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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 2

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 7: Prophecies to Ahaz

Chapter 5: The Wars of Ahaz

With King Uzziah dead, his son Jotham became king, and he reigned sixteen years (2 Kings 15:32, 33). Though he failed to tear down the altars to Baal or convert the idolaters, he himself was a righteous king (2 Kings 15:34; 2 Chron. 27:2). You might say that he practiced religious toleration.

Jotham fortified the country and then subdued the Ammonites, forcing them to pay tribute to Judah for three years (2 Chron. 27:5).

Jotham came to the throne of Judah in the second year of Pekah, king of Israel, and he died in the seventeenth year of Pekah. That was when Ahaz came to the throne in Jerusalem, and this was where the account in Isaiah 7 resumed.

Isaiah tells us nothing about the reign of Jotham. He received his vision of the temple shortly after Uzziah died, that is, in the first year of Jotham; but the prophecy in Isaiah 7 occurred at least sixteen years later in the time of Ahaz.

We can only wonder what the prophet was doing during those sixteen silent years.

Ahaz came to the throne at the age of twenty. His name means “possessed.” His longer name was Jehoahaz, which appears also on the Assyrian records. His full name means “Yahweh possesses (him).” However, the prophet shortened his name by removing the first half of his name to reflect the fact that Ahaz did not follow the laws of God. In other words, Ahaz was “possessed,” not by Yahweh but by false gods.

Perhaps Ahaz’ most heinous crime was to sacrifice his son to Baal (2 Kings 16:3). This act was probably committed in the valley of Ben-Hinnom just outside of Jerusalem, for that is where Jeremiah later condemned such acts (Jer. 19:2, 4, 5).

The War against Ahaz

Isaiah 7:1, 2 says,

1 Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. 2 When it was reported to the house of David, saying, “The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,” his heart and the hearts of the people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.

During Isaiah’s years of silence, much was happening. Pekah, king of Israel, made an alliance with Rezin, king of Syria, no doubt to defend themselves against the rising Assyrian empire northeast of Syria. Israel and Syria then made war on Judah. 2 Kings 16:5, 6 says,

5 Then Rezin king of Aram [Syria] and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to wage war; and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. 6 At that time Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram and cleared the Judeans out of Elath entirely; and the Arameans came to Elath and have lived there to this day.

Elath (modern Eilat) was located on the top of the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. So the Syrians took control of the Negev, the southern part of Judah. Syria and Israel also invaded Judah, killing 120,000 men of Judah in a single day of battle. Israel took 200,000 Judahites captive (2 Chron. 28:8). Most likely, these were people of southern Judah who had been living in the Negev.

A prophet named Oded then reprimanded the king of Israel for enslaving their Judahite brethren. The Israelites heeded this admonition and set the Jews free at the Jordan crossing near Jericho (2 Chron. 28:15). The Syrians, however, did not obey this word and “carried away a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus” (2 Chron. 28:5),

The Rise of Assyria

When Israel and Syria invaded Judah, they were unable to take Jerusalem, because Ahaz appealed to the king of Assyria to help him. 2 Kings 16:7-9 says,

7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.” 8 Ahaz took the silver and gold that he had found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria; 9 So the king of Assyria listened to him and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and captured it, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin to death.

The Syrian army was forced to return to Damascus to defend their capital. The Assyrian records show that it took Assyria three years to capture Damascus. Tiglath-pileser then turned his attention to Israel, Syria’s ally. He conquered Galilee and Gilead and deported the Israelite tribes of Naphtali, Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half of Manasseh. 2 Kings 15:29 says,

29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazar and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried them captive to Assyria.

These deportations began in 745 B.C. and were completed in 721 B.C. with the capture of Israel’s capital, Samaria. “Seven times” later (i.e., 360 x 7 years) Israel’s long captivity ended in 1776-1800 A.D., coinciding with America’s Declaration of Independence (1776) and the building of America’s capital, Washington D.C. (1800).

We see, then, that King Ahaz of Judah was the instrument by which God began to bring judgment upon the House of Israel. Ahaz’ invitation brought the Assyrians into conflict with Syria and Israel—and eventually with Judah as well. But for the moment Judah was spared because of its alliance with Assyria.

This war forms the backdrop for Isaiah’s prophecy in the days of Ahaz. As we will see shortly, the prophet’s first major prophecy after his vision and calling in Isaiah 6 was a messianic prophecy of the coming of Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Just as the final disintegration of Israel began, the prophet received the promise of the great Deliverer.