Isaiah 7–8:20. Ahaz and His Three-way Bind. The Sign of the Child. Pt.i.

Key Notes: King of the Day: Ahaz. Collapse of the Syria / Israel alliance. The sign of the virgin. Children's names tell the story. Protection of Isaiah and his believers.

Our "king of the Day" is Ahaz.( (IIChron.28) (744–715BC). He was the corrupt son of a godly father, Jotham, and grandfather, Uzziah. He followed the abominable practices of the Canaanites, making metal images of Baal, offering his sons as burnt offerings, and sacrificing in the high places. For these sins God gave him into the hands of his enemies. The Syrians captured a great number of his people and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, killed 120,000 of his troops in one day, a frightful slaughter. The soldiers of Israel carried off 200,000 men, women and children of Judah to Samariah to make them slaves, but the prophet Oded intervened and ordered them to return their kin to Judah. So some men of Israel fed and clothed the captives and escorted them back to Jericho.

Ahaz was under other pressures as well: Edomites were attacking from the South, and the Philistines from the West. Ahaz appealed to Assyria (Tiglath-pileser) for help, giving up treasure as tribute. But Assyria harassed Ahaz as well. In his distress, Ahaz offered sacrifices to the gods of the Syrians. He died at 36.

Isa.7:1–9 Isaiah went to meet Ahaz who was inspecting Jerusalem's tenuous water supply at the SW corner of the city, in anticipation of another attack. He had been informed that Syria and Israel had now made an alliance to overthrow him and to put the son of Tabeal (otherwise unknown) in as their puppet king. Judah and Ahaz were petrified. Isaiah's word to Ahaz was not to be afraid. The alliance would not hold, being no stronger than the two kings, Rezin of Syria and Pekah, son of Remaliah of Israel, who were in control.

Isa.7:10–16 To cement his statement, Isaiah offered Ahaz a sign from God. Ahaz refused, not because he respected the law (Deut.6:16 "You shall not tempt the Lord your God") but because he wanted nothing to do with God. He had no piety. Isaiah gave him a sign anyway: a young, unmarried woman, probably a member of the royal household, would have a son named Immanuel. Before this child would reach the age of accountability (3–5 years old) both kings of the alliance would be gone.

The alliance between Syria and Israel was formed in 734BC. Rezin died in 732; Pekah died in 731. The prophet was right. The alliance was gone in four years.

Isa.7:17–25 The bad news was that the king of Assyria was coming, and his troops would shave the countryside close. Surviving people would eat curds and honey because only grazing land and wild products would be available. The child spoken of in Isa.7:15 would eat such fare. The land would become a jungle again, men hunting with bows and arrows.

8:1–4 Isaiah was given a second birth sign: a second child would be born to him and his wife, the prophetess, and would be named Maher-shalal-hash-baz. (Their first child was Shear-Jashub; 7:3). This name was witnessed and publicized by writing it on a large tablet, and probably posted on the temple grounds. His son's name means "spoil. speed. prey. hasten". It was a telegraphic message that the Assyrians are coming. Before this child could say "mother" or "father" (?24 months) the Assyrians would ravage Syria and Israel. Damascus fell to the Assyrians in 732BC.

8:5–8 Isaiah went on to say that Judah had refused the gentle waters of Jerusalem's spring, and therefore would be almost drowned by the Euphrates, meaning the Assyrian army. Almost, that is, to the neck, but not overflowing, because God was with Judah. Immanuel means "God with us.".
8:9–10 Foreign enemies should know that their dreams of conquest would not be realized because God was with Judah.
8:11–20 Isaiah turned from talking to Israel as a whole, and confided God's perspective on the catastrophes the believers faced. They should fear God, rather than think in terms of conspiracies and alliances. God would be a rock, a sanctuary, for the believers. To the unbelievers, however, God would be a stumbling block and an offence. He and his children were signs to Israel. Isaiah means "God saves". Shear-jashub means "A remnant will return". Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means, loosely "The Assyrians are coming". These names plus Immanuel, "God is with us", were his walking messages, like signboards, to Israel.

Ahaz was a tragic figure. He did not believe in God, but in the gods of the nations around Israel. Therefore God gave him into their hands--Philistia, Edom, Israel (the northern kingdom), and Syria. That is a fine irony. In fear, he appealed to Assyria, an even more treacherous and powerful enemy, that harassed him. Now he was caught in a multiple bind, especially between God, the Syria / Israel alliance, and Assyria. There was a simple way out of his problem: return to God. He would rather die in his distress.

The child named Immanuel would be born to a virgin. We believe that this prophecy was fulfilled twice. First, it was partially fulfilled in Ahaz' time to confirm Isaiah's prophecy of the soon end of the Syria / Israel alliance. Partially, because we understand that the woman to whom Immanuel was born in Ahaz' time was a young unmarried woman ("almah" in Heb.) but not necessarily a virgin. "Parthenos" means a true virgin. "Parthenos", however, is the Greek translation of Isa.7:14. (LXX)
{The Greek Old Testament was translated by Jewish scholars from Hebrew about 200BC. It s called The Septuagint [LXX] and is a very important resource, heavily quoted in the NT.)

Second, it was fulfilled completely in Christ (Matt.1:23;Lk.1:27–43) because He was truly conceived by the Virgin Mary. Both Matthew and Luke make that point explicitly in their accounts, using the word "parthenos" to translate Isa. 7:14.

The virgin conception (Jesus conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary) is not mentioned in Mark or John, or elsewhere in the NT. However, the incarnation (God became man) is widely taught in the NT. The virgin conception and the incarnation are tightly linked, as the crucifixion and the resurrection are linked. So while the virginal conception and the incarnation are not the same, they are bound together. This may explain why the conception is not as extensively taught as the incarnation. Similarly, the resurrection is given much more mention in Acts than the crucifixion.

Isaiah was given comfort for himself and the believers (8:11–22) because they will have to face the same attackers that everyone else does. What was he to think about himself, his family and community when the Assyrians attack? Being a believer did not exempt him from facing the same dangers that God brought on all the others. [The same applies to us. We are to fear God only and then we need not fear anyone else.]

"For the Lord spoke thus to me with His strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people. Do not call conspiracy what all this people call conspiracy. And do not fear what they fear. But the Lord of Hosts...let Him be your fear... and He will become a sanctuary...." (8:11–14)

He could realize that the conspiracy between Syria and Israel was not the problem, but the sins of Israel were the real cause of the trouble. His people were to fear only God. God would be their safe haven. When we come to Isa. 36–39 we will see that Isaiah was God's leader and Israel's defender in the siege of Jerusalem.