payments to Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (according to Assyrian annals), purchasing the political support of Assyria to continue to rule with "a thousand talents of silver" (2 Kng 15:19-20). He was succeeded by his son Pekahiah (2 Kng 15:23-26) who was assassinated by his equerry Pekah son of Remaliah (737 BC). Pekah decided to resist the Assyrians and made an alliance with Razon, the king of Damascus. They then joined forces in attacking the Southern Kingdom of Judah in what modern historians call the Syro-Ephraimite War.
Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria
Razon, Aramaean king of Damascus (Syria)
Pekah, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
Ahaz, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
|The issue:||The rise of Assyria forced smaller kingdoms to choose between joining forces to resist Assyria or submitting to Assyria and becoming vassal states.|
|The conflict:||Israel and Damascus formed an alliance against the Assyrians. King Ahaz of Judah did not join the alliance, and therefore the Israelites and Aramaeans went to war against the Southern Kingdom of Judah.|
When Ahaz was 20 years old, he succeeded his father Jotham in c. 735 BC. Isaiah had the difficult mission of serving as a prophet-advisor to the king. King Ahaz and his kingdom were threatened by the Syro-Ephraimite coalition (Arameans of Damascus and the Northern Kingdom of Israel). Rejecting Isaiah's advice to have faith in Yahweh and courage to oppose his enemies by trusting in Yahweh's protection, the weak Ahaz turned to the fierce Assyrians for help.
Isaiah 7:1-9 ~ Isaiah Intervenes with King Ahaz
1 In the reign of Ahaz son of Jotham, son of Uzziah king of Judah, Razon king of Aram advanced on Jerusalem with Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, to attack it; but he was unable to attack it. 2 The House of David was informed: "Aram has halted in Ephraimite territory." At this, his heart and his people's hearts shook like forest trees shaking in the wind. 3 Yahweh then said to Isaiah, "Go out with your son Shear-Jashub, and meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the road to the Fuller's Field, 4 and say to him, Pay attention and keep calm. Do not be frightened or demoralized by these two smoldering sticks of firewood, by the fierce anger of Razon, Aram and the son of Remaliah, 5 or because Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah have been plotting against you and saying: 6 Let us mount an attack on Judah, destroy it, force it onto our side and install the son of Tebeel there as king. 7 Lord Yahweh says this: This will not happen, it will never occur, 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Razon; another sixty-five years, and Ephraim will cease to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not take your stand on me you will not stand firm.'"
Razon is the king of the Aramaean kingdom of Damascus. His name is written "Razon" in Greek and Assyrian inscriptions and "Razon" in Hebrew. His ally is Pekah son of Remaliah, a king of Israel who ruled from 737-32 BC (2 Kng 15:27-3; 16:1), and together they launched a campaign against Judah that is known as the Syro-Ephraimite War (the Northern Kingdom is often referred to by the name of its largest tribe). Tebeel (name means "god is good") in verse 5 is an unknown person but was probably an Aramaean prince they intent to install as king of Judah after Ahaz is deposed. They did besiege Jerusalem but could not conquer it in c. 734 BC (2 Kng 16:5-9). It is at this critical time that God commands Isaiah to take his young son with him to meet King Ahaz. Isaiah's son's name is Shear-Jashub, which means "a remnant will return." The boy is a visual reminder of God's mercy in His promise of the preservation of a faithful remnant of Judah (Is 2:4 and 6:13). Keep in mind that the entire time Isaiah is having his discourse with King Ahaz in verses 7-23 that Isaiah's little son is standing with him.
Question: What is Isaiah's warning to Ahaz in verse 9b?
Answer: If he will not listen to Isaiah's advice he will not survive.
In Isaiah 7:1-9, King Ahaz and his people are fearful of the Syro-Ephraimite alliance. The alliance causes the heart of the king and his people to tremble "like forest trees shaking in the wind" (verse 2). But Isaiah tells him Do not be frightened or demoralized by these two smoldering sticks of firewood ... His enemies are as ineffective as smoking pieces of firewood that have lost the power of the fire and are powerless to harm him because God will be on his side.
However, Ahaz and his people lack faith in God's power to protect them despite Isaiah's assurance that in "another sixty-five years, and Ephraim will cease to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not take your stand on me you will not stand firm." A little more than a generation after the exile of the Northern Kingdom, the Northern Kingdom's largest and most powerful tribe, the tribe of Ephraim, will cease to exist. Isaiah urges the king "If you will not take your stand on me you will not stand firm!" But these encouraging words also contain a warning: if Ahaz and Judah refuse to take their stand on God and His prophet, they will not stand firm. This verse is a play on the words, using two forms of the same verb, aman, which means "to be firm."
Isaiah 7:10-16 ~ Isaiah Intervenes with Ahaz a Second Time
10 Yahweh spoke to Ahaz again and said: 11 "Ask Yahweh your God for a sign, either in the depths of Sheol or in the heights above." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask. I will not put Yahweh to the test." 13 He then said: "Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying human patience that you should try my God's patience too? 14 The Lord will give you a sign in any case. It is this: the young woman [the virgin] is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel. 15 On curds and honey will he feed until he knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good. 16 Before the child knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good, the lands whose two kings are fighting you will be deserted.
Question: Why does Isaiah urge Ahaz to accept
God's invitation to ask for a sign? Are there limits to what he might ask?
Answer: Isaiah urges Ahaz to ask God for a sign that the prophecy of Judah's rescue from the Syro-Ephraimite alliance will take place and God's protection over Judah is secure. He tells the king the "sign" he asks for has no limits, either in the depths of Sheol or in the heights above.
You will recall from the previous lesson that Sheol was the abode of all the dead from the Fall of Adam until the coming of Christ. The wicked were punished for their sins and the righteous awaited the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah (CCC 536, 633; Lk 16:19-31).
God sometimes provided His people and His agents with signs and wonders to demonstrate His power and the truth of what He said (Ex 3:1-4; 4:1-9; Lk 1:18-20; 2:12). St. John calls each of Jesus' miracles in his Gospel "signs" that point to Jesus' authority from God and His true identity.
Question: What should Ahaz, a descendant of King
David, have remembered concerning God's covenant with the House of David? See
2 Sam 7:14-11b-17; 25-29; 23:5;
Sir 45:25; 47:11/13.
Answer: Ahaz should have remembered that God's eternal covenant with David included the protection of his kingdom so long as his heirs remain faithful (2 Sam 7:12-29). Ahaz is a descendant of David and, as his heir, is the heir to this covenant promise.
12 But Ahaz said,
"I will not ask. I will not put Yahweh to the test."
Ahaz is using an excuse that is an allusion to Deuteronomy 6:16 where Moses warned the people: Do not put Yahweh your God to the test as you tested him at Massah. Massah means "testing" and recalls the incident when the Israelites were on their journey out of Egypt in Exodus 17:1-7. Instead of trust in God's promise to take care of them, the people demanded that Moses give them water to drink, challenging God to prove that He was with them.
Question: Is this situation the same as that at
Massah or is it different?
Answer: The situation with Ahaz is entirely different. He would not be putting God to the test in an improper way because God Himself graciously gave Ahaz the authority to name the sign.
Later Isaiah will offer Ahaz's good son, King Hezekiah, the chance to choose between one of two signs, and he does not repeat his father's mistake. But Isaiah 7:10 records the only time in the Bible where a prophet offered someone the opportunity to name the sign. God in His mercy reached out in a special way to David's heir who was struggling to believe that Judah would experience God's deliverance. However, Ahaz refused to name a sign, trying to hide behind false piety. Either he did not want to risk his kingdom on Yahweh's promise of help or he had already made up his mind and preferred to put his trust in an alliance with Assyria and her king.
13 He then said:
"Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying human patience
that you should try my God's patience too?
Notice the shift between verses 11 and 13 from Isaiah's words "your God" in verse 11 when he urges Ahaz to ask for a sign and "my God" in verse 13 after Ahaz refuses and Isaiah is angry and finds Ahaz unfit to claim Yahweh as his God. Ahaz's refusal is a sign of his unbelief and the House of David has demonstrated that it is unfit for a relationship with the Living God.
Isaiah is persistent and tells Ahaz: 14 The Lord will give you a sign in any case. It is this: the young woman [literal ha almah = the virgin] is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel [immau = "with us" + El = God = "God-with-us"]. For a sign to be from God, it has to be an event that defies the natural order. For a woman in Ahaz's court or one of his wives to give birth to a son happened all the time and could not be taken as a divine sign. But for a virgin to give birth without having had relations with a man is indeed a miracle. And notice that Isaiah does not say "a virgin", but he says "the virgin" "a specific virgin chosen by God to be a "sign" of His divine intervention in the history of mankind. That the child is given a title that contains the word "God" in the singular ("El"), a word used again in 9:6, demonstrates that Isaiah is referring to a child with words that signify deity. His birth will be surrounded with the mysterious and the supernatural. When the child is born, God will be seen to be present with His people.
The argument has been raised by Rabbinic Judaism that ha almah, the term Isaiah uses for she who will give birth, does not mean "virgin" but "a young woman." First, a definitive article is used: ha = the, indicating a specific woman. And secondly, this is not the way this verse is translated in the Greek Septuagint which uses the Greek word for virgin, parthenos; and this is the way St. Matthew quotes this passage in 1:23, speaking of Mary giving birth to Jesus: Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: "Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son, whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us'."(1) See footnote 1 for a further discussion of the meaning of the Hebrew word almah and other uses of the word in the Old Testament.
In the promised sign, Isaiah is telling King Ahaz, "Ahaz, you don't want to pick a sign and you don't believe God is with us, but He is and He will prove it through this amazing sign." The prophet will not be fulfilled for over seven hundred years!
Question: How is the title for the child to be
born of a virgin, "God-with-us," fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man and
Son of God? See the promise in Matthew 28:20 and Revelation 21:3. How then is
Isaiah's Immanuel prophecy fulfilled?
Answer: Prior to His Ascension Jesus promise that He will be with us until the end of time, and in Revelation 21:3, after the creation of the new heaven and earth (Rev 21:1-2), St. John hears a voice from the throne of God telling him: "Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them."
In 1779, Pope Pius VI, in his encyclical "Divina," officially condemned any interpretation denying the messianic sense of Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 7:14 is the first of ten Old Testament fulfillment statements found in St. Matthew's Gospel. Fulfillment statements:
Five of these fulfillment statements are from the Book of Isaiah (Mt 1:23 = Is 7:14; Mt 4:14-5 = Is 8:23-9:1/9:1-2; Mt 8:17 = Is 53:4; Mt 12:17 = Is 42:1-4; Mt 21:4-5 = Is 62:11).
Question: What purpose do the "fulfillment" statements serve in St. Matthew's Gospel?
Answer: They show that everything God did in the Old Testament was part of His divine plan in preparation for the Advent of the Messiah.
15 On curds and
honey will he feed until he knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good. 16 Before the child knows how to refuse the bad
and choose the good, the lands whose two kings are fighting you will be
"Curds" refers to thickened, sour milk, like the laban of modern Syria. Isaiah tells Ahaz that God will deliver Judah from the Israelites (Ephraim) and the Aramaeans in a short amount of time and his enemies will be destroyed. The question is: who is the child who hasn't matured to eating solid table food and who doesn't yet have the knowledge to discern between what is good or bad? Is Isaiah referring to the virgin's child in the prophecy or to his own young son who has been with him since his interview with Ahaz began?
There are three reasons why Isaiah could not be referring to the promised child in 7:14 and has to be referring to his son Shear-Jashub in what is a prophecy concerning the destruction of Judah's enemies who will be destroyed by the advancing Assyrian army in 7:15:
Question: Isaiah gives a time frame when the
destruction of the two kingdoms that oppose Judah will take place; what is that
time frame in 7:15-16?
Answer: The destruction will take place before the child reaches the age of reason.
The child he refers to has been weened but is still not eating table-food, and has not yet reached the age of reason in determining the distinction/nuances between is good and what is bad behavior. Under common law, seven years of age is defined as the "age of reason" for a child. Children under the age of 7 years old are conclusively presumed to be incapable of committing a crime because they do not possess the reasoning ability to understand that their conduct violates the standards of acceptable community behavior. In ancient times, and in underdeveloped countries today, a child is commonly breast-fed until 3 years old. Isaiah's son who is not yet eating table food but is eating soft food is probably 3 years old. If the date is 735 BC, three years later in 732 BC, before the child is 7 years old, the threat will be removed. Ahaz will acknowledge himself a vassal of Assyrian King Tiglath Pileser III in c. 734 (see 2 Kng 15:29; 16:5-9). Tiglath Pileser III's campaign against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Damascus will begin in 733 BC and both kingdoms will be conquered by the Assyrians in 732 BC. Damascus will be destroyed by the Assyrians, the northern territory of Israel will be conquered and its population exiled into Assyrian lands. King Pekah of Israel will be reduced to a vassal of Assyria in the same year, removing the threat of both Damascus and Israel to Judah.
Isaiah 7:17-9:6/7 ~ Isaiah's Prophecies of an Assyrian Invasion and a Future Deliverance
In this next section, Isaiah's message focuses on four topics:
The prophetic names of Isaiah's sons:(2)
Isaiah 7:17-25 ~ Devastation of a Foreign Invasion
17 Yahweh will bring times for you, your people and your ancestral House, such as have not been seen since Ephraim broke away from Judah (the king of Assyria)."18 When that day comes, Yahweh will whistle up mosquitoes [insects] from the distant streams of Egypt and bees from the land of Assyria, 19 and they will all come and settle on the streams in the gullies, in the holes in the rocks, on all the thorn-bushes and on all the water-points. 20 That day the Lord will shave with a razor hired from the other side of the River (with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the leg, and take off the beard, too. 21 When that day comes, each man will raise one heifer and two sheep, 22 and because of the abundant milk they give, (on curds will he feed) all who are left in the country will feed on curds and honey. 23 When that day comes, wherever there used to be a thousand vines worth a thousand pieces of silver, all will be brambles and thorn-bushes; 24 to be ventured into only with arrows and bow, for the country will be nothing but brambles and thorn-bushes. 25 No more will you venture on any hillside formerly under the hoe for fear of the brambles and thorn-bushes; it will be fit only for pasturing cattle, a tramping-ground for sheep. [..] = zebub, a Hebrew word that refers to a kind of insect that flies in swarms and stings like the bees also mentioned.
Verse 17 begins with the prediction that the very nation Ahaz sought as an ally will become Judah's greatest adversary, and Judah and the House of David will face the same kind of turmoil and threat to its very existence as it did when the United Kingdom of Israel broke into the two nations of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (verse 17; see 1 Kng chapter 12).
Question: What two nations are named as invading armies?
Answer: Egypt and Assyria.
Question: What metaphors from nature does Isaiah
use to highlight the magnitude of the coming destruction from Egypt and Assyria
in verses 18-19?
Answer: Swarms of stinging insects and bees symbolize the onslaught of the armies of the foreigners, and sea waves crashing on the shore symbolize their relentless assault.
As Egypt and Assyria vied for power in the region, the smaller nations like Judah found themselves caught in the middle. In verses 20-25, the prophet also describes the oppressive conditions the people will face. The heartland and original core of Assyria was in what is now northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers with the capital cities of Calah and Nineveh located across from each other on the eastern bank of the Tigris.
Question: What pairs of words are repeated three
times in verses 23, 24, and 25 and of what other curse judgment does it remind
you? See Gen 3:18.
Answer: The repeat of "brambles and thorn-bushes" recalls the judgment on Adam in his rebellion against the sovereignty of God in Genesis 3:18.
This passage is a prediction of the devastation of the land by the Assyrians. Shaving the hair off one's body probably describes the humiliation of the Assyrian oppression as they stripped the conquered people bare of both their possessions and their dignity (see 2 Sam 10:4-5; cf. Is 50:6). The size of the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep will drop significantly as food sources for the animals became scarce and there will only be brambles and thorn bushes to feed them. The mention of curds and honey echoes verse 15. However, in verse 15 it is the food of a young child and in previous Scripture passages the sign of God's favor (cf. Ex 3:8, 17; Dt 6:3; 11:9 etc.), but here it is the only food to be found in a devastated country that has reverted from farm land to be only good for grazing a few sheep and cattle.
25 No more will
you venture on any hillside formerly under the hoe for fear of the brambles and
thorn-bushes; it will be fit only for pasturing cattle, a tramping-ground for
The hill country of Judah was not suitable for plowing and was terraced and cultivated with a hoe. But no one will dare to venture into the terraced fields which will only be fit for cattle and sheep. Isaiah's description of the political situation and economic conditions is supported by secular documents archaeologists have discovered from archives during this period in the history of the region. Everything Ahaz feared will come to pass, and he will be powerless to stop it.
Isaiah 8:1-4 ~ The birth of another son
1 Yahweh said to me, "Take a large tablet and on it with an ordinary stylus write, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz'. 2 And take reliable witnesses, the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah." 3 I then had intercourse with the prophetess, who then conceived and gave birth to a son. Yahweh said to me, 4 "Call him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, for before the child knows how to say mother' [immi]or father' [abi], the wealth of Damascus and the booty of Samaria will be carried away while the king of Assyria looks on."
Question: Isaiah had already predicted the coming
of the Assyrians and the overthrow of Israel, but now God tells him to again foretell
the coming destruction in what two ways? See verses 1 and 3. The words Isaiah
is told to write on the tablet means "speedy spoil, quick booty."
By means of the symbolic name God gave his son, he repeats his message. What was prophesied in 7:15-16 in Isaiah's elder son is now confirmed "the future is determined: there will be devastation but a "faithful remnant" will survive.
Question: Why is Isaiah told to take two reliable
witnesses with him when he writes upon the large tablet?
Answer: Isaiah is told to take two witnesses with him when he displays the tablet so that God's prophecy, uttered through His prophet, may be verified and the honor of His truthfulness and the mercy of His warning will be upheld.
Question: Why is the condemnation of Judah just?
Give two reasons.
Verse 2 refers to Isaiah's wife as a "prophetess." Biblical scholars are uncertain if she had this title simply because she was married to a prophet or if she had prophetic gifts herself. It is interesting that Immanuel is to be given that name by his mother (7:14b), but it is Isaiah who names his son (8:3). The name that Isaiah wrote upon the tablet is now transferred to his son so that, like the tablet, this son may be a reminder of the prophecy to the nation.
The Hebrew words immi and abi are more
accurately translated "mommy" and "daddy" and are the affectionate names a very
young child (first spoken between 1-2) uses for his/her parents.
Question: As in the time frame given to Ahaz in 7:16 for the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Damascus associated with Isaiah's first son, what time period is given for the destruction of the capital cities of Damascus and Samaria associated with his second son?
Answer: In the first prophecy the destruction would occur before his first son reached the age of reason, and for the second son before he could say "mother" or "father." The two time frames appear to overlap.
Within two years of the prophecy, in 732 BC, the wealth of Damascus will be plundered by the army of Tiglath-Pileser and the Northern Kingdom's tribal lands in the Galilee and on the east side of the Jordan River will be taken. Without their Aramean ally, the Northern Kingdom submitted as a vassal to the Assyrians, but 12 years later the Assyrians destroyed Samaria (capital of the Northern Kingdom) and took all the citizens of the Northern Kingdom into exile in 722 BC.
Isaiah 8:5-10 ~ Shiloah and the Euphrates
5 Yahweh spoke to me again and said, 6 "Since this people has rejected the waters of Shiloah which flow smoothly, and has trembled before Razon and the son of Remaliah, 7 now, against it, the Lord will bring the mighty, swelling waters of the river (the king of Assyria and all his glory): the River will flood up all its channels and overflow all its banks; it will flow into Judah, flooding everything and passing on; 8 it will reach right up to the neck, and the spreading of its wings will cover the whole extent of your country, Immanuel [God-with-us]! 9 Realize this, peoples and be afraid, listen, all members of far-off nations! Arm yourselves yet be afraid! Arm yourselves yet be afraid! 10 Devise plans as you may: they will come to nothing! Make what pronouncements you like; it will not come about! For God is with us [immanu-el]!"
Shiloah is the reservoir in Jerusalem that was mentioned
as the "upper pool" where Isaiah was told to meet Ahaz in 7:3. It was a ritual
purification pool where religious Jews ritually immersed as a sign of repentant
and purified souls before attending Temple worship. St. John translates the
name of the pool in the Greek as the Siloam Pool, which he says means "one who
has been sent" in John 9:7.
Question: What miracle did Jesus perform at the Pool of Shiloah/Siloam in John 9:1-7?
Answer: Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth and used the waters of the pool in His healing process.
Here the waters of Shiloah symbolize God's desire to purify the people's sins, an offer the people of Jerusalem and their king have rejected in favor of the salvation in the form of the Assyrians. The contrast God makes in verse 6 is that the Judahites and their king have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah in favor of the flood of Assyrians who will cross the Euphrates River to engulf everyone in their path.
Question: Isaiah ends this prediction with the two
times cry: "Immanuel!" (in verses 8 and 10). This time it is not a symbolic
name/title of a future child; what is it?
Answer: In verse 8 it is literally a plea for God's help; in verse 10 it is a pronouncement that what God wills for them will happen and the punishments that are foretold are preparing the way for the fulfillment of the promises.
Isaiah 8:11-23 ~ Isaiah's advice to his Disciples
11 For this was how Yahweh spoke to me when his hand seized hold of me and he taught me not to follow the path of this people, saying, 12 "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy; do not dread what they dread, have no fear of that. 13 Yahweh Sabaoth is the one you will proclaim holy, him you will dread, him you will fear. 14 He will be a sanctuary, a stumbling-stone, a rock to trip up the two Houses of Israel; a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, 15 over which many of them will stumble, fall and be broken, be ensnared and made captive. 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the instruction in the heart of my disciples." 17 My trust is in Yahweh who hides his face from the House of Jacob; I put my hope in him. 18 Look, I and the children whom Yahweh has given me shall become signs and portents in Israel on behalf of 19 Yahweh Sabaoth who dwells on Mount Zion. And should people say to you, "Go and consult ghosts and wizards that whisper and mutter" "a people should certainly consult its gods and the dead on behalf of the living! 20 As regards instruction and testimony, without doubt this is how they will talk, and hence there will be no dawn for them. 21 Oppressed and starving he will wander the country; and, once starving, he will become frenzied and curse his king and his God; turning his gaze upward, 22 then down to earth, there will be only anguish, gloom, the confusion of night, swirling darkness. 23 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress?
In this passage, Isaiah explains to his disciples (verse 16) the reason for the stand he has taken in declaring the destruction of Judah. It is God Himself who has instructed Isaiah to oppose the king and the people and to put his trust in no one but God. He instructs his disciples not to listen to the people when they accuse Isaiah of conspiracy (verse 12).
Question: What contrast does Isaiah make in verse 14?
Answer: God will be a sanctuary for Isaiah and his disciples, but He will also be a stumbling stone and a trap for those who reject Isaiah's prophecies that will cause them to "fall, be broken, be ensnared and made captive."
Isaiah and his sons with prophetic names are "signs and
portents in Israel" of the messages of the One, True God who dwells with His
people on Mt. Zion.
Question: What is the "signs and portents" (a portent is a warning of coming evil) of the children's prophetic names?
Answer: God's messages to the people of both justice/judgment and restoration (the major themes of the Book of Isaiah).
Question: But what should Isaiah and his disciples
be prepared to answer to what the people will claim as their rights and what
will be the outcome? See verses 19-20.
Answer: They will claim that they have the right to consult ghosts, wizards, and other gods through whom they can consult the dead concerning the fate of the living. But these "rights" will only confirm the justness of their condemnation.
Verses 21-23 are not included in all Bible translations (e.g.,
Jewish Tanakh and NAB) but were included in the two oldest versions of Isaiah
in Hebrew discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
21 Oppressed and starving he will wander the country; and, once starving, he will become frenzied and curse his king and his God; turning his gaze upward, 22 then down to earth, there will be only anguish, gloom, the confusion of night, swirling darkness. 23 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress?
"There will be no dawn" in verse 20 becomes total darkness in verse 23. The "he" is probably a personification of the nation of Judah as a whole. In despair, the people in the midst of their judgment will curse both God and king. For all the people, it will be a "dark night" spiritually.
Isaiah 9:1-6 (8:23-9:7) ~ The Promise of Deliverance and Restoration
1 As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow darkness as death light has blazed forth. 2 You have enlarged the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest time, as they exult when they are dividing the spoils. 3 For the yoke that weighted on it, the bar across its shoulders, the rod of its oppressor, these you have broken as on the day of Midian. 4 For all the footgear clanking over the ground and all the clothing rolled in blood, will be burnt, will be food for the flames. 5 For a son has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and dominion has been laid on his shoulders; and this is the name he has been given, "Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace", 6 to extend his dominion in countless peace, over the throne of David and over his kingdom to make it secure and sustain it in fair judgment and integrity. From this time onwards and forever, the jealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this.
This vision is so vivid that Isaiah speaks of these events as having already happened. The tribal territories of Zebulun and Naphtali were located north and west of the Sea of Galilee. The "Way of the Sea" was the great trade route that began in Egypt, passed along the coast of the Mediterranean northward with several roads crisscrossing the Galilee, and extending into Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. The well-traveled trade routes brought Gentile influence as well as goods into the region
The major themes of Isaiah's book are repeated again where the justice of God's judgment is followed by the promise of mercy and restoration. The judgment that befell the tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali in the region of the Galilee was the invasion of the Assyrians and the exile of the people into Assyrians lands to the east: In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead and Galilee "the whole territory of Naphtali and deported the population to Assyria (2 Kng 15:29).
The towns mentioned (all belonging to the tribe of Naphtali) were taken in Tiglath-Pileser III's advance in his campaign against Philistia in in 734 BC. Gilead (east side of the Jordan River) and the Galilee were conquered in the campaign of 733-732 BC, and the inhabitants of the entire region were exiled into Assyrians lands to the east; it was the first major Israelite deportation and Gentile peoples were brought in to settle the region making the Galilee, as Isaiah says, a territory of the goyim, the Gentile nations. Isaiah foretells that this humiliation will be followed by a glorious future in a "Day of Yahweh." To the region of the Galilee that experienced the darkness of exile and repopulation by Gentile foreigner armies, the prophet promises deliverance and the "light" of restoration. This "light" will come from the "dominion" of the peaceful reign of a royal son of the House of David, the "God-with-us/Immanuel" of 7:14.
have enlarged the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at harvest time, as they exult when they are dividing the
spoils. 3 For the yoke that
weighted on it, the bar across its shoulders, the rod of its oppressor, these
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
The Messianic king will raise Israel from the yoke of divine judgment and will save the people as they were saved "on the day of Midian". This may be a reference Israel's deliverance from the Midianites by Gideon in Judges 7:15-25 or the deliverance of the children of Israel from God's divine judgment by a single righteous individual in Numbers 25:1-18 who diverted God's wrath away from Israel and against the Midianites.
Question: What happened on the Plains of Peor that
almost caused the destruction of Israel?
Answer: The Midianites contrived with the Moabites to entice the Israelites to participate in pagan fertility rites honoring the god Baal. God's judgment was to strike down Israel with a plague but God's wrath was appeased when the priest Phinehas executed the Israelite prince from the tribe of Simon and the Midianite princess with whom he was committing the sin of fornication in a ritual of idol worship.
Notice this Davidic son is "born for us" and "given to us" (verse 5a). The child's significance extends beyond his immediate family to God's people in general. He will be given to the covenant people as God's special gift and the government will rest on His shoulders (verse 5b).
The promised Davidic king will also deliver Israel fallen into sin. He will not only appease God's anger but will usher in an age of peace and restoration From this time onwards and forever, the jealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this (Is 9:6c).
Question: How many adjectives are used to describe
the "name" of this future Davidic deliverer as a "light" to the people?
Each of the names/titles refer to the child's divine nature. The first name/title indicates the divine nature of his wisdom. The same Hebrew word for "wonder" (pele') appears in Judges 13:18 when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his wife and announced Samson's birth, using this word for the couple to recognize the divine will in their son's birth. The word pele' and other derivations often designate God's mighty works.
The second name/title, "Mighty-God", ascribes deity to the child and again links the child with the divine realm. The same expression occurs in 10:21, "A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God", where it refers to Yahweh, the Lord God.
The third name/title, "Eternal-Father" or "Everlasting Father" can be understood as "Father of eternity" or "Father of the ages." This title places emphasis on his sovereignty over time and eternity and his eternal or everlasting nature. This child, born into time, somehow will transcend and oversee time itself.
The fourth name/title is "Prince of Peace." The word "prince" indicates sonship rather than fatherhood. As you recall in Isaiah 2:1-4 in the prophecy of the messianic kingdom to come that the Messiah will not only bring God's people together but will also bring God's peace (shalom). Shalom indicates more than an absence of war; it suggests a society whose every aspect is in harmony with God and His divine will, granting God's wholeness and completeness to society.
6/7 to extend his
dominion in countless peace, over the throne of David and over his kingdom to
make it secure and sustain it in fair judgment and integrity. From this time
onwards and forever, the jealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this.
Isaiah again emphasizes the peace this promised child will bring and links his rule with King David and the eternal covenant God made with David. The last part of this verse establishes two important truths:
Question: In whom does St. Matthew say this prophecy
is fulfilled in Matthew 4:12-16? How did this person begin to fulfill the
prophecy, and what Biblical covenant promise is also fulfilled in this person?
Also see Lk 1:31-33 and
2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5;
2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25; 47:11.
Answer: Matthew wrote that when Jesus began His ministry to proclaim the coming of His Kingdom in the Galilee, it was in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Jesus, the heir of the great King David, began to restore the new, eternal Kingdom of Israel in the very place where Israel was first torn asunder.
Christian interpreters have always identified this passage from Isaiah with Jesus:
Question for reflection or group discussion:
List the ways in which formerly declared Christian nations have drifted far from God. Should society's modern concepts of justice and morality take precedence over the teachings of the Church as the people of Judah certainly thought? Do you think that there is the possibility that God's judgment will befall these nations and their people and what form will these judgments take? Should individuals blindly follow the path of society and political leaders like the citizens of Judah? If a "faithful remnant" remains obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, what can they expect as a reaction from their governments and fellow citizens? Where do your loyalties lie and what can you do, like Isaiah, to warn your people?
1. When the Hebrew word almah is used in the
Old Testament, it is never used for a woman who is sexually experienced and is
only used to describe a young, unmarried woman of marriageable age (Sri, Queen
Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship, page 54-55; 140-41; see
endnote #7). The first Hebrew translators of the Book of Isaiah into the Greek
clearly believed the intent of the inspired writer of the Book of Isaiah was to
convey that the "sign" the house of David would receive was that a virgin,
descended from the great King David, would bring forth a son. For a married
woman to bring forth a son is hardly a divine "sign" but for the virgin
to be "with child" is clearly a divine "sign" which points to a particular
Denying that the Hebrew word almah meant "virgin" and the deception of changing the Greek word parthenos, which in the Greek clearly means "virgin," to the Greek word neanis, meaning "young woman," in new Greek translation in the second century AD, allowed the Jews opposed to Christianity to assert that the prophecy in Isaiah didn't fulfill what the Christians were teaching about the very nature of Christ in Matthew 1:23 when the Apostle Matthew quoted this passage from the Greek Septuagint version and applied it to Jesus' virgin birth in Bethlehem. This second Greek translation is known as the Jamnian-Palestinian version (see This Rock, September 2004, "The Council That Wasn't", Steve Ray, page 26). It was easy for the Jewish scholars and rabbis to orchestrate this rewriting of sacred scripture because the Romans had been so thorough in their destruction of sacred texts that very few Hebrew scrolls survived, and those that did survive were in the hands of the Jamnian and Tiberian scholars. Among the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1947 were two almost complete scrolls of Isaiah in Hebrew that that used almah and translations of the LXX that used the word Greek word for "virgin," parthenos, and dated to periods prior to Jesus' death.
Saint Matthew, who was a Levite, and therefore because of his Temple education understood how to both read and write Hebrew, clearly understood that the interpretation of the prophetic words ha almah in Isaiah 7:14 to refer to "the virgin" since he links that prophetic utterance to Mary of Nazareth and Jesus' virgin birth in Matthew 1:23. In the book Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship, author Edward Sri notes on page 140 that the Hebrew word almah is used 9 times in the Old Testament, however, he does not list those passages. I could only find 7 references to almah: 1. Genesis 24:43; 2. Exodus 2:8; 3. Isaiah 7:14; 4. Song of Songs 1:3; 5. SS 6:8; 6. Psalms 68:25; and 7. Proverbs 30:19. In each case the Hebrew word almah explicitly means "virgin" or implies it; in each case almah always refers to an unmarried woman of good reputation. It is never used to refer to a married woman in Scripture. In Gen 24:43 the word is used for Rebekah, Isaac's future bride. The passage also records that she had never been with a man (Gen 24:16). In Ex 2:8 almah describes the infant Moses' young sister Miriam. In Ps 68:25 almah describes virgins playing musical instruments in liturgical procession, in Prov 30:19 almah is used to suggest the mystery of marriage and procreation "a virgin giving herself to a man; in Song of Songs 1:3 and 6:8 the Hebrew word almah is applied to virgins of the royal court as opposed to women who are sexually experienced.
The Jews maintain that the word bethula is the Hebrew word for "virgin." It is true that this word is also used for a girl or young woman, and in the passage about the young Rebekah, both bethula and almah are used (see Genesis 24:16 = bethula; 24:43 = almah). However, while bethula may refer to a virgin, it is also used in the Old Testament Scriptures to refer to a young married or sexually active woman as it is in Joel 1:8 ~ Mourn, as a young woman [bethula] in sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth! Bethula is found at least 50 times in Scripture. Some translations in English render this passage "as a virgin bride in sackcloth mourns for the bridegroom of her youth," accepting the revised Jewish rendering of the word bethula, but bridegrooms have brides and brides are no longer virgins. If this passage was referring to a betrothed young woman and not a young woman whose marriage is already consummated, the Hebrew would have been bethula meorasah (The Book of Isaiah, Edward Young, volume I, page 288). Also, in later Aramaic translations of Scripture, the Aramaic equivalent to bethula refers to a married woman. Isaiah did not use the word bethula because he did not want to confuse his readers "his prophetic statement clearly intends us to understand that "the virgin" with child is the force of the sign "the use of the words ha almah, with a definitive article, are deliberate. For more information on the use of bethula and almah see The Book of Isaiah, Edward Young, volume I, Edermans Publishing, 1996, pages 286-288 and Edward Sri's book excellent book Queen Mother, Emmaus Publishing Company, 2005.
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7:14 (CCC 497)