Isaiah 8:12
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
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(12) Say ye not, A confederacy . . .—The words have been very differently interpreted. (1) The confederacy has been thought to be that between Syria or Ephraim, which had at first filled the people with terror, and then had seemed so powerful that men had been willing to join it (Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 8:6). (2) Translating the word as conspiracy as in 2Kings 17:4—it was the word used by Athaliah when she cried, “Treason, treason!” (2Chronicles 23:13)—interpreters have seen in it the cry of the Assyrian alliance party against the prophet and his followers, whom they accused of conspiracy against their country, such as was afterwards imputed to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:14). (3) Others, following a conjectural amendment of the text, have read, “Ye shall not call everything a holy thing which this people calleth a holy thing,” and find in the words a protest against the idolatrous reverence for that which has no real holiness, analogous to the warning against soothsayers or diviners in Isaiah 8:19; or possibly an allusion to such an object of worship as the brazen serpent, which Hezekiah had destroyed by Isaiah’s advice (2Kings 18:4). Of these, (2) seems the most in harmony with the sequence of facts and thoughts.

8:9-16 The prophet challenges the enemies of the Jews. Their efforts would be vain, and themselves broken to pieces. It concerns us, in time of trouble, to watch against all such fears as put us upon crooked courses for our own security. The believing fear of God preserves against the disquieting fear of man. If we thought rightly of the greatness and glory of God, we should see all the power of our enemies restrained. The Lord, who will be a Sanctuary to those who trust in him, will be a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, to those who make the creature their fear and their hope. If the things of God be an offence to us, they will undo us. The apostle quotes this as to all who persisted in unbelief of the gospel of Christ, 1Pe 2:8. The crucified Emmanuel, who was and is a Stumbling-stone and Rock of offence to unbelieving Jews, is no less so to thousands who are called Christians. The preaching of the cross is foolishness in their esteem; his doctrines and precepts offend them.Say ye not - Do not join in their purposes of forming a confederacy. Do not unite with the king and the people of Judah in their alarms about the threatened invasion by the kings of Syria and Samaria, and in their purpose to form an alliance with the king of Assyria. The reason why they should not do this, he states in Isaiah 8:13, where he exhorts the nation to put confidence in the Lord rather than in man. There has been, however, great diversity in the interpretation of this passage. The Septuagint renders the word קשׁר qesher, 'confederacy,' by the word σκληρόν sklēron - 'Everything which this people say, is hard.' The Syriac, 'Do not say, rebellion,' etc. The Chaldee understands the word in the same sense. Lowth proposes to change the word קשׁר qesher, into קדשׁ qâdôsh, because Dr. Seeker possessed one manuscript in which this reading was found; and he translates the passage:

'Say ye not it is holy,

Of everything of which this people shall say it is holy.'

That is, 'call not their idols holy; nor fear ye the object of their fear; that is, the gods of the idolaters.' But it is plain that this does not suit the connection of the passage, since the prophet is not reproving them for their idolatry, but is discoursing of the alliance between the kings of Syria and Samaria. Besides, the authority of one manuscript, without the concurrence of any ancient version, is not a sufficient authority for changing the Hebrew text. Most commentators have understood this word 'confederacy' as referring to the alliance between the kings of Syria and Samaria; as if the prophet had said, 'Do not join in the cry so common and almost universal in the nation, "There is a confederacy between those two kingdoms; there is an alliance formed which endangers our liberty" - a cry that produces alarm and trepidation in the nation.' Thus Rosenmuller and Gesenius explain it.

Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, however. understand it of a conspiracy, which they suppose was formed in the kingdom of Ahaz, against him and the house of David; and that the prophet warns the people against joining in such a conspiracy. But of the existence of such a conspiracy there is no evidence. Had there been such a conspiracy, it is not probable that it would have been so well known as to make it a proper subject of public denunciation. Conspiracies are usually secret and concealed. I regard this, however, as a caution to the prophet not to join in the prevailing demand for an alliance with the king of Assyria. Ahaz trembled before the united armies of Syria and Samaria. He sought, therefore, foreign assistance - the assistance of the king of Assyria. It is probable that in this he was encouraged by the leaders of the people, and that this would be a popular measure with the mass of the nation. Yet it implied distrust of God (note, Isaiah 8:6); and, therefore, the prophet was directed not to unite with them in seeking this 'confederacy,' or alliance, but to oppose it. The word translated 'confederacy,' קשׁר qesher is derived from the verb קשׁר qâshar, "to bind, to fetter;" to enter into a conspiracy. It usually refers to a conspiracy, but it may mean a combination or alliance of any kind. Or, if it here means a conspiracy, a union between Ahaz and the Assyrians may be regarded as a species of conspiracy, as it was an unnatural alliance; a species of combination against the natural and proper government of Judah - the theocracy.

Neither fear ye their fear - Do not partake of their alarm at the invasion of the land by the united armies of Syria and Samaria. Rather put confidence in God, and believe that he is able to save you; compare 1 Peter 3:13-15.

12-16. The words of Jehovah.

confederacy—rather, a conspiracy; an appropriate term for the unnatural combination of Israel with Syrian foreigners against Judea and the theocracy, to which the former was bound by ties of blood and hereditary religion [Maurer].

to all … say—rather, of all which this people calleth a conspiracy [G. V. Smith].

their fear—namely, object of fear: the hostile conspiracy.

be afraid—rather [Maurer], "nor make others to be afraid."

Say ye not, thou, Isaiah, and thine and my children, A confederacy; do not approve of or consent to this wicked design of making a confederacy with the king of Assyria.

Their fear; that thing which they fear, that if they do not call in the Assyrian succours, they shall certainly be destroyed by those two potent kings united against them, and that God either cannot or will not deliver them.

Say ye not, a confederacy,.... With the king of Assyria, or any other; do not cry it up as a right thing, and express pleasure and satisfaction in it, and encourage others to come into it, and vote for it, and declare an approbation of it; or a "rebellion", as the Targum, that is, against Ahaz; and so deliver up the kingdom of the house of David into the hands of its enemies:

to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy: who either were for entering into an alliance with the Assyrian monarch, and sending for him to help; or were for joining with their enemies, to the subversion of the present government. Jarchi interprets this of Shebna the Scribe, and his company; who, as he suggests, conspired against Hezekiah, and secretly made an agreement with Sennacherib king of Assyria; but the former sense is best:

neither fear their fear, nor be afraid: let not the same fear possess you as does them, on account of Syria and Israel combining together against Judah; nor be afraid of their two kings, as they were; since there was nothing to fear from them; it being impossible that the kingdom of Judah should fail until Shiloh came, or Immanuel was born of a virgin in it; nor does it become the people of God, and especially his prophets and ministers, to be afraid of men; since the fear of men brings a snare. See 1 Peter 3:14.

Say ye not, A {n} confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye {o} their fear, nor be afraid.

(n) Consent not you who are godly to the league and friendship that this people seek with strangers and idolaters.

(o) Meaning, that they should not fear the thing that they who have no hope in God feared.

12. A confederacy] Strictly: A conspiracy (R.V.). But the word “conspiracy” does not necessarily imply (as some have thought) treason within the state. It may be used (as the verb is in Nehemiah 4:2) of an external coalition threatening the integrity of the commonwealth. On the whole this seems to give the best sense here. The “conspiracy” is the Syro-Ephraimitish alliance, which Isaiah and his adherents are warned not to treat as a serious danger. Another explanation is that Isaiah and his party were suspected of treasonable complicity in the designs of the allies (cf. Jeremiah 37:13); but did they need a supernatural revelation to tell them that that charge was false? The word has also been supposed to allude to the spirit of preternatural suspicion that was abroad, causing every man to suspect his neighbour of being a traitor. But Isaiah is little likely to have been disturbed by this.

neither fear ye their fear] i.e. “fear not what they fear,” but fear Jehovah alone (Isaiah 8:13).

Verse 12. - Say ye not. The transition from the singular to the plural is noticeable. It implies that Isaiah did not stand alone, but had followers - a "little flock," it may be - but still enough to give him the support of sympathy (comp. ver. 16). A confederacy; rather, treason, or conspiracy (see 2 Samuel 15:12; 1 Kings 16:20; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Kings 12:20; Jeremiah 11:9; Ezekiel 22:25, etc.). The command is, not to call a course of conduct treasonable simply because the people generally so call it. Jeremiah was charged with treason for preaching the hopelessness of offering resistance to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 20:1; Jeremiah 26:8-11). Those who opposed an Assyrian alliance were probably now taxed with treason. To all them to whom; rather, everything which. Translate the entire clause thus: Call ye not conspiracy everything which this people shall call conspiracy. Neither fear ye their fear. They feared man (Isaiah 7:2). Isaiah and his disciples are commanded to fear no one but God. Isaiah 8:12There then follows in Isaiah 8:11 an explanatory clause, which seems at first sight to pass on to a totally different theme, but it really stands in the closest connection with the triumphant words of Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:10. It is Immanuel whom believers receive, constitute, and hold fast as their refuge in the approaching times of the Assyrian judgment. He is their refuge and God in Him, and not any human support whatever. This is the link of connection with Isaiah 8:11, Isaiah 8:12 : "For Jehovah hath spoken thus to me, overpowering me with God's hand, and instructing me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, Call ye not conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy; and what is feared by it, fear ye not, neither think ye dreadful." היד, "the hand," is the absolute hand, which is no sooner laid upon a man than it overpowers all perception, sensation, and though: Chezkath hayyâd (viz., âlai, upon me, Ezekiel 3:14) therefore describes a condition in which the hand of God was put forth upon the prophet with peculiar force, as distinguished from the more usual prophetic state, the effect of a peculiarly impressive and energetic act of God. Luther is wrong in following the Syriac, and adopting the rendering, "taking me by the hand;" as Chezkath points back to the kal (invalescere), and not to the hiphil (apprehendere). It is this circumstantial statement, which is continued in v'yissereni ("and instructing me"), and not the leading verb âmar ("he said"); for the former is not the third pers. pret. piel, which would be v'yisserani, but the third pers. fut. kal, from the future form yissōr (Hosea 10:10, whereas the fut. piel is v'yassēr); and it is closely connected with Chezkath hayyâd, according to the analogy of the change from the participial and infinitive construction to the finite verb (Ges. 132, Anm. 2). With this overpowering influence, and an instructive warning against going in the way of "this people," Jehovah spake to the prophet as follows. With regard to the substance of the following warning, the explanation that has been commonly adopted since the time of Jerome, viz., noli duorum regum timere conjurationem (fear not the conspiracy of the two kings), is contrary to the reading of the words. The warning runs thus: The prophet, and such as were on his side, were not to call that kesher which the great mass of the people called kesher (cf., 2 Chronicles 23:13, "She said, Treason, Treason!" kesher, kesher); yet the alliance of Rezin and Pekah was really a conspiracy - a league against the house and people of David. Nor can the warning mean that believers, when they saw how the unbelieving Ahaz brought the nation into distress, were not to join in a conspiracy against the person of the king (Hofmann, Drechsler); they are not warned at all against making a conspiracy, but against joining in the popular cry when the people called out kesher. The true explanation has been given by Roorda, viz., that the reference is to the conspiracy, as it was called, of the prophet and his disciples ("sermo hic est de conjuratione, quae dicebatur prophetae et discipulorum ejus"). The same thing happened to Isaiah as to Amos (Amos 7:10) and to Jeremiah. Whenever the prophets were at all zealous in their opposition to the appeal for foreign aid, they were accused and branded as standing in the service of the enemy, and conspiring for the overthrow of the kingdom. In such perversion of language as this, the honourable among them were not to join. The way of God was now a very different one from the way of that people. If the prophet and his followers opposed the alliance with Asshur, this was not a common human conspiracy against the will of the king and nation, but the inspiration of God, the true policy of Jehovah. Whoever trusted in Him had no need to be afraid of such attempts as those of Rezin and Pekah, or to look upon them as dreadful.
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