Isaiah 8:1
Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VIII.

(1) Moreover the Lord said unto me . . .—The prophecy that follows was clearly separated by an interval of some kind, probably about a year, from that in Isaiah 7. In the meantime much that had happened seemed to cast discredit on the prophet’s words. The child that was the type of the greater Immanuel had been born, but there were no signs as yet of the downfall of the northern kingdom. The attack of Rezin and Pekah, though Jerusalem had not been taken, had inflicted an almost irreparable blow on the kingdom of Judah. Multitudes had been carried captive to Damascus (2Chronicles 28:5). Many thousands, but for the intercession of the prophet Oded, would have eaten the bread of exile and slavery. The Edomites were harassing the south-eastern frontier (2Chronicles 28:15-17). The commerce of the Red Sea was cut off by Rezin’s capture of Elath (2Kings 16:6). To the weak and faithless Ahaz and his counsellors, it might well seem that the prospect was darker than ever, that there was no hope but in the protection of Assyria. If such was the state of things when the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, was he to recant and confess that he had erred? Was he to shrink back into silence and obscurity? Far otherwise than that. He was to repeat all that he had said, more definitely, more demonstratively than ever.

Take thee a great roll . . .—Better, a large tablet. The noun is the same as that used for “mirrors” or “glasses” in Isaiah 3:23. The writings of the prophet were commonly written on papyrus and placed in the hands of his disciples to be read aloud. For private and less permanent messages men used small wooden tablets smeared with wax, on which they wrote with an iron stylus. (Comp. Job 19:24; Isaiah 30:8.) Here the tablet was to be large, and the writing was not to be with the sharp point of the artist or learned scribe, but with a “man’s pen,” i.e., such as the common workmen used for sign-boards, that might fix the gaze of the careless passer-by (Habakkuk 2:2), and on that tablet, as though it were the heading of a proclamation or dedication, he was to write TO MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. That mysterious name, which we may render “Speed-plunder, haste-spoil,” was, for at least nine months, to be the enigma of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 8:1. Moreover, the Lord said unto me — Here begins “the second section of this discourse, which reaches to the seventh verse of the next chapter, and is nearly of the same argument with the preceding; being prophetical, and containing matter both of comfort and reproof. It may be divided into two parts. The first part, in the first four verses, contains a confirmation and sign of the prediction concerning the sudden subversion of the kingdoms of Syria and Israel. The second part more fully and distinctly explains the purpose of God with respect both to the Israelites and Jews, for the consolation of the pious, and the terror of the impious and carnal, among them.” Take thee a great roll — Or, a great volume, because the prophecy to be written in it was large: and God would have it written in very large and legible characters; and write in it with a man’s pen — With such a pen as writers use, that so all may read and understand it. Bishop Lowth, deriving the word גליון, here rendered roll, from גלה, to show, to reveal, rather than from גלל, to roll, translates it, a large mirror, or polished tablet of metal, like those which were anciently used for mirrors, and also for engraving on. Accordingly, he renders the word חרשׂ, which we translate a pen, a graving tool. “In this manner,” says he, “the prophet was to record the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus and Samaria by the Assyrians: the subject and sum of which prophecy are here expressed, with great brevity, in four words, maher, shalal, hash, baz; that is, to hasten the spoil, to take quickly the prey: which was afterward applied as the name of the prophet’s son, who was made a sign of the speedy completion of it; Haste-to-the-spoil, Quick-to-the-prey. And that it might be done with the greater solemnity, and to preclude all doubt of the real delivery of the prophecy before the event, he calls witnesses to attest the recording of it.” Concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz — Concerning that thing which is signified by the name of the child, which is here mentioned by way of anticipation, as not being given him till Isaiah 8:3; that is, concerning that which God is making haste to do, the giving up Syria and Israel for a prey to the Assyrians.

8:1-8 The prophet is to write on a large roll, or on a metal tablet, words which meant, Make speed to spoil, hasten to the prey: pointing out that the Assyrian army should come with speed, and make great spoil. Very soon the riches of Damascus and of Samaria, cities then secure and formidable, shall be taken away by the king of Assyria. The prophet pleads with the promised Messiah, who should appear in that land in the fulness of time, and, therefore, as God, would preserve it in the mean time. As a gentle brook is an apt emblem of a mild government, so an overflowing torrent represents a conqueror and tyrant. The invader's success was also described by a bird of prey, stretching its wings over the whole land. Those who reject Christ, will find that what they call liberty is the basest slavery. But no enemy shall pluck the believer out of Emmanuel's hand, or deprive him of his heavenly inheritance.Take thee a great roll - The word which is here translated 'roll' more properly signifies tablet. So the Chaldee renders it. Those tablets were made of wood, metal, or stone, for the purpose of writing on; see Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2. On these tablets, or smooth plates, writing was performed by cutting the letters with an iron stylus, or small chisel. The process was slow, but the writing was permanent. They sometimes used the skins of animals, or the bark of trees, and subsequently the papyrus of Egypt (compare the note at Isaiah 19:7); and it is possible that Isaiah may have used such a roll or volume on this occasion; compare Isaiah 8:16.

With a man's pen - The word "pen" here (חרט chereṭ) denotes the iron stylus, which was used to engrave or cut the letters in the metal or wood. The phrase 'a man's pen,' has been variously interpreted. The Chaldee renders it, 'Write in it an open, or clear writing, or an expanded writing;' meaning that he should make it clear and distinct, so as to be easily read. The Syriac, 'Write on it in the (usual) custom of men.' The word which is translated 'man's אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh usually denotes common men, the lower ranks, in opposition to the higher ranks of society. And probably the direction means simply, 'write on it in letters such as men commonly use; in a plain, open, distinct manner - without using any mysterious emblems or characters, but so that men may read it distinctly and easily.' A parallel place occurs in Habakkuk 2:2 : 'Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.'

Concerning - Hebrew ל (le). This preposition may denote concerning, of, or to. I understand it here as referring to the heading or title of the prophecy. This was to be set over the prophecy, as a running title, to denote the main subject of it. The subject is indicated in the name which is immediately added.

Maher - Hasten; or, he shall hasten. "Shalal." Spoil, or prey.

Hash - Hasten, or make speed.

Baz - Spoil, or prey. The name used here is a repetition of the same idea - denoting haste in seizing prey, or spoil; and is repeated to give emphasis, and to excite attention. The idea is, that the Assyrian would hasten to his plunder - that it would be accomplished with speed. This name was to be given to a child of Isaiah; and this child was to be a sign of the event which was signified by the name; see Isaiah 8:18; compare Habakkuk 2:2-3.

CHAPTER 8

Isa 8:1-9:7.

The first seven verses of the ninth chapter belong to this section. The eighth chapter continues the subject of the seventh chapter, but at a later period (compare Isa 8:4 with Isa 7:16); implying that the interval till the accomplishment is shorter now than then. The tone of Isa 8:17, 21, 22, expresses calamity more immediate and afflictive than Isa 7:4, 15, 22.

1. great—suitable, for letters large enough to be read by all.

roll—rather, tablet of wood, metal, or stone (Isa 30:8; Hab 2:2); sometimes coated with wax, upon which characters were traced with a pointed instrument, or iron stylus; skins and papyrus were also used (Isa 19:7).

man's pen—that is, in ordinary characters which the humblest can read (so Hab 2:2). Hebrew, enosh means a "common man," is contrasted with the upper ranks (Re 21:17; Ro 3:5). Not in hieroglyphics. The object was that, after the event, all might see that it had been predicted by Isaiah.

concerning—the title and subject of the prophecy.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz—"They (that is, the Assyrians) hasten to the spoil (namely, to spoil Syria and Samaria), they speed to the prey" [Gesenius]. Otherwise, "The spoil (that is, spoiler) hastens, the rapine speeds forward" [Maurer].Syria and Israel should be subdued by Assyria, Isaiah 8:1-4. Judah also should be afflicted, Isaiah 8:5-8, God’s judgments irresistible, and to be feared, Isaiah 8:9-13. The Lord is a sanctuary to the godly, a stone of stumbling to the wicked, Isaiah 8:14,15. The prophecy sure; God to be waited on; necromancers not to be consulted, but the prophecy; their misery, Isaiah 8:16-22.

A great roll; or, a great volume, because the prophecy to be written in it was large, and God would have it written in very large and legible characters.

With a man’s pen; with such a pen as writers use, Psalm 41:6 Jeremiah 8:6, that so all may read and understand it.

Concerning Maheshalal-hash-baz; concerning that thing which is signified by the name of thy child, which is here mentioned by way of anticipation, as not being given him till Isaiah 8:3, i.e. concerning that which God is making haste to do, the giving p the kingdoms of Syria and Israel for a prey to the Assyrian, as this name is explained, Isaiah 8:4.

Moreover the Lord said unto me,.... This is another prophecy, confirming the same thing that was promised in the preceding chapter Isaiah 7:1; namely, safety to the Jews from the two kings of Syria and Israel, which combined against them:

take thee a great roll; or volume, a writing book, a roll of parchment, in which form the ancients used to write, Psalm 40:7. The Targum renders it, a "table"; a writing table, such an one as Zacharias called for, Luke 1:63 and this was to be a "great" or large one, because much was to be written in it; or what was to be written was to be written in large letters:

and write in it with a man's pen; such as men usually write with; and in such a style and language as may be easily understood by men, even though unlearned; and so clearly and plainly, that he that runs may read; and so the Targum,

"write in it a clear writing;''

very plain, and explicit, and legible:

concerning Mahershalalhashbaz; a son of the prophet Isaiah, so called, Isaiah 8:3 whose name was very significant, and was given him on purpose to express the sudden destruction of the enemies of Judah. The Targum renders it,

"hasten to seize the prey, and to take away the spoil.''

Some translate it, "in hastening the prey, the spoiler hastens"; perhaps it may be better rendered, "hasten to the spoil, hasten to the prey"; as if the words were spoken to the Assyrian monarch, to hasten to the spoil of Damascus and Samaria; and the repetition of the same thing in different words may have respect to the spoils of both, see Isaiah 8:4 and for the greater confirmation of the thing. Gussetius has a very peculiar fancy about the sense of this text; he observes that rendered a "pen", signifies some hollow vessel, in which things were put; and supposes that it here designs a man's chest, or some such thing, in which garments might be laid up and reserved: and is the singular of a word used in Isaiah 3:23, for some sort of luxurious garments wore by women; so that, upon the whole, the reading and sense of the words are, that the prophet is bid to take a large garment of the above sort, and write upon it, putting it into the chest. This for Mahershalalhashbaz; signifying it was to lie there till this child was born; and intimating hereby, that the women, far from battle, would be spoiled of their soft and precious garments, as well as the men be slain in war (m), though this is more tolerable than the fancy of Huetius (n), that the whole is an euphemism, in modest terms, expressing the prophet's coition with his wife.

(m) Vid. Comment. Ebr. p. 286. (n) Demonstr. Evangel. prop. 7. parag. 15. p. 352.

Moreover the LORD said to me, Take thee a {a} great roll, and write in it {b} with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.

(a) That you may write in great letters to the intent that it may be more easily read.

(b) Meaning, after the common fashion, because all men might read it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Comp. ch. Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2. a great roll] a great tablet (R.V.). The word is used in ch. Isaiah 3:23 of polished metal mirrors; here it means a smooth flat tablet of wood, stone or metal.

with a man’s pen] i.e. “in common characters” (R.V. marg.) easily legible and understood by the people (Habakkuk 2:2). Such a direction bears witness to an extensive knowledge of writing in Isaiah’s time. The famous inscription in the Siloam tunnel, belonging probably to this age, is thought to have been carved by the workmen for their amusement.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz] That is, “Haste-spoil-speed-booty.” Syntactically the enigmatic legend is capable of more than one construction. Most probably the verbs are participles; and then the nouns may be either nominative to them, or in the accusative of direction. I.e. we may translate either “Spoil hasteneth—booty speedeth” or “Hasting to (the) spoil—speeding to (the) booty.” The last seems preferable. (Comp. Goethe’s Raufebold, Habebald, Eilebeute in the second part of Faust.)

concerning] is in Hebr. simply “to” or “for,” a formula of dedication common on seals and epitaphs. The tablet relates to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

1–4. The twofold sign of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

Verses 1-4. - THE SIGN OF MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. The sign of Immanuel was recondite. In its more spiritual sense it appealed to faith in an event far distant. Even in its literal import, it was not calculated to cheer and encourage more than a few, since neither the maiden nor the child was pointed out with any distinctness. A fresh sign was therefore given by God's goodness to reassure the mass of the people - a sign about which there was nothing obscure or difficult. Isaiah himself should have a son born to him almost immediately, to whom he should give a name indicating the rapid approach of the spoiler, and before this child should be able to utter the first words which childhood ordinarily pronounces, "Father," "Mother," Damascus and Samaria should be despoiled. Verse 1. - Take thee a great roll; rather, a large tablet. The word is the same as that used for "mirror" in Isaiah 3:23. Write in it with a man's pen; i.e. "write upon it with the pen used by ordinary men" - in opposition to the implements of an engraver. The tablet was probably to be hung up to view in a public place (comp. Isaiah 30:8), so that all might read, and the writing was therefore to be such as was in ordinary use. Concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. These were the words which were to be written on the tablet, which was to be otherwise left blank. They would naturally excite curiosity, like the strange names placarded in modern streets. The name is literally, "Plunder speeds, spoil hastens." It has been imitated by Goethe in his "Habebald-Eilebeute" ('Faust,' act 4. sc. 3). Isaiah 8:1In the midst of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which was not yet at an end, Isaiah received instructions from God to perform a singular prophetic action. "Then Jehovah said to me, Take a large slab, and write upon it with common strokes, 'In Speed Spoil, Booty hastens;' and I will take to me trustworthy witnesses, Uriyah the priest, and Zecharyahu the son of Yeberechyahu." The slab or table (cf., Isaiah 3:23, where the same word is used to signify a metal mirror) was to be large, to produce the impression of a monument; and the writing upon it was to be "a man's pen" (Cheret 'enōsh), i.e., written in the vulgar, and, so to speak, popular character, consisting of inartistic strokes that could be easily read (vid., Revelation 13:18; Revelation 21:17). Philip d'Aquin, in his Lexicon, adopts the explanation, "Enosh-writing, i.e., hieroglyphic writing, so called because it was first introduced in the time of Enosh." Luzzatto renders it, a lettere cubitali; but the reading for this would be b'cheret ammath 'ish. The only true rendering is stylo vulgari (see Ges. Thes. s.v. 'enosh). The words to be written are introduced with Lamed, to indicate dedication (as in Ezekiel 37:16), or the object to which the inscription was dedicated or applied, as if it read, "A table devoted to 'Spoil very quickly, booty hastens;' " unless, indeed, l'mahēr is to be taken as a fut. instans, as it is by Luzzatto - after Genesis 15:12; Joshua 2:5; Habakkuk 1:17 - in the sense of acceleratura sunt spolia, or (what the position of the words might more naturally suggest) with mahēr in a transitive sense, as in the construction לבערּ היה, and others, accelerationi spolia, i.e., they are ready for hastening. Most of the commentators have confused the matter here by taking the words as a proper name (Ewald, 288, c), which they were not at first, though they became so afterwards. At first they were an oracular announcement of the immediate future, accelerant spolia, festinat praeda (spoil is quick, booty hastens). Spoil; booty; but who would the vanquished be? Jehovah knew, and His prophet knew, although not initiated into the policy of Ahaz. But their knowledge was studiously veiled in enigmas. For the writing was not to disclose anything to the people. It was simply to serve as a public record of the fact, that the course of events was one that Jehovah had foreseen and indicated beforehand. And when what was written upon the table should afterwards take place, they would know that it was the fulfilment of what had already been written, and therefore was an event pre-determined by God. For this reason Jehovah took to Himself witnesses. There is no necessity to read ואעידה (and I had it witnessed), as Knobel and others do; nor והעידה (and have it witnessed), as the Sept., Targum, Syriac, and Hitzig do. Jehovah said what He would do; and the prophet knew, without requiring to be told, that it was to be accomplished instrumentally through him. Uriah was no doubt the priest (Urijah), who afterwards placed himself at the service of Ahaz to gratify his heathenish desires (2 Kings 16:10.). Zechariah ben Yeberechyahu (Berechiah) was of course not the prophet of the times after the captivity, but possibly the Asaphite mentioned in 2 Chronicles 29:13. He is not further known to us. In good editions, ben is not followed by makkeph, but marked with mercha, according to the Masora at Genesis 30:19. These two men were reliable witnesses, being persons of great distinction, and their testimony would weigh with the people. When the time should arrive that the history of their own times solved the riddle of this inscription, these two men were to tell the people how long ago the prophet had written that down in his prophetic capacity.
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