Isaiah 7:4
And say to him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Take heed, and be quiet . . .—The prophet meets the fears of the king by words of comfort. The right temper for such a time was one of calm courage, waiting on the Lord (Isaiah 30:15).

Neither be fainthearted.—Literally, let not thine heart be soft.

For the two tails of these smoking fire brands.—The two powers that Ahaz dreaded were, in the prophet’s eyes, but as the stumps of two smoking torches. Their flame was nearly out. It would soon be extinguished.

The son of Remaliah.—There is a touch of scorn in the omission of the king’s name. So men spoke scornfully of Saul as “the son of Kish” (1Samuel 10:11), and Saul himself of David as “the son of Jesse” (1Samuel 20:30). It pointed out the fact that Pekah was after all but an upstart adventurer, who had made his way to the throne by rebellion and murder.

Isaiah 7:4. Say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet — Settle thy mind by the belief of that joyful message which I am now to deliver to thee from the Lord; Fear not for the two tails, &c. — These two kings and their forces, which, though they seem to threaten utter destruction, yet shall not be able to do much mischief, being not whole fire-brands, but only small pieces or ends of them, taken out of the fire, in which there is more smoke than fire: and the fire will be speedily extinguished. They have more of show and terror than of strength, their power being much wasted and almost consumed. He terms the king of Israel, the son of Remaliah, by way of contempt, intimating that he was unworthy of the name of king, his father being an obscure person, and he having got into the throne by usurpation, and the murder of his master Pekahiah, 2 Kings 15:25.7:1-9 Ungodly men are often punished by others as bad as themselves. Being in great distress and confusion, the Jews gave up all for lost. They had made God their enemy, and knew not how to make him their friend. The prophet must teach them to despise their enemies, in faith and dependence on God. Ahaz, in fear, called them two powerful princes. No, says the prophet, they are but tails of smoking firebrands, burnt out already. The two kingdoms of Syria and Israel were nearly expiring. While God has work for the firebrands of the earth, they consume all before them; but when their work is fulfilled, they will be extinguished in smoke. That which Ahaz thought most formidable, is made the ground of their defeat; because they have taken evil counsel against thee; which is an offence to God. God scorns the scorners, and gives his word that the attempt should not succeed. Man purposes, but God disposes. It was folly for those to be trying to ruin their neighbours, who were themselves near to ruin. Isaiah must urge the Jews to rely on the assurances given them. Faith is absolutely necessary to quiet and compose the mind in trials.Take heed - Hebrew 'Keep thyself;' that is, from fear.

Neither be fainthearted - Hebrew, 'Let not thy heart be tender;' that is, let it not be easily moved; be strong, fearless.

For the tails ... - There is much beauty and force in this comparison. The "design" of Isaiah is to diminish the fear of Ahaz. Instead, therefore, of calling them "firebrands" - burning and setting on fire everything in their way - he calls them the "tails, that is, the ends," or remains of firebrand - almost consumed themselves, and harmless. And instead of saying that they were "burning and blazing," he says that they were merely "smoking" - the half-burned, decaying remains of what might have been once formidable. The prophet also is just about to announce their approaching destruction by the Assyrians; see Isaiah 7:8. He, therefore, speaks of them as already almost extinguished, and incapable of doing extensive injury.

Son of Remaliah - Pekah, Isaiah 7:1. 'It is by way of contempt that the king of Israel is not called by his own name. The Hebrews and Arabians, when they wish to speak reproachfully of anyone, omit his proper name and call him merely the son of this or that, especially when his father is but little known or respected. So Saul names David, in contempt, the son of Jesse; 1 Samuel 20:27, 1 Samuel 20:31.' - "Hengstenberg."

4. Take heed, &c.—that is, See that thou be quiet (not seeking Assyrian aid in a fit of panic).

tails—mere ends of firebrands, almost consumed themselves (about soon to fall before the Assyrians, Isa 7:8), therefore harmless.

smoking—as about to go out; not blazing.

son of Remaliah—Pekah, a usurper (2Ki 15:25). The Easterners express contempt by designating one, not by his own name, but by his father's, especially when the father is but little known (1Sa 20:27, 31).

Take heed, and be quiet; see that thou be quiet, abandon thy fears, and settle thy mind by the belief of that joyful message and promise which I am now to deliver thee from the Lord.

Smoking fire-brands; they are not whole firebrands burning in the fire, but small pieces or ends of them, taken out of the fire, in which there is more smoke than fire, and the fire will be speedily extinguished. They have more of show and terror than of strength.

The son of Remaliah; Pekah king of Israel, Isaiah 7:1, whom here, and in the next verse, he calls only

the son of Remaliah, to intimate that he was unworthy of the name of king, as having got that title and power by usurpation, and the murder of his master and king Pekahiah, 2 Kings 15:25. And say unto him, take heed, and be quiet,.... Or "keep" thyself, not within the city, and from fighting with his enemies, but from unbelief, fear, and dread; or, as the Septuagint version, "keep" thyself, "that thou mayest be quiet" (a); be easy, still, and silent, and see the salvation of God: the Jewish writers interpret the first word of resting and settling, as wine upon the lees: see Jeremiah 48:11,

fear not; this explains the former:

neither be fainthearted; or "let thy heart soft" (b), and melt like wax, through dread and diffidence:

for the two tails of these smoking firebrands: meaning the two kings of Syria and Israel: and so the Targum,

"for these two kings, who are as smoking firebrands;''

a metaphor used to express the weakness of these princes, their vain wrath and impotent fury, and the short continuance of it; they being like to firebrands wholly burnt and consumed to the end; a small part remaining, which could not be laid hold upon to light fires or burn with, and that only smoking, and the smoke just ready to vanish.

For the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah; this shows who are meant by the two firebrands, Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah king of Israel; and what by the smoke of them, their fierce anger; which, though it seemed to threaten with utter destruction, in the opinion of Ahaz and his court, was only like the smoke of a firebrand burnt to the end, weak and vanishing.

(a) Sept.; "observa ut sis quieto animo", Vatablus. (b) "ne mollescas", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

And say to him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking {f} firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.

(f) Which have but a little smoke and will quickly be quenched.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The message to Ahaz begins with an exhortation to composure and presence of mind (cf. ch. Isaiah 30:15). The prophet does not deprecate reasonable forethought for the safety of the city, but only the excessive alarm which might drive the court into a false and dangerous policy.

Take heed, and be quiet] The first verb might be subordinate to the second: “See that thou keep calm.” But it is better to take them independently: “ut et exterius contineat sese, et intus pacato sit animo” (Calvin).

the two tails … firebrands] Render, with R.V. these two tails of smoking firebrands. This enterprise is but the last flicker of two expiring torches. Syria and Israel have both suffered severely from the Assyrians and their national independence will speedily be extinguished. Fire is the emblem of war (ch. Isaiah 42:25).

the son of Remaliah] Pekah was a usurper, a novus homo, and Isaiah never condescends to utter his name. Cf. Isaiah 7:5; Isaiah 7:9.Verse 4. - Take heed, and be quiet; or, see that thou keep quiet; i.e. "be not disturbed; do not resort to strange and extreme measures; in quietness and confidence should be your strength" (see Isaiah 30:15). The two tails of these smoking firebrands. Rezin and Pekah are called "two tails," or "two stumps of smoking firebrands," as persons who had been dangerous, but whose power of doing harm was on the polar of departing from them. They could not now kindle a flame; they could only "smoke." The son of Remaliah. Pekah seems to be called "Remaliah's son" in contempt (comp. vers. 5, 9), Remaliah having been a man of no distinction (2 Kings 15:25). Isaiah heard with sighing, and yet with obedience, in what the mission to which he had so cheerfully offered himself was to consist. Isaiah 6:11. "Then said I, Lord, how long?" He inquired how long this service of hardening and this state of hardness were to continue - a question forced from him by his sympathy with the nation to which he himself belonged (cf., Exodus 32:9-14), and one which was warranted by the certainty that God, who is ever true to His promises, could not cast off Israel as a people for ever. The answer follows in Isaiah 6:11-13 : "Until towns are wasted without inhabitant, and houses are without man, and the ground shall be laid waste, a wilderness, and Jehovah shall put men far away, and there shall be many forsaken places within the land. And is there still a tenth therein, this also again is given up to destruction, like the terebinth and like the oak, of which, when they are felled, only a root-stump remains: such a root-stump is a holy seed." The answer is intentionally commenced, not with עד־כּי, but with אם אשׁר עד (the expression only occurs again in Genesis 28:15 and Numbers 32:17), which, even without dropping the conditional force of אם, signified that the hardening judgment would only come to an end when the condition had been fulfilled, that towns, houses, and the soil of the land of Israel and its environs had been made desolate, in fact, utterly and universally desolate, as the three definitions (without inhabitant, without man, wilderness) affirm. The expression richak (put far away) is a general and enigmatical description of exile or captivity (cf., Joel 4:6, Jeremiah 27:10); the literal term gâlâh has been already used in Isaiah 5:13. Instead of a national term being used, we find here simply the general expression "men" (eth-hâēâdâm; the consequence of depopulation, viz., the entire absence of men, being expressed in connection with the depopulation itself. The participial noun hâ azubâh (the forsaken) is a collective term for places once full of life, that had afterwards died out and fallen into ruins (Isaiah 17:2, Isaiah 17:9). This judgment would be followed by a second, which would expose the still remaining tenth of the nation to a sifting. והיה שׁב, to become again (Ges. 142, 3); לבער היה, not as in Isaiah 5:5, but as in Isaiah 4:4, after Numbers 24:22 : the feminine does not refer to the land of Israel (Luzzatto), but to the tenth. Up to the words "given up to destruction," the announcement is a threatening one; but from this point to "remains" a consolatory prospect begins to dawn; and in the last three words this brighter prospect, like a distant streak of light, bounds the horizon of the gloomy prophecy. It shall happen as with the terebinth and oak. These trees were selected as illustrations, not only because they were so near akin to evergreens, and produced a similar impression, or because there were so many associations connected with them in the olden times of Israel's history; but also because they formed such fitting symbols of Israel, on account of their peculiar facility for springing up again from the root (like the beech and nut, for example), even when they had been completely felled. As the forms yabbesheth (dryness), dalleketh (fever), ‛avvereth (blindness), shachepheth (consumption), are used to denote certain qualities or states, and those for the most part faulty ones (Concord. p. 1350); so shalleceth here does not refer to the act itself of felling or casting away, but rather to the condition of a tree that has been hewn or thrown down; though not to the condition of the trunk as it lies prostrate upon the ground, but to that of the root, which is still left in the earth. Of this tree, that had been deprived of its trunk and crown, there was still a mazzebeth kindred form of mazzebâh), i.e., a root-stump (truncus) fast in the ground. The tree was not yet entirely destroyed; the root-stump could shoot out and put forth branches again. And this would take place: the root-stump of the oak or terebinth, which was a symbol of Israel, was "a holy seed." The root-stump was the remnant that had survived the judgment, and this remnant would become a seed, out of which a new Israel would spring up after the old had been destroyed. Thus in a few weighty words is the way sketched out, which God would henceforth take with His people. The passage contains an outline of the history of Israel to the end of time. Israel as a nation was indestructible, by virtue of the promise of God; but the mass of the people were doomed to destruction through the judicial sentence of God, and only a remnant, which would be converted, would perpetuate the nationality of Israel, and inherit the glorious future. This law of a blessing sunk in the depths of the curse actually inflicted, still prevails in the history of the Jews. The way of salvation is open to all. Individuals find it, and give us a presentiment of what might be and is to be; but the great mass are hopelessly lost, and only when they have been swept away will a holy seed, saved by the covenant-keeping God, grow up into a new and holy Israel, which, according to Isaiah 27:6, will fill the earth with its fruits, or, as the apostle expresses it in Romans 11:12, become "the riches of the Gentiles."

Now, if the impression which we have received from Isaiah 6:1-13 is not a false one - namely, that the prophet is here relating his first call to the prophetic office, and not, as Seb. Schmidt observes, his call to one particular duty (ad unum specialem actum officii) - this impression may be easily verified, inasmuch as the addresses in chapters 1-5 will be sure to contain the elements which are here handed to the prophet by revelation, and the result of these addresses will correspond to the sentence judicially pronounced here. And the conclusion to which we have come will stand this test. For the prophet, in the very first address, after pointing out to the nation as a whole the gracious pathway of justification and sanctification, takes the turn indicated in Isaiah 6:11-13, in full consciousness that all is in vain. And the theme of the second address is, that it will be only after the overthrow of the false glory of Israel that the true glory promised can possibly be realized, and that after the destruction of the great body of the people only a small remnant will live to see this realization. The parable with which the third begins, rests upon the supposition that the measure of the nation's iniquity is full; and the threatening of judgment introduced by this parable agrees substantially, and in part verbally, with the divine answer received by the prophet to his question "How long?" On every side, therefore, the opinion is confirmed, that in Isaiah 6:1-13 he describes his own consecration to the prophetic office. The addresses in chapters 2-4 and 5, which belong to the time of Uzziah and Jotham, do not fall earlier than the year of Uzziah's death, from which point the whole of Jotham's sixteen years' reign lay open before them. Now, as Micah commenced his ministry in Jotham's reign, though his book was written in the form of a complete and chronologically indivisible summary, by the working up of the prophecies which he delivered under Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and was then read or published in the time of Hezekiah, as we may infer from Jeremiah 26:18, it is quite possible that Isaiah may have taken from Micah's own lips (though not from Micah's book) the words of promise in Isaiah 2:1-4, which he certainly borrowed from some quarter. The notion that this word of promise originated with a third prophet (who must have been Joel, if he were one of the prophets known to us), is rendered very improbable by the many marks of Micah's prophetic peculiarities, and by its natural position in the context in which it there occurs (vid., Caspari, Micha, pp. 444-5).

Again, the situation of Isaiah 6:1-13 is not inexplicable. As Hvernick has observed, the prophet evidently intended to vindicate in Isaiah 6:1-13 the style and method of his previous prophecies, on the ground of the divine commission that he had received. but this only serves to explain the reason why Isaiah has not placed Isaiah 6:1-13 at the commencement of the collection, and not why he inserts it in this particular place. He has done this, no doubt, for the purpose of bringing close together the prophecy and its fulfilment; for whilst on the one hand the judgment of hardening suspended over the Jewish nation is brought distinctly out in the person of king Ahaz, on the other hand we find ourselves in the midst of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which formed the introduction to the judgments of extermination predicted in Isaiah 6:11-13. It is only the position of chapter 1 which still remains in obscurity. If Isaiah 1:7-9 is to be understood in a historically literally sense, then chapter 1 must have been composed after the dangers of the Syro-Ephraimitish war had been averted from Jerusalem, though the land of Judah was still bleeding with the open wounds which this war, designed as it was to destroy it altogether, had inflicted upon it. Chapter 1 would therefore be of more recent origin than chapters 2-5, and still more recent than the connected chapters 7-12. It is only the comparatively more general and indefinite character of chapter 1 which seems at variance with this. But this difficulty is removed at once, if we assume that chapter 1, though not indeed the first of the prophet's addresses, was yet in one sense the first - namely, the first that was committed to writing, though not the first that he delivered, and that it was primarily intended to form the preface to the addresses and historical accounts in chapters 2-12, the contents of which were regulated by it. For chapters 2-5 and 7-12 form two prophetic cycles, chapter 1 being the portal which leads into them, and Isaiah 6:1-13 the band which connects them together. The prophetic cycle in chapters 2-5 may be called the Book of hardening, as it is by Caspari, and chapters 7-12 the Book of Immanuel, as Chr. Aug. Crusius suggests, because in all the stages through which the proclamation in chapters 7-12 passes, the coming Immanuel is the banner of consolation, which it lifts up even in the midst of the judgments already breaking upon the people, in accordance with the doom pronounced upon them in Isaiah 6:1-13.

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