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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 8: The Nation and the Remnant

Chapter 10: Swift Judgment

After pronouncing judgment upon Judah in the latter part of Isaiah 7, the prophet then turned his attention to Israel (or “Ephraim”). It is plain from biblical history that Israel’s judgment happend first, but at the time Isaiah dealt with Judah first because he was living there. Hence, it was more important to warn Judah of its impending judgment.

Isaiah 8:1-4 begins, saying,

1 Then the Lord said to me, “Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters: ‘Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.’ 2 And I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” 3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, 4 for before the boy knows how to cry out, ‘My father,’ or ‘My mother’, the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

The “large tablet,” most likely made of clay, was a written record of the prophecy foretelling the destruction of the House of Israel. The wording was to be the name of Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz (verse 3), whose name means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” Both of Isaiah’s sons were named prophetically and were types of the people as a whole. (Isaiah 8:18; Heb. 2:13).

This son was the younger brother of Shear-jashub, “the remnant will return,” who accompanied his father when the Immanuel prophecy was given earlier to Ahaz (Isaiah 7:3). The name of the firstborn, Shear-jashub, prophesied of the remnant, those who were actually “chosen” by grace alone. They were to “return,” that is, repent and return to God. The remnant’s enduring presence ensured the fulfillment of the prophecies, as Paul explains later (Rom. 11:5-7).

The name of Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, prophesied of the destruction of Israel and the exile of the Israelites.

It seems that God named Isaiah’s first son to give them a message of hope before giving the name of the second son that established impending judgment. By reversing the order of these birth names, God avoided giving the people some years of apparent hopelessness. The hope of the remnant was set forth before the judgment was decreed in the “large tablet.”

The Witnesses

Two witnesses were important in this prophecy, because this was the verdict from the divine court. In order to establish anything in the earth, two witnesses were required to make it lawful. So God chose Uriah the priest and Zechariah, who was Hezekiah’s maternal grandfather. 2 Kings 18:1, 2 says,

1 Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.

Hezekiah’s mother, then, was named Abi, “My Father.” She was probably named Abi because this was her first intelligible word when she was a baby. So God used even this as a prophecy in regard to Isaiah’s second son: “before the boy knows how to cry out, ‘My Father’…” [Abi]. In other words, Israel was to be exiled before Isaiah’s second son learned his first word.

So Zechariah was called to be a faithful witness to Isaiah’s prophecy. He was an old man at the time, but because of his family tie to the House of David, he represented those who were faithful among the ruling family, while Uriah the priest represented the faithful among the priests.

Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh remembers,” and his presence as a witness reinforces that which was written on Isaiah’s tablet. It was written down as a memorial to remember this decree. Uriah’s name means “My light is Yahweh,” which seems to apply to the light of revelation that Isaiah had been given.

At any rate, this child was born just before or even during the siege of Samaria (723-721 B.C.).

The Two Rivers

Isaiah 8:5-7 continues,

5 Again the Lord spoke to me further, saying, 6 “Inasmuch as these people [Israelites] have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah; 7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, even the king of Assyria and all his glory; and it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks.”

The stream of Shiloah was the brook flowing under Zion from Gihon to the pool of Siloam. Isaiah used it as a metaphor for the gentle word of God that the Israelites should have heeded. But the Israelites had rejected the rule of the House of David after the death of Solomon, and this had divided the kingdom into two nations.

The prophet used this as a metaphor, showing how Pekah, the king of Israel, had allied with Rezin, king of Syria, to fight against Judah and had promised to replace Ahaz with the Syrian king. Isaiah pictures this as a reliance upon the river Euphrates—the lands of Syria and Assyria—which God then used to bring judgment upon Israel.

Not only this, but even Judah rejected the law of God and made an alliance with idols. The prophet then made it clear that Judah would not escape judgment. Isaiah 8:8 says,

8 Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through. It will reach even to the neck; and the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.

We know that eight years after the fall of Samaria, the Assyrian army swept across the land of Judah—that is, the land of “Immanuel,” or the land where Immanuel had been born. This was Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, the type of the remnant. Manasseh was of the tribe of Judah, but he was named after the son of Joseph. His name prophesied of the ultimate reunification of Judah and Joseph.

Of course, as we see so often, because of repentance, the prophecies of the destruction of Judah were fulfilled only partially in Hezekiah’s day. Final judgment came more than a century later, and this time by an Assyrian province called Babylon, which revolted against Assyria and became the next dominant empire in the region.

Jerusalem’s destruction at that time was but a type of something greater yet to come, for the people were to return after 70 years and rebuild the city so that Jesus could be born in nearby Bethlehem. The second destruction of Jerusalem (in 70 A.D.) was yet another prophetic type of the final destruction of the city in the future, when the word of God casts out “Hagar” in favor of “Sarah,” as the apostle Paul explains in Galatians 4.

We should understand that prophecy can often see many partial fulfillments which are early warnings of a final fulfillment. In addition to these are prophetic signs which God gives to the remnant ahead of time as reminders of the original prophecies. The signs tend to increase in number as the time of fulfillment approaches.

A Believing Remnant

Isaiah 8:9, 10 says,

9 “Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered; and give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; gird yourselves, yet be shattered. 10 Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted. State a proposal, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”

Here we see the contrast between the “peoples” and “us,” the remnant of grace. The people as a whole, including most Israelites by genealogy or nationality, will try to defend themselves against God but will fail. They will arm themselves in the attempt to fight the army that God has raised up against them, but they will be “shattered.” They will “devise a plan, but it will be thwarted.”

Why? “It will not stand, for God is with us,” not with them. The word that the remnant has been given will prevail over the plan or council that the nation as a whole has devised. And so, history has proven this to be the case in the past in regard to Israel, and the future will again prove that the word given to the remnant will prevail in regard to Jerusalem and Judah.

God is with us” is a Hebrew version of Immanuel. In other words, the Immanuel prophecy as a whole will prevail because it is the true word of God. It applied first to Manasseh, who was taken to Babylon as a prisoner for a time (2 Chron. 33:11). After he repented for his early idolatry, he was reinstated and became a godly king in Judah to fulfill the type of the returning remnant. 2 Chron. 33:12, 13 says,

12 When he was in distress, he entreated his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

Centuries later, Jesus Christ was born of the House of David as a greater Immanuel, the final fulfillment of that prophecy. But even then, Christ was to come twice, and so only half of the Immanuel prophecy was fulfilled in His first coming. He fulfilled the Judah prophecy in His first coming, but He must return to fulfill the Joseph prophecies. As the Head of the remnant, Christ comes the second time to fulfill the prophecy of Shear-jashub, “the remnant will return.”

There is, of course, much weight behind the idea of returning, for it implies His success in claiming the throne that was usurped during His first coming. The conspiracy of Jerusalem to prevent the Messiah from attaining His throne will be thwarted. Overall, it implies the success of His Tabernacles ministry to bring forth the sons of God, who are destined to reign with Him as immortals who inherit the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:4, 5, 6).