Isaiah 7:12
But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
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(12) I will not ask . . .—The king speaks as in the very accents of faith. He will not put Jehovah to any such test. Not, perhaps, without a sneer, he quotes almost the very formula of the Law: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Exodus 17:2; Deuteronomy 6:16). Was the prophet going to forget his own teaching, and become a tempter to that sin? That which lay beneath this show of humble trust was simply self-will and utter unfaith. He had already made up his mind to the Assyrian alliance, against which he knew Isaiah was certain to protest. The fact that the words that follow are spoken to the whole house of David, may, perhaps, imply that the older members of the royal family were encouraging the king in his Assyrian projects, and had, perhaps, suggested his hypocritical answer.

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.I will not ask - In this case Ahaz assumed the appearance of piety, or respect for the command of God. In Deuteronomy 6:16, it is written, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God;' and Ahaz perhaps had this command in his eye. It was a professed reverence for God. But the true reason why he did not seek this sign was, that he had already entered into a negotiation with the king of Assyria to come and defend him; and that he was even stripping the temple of God of its silver and gold, to secure this assistance; 2 Kings 16:7-8. When people are depending on their own devices and resources, they are unwilling to seek aid from God; and it is not uncommon if they excuse their want of trust in him by some appearance of respect for religion.

Tempt - Try, or do a thing that shall provoke his displeasure, or seek his interposition in a case where he has not promised it. To tempt God is the same as to put him to the proof; to see whether he is able to perform what he proposed. It is evident, however, that here there would have been no "temptation" of God, since a sign had been offered him by the prophet in the name of God. 'The answer of Ahaz can be regarded either as one of bitter scorn, as if he had said, "I will not put thy God to the proof, in which he will be found lacking. I will not embarrass thee by taking thee at thy word;" or as the language of a hypocrite who assumes the mask of reverence for God and his command.' - "Hengstenberg." Chrysostom and Calvin regard the latter as the correct interpretation. If it be asked here "why" Ahaz did not put Isaiah to the test, and "secure," if possible, the divine confirmation to the assurance that Jerusalem would be safe, the following may be regarded as the probable reasons:

(1) He was secretly relying on the aid of Assyria. He believed that he could fortify the city, and distress the enemy by turning away the supply of water, so that they could not carry on a siege, and that all the further aid which he needed could be derived from the Assyrians.

(2) If the miracle had been "really performed," it would have been a proof that Yahweh was the true God a proof which Ahaz had no desire of witnessing. He was a gross idolater; and he was not anxious to witness a demonstration which would have convinced him of the folly and sin of his own course of life.

(3) If the miracle could not be performed, as Ahaz seems to have supposed would be the case, then it would have done much to unsettle the confidence of the people, and to have produced agitation and alarm. It is probable that a considerable portion of the people were worshippers of Yahweh, and were looking to him for aid. The pious, and the great mass of those who conformed to the religion of their fathers, would have been totally disheartened; and this was a result which Ahaz had no desire to produce.

(4) Michaelis has suggested another reason, drawn from the character of idolatry. According to the prevailing notions at that period, every nation had its own gods. Those of one people were more, and those of another less powerful; see Isaiah 10:10-11; Isaiah 36:18-20; Isaiah 37:10-13. If a miracle had been performed, Ahaz might have believed that it was performed by the god of the country, who might have had the disposition, but not the power, to defend him. It would have been to the mind of the idolater no proof that the god of Syria or Samaria was not more powerful, and might not have easily overcome him. Ahaz seems to have regarded Yahweh as such a God - as one of the numerous gods which were to be worshipped, and perhaps as not the most powerful of the tutelary divinities of the nations. This was certainly the view of the surrounding idolaters Isaiah 10:10-11; Isaiah 36:18-20; and it is highly probable that this view prevailed among the idolatrous Israelites.

12. neither … tempt—hypocritical pretext of keeping the law (De 6:16); "tempt," that is, put God to the proof, as in Mt 4:7, by seeking His miraculous interposition without warrant. But here there was the warrant of the prophet of God; to have asked a sign, when thus offered, would not have been a tempting of God. Ahaz' true reason for declining was his resolve not to do God's will, but to negotiate with Assyria, and persevere in his idolatry (2Ki 16:7, 8, 3, 4, 10). Men often excuse their distrust in God, and trust in their own devices, by professed reverence for God. Ahaz may have fancied that though Jehovah was the God of Judea and could work a sign there, that was no proof that the local god of Syria might not be more powerful. Such was the common heathen notion (Isa 10:10, 11; 36:18-20). I will not ask: this refusal proceeded not from the strength of his faith, but from his contempt of God, and total distrust and disregard of his word, and inward resolution to take another course; as is manifest both from the following words, and from the history of Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 18.

Neither will I tempt the Lord; either,

1. By asking a sign, as if he questioned the truth of his word: so this was deep hypocrisy. Or,

2. By neglecting any means necessary for my preservation, which were indeed a tempting of God. And therefore I shall not sit still and rely upon God till I be destroyed, which will be the effect of thy counsel; but I shall do as becometh a wise king, seek for succour from potent allies, such as the Assyrian is. So this is flat rebellion against God. But Ahaz said, I will not ask,.... That is, a sign or miracle to be wrought; being unwilling to take the advice to be still and quiet, and make no preparation for war, or seek out for help from the Assyrians, and to rely upon the promise and power of God, and therefore chose not to have it confirmed by a sign; adding as an excuse,

neither will I tempt the Lord, by asking a sign; suggesting that this was contrary to the command of God, Deuteronomy 6:16 so pretending religion and reverence of God; whereas, to ask a sign of God, when it was offered, could not be reckoned a tempting him; but, on the contrary, to refuse one; when offered, argued great stubbornness and ingratitude, as Calvin well observes.

But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I {k} tempt the LORD.

(k) Not to believe God's word without a sign, is to tempt God, but to refuse a sign when God offers it for the aid and help of our infirmity is to rebel against him.

12. The answer of Ahaz reveals his utter incapacity for the faith which Isaiah demanded. He evidently believes that the sign will happen if he asks it, yet he cannot trust the spiritual fact which lies behind it. He is afraid of being committed to a policy in which he has no confidence, and therefore, under a pretence of reverence, he declines the ordeal. He will not put Jehovah to the proof. To “put Jehovah to the proof” is a mark of unbelief (Exodus 17:7; Deuteronomy 6:16), but to refuse a proof which Jehovah Himself offers is an insult to the divine majesty which exhausts the patience of the Almighty.Verse 12. - I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. Ahaz, who has no wish for a sign, because he has no wish to believe in any other salvation than flint which will follow from the realization of his own schemes, finds a plausible reason for declining to ask for one in those passages of the Law which forbade men to" tempt God" (Exodus 17:7; Deuteronomy 6:16). But it could not be "tempt-tug God" to comply with a Divine invitation; rather it was tempting him to refuse compliance. "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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