Judgment Against Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 9:8-21

In my last post, we learned more about The Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7. In this post, we learn about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21.

8 Adonai sent a word to Ya‘akov, and it has fallen on Isra’el. 9 All the people know it, Efrayim and the inhabitants of Shomron. But they say in pride, in the arrogance of their hearts, 10 “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stone; the sycamore-fig trees have been chopped down, but we will replace them with cedars.”

After giving them a glimpse of the new day that would dawn in the future, Yesha’yahu now says to the ten tribes of Isra’el, “Don’t you see what’s happening? The invasion of Assyria has already begun. Your buildings are knocked down. Your forests are wiped out. You’re boasting that you’ll erect stronger buildings and plant more majestic trees.” The people didn’t understand that God was working, judging, and dealing with them.

The preeminent sin of God’s people is pride and arrogance. They believed they did not need God to survive and prosper.

11 So Adonai has raised up Retzin’s foes against him and spurred on his enemies –

As we have learned previously, the most notable enemies of King Retzin of Aram are the Assyrians and its vassals.

12 Aram from the east, P’lishtim from the west; and they devour Isra’el with an open mouth. Even after all this, his anger remains, his upraised hand still threatens.

The Arameans and P’lishtim were the other two primary targets of the Assyrians in the 734-732 BCE campaigns. It is likely that they had been pressed into service in the ranks of the Assyrian army as it moved against Isra’el.

13 Yet the people do not turn to the one striking them; they don’t seek Adonai-Tzva’ot.

God’s punishment of His people was intended to convince them to return to His ways, but they were so dull of mind and spirit that they did not respond.

14 Therefore Adonai will cut off Isra’el’s head and tail, [tall] palm frond and [lowly] reed in a single day.

After the first Assyrian incursion into the north, Isra’el continued in its sinful ways. God soon brought a more devastating judgment, ending their independent existence. The expression head and tail, palm branch and reed point to totality as interpreted in the next verse.

15 The old and the honored are the head, while prophets teaching lies are the tail. 16 For those leading this people lead them astray, and those led by them are destroyed.  

It was mainly the leaders (including the elder and the prophet) who were responsible for the people going in the wrong direction. The ones who were to be leading and warning were teaching lies. As a result, people were destroyed.

17 Therefore Adonai takes no joy in their young men and has no compassion on their orphans and widows; for everyone is ungodly and does evil, every mouth speaks foolishly. Even after all this, His anger remains, His upraised hand still threatens. 18 For wickedness burns like fire, it devours briars and thorns; it sets the forest underbrush ablaze, with clouds of smoke whirling upward. 19 The anger of Adonai-Tzva’ot is burning up the land; the people, too, are fuel for the fire – no one spares even his brother.

Devastation is seen as the natural consequence of wickedness itself (wickedness burns like fire) as well as the result of divine anger (the anger of Adonai-Tzva’ot scorches the land). Sin breaks up human relationships, even brotherly love.

20 The one on the right grabs but stays hungry, the one on the left eats but is unfilled. Everyone devours his own arm’s flesh –

It is uncertain whether this text refers to cannibalism or not. Nevertheless, cannibalism is a standard element of curses in Assyrian at that time. It was the last resort in times of impending starvation. This level of desperation could occur in times of severe famine or could be the result of siege when the food supply had become depleted. Siege warfare was conventional in the ancient world, so this may not have been as rare an occasion as might be presumed.

 21 M’nasheh devours Efrayim; and Efrayim, M’nasheh; while together they oppose Y’hudah. Even after all this, His anger remains, His upraised hand still threatens. ~ Yesha’yahu 9:8-21 (CJB)

Although they were united against Y’hudah, the ten northern tribes were not united themselves – as seen in the bitterness between M’nasheh and Efrayimhistorically and geographically the two closest tribes of the ten. Drought, famine, and fire were the signs of God’s judgment and the results of His people’s rebellion against Him.

In my next post, we will move on to Yesha’yahu 10 to learn about the Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur~ Part 1.

Judgment Against Isra’el

Pesach and Hag HaMatzah – 2019

(Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
God’s Appointed Times

We return to God’s Appointed Times from the Tanakh.  Both Pesach (Passover) and Hag HaMatzah are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The principle Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8.  In 2019, Pesach starts on the eve of April 19th and Hag HaMatzah on the eve of April 20th.   This eight-day remembrance ends at sundown on April 27th.

For Believers in Yeshua, this time can be a great time to reflect not only on the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and death of the first-born by the shedding of the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; but also on the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross.  His death and resurrection paid for our sins and purchased for us eternal salvation.

I have attached a PDF version of an explanation of the traditional Pesach Seder provided by Chosen People Ministries.  Click here.

However, for those of you who want to have a Scriptural-based observation of Pesach, I highly recommend Kevin Geoffrey’s “Behold the Lamb and Preparation Guide.”  Click here to order.

The Future Hope ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7

In my last post, we learned more about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

Beyond destruction there is hope. In the Messiah’s kingdom, the darkness would give way to great light, which was to dawn in Galilee and reach the whole nation, and then the entire world. The Messiah’s rule would be marked by the vindication of the oppressed and the end of all oppression. He would bring justice and righteousness forever in a kingdom of peace.

1 But there will be no more gloom for those who are now in anguish. In the past the land of Z’vulun and the land of Naftali were regarded lightly; but in the future, he will honor the way to the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim. [1]

The tribes of Z’vulun and Naftali were among those hardest hit by the Assyrians in the 733 BCE campaign (see 2 Kings 15:29). At that time, the Assyrians reduced the land holdings of the northern kingdom and integrated three new provinces into their empire. These three provinces were called Magiddo (Galilee), Du’ru (the Way of the Sea), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan).

How would this honor come about? Matthew 4:12-17 tells us this is a prophecy concerning Yeshua, who began His ministry in Galilee – a region that was dark and despised.

2 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the land that lies in the shadow of death, light has dawned.

The Assyrian invasion brought great devastation (darkness), but the people still had great reason to hope (seen a great light). Though the events were in the future, they are described as if they had already happened.

3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice in your presence as if rejoicing at harvest time, the way men rejoice when dividing up the spoil. 4 For the yoke that weighed them down, the bar across their shoulders, and their driver’s goad you have broken as on the day of Midyan’s defeat.

The type of deliverance the prophecy pictures seemed impossible. After all, Ashur was a world power and God’s people were weak and crushed. Thus, the oracle alludes to the day of Midyan. This refers to the events of Judges 6 and 7 when Gid’on with just a handful of troops – but with the power of God – defeated the oppressive Midyanites and expelled them from the land.

5 For all the boots of soldiers marching and every cloak rolled in blood is destined for burning, fuel for the fire.

The word for boot occurs only here in the Tanakh but is equivalent to one of the common terms for sandal or shoe. In the Assyrian army, many of the infantry went barefoot, but the cavalry was equipped with knee-high soft leather boots held on by long crisscrossed thongs. Officers also were provided with boots. Boots would be among the most common plunder stripped from the slain.

In Ashur, it was familiar rhetoric to speak of land dyed red with the blood of enemies and of the army marching through the blood of their enemies. [2]

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],

I confess that every time I read this verse, I get goosebumps as I “hear” Handel’s Messiah playing in my mind.

In the ancient Near East, the birth of an heir to the throne was a momentous occasion. Twice earlier in this section of Yesha’yahu, the birth of children has been described as having prophetic significance (7:14; 8:1-4). For a third time, the reader learns of a future birth. Some commentators believe the text means that this future royal child will be a purely human descendant of David who will be proclaimed king and lead God’s people to a new level of freedom and prosperity.

The only possible interpretation of this passage is Messianic. This child will be given names that signify His character. He will be a sage characterized by extraordinary wisdom (Wonderful Counselor). He will have a life that is never-ending (Eternal Father). He will bring peace (Prince of Peace). But the most extraordinary thing of all that confirms He is merely not to be identified with any human because of His title, Mighty God. In the Brit Hadashah, Yeshua is recognized as the Davidic descendant who fulfilled this great promise (Matthew 1:1,22-23).

A child is born speaks of Yeshua’s humanity. A Son is given to us speaks of His deity. The sign of government on His shoulder would not be the braid of a military general or the insignia of a noted ruler. It would be a wooden cross because Yeshua would govern by laying down His life. You can get counsel from a lot of people in a lot of places, but there is only one Wonderful Counselor – and with Him, there are neither fees involved or appointments that need to be made (Hebrews 4:16).

7 in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this. ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7 (CJB)

When Yeshua returns for His church, His kingdom will indeed be established politically and materially. But when He came the first time, His kingdom was not of this world because He was involved with something much more significant than throwing off the yoke of the Roman Empire politically. He was concerned with eternity and the salvation of humanity.

In my next blog, we learn about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible.

[2] Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

The Prophetic Message ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-23

In my last post, we learned more about The Assyrian Invasion of Y’hudah in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

11 For this is what Adonai said to me, speaking with a strong hand, warning me not to live the way this people does:

God spoke to Yesha’yahu (me) so he would not conform to the world’s beliefs. Rabbi Sha’ul instructs us to not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed. ~ Romans 12:2 (CJB)

12 “Don’t regard as alliance what this people calls alliance, and don’t fear what they fear or be awestruck by it;

The alliance may refer to the partnership between Aram (Syria) and the northern kingdom of Isra’el against Y’hudah or perhaps a secret cooperation against the pro-Assyrian party of Achaz. Whatever the exact alliance in view, the point was that Yesha’yahu must not be afraid like the people were.

13 but Adonai-Tzva’ot – consecrate him! Let him be the object of your fear and awe! 

The fear of God [here called the God of Heaven’s Armies] overshadows all other concerns (see Luke 12:5). The reason Yesha’yahu and others must not fear threatening alliances is that God is the only One who should be feared. There is a difference in the quality of the two fears described in these verses. The fear of human beings may be defined as terror (v. 12), while the fear of Adonai-Tzva’ot is described as awe.

14 He is there to be a sanctuary. But for both the houses of Isra’el he will be a stone to stumble over, a rock obstructing their way; a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

The sanctuary image highlights God’s holiness and suggests that He protects His people, but because they have rejected Him, the people of Y’hudah will experience Him as a stumbling stone.

The trap and snare are used for hunting birds and small animals. This provides a fascinating image of what God thinks of this rebellious people.

Who shall be our sanctuary? Yeshua. If you come to Him, you’ll find a place of safety. If you turn from Him, you’ll only stumble and fall.

15 Many of them will stumble and fall, be broken and trapped and captured. 16 “Wrap up this document and confine its teaching to those I have instructed.”

Scrolls could be sealed either by tying a string around them and sealing the knot with clay or by placing them in a jar and sealing the cover. The clay or the seal around the lid would be impressed with the owner’s seal. The seals were intended to ensure the integrity of the contents. They warned against tampering and, if intact, attested to the authenticity of the document.

17 I will wait for Adonai, who is hiding his face from the house of Ya‘akov; yes, I will look for him.

Because of their sin, God will withdraw His saving presence (hiding His face) from His people (the house of Ya’akov). The faithful, represented by Yesha’yahu, will wait for His sure return.

18 Meanwhile, I and the children whom Adonai has given me will become for Isra’el signs and wonders from Adonai-Tzva’ot living on Mount Tziyon.

The children who are signs and wonders are Sh’ar Yashuv (7:3) and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (8:1).

19 So when they tell you to consult those squeaking, squawking mediums and fortune-tellers; [you are to answer], “Shouldn’t a people seek their God? Must the living ask the dead 20 for teaching and instruction?” For they will indeed give you this unenlightened suggestion.

Because of the well-developed ancestor cult permeating much of the ancient Near East, the dead were considered to have some power to affect the living. It was believed that if libations were poured out on behalf of the deceased ancestors, their spirits would then offer protection and help to those still living. [1]

Yesha’yahu realized that things would be coming down in the northern tribes. So, he gathered his talmidim together and said, “I will seek the Lord’s face and spend time in His Word. As for you, when others tell you to listen to the astrologers, wizards, or channelers, turn instead to the Word alone.”

21 Distressed and hungry they will pass through the land, and because of their hunger they will grow angry and curse by their king and by their God. But whether they look up [to God] 22 or [down] at the earth, they will see only trouble and darkness, anguished gloom and pervasive darkness.

Those who look for a new light, a new age, a new way or a new green deal will find only the old darkness and despair. Yesha’yahu contrasts his counsel with that of his ungodly contemporaries. Yesha’yahu’s message gives light, whereas the message of the spiritists led to darkness and death.

1 But there will be no more gloom for those who are now in anguish. In the past the land of Z’vulun and the land of Naftali were regarded lightly; but in the future, he will honor the way to the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-9:1 (CJB) [2]

In my next blog, we learn of The Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible. I will save a discussion on that verse until the next post.

The Assyrian Invasion ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10

In my last post, we concluded the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:17-25. We learned that despite the alliance with Assyria, the King of Assyria would invade Y’hudah. In this post, we learn more about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

1 Adonai said to me [Yesha’yahu], “Take a large tablet, and write on it in easily readable letters; ‘Maher shalal, hash baz [the spoil hurries, the prey speeds along].’”

The significance of the large size of the tablet may merely be that the writing was to be prominent and clear. The inscription means that an invasion was imminent.

2 I had it witnessed for me by reliable witnesses – Uriyah the cohen and Z’kharyahu the son of Y’verekhyahu.

The presence of witnesses indicates that the writing of this prophecy had the force of a legal document. If the prophecy did not come true, then these two witnesses could attest to its falsity. If it did come true, they could proclaim that it was written before, and not after, the fact.

3 Then I had sexual relations with my wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son; and Adonai said to me, “Name him Maher Shalal Hash Baz;

Other English translations indicate that Yesha’yahu’s wife was herself a prophetess. The title “prophetess” is never used just to designate the wife of a prophet but consistently for a female prophet. While we need not doubt that this prophetess was Yesha’yahu’s wife, she must also be regarded as a woman who functioned prophetically in her own right.

The first fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy may well relate to the birth of Maher Shalal Hash Baz recorded here.

4because before the child knows how to cry, ‘Abba!’ and ‘Eema!’, the riches of Dammesek and the spoil of Shomron will be carried off and given to the king of Ashur.”

Before the child could say “Daddy” or “Mommy,” the invasion of Ashur into Isra’el would take place.

5 Adonai went on speaking and said more to me: 6 “Since this people has rejected the gently flowing waters from Shilo’ach and takes joy in Retzin and the son of Remalyah;

Hezekiah’s tunnel had not yet been constructed at this time. The waters flowed from a spring on the side of Mount Moriah into a tranquil pool. It was to this pool that Yeshua sent a man born blind to regain his sight (John 9).

7now Adonai will bring upon them the mighty floodwaters of the [Euphrates] River — that is, the king of Ashur and his power. It will rise above all its channels and overflow all its banks.

The mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates represent the Assyrian king and thus Assyrian might. By aligning with Ashur to help him against the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, Achaz was choosing a foreign nation rather than God.

8 It will sweep through Y’hudah, flooding everything and passing on. It will reach even up to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the whole expanse of the land.” God is with us! [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]

The waters that represent Ashur will come up to Y’hudah’s neck. They will not be drowned, but they will find themselves paying annual tribute. On occasion, the Assyrian army will threaten their independent existence.

9 You may make an uproar, peoples; but you will be shattered. Listen, all of you from distant lands: arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; yes, arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; 10 devise a plan, but it will come to nothing; say anything you like, but it won’t happen; because God is with us [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10 (CJB)

It was a common strategy for the Assyrians to claim that the deities of their rebellious vassals had abandoned them because they had broken the oaths that had secured their loyalty to the Assyrians. However, Ashur will not completely subjugate Y’hudah. After all, God was still with them.

In my next blog, we learn of the response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Message from Those Living on the Gaza Border

A powerful short video to remind us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem ~ Psalm 122:6.

Looking for the Blessed Hope

Iranian-backed Hamas would like nothing better than to rid the region of Jewish people. We hear the news of rockets launched toward Israeli homes near the Gaza border. While Israel is plenty capable of taking care of business in Gaza, the threats from Hamas are real and border residents must be prepared 24/7 for terrorist attacks.

What is it like to live under those conditions? Hear a message from Israelis living on the Gaza border. Then, continue to uphold them in your prayers.

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The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:13-25

In my last post, we continued the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12. We learned that Achaz had put his fate in an alliance with Assyria rather than in God. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

17 Adonai will bring the king of Ashur [Assyria] on you, your people and your father’s house. These will be days worse than any you’ve known since Efrayim broke loose from Y’hudah.”

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was inaugurated soon after Tiglath-Pileser III’s accession to the throne in 745 BCE and was not to be overthrown until 612 BCE when Nineveh fell to the alliance of the Medes and Babylonians. At its height, it included all or part of the modern countries of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Isra’el and Egypt. Ashur’s reputation as an aggressive regime is supported by extensive documentation and stands as its historical legacy. Its strategy of psychological warfare included terrifying rhetoric, brutal destructions and carefully chosen examples of cruel torture. Its expansion was fueled by the potential for economic gain, which would come through the plunder, tribute, and tariffs that would result from control of trade and the trade routes

But it was not just Aram and the northern kingdom of Isra’el that would experience Assyrian devastation. Y’hudah would also suffer God’s punishment. As later events showed, paying Tiglath-Pileser III to take care of Achaz’s northern problem was not the smartest strategy. From that point on Achaz paid a heavy tribute as Ashur’s vassal.

18 Yes, when that day comes, Adonai will whistle for the fly in the farthest streams of the Nile in Egypt and for the bee in the land of Ashur.

Part of the lore of beekeeping maintained that a swarm could be lured out of its hive to another location by a whistling sound. Attacking armies are compared to flies and bees in Homer’s Iliad as well. [1]

19 They will come and settle, all of them, in steep vadis and holes in the rocks and on all thorn bushes and brambles.

This verse continues the imagery of bees by listing the places where bees are naturally inclined to make their hives. Such locations were also places of refuge for the desperate. However, Y’hudah’s enemies would find them there.

20 When that day comes, Adonai will shave – with a razor hired beyond the [Euphrates] River, that is, with the king of Ashur – the head and the hair between the legs and get rid of the beard as well.

While many translations suggest the shaving of the entire head, the forehead seems to be indicated explicitly by the Hebrew word. In Mesopotamia shaving off half the hair was used as a punishment intended to bring public humiliation. Additionally, a style of the haircut was used to designate a slave. Most commentators believe that the hair between the legs is a euphemism for pubic hair. [2]

21 When that day comes, a man will raise a young cow and two sheep. 22 Will they produce in abundance? No, he will [have to] eat curdled milk. Indeed, everyone left in the land will eat curdled milk and [wild] honey. 23 When that day comes, wherever there once were a thousand grapevines, worth a thousand pieces of silver, there will be only briars and thorns.

It is difficult to determine whether the text refers to a thousand vines that would be bought or sold for a shekel each (an exorbitant price), or, more reasonably, to a vineyard housing a thousand vines whose annual produce would bring a thousand shekels. The latter understanding would find support in Song of Songs 8:11. In short, the farmers faced near total disaster.

24 One will go there [to hunt] with bow and arrow because all the land will be briars and thorns. 25 You won’t visit hills once worked with a hoe, for fear of the briars and thorns; it will be good only for pasturing cattle and being trampled down by sheep. ~ Isaiah 7:17-25 (CJB)

Cattle and flocks could be devastating to agricultural land. Their movements would trample the soil, and their grazing would defoliate it, eventually leading to massive erosion of the topsoil and depletion of water sources.

In my next blog, we learn about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Ibid.

The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:7-12

In my last post, we looked at The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6. We learned that Aram and Isra’el had formed an alliance and were coming to the south to conquer Y’hudah. In this post, we continue the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

Yesha’yahu said to King Achaz:

7 “This is what Adonai Elohim says: ‘It won’t occur, it won’t happen. 8 For the head of Aram is Dammesek and the head of Dammesek Retzin. In sixty-five years Efrayim will be broken and will cease to be a people.

The reference to 65 years is puzzling. If this prophecy is dated to 735 BCE or thereabouts, then it would point to approximately 670 BCE, but Assyria soundly defeated the northern kingdom in 722 BCE. Of course, that is “within 65 years,” but perhaps the reference is to some unknown event among the survivors of the northern kingdom around 670 BCE. It is also possible that the deportations of Israelites and the importation of foreigners into their former region happened around that time.

9 The head of Efrayim is Shomron, and the head of Shomron is the son of Remalyah. Without firm faith, you will not be firmly established.’

The challenge that the prophecy presented to Achaz was that he should trust God and not Assyria as he faced a threat from Retzin and Pekach. Their confederacy was not going to be successful.

We know what God says always comes to pass. Sha’ul writes: Moreover, my God will fill every need of yours according to his glorious wealth, in union with the Messiah Yeshua. ~ Philippians 4:19 (CJB) We can either believe that or reject it. If we reject it, His promise still stands – but we’ll go through all kinds of unnecessary tension. Yeshua said He’s coming back for us (John 14:3). Even if you don’t believe that He’s still coming back, but if you don’t believe it when you look at the situation of the world today, you’ll be filled with fear. It’s far better to rest in the promises of God.

10 Adonai spoke again to Achaz; he said, 11 ‘Ask Adonai your God to give you a sign. Ask it anywhere, from the depths of Sh’ol to the heights above.’

There are a number of cases of signs being given by God in the Tanakh. The most similar examples are found in 1 Samuel 2:34 and 2 Kings 19:29. In these instances, the sign relates to the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy. The purpose of this sign in our text was to give Achaz even more reason to have confidence in God rather than Assyria to rescue him from Retzin and Pekach.

12 But Achaz answered, ‘I won’t ask, I won’t test Adonai.’”  ~ Isaiah 7:7-12 (CJB)

Although Achaz’s response sounds holy, in reality, it was hypocrisy because, in 2 Kings 16, we read that Achaz had previously taken a journey to Assyria to make his peace pact with the Assyrians. Because he sought the king of the Assyrians, he didn’t think he needed a sign from the King of the universe.

In my next blog, we will conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:1-6

In my last post, we looked at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13. In this post, we will begin to look at The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6.

1 During the days of Achaz the son of Yotam, the son of ‘Uziyahu, king of Y’hudah, Retzin the king of Aram (Syria) and Pekach the son of Remalyah, king of Isra’el, advanced on Yerushalayim to attack it but were unable to conquer it. 2 It was told to the house of David that Aram and Efrayim had become allies. Achaz’s heart began to tremble, as did the hearts of his people, like forest trees shaken by the wind. 

‘Uziyahu was a good king and a godly man. His son, Yotam, was also a good king and a godly man. Achaz, however, was one of the worst kings in the history of Y’hudah and a wicked man. Not only did he turn his own heart against the Lord, but he caused the entire nation to backslide.

When Achaz heard that the ten northern tribes of Isra’el had formed an alliance with Aram and were going to come down and march against the two southern tribes of Y’hudah, Achaz was blown away like trees in the wind. What was the reason for this alliance? Historically, these two countries allied to protect themselves from the threat of Assyria. Assyria was to the northeast of Aram – a vast and brutal empire. Both Aram and Isra’el wanted Y’hudah to join in the confederacy, but Y’hudah refused. Therefore, Isra’el and Aram were coming to attack Y’hudah to force her to join their stand against the Assyrian threat.

The chronology of the reigns of Yotam (Jotham), Achaz (Ahaz) and Achazyah (Hezekiah) is very complicated. Nevertheless, the invasion referred to in verse one can be confidently dated to 735 BCE. By 734 BCE Tiglath-Pileser III had begun responding to the problems in the west, and the coalition would not have felt at liberty to take such aggressive action.

Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III was occupied with Urartu and Media between 737 and 735. During this time the western states were working to put together a coalition that might resist Assyrian incursions. Retzin had most likely played a significant role in bringing Pekach to the throne of Samaria. It is suspected that the attack against Yerushalayim was related to Achaz’s pro-Assyrian position. The siege was intended to result in replacing Achaz with an anti-Assyrian representative on the throne, who would then join in the coalition.

3 Then Adonai said to Yesha‘yahu, “Go out now to meet Achaz, you and your son Sh’ar Yashuv, at the end of the aqueduct from the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderers’ Field;

The name of Yesha’yahu’s son, Sh’ar Yashuv, means “a remnant will return,” a theme that has already played a significant role in the first six chapters of the book.

Achaz deserved to be wiped out. He was, after all, a wicked ruler, a man who had no interest in the things of God. God sent Yesha‘yahu to talk to him, thereby giving Achaz yet another chance to turn to Him.

We can learn a valuable lesson here. Oh, the mercy of our Lord. How longsuffering and patient He was with Achaz. How longsuffering and patient He is with me.

4 and say to him, ‘Take care to stay calm and unafraid; don’t be demoralized by these two smoldering stumps of firewood, by the blazing anger of Retzin and Aram or the son of Remalyah; 5 or because Aram, Efrayim and the son of Remalyah have been plotting against you, thinking,

Go out now to meet with Achaz,” the Lord said to Yesha‘yahu, and tell him to stay calm and unafraid. The plans of these two firebrands are not going to work the way they think or hope. In fact, in sixty-five years, the ten northern tribes will not even be a people. Indeed, within sixty-five years, the Assyrians came down and carried away the ten northern tribes, and they haven’t been heard from since.

6  “We will invade Y’hudah, tear it apart, divide it among ourselves and appoint the son of Tav’el as king there. ~ Isaiah 7:1-6 (CJB)

Though nothing is known historically of this individual, the name Tav’el is Aramaic and thus suggests someone in the royal household (likely of Davidic lineage) whose mother was perhaps a princess from the area of Aram. Such an individual would be more likely to be a sympathizer with Aramean causes.

The political intentions of Retzin and Pekach were clear. They wanted to remove Achaz from the throne because of his unwillingness to join their coalition and they intended to install a puppet king who would be more easily manipulated.

In my next blog, we will continue to explore The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

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