7 In the days of Ahazb the son of Jothamc, son of Uzzi′ah, king of Judah, Rezind the king of Syria and Pekahe the son of Remali′ah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it f 2

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Isaiah 06

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Signa

(Isaiah 7:1-25)

Isaiah 7:1-25 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Isaiah Reassures King Ahaz

In the days of Ahazb the son of Jothamc, son of Uzzi′ah, king of Judah, Rezind the king of Syria and Pekahe the son of Remali′ah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it.f When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with E′phraim,” his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.g

And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go forth to meet Ahaz, you and She′ar-jash′ubh your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,i and say to him, ‘Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remali′ahjBecause Syria, with E′phraim and the son of Remali′ah, has devised evil against you, saying,k “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquerl it for ourselves, and set up the son of Ta′be-el as king in the midst of it,”m thus says the Lord God:

It shall not stand,

    and it shall not come to pass.n
For the head of Syria is Damascus,
    and the head of Damascus is Rezin.

(Within sixty-five years E′phraim will be broken to pieces so that it will no longer be a people.)o

And the head of E′phraim is Samar′ia,
    and the head of Samar′ia is the son of Remali′ah.
If youp will not believe,
    surely you shall not be established.’”q

Isaiah Gives Ahaz the Sign of Immanuel

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz,r 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”s 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”t 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?u 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el.v 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.w 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.x 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that E′phraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”y

18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly which is at the sources of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee which is in the land of Assyria.z 19 And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thorn bushes, and on all the pastures.aa

20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor which is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.ab

21 In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep;ac 22 and because of the abundance of milk which they give, he will eat curds; for every one that is left in the land will eat curds and honey.ad

23 In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns.ae 24 With bow and arrows men will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns;af 25 and as for all the hills which used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns; but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.ag

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  1. What was the historical context of Chapter 7?

  2. What was Ahaz doing when he was confronted by Isaiah?

  3. Why is it significant that Isaiah was instructed to take his son with him to meet Ahaz?

  4. What was Isaiah’s message to Ahaz, and what warning was contained in the message?

  5. Why did God offer another message to Ahaz? And what was Ahaz’ response?

  6. What was Isaiah’s second message ? To whom was the message addressed?

  7. What do we know about this child from this passage?

  8. Who was the “virgin” and “child” referred to in the second message, and why?

© Copyright 2016 by Whitman H. Brisky, all rights reserved. No copyright claimed on text of Scripture quoted above which is owned by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

a The Titles of the lessons in this study are borrowed from those given by Jhan Moskowitz of Jews for Jesus to the chapter titles in his recorded study of Isaiah upon which much of this study is based. I owe a great debt to Jhan, my late friend and brother in the Lord, who was called Home before his time, not only for much of the work in this study, but also for giving me a whole new perspective on the Scriptures and the Jewish Messiah. Jhan’s original recordings may be downloaded from the Jews for Jesus web site. http://jewsforjesus.org/jhan-moskowitz

The entire Book of Isaiah is identified in 1:1 as a “vision” meaning, in a broad sense, divine revelation, 2Ch 32:32, Ob 1, Nah 1:1, Am 1:1, Mi 1:1, Hab 1:1. The visions in Isaiah are not arranged chronologically. The first 5 chapters could have taken place during any, or all, of the time of Isaiah’s ministry and are perhaps best understood as setting the scene, or painting a picture, of the spiritual condition of Judah during Isaiah’s ministry.

Isaiah himself did not appear in the Book until Chapter 6 when the beginning of his ministry is described. In verse 1:1 he tells us that his ministry began in the year King Uzziah (783-742 B.C.; 2Ki 15:1-7,2Ch 26:1-23) died and continued through the time of Kings Jotham (742-735 B.C.; 2Ki 15:32-38, 2Ch 27:1-9), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.; 2Ki 16:1-17:41, 2Ch 28:1-27) and Hezekiah (715-687 B.C.; 2Ki 18:1-20:21, 2Ch 29:1-32:33). In 721 B.C., the Assyrian army captured the Israelite capital at Samaria and carried away the citizens of the northern kingdom into captivity. The virtual destruction of Israel left the southern kingdom, Judah, to fend for itself among warring Near Eastern kingdoms. At the time of Samaria's fall, there existed two kings in Judah — Ahaz and his son Hezekiah — who ruled as co-regents. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom, the kings of Judah tried to extend their influence and protection to those inhabitants who had not been exiled. They also sought to extend their authority northward into areas previously controlled by the Kingdom of Israel. The latter part of the reign of Ahaz, and most of that of Hezekiah were periods of stability during which Judah was able to consolidate both politically and economically. Although Judah was a vassal of Assyria during this time and paid an annual tribute to the powerful empire, it was the most important state between Assyria and Egypt. In 715 B.C., following the death of Ahaz, Hezekiah became the sole regent of Judah and initiated widespread religious changes, including the breaking of religious idols. He re-captured Philistine-occupied lands in the Negev desert, formed alliances with Ashkelon and Egypt, and made a stand against Assyria by refusing to pay tribute. In response, Sennacherib attacked Judah, laying siege to Jerusalem in 721 B.C. God destroyed Sennacherib’s army outside Jerusalem and the siege was broken. The records of royal Assyria state that while Sennacherib captured many cities in Judah, Jerusalem was only besieged, thus agreeing with the Biblical account. After being saved from the Assyrians, Judah survived until c. 600 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed the City and carried the leaders into exile. The Exiles were first allowed to return to Jerusalem in 539 B.C. after Babylon fell to the Persians.

In Chapter 6, Isaiah is given his ministry by God, a ministry to preach to a people who will not hear, and who will continue to be estranged from God and His law, that is, an unsuccessful ministry. Indeed, in some way, the failure to respond to Isaiah’s preaching will be used to help convict the people of Judah, Rm 10:14-21. Yet even here, there is a hope of redemption for the remnant.

While there is some debate among scholars regarding the date and authorship of the Book, this study will assume that Isaiah is the author, and that it is relatively contemporaneous with the times it describes. There is good reason to believe, however, that it may be a sort of “greatest hits” of Isaiah, with various writings of Isaiah throughout his ministry arranged in the final form to make a point about Judah, Jerusalem, the coming Jewish Messiah and the plan of salvation. It is also likely that much of Isaiah was first spoken, or recited, in the form of sermons or prophetic statements, and then written down and collected into the form we have today.

We cannot know whether we have, in the compiled book, the complete original sermons or poems, nor do we have the context in which they were preached or recited. It is possible, even likely, that at least some of them were created in a specific context of time and place, endowing them with a specific contemporary meaning, but that when recombined into the final product we have today, the individual pieces take on a new meaning in this new context. Thus we may find multiple meanings for the same passage, including, e.g. a meaning in the original context in which it was spoken (if that can be determined), a meaning in the context of the short term history of the Judah, Assyria and Babylon, and a Messianic or eschatological meaning.

Much of the Book is in the form of Hebrew poetry. While the translation into English causes a loss of many of the poetic elements, some of those that remain will be identified as we go along. One thing that is apparent is that poetry, in Hebrew and English, allows the use of images which can paint a powerful picture of what is going on without being a literal description. Isaiah will make liberal use of these images. In addition, verse, even unaccompanied by music, is easier to remember, and recite, than is prose. These two aspects of poetry may help explain why many of the Prophets, including Isaiah, wrote in verse. It is not clear that Isaiah’s verse was ever set to music, though music was an aspect of at least some of the Prophets, 1Sm 10:5; 2Ki 3:15. If any of Isaiah’s verse were set to music, none of the actual music has survived.

Chapters 1-5 of Isaiah are not tied to any specific historical events, but are used more to paint a picture of the times in which Isaiah ministered. The central theme of Chapters 1-39 is the “King.” Chapters 40-55 have to do with the “Suffering Servant.” And Chapters 56-66 have to do with a restored Jerusalem, with the key theme in those chapters being the “Conqueror.” In order to understand Isaiah, we always need to ask how the sections of the Book are connected, and why they are arranged the way they are. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit need not be limited to those men and women who actually wrote the text of Scripture. It can extend also to those who may have edited or copied the original text, those who compiled it, and those who decided which texts were to be included within the Scriptural Canon.

The initial section on the “King” may also be divided into separate sections. Chapters 1-5 describe the overall background of a sinful time in Judah of greed, hypocrisy, and judgment. Even in these chapters, there were hints of a restoration. Chapters 6-11 begin with a personal experience of God and include judgment but also way that God will bring a restoration. The common theme in these chapters is that of a child being born, explicitly in 7-9 and 11, and implicitly in 6 and 10. The other sub-sections are Chapters 13-12 and 24-37.

There are a number of recurring images or “motifs” in Isaiah, including David’s City, Jerusalem, a restoration to the conditions of the Garden that will reverse the curse of Original Sin (Gn 3), the “seed” or descendant of Abraham and David, and judgment upon the nations. The Holiness of God is also a big theme for Isaiah.

We must approach our study of Isaiah from the standpoint of humility, and recognize that we study from faith and not knowing all the answers. While there are parts that seem fairly clear, there are other parts that are debated. This study will attempt to identify where the scholarship is essentially in agreement, and where there are debated passages and meanings.

b Ahaz, King of Judah (735-715 BC) 2Ki 16; 2Ch 28, was one of Judah’s worst Kings, refusing God’s help and trusted instead to an alliance with Assyria bought with silver and gold from the Temple, 2Ki 16:8, which would later betray Judah.

c Jotham, King of Judah (750-735 BC) 2Ki 15:32-38; 2Ch 27.

d Rezin, King of Syria (754-732 BC) who is known from sources independent of the Bible.

e Pekah, King of Israel (742-732 BC) 2Ki 15:25-31.

f (1) Is 10:22, &:6-7; 2Ki 15:37, 15:25, 16:1-18; 2Ch 28:5-21. This attack on Jerusalem was ineffective, though apparently frightening. Ahaz is explicitly identified here as son of Jotham, son of Uzzi′ah, thus identifying him as being in the line of David.

g (2) Is 7:13, 22:2, 8:12, 9:9. Ephraim is another name for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Aram is another name for Syria. Israel and Syria were in rebellion against Syria, to whom they were tributary, and sought to bring Judah into their alliance, by force if necessary. This is a reference to the Syro-Ephraimite War. In spite of Isaiah’s warnings, King Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria who defeated Syria and Israel, but in the process reduced Judah to a vassal state.

h She′ar-jash′ub means, literally, “a remnant shall return”. The child was a walking summary of the prophecies of Isaiah, that Judah would eventually go into exile, but that a remnant would return. It was not a comforting prophecy when made, since it predicted Judah’s downfall. And every time the boy would be seen, or his name was called, there would be a reminder of the prophecy.

i (3) Is 8:3, 8:18, 36:2; 2Ki 18:17, 20:20. The reference to the place of meeting is of a conduit for water, parts of which are still in existence today, and which permitted those in Jerusalem under siege to continue to get water, 2Ch 32:30. Ahaz was inspecting the fortification and the water supply for Jerusalem in advance of the siege. The Washerman’s (or “Fullers’”) Field was the place that clothing or cloth was laid in the sun to dry and bleach.

j (4) Ex 14:13; Is 30:15; Lam 3:26; Is 10:24; Mt 24:6; Dt 20:3; 1Sm 17:32; Is 35:4; Am 4:11; Zec 3:2; Is 7:1-9. Syria was crushed by Assyria in 732 BC, and Israel defeated and carried into exile by Assyria in 722 BC. The events of this chapter, including Isaiah’s statements to Ahaz, occurred c. 735 BC.

k (5) Is 7:2.

l The Hebrew for conquer, literally means to “split it open”.

m (6) Tabeel was probably an Aramean of the Damascus court. The name probably originally meant “God is Good” but had been modified to mean “good for nothing” in the Biblical text. Ahaz, while a bad King, was still of the line of David, v. 1, and deposing him would also depose the entire House of David through whom salvation would ultimately come.

n (7) Is 8:10, 28:18; Ac 4:25-26.

o (8) Gn 14:15; Is 17:1-3. If you read from 7b through 9, omitting 8b, it makes sense as a statement that the attack on Jerusalem will not stand. It also leaves unspoken that “the head of Judah is Jerusalem, and the head of Jerusalem is the Lord”, clearly distinguishing between Judah and its enemies.

p You. The Hebrew for “you” is in the plural here, and in verses 13 and 14. The Hebrew for “you” in verses 11, 16 and 17 is singular. Isaiah first offered Ahaz a sign, but he rejected it. But Isaiah then gives a sign to the entire House of David.

q (9) 2Ch 20:20; Is 5:24, 8:6-8, 28:16, 30:12-15; Ps 46:2. In Hebrew, Verse 9b contains a play on words similar to “If you will not be sure, you will be insecure”. Syria would be defeated by Assyria, and Israel carried into exile, and foreigners would be brought to Israel to live, 2Ki 17:24, thus ending the existence of Israel as a nation. Isaiah’s prophecy here is that Judah has nothing to worry about from Israel and Syria and should not make an alliance with Assyria, and that if such an alliance is made, Judah will lose its independence as a nation. But God’s salvation depends on trusting God, and not making the alliance. The alliance was made, and Judah was first made subject to Assyria, and ultimately defeated by Babylon losing its independence, not to regain it until the mid-Twentieth Century. Some have proposed reversing the order of verses 8 and 9 and “correcting” 65 to “5 or 6”. With that modification it would refer to the fall of Samaria in 722 or 721 BC rather than the repopulation of Israel by foreigners at the later date.

r (10) It is not clear how much time, if any, elapses between the first prophecy and the second, though it was probably not a great deal of time.

s (11) 2Ki 19:29; Jdg 6:17-21; Is 37:30, 38:7-8, 55:13.

t (12) Dt 6:16; Lk 4:9-12; Mt 4:5-7. Although Ahaz responds by quoting Scripture, and refusing the sign, Ahaz always intended to put his trust in Assyria, 2Ki 16:7-9. Isaiah predicted the consequences of that trust, Is 7:17-25. Once one is committed to a secular course of action it is hard to change course and trust God.

u (13) Is 7:2, 1:14, 43:24, 25:1. Ahaz is of David’s line, as were all the Kings of Judah.

v (14) Is 8:8-10, 8:23-9:1, 9:5, 37:30, 38:7-8; Mt 1:23, 4:15-16; Lk 1:31-34; Jn 1:5; Gn 24:43; Ex 2:8; Ps 68:25; Pr 30:19; Mi 5:3; Is 8:8-10; Mt 12:39, 16:4, 18:20, 28:20. Immanuel, literally, “God is with us.” This is a sign of the Messiah who would deliver not only the Jewish people, but all people who believe in Him. Some commentators have suggested that the “virgin” might also refer to Isaiah’s wife, Is 8:1-4, whose son would not be more than 12-14 years old, the age of moral discrimination, when Assyria would exile Israel. This seems unlikely, however, because she already had a child, v. 3, and her second child was not named Immanuel. Some have argued that Isaiah’s first wife, the mother of She′ar-jash′ub, had died and that this refers to his second wife who was still a virgin. Others claim that the “virgin” was one of Ahaz’ concubines and her son was Hezekiah. But we know from the chronology in Kings and Chronicles that Hezekiah was 10 by the time of these events and that Hezekiah was never referred to as Emmanuel. There might also have been an unnamed, unreported virgin who gave birth and the child was named Emmanuel. But such event was never recorded. The last possibility was that it referred to Jesus, whose mother was a virgin, and who was from the House of David. The Hebrew word here translated as “virgin” or “young woman” is alma אלמה and typically refers to an unmarried woman of marriageable age, that is, a chaste, unmarried woman, Gn 24:43; Ex 2:8; Ps 68:25; Pr 30:19; Song 1:3, 6:8. The Greek in the Septuagint, however, is more explicit that it is a “virgin”. Some commentators have asserted it means only “young woman” without reference to whether she is a virgin. But this likely imports 20th Century sexual morality into centuries when women were expected to be chaste until marriage. This passage is also an example of the royal Messianism which began with the prophet Nathan, 2Sm 7, and was also developed by Ezekiel, Ezk 34:23, Micah, Mi 4:14-5:1, and Haggai, Hg 2:23, c.f. Ps 2, 45, 72 & 110. Through a King in the line of David, God would save His people. We only receive a hint of this child in Chapter 7, but will learn more in future chapters.

w (15) Heb 5:14; Is 7:22. Curds and honey are those products that can be gathered immediately even before the first harvest, and may indicate the beginning of a return to normal life. They may also be gathered even among nomadic peoples who do not grow crops indicating the coming devastation and exile of Judah. Finally, it may also refer to a divine blessing, Ex 3:8-17; Dt 6:3, 11:9.

x (16) Dt 1:39; 1Ki 3:9; Is 8:4, 8:14, 17:3, 6:12; Jer 7:15; Hos 5:3-14; Am 1:3-5.

y (17) Is 8:7-8, 10:5-6; 2Ch 28:20; 1Ki 12:16. The coming war, with Assyria, would be the worst that Judah had experienced since the division into two Kingdoms after Solomon’s death. The final phrase, “the King of Assyria” is probably a copying error or gloss brought about by a misinterpretation of the text.

z (18) Ex 23:28; Is 5:26, 13:5. Egypt and Assyria fought in 701 BC. The Assyrians are represented by the bees, Dt 1:44; Ps 118:12, and Egypt by a swarm of flies.

aa (19) Is 2:19, 7:24-25; Jer 13:4, 16:16.

ab (20) 2Ki 16:5-9, 18:13-16; 2Sm 20:4-5; Is 24:1, 10:5, 10:15, 8:7, 11:15; Ezk 5:1-4; Jer 2:18. Prisoners were humiliated by shaving off the hair of both head and genitals (feet).

ac (21) Ex 3:8; Is 5:17, 14:30, 27:10; Jer 39:10.

ad (22) Is 8:15. This verse likely looks at the destruction brought about by the Assyrians as reducing the available food to that which is available to nomadic people with no homes.

ae (23) Is 5:6-10, 32:13-14. Shekel is a half-ounce.

af (24) Jdg 5:11.

ag (25) Is 32:13-14, 5:17.

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