Isaiah 7:11
Ask you a sign of the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
7:10-16 Secret disaffection to God is often disguised with the colour of respect to him; and those who are resolved that they will not trust God, yet pretend they will not tempt him. The prophet reproved Ahaz and his court, for the little value they had for Divine revelation. Nothing is more grievous to God than distrust, but the unbelief of man shall not make the promise of God of no effect; the Lord himself shall give a sign. How great soever your distress and danger, of you the Messiah is to be born, and you cannot be destroyed while that blessing is in you. It shall be brought to pass in a glorious manner; and the strongest consolations in time of trouble are derived from Christ, our relation to him, our interest in him, our expectations of him and from him. He would grow up like other children, by the use of the diet of those countries; but he would, unlike other children, uniformly refuse the evil and choose the good. And although his birth would be by the power of the Holy Ghost, yet he should not be fed with angels' food. Then follows a sign of the speedy destruction of the princes, now a terror to Judah. Before this child, so it may be read; this child which I have now in my arms, (Shear-jashub, the prophet's own son, ver. 3,) shall be three or four years older, these enemies' forces shall be forsaken of both their kings. The prophecy is so solemn, the sign is so marked, as given by God himself after Ahaz rejected the offer, that it must have raised hopes far beyond what the present occasion suggested. And, if the prospect of the coming of the Divine Saviour was a never-failing support to the hopes of ancient believers, what cause have we to be thankful that the Word was made flesh! May we trust in and love Him, and copy his example.Ask thee - Ask for "thyself;" ask a sign that shall be convincing to "thyself," since thou dost not fully credit the words of the prophet. It is evident that the words of the prophet had made no impression on the mind of Ahaz. God, therefore, proposes to him to ask any "proof or demonstration" which he might select; anything that would be an indication of divine power that should put what the prophet had said beyond doubt. Had Ahaz put confidence in God, he would have believed what the prophet said without miraculous proof. But he had no such confidence. 'The prophet, therefore, proposes that he should ask any miraculous demonstration that what he said would come to pass. This proposition was made, probably, not so much from respect to Ahaz as to leave him without excuse, and in order that "the people" might have the assurance that the city and kingdom were safe.

A sign - A demonstration that shall confirm the promise now made, and that shall be an evidence that Jerusalem shall be safe. The word used here, and translated "sign" - 'owt - אות 'ôth - means "a flag," or "a standard," Numbers 2:2; "a memorial or pledge" of a covenant, Genesis 17:11; any "pledge, token, or proof" of a divine mission, Judges 6:17; or a miracle performed in attestation of a divine promise or message. This is its sense here. That which Isaiah had spoken seemed highly improbable to Ahaz, and he asked him to seek a proof of it, if he doubted, by any prodigy or miracle. It was customary for miracles or prodigies to be exhibited on similar occasions; see Isaiah 38:7, where the shadow on the dial of this same Ahaz was carried backward ten degrees, in proof of what the prophet Isaiah had spoken; compare 1 Samuel 2:27-34; 1 Kings 13:1-3; Exodus 3:12; Judges 6:36-40. That the word here refers to some event which could be brought about only by divine power, is evident from the whole connection. No mere natural occurrence could have satisfied Ahaz, or convey to the people a demonstration of the truth of what the prophet was saying. And if the prophet had been unable or unwilling to give a miraculous sign, where is the fitness of the answer of Ahaz? How could he be regarded as in any way tempting God by asking it, unless it was something which God only could do? And how could the prophet bring the charge Isaiah 7:13, that he had not merely offended men, but God also? It is clear, therefore, that Isaiah was conscious that he was invested by God with the power of working a miracle, and that he proposed to perform any miracle which Ahaz should suggest that would serve to remove his doubts, and lead him to put confidence in God.

Ask it either in the depth ... - He gave him his choice of a miracle - any sign or wonder in heaven, or on earth - above or below; a miracle in the sky, or from beneath the earth. Many of the versions understand the expression 'the depth,' as referring to "the grave," or to the region of departed souls - "hades." So the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus. The Chaldee reads it, 'Seek that there may be a miracle to thee upon the earth, or a sign in the heavens.' The literal meaning of the Hebrew is, 'make low, ask for;' that is, ask for a sign below; obtain, by asking for thyself; a miracle that shall take place below. It may refer to the earth, or to the region under the earth, since it stands in contrast with that which is above. If it refers to the region under the earth, it means that Isaiah would raise the dead to life if Ahaz desired it; if to the earth, that any wonder or miracle that should take place in the elements - as a tempest, or earthquake - should be performed.

The height above - The heaven, or the sky. So the Pharisees desired to see a sign from heaven, Matthew 16:1.

11. Ask thee—since thou dost not credit the prophet's words.

sign—a miraculous token to assure thee that God will fulfil His promise of saving Jerusalem (Isa 37:30; 38:7, 8). "Signs," facts then present or near at hand as pledges for the more distant future, are frequent in Isaiah.

ask … in … depth—literally, "Make deep … ask it," that is, Go to the depth of the earth or of Hades [Vulgate and Lowth], or, Mount high for it (literally, "Make high"). So in Mt 16:1. Signs in heaven are contrasted with the signs on earth and below it (raising the dead) which Jesus Christ had wrought (compare Ro 10:6, 7). He offers Ahaz the widest limits within which to make his choice.

Ask thee a sign of the Lord; I perceive thou dost not believe God’s word and message now delivered by me; yet God is so patient and merciful to thee, that he gives thee liberty to demand of him any signal or miraculous work, whereby thou mayst be assured of the truth and certainty of this promise.

Thy God; both by right of dominion, and by virtue’ of his gracious covenant made with all Israel, of whom thou art a member and king; and by thy own profession, for he still worshipped God together with his idols; and by the continuance of his care and kindness to thee and to thy people, notwithstanding all your wickedness; whereof this promise and offer is a clear demonstration.

Ask it either in the depth, or in the height above; demand some prodigy to be wrought, either in earth or in heaven, at thy pleasure. Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God,.... For though Ahaz was a wicked man, yet the Lord was his God, as he was the God of the people of Israel in general, as a nation; and knowing his unbelief and diffidence of his word unto him, offers to confirm it by a sign or miracle:

ask it either in the depth, or in the height above, in earth, or in heaven: so the Targum,

"ask that a miracle may be done for thee upon earth, or that a sign may be shown thee in heaven;''

either that the earth might gape and open its mouth, as in the days of Moses; or that the sun might stand still, as in the times of Joshua; or that a dead man might be raised out of the depth of the earth; or that there might be some strange appearances in the heavens.

Ask thee {i} a sign from the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

(i) For the confirmation of this thing that your enemies will be destroyed and you preserved.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. Ask thee a sign] The “sign” (’ôth, móphçth, here the former), plays a very large part in O.T. religion and with considerable latitude of meaning. The most important cases are those in which a divine revelation is attested by some striking event within the range of immediate perception through the senses. Such a sign may be a supernatural occurrence conveying an irresistible persuasion of the divine agency (ch. Isaiah 38:7; Isaiah 38:22; Exodus 7:8 ff.; Jdg 6:17; Jdg 6:36 ff.; 1 Kings 13:1 ff.). But it may also be an ordinary event, which acquires significance through its having been foretold, or asked for (Genesis 24:14; 1 Samuel 10:2 ff; 1 Samuel 14:10; Luke 2:12). Thus of two predicted events the nearer may be made a “sign” of the more remote (1 Samuel 2:34; Jeremiah 44:29 f.). Or, in a still more general sense, the “sign” may be merely an incident of the fulfilled prediction, which carries the mind back to the time of the prophecy, when the sign was appointed (Exodus 3:12; Isaiah 37:30). That for which a sign is here offered to Ahaz is the certainty of divine help, or (what is the same thing) the truth that God speaks to him through the prophet. Although Isaiah was undoubtedly prepared to give a miraculous sign (see next clause) it is not to be at once assumed that the sign actually given (Isaiah 7:14 ff.) must be of the same order.

ask it either in the depth … above] Lit.: going deep to Sheol or mounting high above (reading shě’ôlâh for shě’âlâh). It is thought by some that this translation could be obtained from the actual Hebrew vocalisation, but this is doubtful. It is at all events the one that would be most readily suggested by an unpointed text, and it is justified by the antithetic structure of the sentence. The whole realm of creation, from the heavens to the underworld, is as it were put at the disposal of Ahaz for the purpose of this sign. It has been said that Isaiah played a dangerous game in staking his reputation on so unbounded a choice. Undoubtedly he did, if he was not speaking under genuine divine inspiration.Verse 11. - Ask thee a sign. Asking for a sign is right or wrong, praiseworthy or blamable, according to the spirit in which the request is made. The Pharisees in our Lord's time "asked for a sign," but would not have believed any the more had they received the sign for which they asked. Gideon asked for a sign to strengthen his faith (Judges 6:37, 39), and received it, and in the strength of it went forth boldly against the Midianites. When God himself proposed to give a sign, and allowed his creature to choose what the sign should be, there could be no possible wrong-doing in a ready acceptance of the offer, which should have called forth gratitude and thanks. Ask it either in the depth, or in the height above; i.e. "Ask any sign thou wilt, either in hell or in heaven" - nothing shall be refused thee. "Because Aram hath determined evil over thee, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah (Remalyahu), saying, We will march against Judah, and terrify it, and conquer it for ourselves, and make the son of Tâb'êl king in the midst of it: thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It will not be brought about, and will not take place." The inference drawn by Caspari (Krieg, p. 98), that at the time when Isaiah said this, Judaea was not yet heathen or conquered, is at any rate not conclusive. The promise given to Ahaz was founded upon the wicked design, with which the war had been commenced. How far the allies had already gone towards this last goal, the overthrow of the Davidic sovereignty, it does not say. But we know from 2 Kings 15:37 that the invasion had begun before Ahaz ascended the throne; and we may see from Isaiah 7:16 of Isaiah's prophecy, that the "terrifying" (nekı̄tzennah, from kūtz, taedere, pavere) had actually taken place; so that the "conquering" (hibkia‛, i.e., splitting, forcing of the passes and fortifications, 2 Kings 25:4; Ezekiel 30:16; 2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 32:1) must also have been a thing belonging to the past. For history says nothing about a successful resistance on the part of Judah in this war. Only Jerusalem had not yet fallen, and, as the expression "king in the midst of it" shows, it is to this that the term "Judah" especially refers; just as in Isaiah 23:13 Asshur is to be understood as signifying Nineveh. There they determined to enthrone a man named Tâb'êl (vid., Ezra 4:7; it is written Tâb'al here in pause, although this change does not occur in other words (e.g., Israel) in pause - a name resembling the Syrian name Tab-rimmon),

(Note: The Hauran inscriptions contain several such composite names formed like Tâb'êl with el: see Wetzstein, Ausgewhlte griechische und lateinische Inschriften, pp. 343-4, 361-363). By the transformation into Tab'al, as Luzzatto says, the name is changed from Bonus Deus to Bonus minime.)

a man who is otherwise unknown; but it never went beyond the determination, never was even on the way towards being realized, to say nothing of being fully accomplished. The allies would not succeed in altering the course of history as it had been appointed by the Lord.

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