William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.Isaiah Chapter 8
We have already the two great parties of which the prophecy treats, Immanuel and the Assyrian. The virgin should conceive a Son - Messiah, Immanuel; Jehovah should bring upon the unworthy son of David the king of Assyria, to whom alone he had looked for succour. The humblest Jew ought to have cried to Jehovah.
In the chapter before us now we have other and fuller information vouchsafed of Jehovah. "And Jehovah said unto me, Take thee a great tablet, and write upon it with the pen of man, for Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took (or will take) unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said Jehovah unto me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (vv. 1-3). This is explained to Isaiah and by him, "For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and My mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria" (v. 4). And all this, as the inspired history proves, was fulfilled to the letter.
But there is more, "And Jehovah spoke again unto me, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, even rejoicing in Rezin and in Remaliah's son, therefore behold the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And he shall mount up over all his channels, and go over all his banks; and he shall sweep on into Judah; and he shall overflow and go farther, he shall reach [even] to the neck; and the out-stretching of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Emmanuel" (vv.5-8). We are here in the presence of the scenes of the latter day, whatever type in the measure of accomplishment near at hand. The water of Shiloah being despised, there must come the far different waters of the Assyrian and these all but overwhelmingly, when He (whose Incarnation had been announced to the unbelieving Ahaz as God's sign in mercy) shall at length appear to vindicate His land. The Assyrian proudly fills the land, reaching even "to the neck"; yet he is not merely checked and put to shame, but utterly and for ever broken in Immanuel's land. Compare Micah 5:3-6; for the mind of the Spirit is one, and scripture cannot be in vain.
The people here had no faith, any more than the king in the preceding scene. Both of them despised the ways and the promises of God. Their confidence, as their fear, was man. If Ahaz cowered before the two tails of the smoking firebrands, as Jehovah contemptuously designated the fierce anger of the combined kings of Israel and Syria, the people refused the softly flowing streams of Shiloah. Just would be their retribution. The impetuous river, the Assyrian, should rise to overflowing and well-nigh overwhelm the land.
But is it not "Thy land, O Immanuel"? Assuredly; and whatever be the king, whatever the people, whatever the needed humbling of them both, will not God avenge the insult to Him Who, when reviled, reviled not again? He is not deaf to the cry of His elect: how does He feel for Immanuel and Immanuel's land? Did the people associate themselves? They might spare themselves the trouble; they shall be broken. Did all they of far countries gird themselves? If they fear not, let them hear their sentence of Jehovah. "Rage, ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces. And give ear, all ye distant parts of the earth. Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak a word, and it shall not stand; for God [is] with us [Immanuel]" (vv. 9, 10). Immanuel is far more and other than Shear-jashub.
This opens the door for pointing out the path of faith for the godly, Jehovah Himself the sole and sure resource, the one object of reverence and fear in a day of manifold evil and thickening danger. "For Jehovah spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, Confederacy (or conspiracy), of everything of which this people shall say, Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread. Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread. And he will be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken and snared and taken. Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait for Jehovah that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me [are] for signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts who dwelleth in mount Zion" (vv 11-18).
Now it is certain that those "disciples," who had pre-trusted in the Christ (Ephesians 1:12), while the mass of the Jews rejected Him, as alas! they do still, became at Pentecost the nucleus of Christianity, and were "added together daily" by the Lord, and formed "their own company" (Acts 4:23), distinctly called "the church" (Acts 5:11) thenceforward. But this heavenly transformation is quite omitted here, and left as a secret to be made known in the New Testament. The prophet looks onward to the accomplishment of their hopes as Israel for the earth under the Messiah in the latter day. In neither the Old Testament is it Israel transferred to the church, nor in the New Testament the church incorporating Israel by-and-by. But the church itself, as Christ's body, is in no way revealed here. It is left as a heavenly secret to be revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit in the New Testament. And we pass over from the godly remnant at our Lord's first advent to the troublous and dark scene which precedes the day of His appearing at the end of this age. This, which is the evident and simple truth of the passage, cuts up by the root the allegorizing fancy that Judah or Israel means the church. In fact, they never mean it but the ancient people of Jehovah reserved, through the just chastisement of their sins, to be His people blessed in sovereign mercy in His day of blessing for all the families of the earth. The church is called out of the world for heavenly glory. To identify two bodies so distinct and contrasted is to lose the definite truth of each and of both.
Meanwhile the prophet believes in what Jehovah made known, whether in judgement of the mass, or in mercy to the remnant. It is a Gentile thought, deserving of all reprobation, that prophecy was given only to be believed and understood when, being fulfilled, it then became history. There is a remnant always that believes; and they gather thereby present cheer in the midst of sorrow. In truth, to be thus in felt and confessed weakness, to be cast therefore on "Jehovah of hosts Himself," is really, spite of all appearance to the eyes and reasonings of men, to be master of the situation. Even in a still more blessed way the apostle could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. "Most gladly (as he had said before) will I rather glory in mine infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me." But here we listen to the prophet, who assures us of the final triumphant deliverance of Israel. There is connection with present facts, and looking onward through the dreary circumstances of the desolate remnant, till Jehovah rises up and settles all for their deliverance in the destruction of every foe. The united strength of their enemies should be vain. What those who feared Jehovah needed was neither a confederacy nor alarm at such as trusted in it, but to sanctify Jehovah, and make Him their sanctuary. Yet He should be a stone of stumbling, even to both the houses of Israel, yea, a gin and snare to Jerusalem itself.
It is clear, then, that here we have not only the nations who would have swallowed up Israel doomed to a total overthrow, but the truth so strange and unpalatable (save to Gentile conceit) long after, of Israel too in all its extent stumbling at the stone of stumbling - their own Jehovah-Messiah. And withal, in the midst are seen a feeble few cleaving to His testimony, and owned as His disciples, while Jehovah hid His face from the people as a whole. They become a separate remnant, when the mass stumble, fall, and are broken, snared and taken. Hence, in Hebrews 2:12-13, the Holy Spirit does not hesitate to cite v. 18 with other scriptures (Ps. 16; Ps. 22), to prove the sanctified and the Sanctifier "all of one." For indeed He is not ashamed to call them brethren; and this, now in Christianity, while the nation is given over to blindness and unbelief.
Surely in presence of such a prophecy, more than seven centuries before it began to be fulfilled, men ought to be ashamed of their cavils. How overlook so plain a key to the light of God with Christ's disciples, while the Jews have stumbled at the stumbling-stone, and Jehovah hides His face from the house of Jacob? Yet the Jews shall yet understand these signs and wonders when they bow their stiff neck to their rejected Messiah.
The closing verses show their exceeding iniquity and their impious recourse to the powers of darkness in their own evident want of light, as they despised and departed from the law and the testimony of Jehovah. The effect is intense misery, audacious rage, and blasphemy of their King and their God, in all the agony of despair. "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living [should they seek] unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. And they shall pass through it, hardly distressed and hungry: and it shall come to pass that, when they shall be hungry, they will fret themselves, and curse (or by) their king and their God, and turn their faces upward: and they will look unto the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and into thick darkness they shall be driven away" (vv. 19-22).
And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.
And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.
For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,
Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son;
Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:
And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.