Isaiah 7:16
For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) For before the child shall know . . .—The words imply the age of approaching manhood, and predict the downfall of Pekah and Rezin, as the longer period of Isaiah 7:8 predicted the entire downfall and annihilation of one of the two kingdoms which they represented. The words “good and evil” are better taken of moral choice (Genesis 3:5; Deuteronomy 1:39) rather than (with some critics, who appeal to 2Samuel 19:35) of the child’s discernment of food as pleasant or the reverse. (See Genesis 2:9; 1Kings 3:9.)

The land that thou abhorrest.—The words imply the “horror” of fear as well as of dislike. The prediction was fulfilled in the siege of Samaria by Salmaneser, and its capture by Sargon (1Kings 16:9; 1Kings 17:6), a fulfilment all the more remarkable in that it was preceded by what seemed an almost decisive victory over Judah (2Chronicles 28:5-15), of which the prophet makes no mention.

Isaiah 7:16. For before the child, &c. — “The learned Vitringa,” says Dr. Dodd, “seems to have proved beyond any doubt, that the child spoken of in this verse can be no other than he who is spoken of in the preceding verses. The connecting particle for, and the repetition of the words, refusing the evil and choosing the good, evidently demonstrate,” he thinks, “that the IMMANUEL is here meant, and that, in order to enter into the immediate design of the prophet, we are to consider that, rapt, as it were, into future times, he proposes the Immanuel, as a sign of salvation to the people of God, as if present, Behold a virgin conceives; as if he understood him to be at this time conceived in the womb of the virgin, and shortly to be born: and he says, that more time shall not elapse from his birth to his capability of discerning between good and evil, than from hence to the desertion of the land of the two kings,” or the time specified, Isaiah 8:4. Archbishop Usher, however, Poole, Henry, Dr. Kennicott, and some other celebrated writers, conceive that we have a two-fold prophecy in this passage, the former part, contained in Isaiah 7:14-15, referring to the Messiah, and the latter, contained in this verse, to Shear-jashub, the son of Isaiah. “That the 16th verse,” says Dr. Kennicott, “contains a distinct prophecy, appears from hence: 1st, The words preceding have been proved to be confined to the Messiah, whose birth was then distant above seven hundred years; whereas the words here are confined to some child who was not to arrive at years of discretion before the kings, then advancing against Jerusalem, should be themselves cut off. 2d, Some end was undoubtedly to be answered by the presence of Isaiah’s son, whom God commanded him to take with him when he went to visit Ahaz; and yet no use at all appears to have been made of this son, unless he be referred to in this sentence; and, 3d, These prophecies are manifestly distinguished by being addressed to different persons. The first was addressed to the house of David, for the consolation of the pious in general; as it assured them, not only of the preservation of that house, but of God’s fidelity to his great promise: whereas the second promise is addressed to the king in particular, as it foretold the speedy destruction of the two kings, his enemies.” Dr. Doddridge, who also thinks that this verse refers to Shear-jashub, judging with Dr. Kennicott, that Isaiah “was ordered to take him in his hand for no other imaginable reason, but that something remarkable was to be said of him,” defines the general sense of these verses from the 13th to be this: “You have affronted God by refusing a sign now; yet his transcendent mercy will make your present forfeited deliverance, (by the death of these confederate kings, which shall happen before, הנער, this child in my hand is grown up to the exercise of reason,) a sign of a much nobler deliverance by the Messiah; who shall be born of an immaculate virgin, and shall condescend to pass through the tender scenes of infancy, as other children do.” In the latter part of the verse, the land that thou abhorrest, means the countries of Syria and Israel, which Ahaz abhorred for their cruel designs and practices against him. Shall be forsaken of both her kings — So far shall Rezin and Pekah be from conquering thy land, that they shall lose their own lands, and their lives too: which they did within two years after this time, being both slain by the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 15:29-30; and 2 Kings 16:9.

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.The land that thou abhorrest - The land concerning which thou art so much "alarmed or distressed;" that is, the united land of Syria and Ephraim. It is mentioned here as 'the land,' or as one land, because they were united then in a firm alliance, so as to constitute, in fact, or for the purposes of invasion and conquest, one people or nation. The phrase, 'which thou abhorrest,' means properly, which thou loathest, the primary idea of the word - קוץ qûts - being to feel a nausea, or to vomit. It then means to fear, or to feel alarm; and this, probably, is the meaning here. Abaz, however, evidently looked upon the nations of Syria and Samaria with disgust, as well as with alarm. This is the construction which is given of this passage by the Vulgate, Calvin, Grotius, Junins, Gataker, and Piscator, as well as by our common version. Another construction, however, has been given of the passage by Vitringa, JohnD. Michaelis, Lowth, Gesenius, Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, and Hendewerk. According to this, the meaning is not that the "land" should be the object of abhorrence, but that the kings themselves were the objects of dislike or dread; and not merely that the two kings should be removed, but that the land itself was threatened with desolation. This construction is free from the objections of an exegetical kind to which the other is open, and agrees better with the idiom of the Hebrew. According to this, the correct translation would be:

For before the child shall learn to refuse the

Evil and to choose the good,

Desolate shall be the land, before whose two

Kings thou art in terror.'

Of both her kings - Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the temple, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria. Induced by this, the king of Assyria marched against Damascus and killed Rezin, 2 Kings 16:9. This occurred but a short time after the threatened invasion of the land by Rezin and Remaliah, in the "third" year of the reign of Ahaz, and, consequently, about one year after this prophecy was delivered. Pekah, the son of Remaliah, was slain by Hoshea, the son of Elah, who conspired against him, killed him, and reigned in his stead. This occurred in the fourth year of the reign of Ahaz, for Pekah reigned twenty years. Ahaz began to reign in the seventeenth year of the reign of Pekah, and as Pekah was slain after he had reigned twenty years, it follows that he was slain in the fourth year of the reign of Ahaz - perhaps not more than two yearn after this prophecy was delivered; see 2 Kings 15:27, 2 Kings 15:30; 2 Kings 16:1. We have thus arrived at a knowledge of the time intended by Isaiah in Isaiah 7:16. The whole space of time was not, probably, more than two years.

Opinions on the Intrepretation of Isaiah 7:14-16

A great variety of opinions have been entertained by interpreters in regard to this passage Isaiah 7:14-16. It may be useful, therefore, to state briefly what those opinions have been, and then what seems to be the true meaning.

(i) The first opinion is that which supposes that by the 'virgin' the wife of Ahaz is referred to, and that by the child which should be born, the prophet refers to Hezekiah. This is the opinion of the modern Jewish commentators generally. This interpretation prevailed among the Jews in the time of Justin. But this was easily shown by Jerome to be false. Ahaz reigned in Jerusalem but sixteen years 2 Kings 17:2, and Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign 2 Kings 18:2, and of course was not less than nine years old when this prophecy was delivered. Kimchi and Abarbanel then resorted to the supposition that Ahaz had a second wife, and that this refers to a child that was to be born of her. This supposition cannot be proved to be false, though it is evidently a mere supposition. It has been adopted by the Jews, because they were pressed by the passage by the early Christians, as constituting an argument for the divinity of Christ. The ancient Jews, it is believed, referred it mainly to the Messiah.

(ii) Others have supposed, that the prophet designated some virgin who was then present when the king and Isaiah held their conference, and that the meaning is, 'as surely as this virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, so surely shall the land be forsaken of its kings.' Thus Isenbiehl, Bauer, Cube, and Steudel held, as quoted by Hengstenberg, "Christol." i. p. 341.

(iii) Others suppose that the 'virgin' was not an actual, but only an ideal virgin. Thus Michaelis expresses it: 'By the time when one who is yet a virgin can bring forth (that is, in nine months), all will be happily changed, and the present impending danger so completely passed away, that if you were yourself to name the child, you would call him Immanuel.' Thus Eichhorn, Paulus, Hensler, and Ammon understand it; see "Hengstenberg."

(iv) Others suppose that the 'virgin' was the prophet's wife. Thus Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Faber, and Gesenius. Against this supposition there is only one objection which has been urged that is of real force, and that is, that the prophet already had a son, and of course his wife could not be spoken of as a virgin. But this objection is entirely removed by the supposition, which is by no means improbable, that the former wife of the prophet was dead, and that he was about to be united in marriage to another who was a virgin.

In regard to the prophecy itself, there have been three opinions:

(i) That it refers "exclusively" to some event in the time of the prophet; to the birth of a child then, either of the wife of Ahaz, or of the prophet, or of some other unmarried female. This would, of course, exclude all reference to the Messiah. This was formerly my opinion; and this opinion I expressed and endeavored to maintain, in the first composition of these notes. But a more careful examination of the passage has convinced me of its error, and satisfied me that the passage has reference to the Messtah. The reasons for this opinion I shall soon state.

continued...

16. For—The deliverance implied in the name "Immanuel," and the cessation of distress as to food (Isa 7:14, 15), shall last only till the child grows to know good and evil;

for … the land that … abhorrest … forsaken of … kings—rather, desolate shall be the land, before whose two kings thou art alarmed [Hengstenberg and Gesenius].

the land—namely, Syria and Samaria regarded as one (2Ki 16:9; 15:30), just two years after this prophecy, as it foretells. Horsley takes it, "The land (Judah and Samaria) of (the former of) which thou art the plague (literally, 'thorn') shall be forsaken," &c.; a prediction thus, that Judah and Israel (appropriately regarded as one "land") should cease to be kingdoms (Lu 2:1; Ge 49:10) before Immanuel came.

For; or, yea; for so this particle is used by way of amplification or addition, Isaiah 32:13 Jeremiah 14:5,18. So the sense is, Not only this land of thine shall be preserved until the virgin’s Son be born, but thine enemy’s land shall be sorely scourged, and these two kings destroyed, within a very little time.

The child, Heb. this child; not the virgin’s Son, but the prophet’s child, Shear-jashub, whom in all probability the prophet, to prevent mistakes, pointed at, and who was brought hither by God’s special command, Isaiah 7:3, and that for this very use; for otherwise his presence was wholly insignificant.

The land; the lands, to wit, of Syria and Israel, as is evident from the next words. It is an enallage of the singular for the plural.

That thou abhorrest, for its cruel designs and practices against time. Or, which vexeth or molesteth thee, as this word is used, Exodus 1:12 Numbers 22:3, &c.

Shall be forsaken of both her kings; so far shall Pekah and Rezin be from conquering thy land, that they shall lose their own lands, and their lives too; which they did within two years after this time, being both slain by the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 15:29,30 16:9.

For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good,.... This may be understood of Isaiah's child, Shearjashub, he had along with him, he was bid to take with him; and who therefore must be supposed to bear some part, or answer some end or other, in this prophecy; which it is very probable may be this, viz. to assure Ahaz and the house of David that the land which was abhorred by them should be forsaken of both its kings, before the child that was with him was grown to years of discretion; though it may be understood of any child, and so of the Messiah; and the sense be, that before any child, or new born babe, such an one as is promised, Isaiah 7:14, arrives to years of discretion, even in the space of a few years, this remarkable deliverance should be wrought, and the Jews freed from all fears of being destroyed by these princes:

the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings; meaning not the land of Judea, now distressed by them, which they should leave; for that could not be said to be abhorred by Ahaz, or the house of David; but the land of Israel and Syria, called one land, because of the confederacy between the kings of them, Rezin and Remaliah's son, which Ahaz and his nobles abhorred, because of their joining together against them; and so it was, that in a very little time both these kings were cut off; Pekah the son of Remaliah was slain by Hoshea the son of Elah, who reigned in his stead, 2 Kings 15:30 and Rezin was slain by the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 16:9.

For before the {o} child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken by both her kings.

(o) Not meaning Christ, but any child: for before a child can come to the years of discretion, the kings of Samaria and Syria will be destroyed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. The “for” seems to go back to Isaiah 7:14 : he shall be called “God with us,” because whilst he is yet in infancy a signal deliverance shall be wrought.

the land that thou abhorrest … kings] Render: the land before whose two kings thou cowerest shall be deserted. The two “tails of smoking firebrands” shall have burned out. Ephraim and Syria are treated as one territory, ruled by the two allied kings.

17 gives the other aspect, the threatening aspect, of the sign Immanuel, interpreting Isaiah 7:15. A calamity involving the king, the dynasty, and the nation, is the retribution appointed for the unbelief of Ahaz.

from the day … Judah] The revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam was the heaviest disaster that had ever befallen the house of David. The last words, the king of Assyria, may as many think be a gloss, but they are at least a correct gloss.

Verse 16. - The land, etc. Translate, The land shall be desolate, before whose two kings thou art afraid. The "land" must certainly be that of the two confederate kings, Rezin and Pekah, the Syro-Ephraim-itic land, or Syria and Samaria. "Desolate" may be used physically or politically. A land is "desolate" politically when it loses the last vestige of independence. Isaiah 7:16"For before the boy shall understand to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land will be desolate, of whose two kings thou art afraid. Jehovah will bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days such as have not come since the day when Ephraim broke away from Judah - the king of Asshur." The land of the two kings, Syria and Israel, was first of all laid waste by the Assyrians, whom Ahaz called to his assistance. Tiglath-pileser conquered Damascus and a portion of the kingdom of Israel, and led a large part of the inhabitants of the two countries into captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:9). Judah was then also laid waste by the Assyrians, as a punishment for having refused the help of Jehovah, and preferred the help of man. Days of adversity would come upon the royal house and people of Judah, such as ('asher, quales, as in Exodus 10:6) had not come upon them since the calamitous day (l'miyyōm, inde a die; in other places we find l'min-hayyom, Exodus 9:18; Deuteronomy 4:32; Deuteronomy 9:7, etc.) of the falling away of the ten tribes. The appeal to Asshur laid the foundation for the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, quite as much as for that of the kingdom of Israel. Ahaz became the tributary vassal of the king of Assyria in consequence; and although Hezekiah was set free from Asshur through the miraculous assistance of Jehovah, what Nebuchadnezzar afterwards performed was only the accomplishment of the frustrated attempt of Sennacherib. It is with piercing force that the words "the king of Assyria" ('eth melek Asshur) are introduced at the close of the two verses. The particle 'eth is used frequently where an indefinite object is followed by the more precise and definite one (Genesis 6:10; Genesis 26:34). The point of the v. would be broken by eliminating the words as a gloss, as Knobel proposes. The very king to whom Ahaz had appealed in his terror, would bring Judah to the brink of destruction. The absence of any link of connection between Isaiah 7:16 and Isaiah 7:17 is also very effective. The hopes raised in the mind of Ahaz by Isaiah 7:16 are suddenly turned into bitter disappointment. In the face of such catastrophes as these, Isaiah predicts the birth of Immanuel. His eating only thickened milk and honey, at a time when he knew very well what was good and what was not, would arise from the desolation of the whole of the ancient territory of the Davidic kingdom that had preceded the riper years of his youth, when he would certainly have chosen other kinds of food, if they could possibly have been found. Consequently the birth of Immanuel apparently falls between the time then present and the Assyrian calamities, and his earliest childhood appears to run parallel to the Assyrian oppression. In any case, their consequences would be still felt at the time of his riper youth. In what way the truth of the prophecy was maintained notwithstanding, we shall see presently. What follows in Isaiah 7:18-25, is only a further expansion of Isaiah 7:17. The promising side of the "sign" remains in the background, because this was not for Ahaz. When Ewald expresses the opinion that a promising strophe has fallen out after Isaiah 7:17, he completely mistakes the circumstances under which the prophet uttered these predictions. In the presence of Ahaz he must keep silence as to the promises. But he pours out with all the greater fluency his threatening of judgment.
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