Matthew Poole's Commentary
Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.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.
And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.Persons of unquestionable reputation, who should bear witness that the following name and prophecy was written and published by me, according to God’s command.
And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.I went unto, Heb. I came near to her. A modest expression of the conjugal act.
The prophetess; so called, partly as she was the prophet’s wife, wives being frequently denominated from their husbands’ titles, as the wives of mayor, or doctor, &c, are commonly called mayoress, doctoress, &c.; and partly because she did concur with the prophet to the procreation of this prophetical child.
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.To cry, My father, and my mother; to speak, and to know his parents; which is within the space of two years. And this agrees with the other prophecy, Isaiah 7:16,
Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, which requires a longer time than to distinguish his parents from strangers; which suits well to Shear-jashub, who, being born some years before this, was capable of that further degree of knowledge as soon as this was capable of the lower degree.
The riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away; the kingdoms of Syria and Israel, here signified by their two capital cities, shall be stripped of their wealth and power, as they were by Tiglath-pileser, within the time here limited, 2 Kings 15:29.
Before the king of Assyria; in his presence, and by himself and his forces; for in Scripture use that is said to be before a man, which is in or is put into a man’s power, as Genesis 13:9 20:15, &c.; and men are said to be smitten before their enemies, when they are smitten by them, as Numbers 14:42 Deu 1:42 Judges 20:39, and oft elsewhere. Others refer this phrase to the ancient custom of conquerors, of sending or carrying their spoils before them into their own country.
The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son;This people; either,
1. The people of Judah, which are supposed to have grown weary of their present government, and out of distrust of God’s protection designed to revolt from God, and from the house of David, and to put themselves under the power and protection of the kings of Syria and Israel. But there are no footsteps of any such design or practice of that people. And the following clause of rejoicing in Bezin, &c. cannot with any colour be ascribed to the Jews, whom at this time they sought to destroy. Or rather,
2. The people of Israel, of whom he last spake, Isaiah 8:4, and who are the chief subject of this whole prophecy, contained in this and the foregoing chapter; and who did rejoice not only in their own king Pekah, but also in the assistance of go powerful an ally as Rezin was.
Refuseth; or rather, despiseth, as the word properly and most frequently signifies.
The waters of Shiloah; that small and contemptible river or brook which ran by that city, which is here secretly opposed to the great rivers of Tigris and Euphrates, by which the Assyrian empire was fortified. Hereby he understands the munitions and strength of the Jews, which their enemies derided and contemned.
That go softly; gently, as little rivers do.
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:Therefore; because they despise the opposition which they have from Shiloah and Jerusalem, they shall have a more potent enemy.
Upon them; upon Israel. See on the foregoing verse. Of the river of Euphrates, oft called
the river, for its eminent greatness; whereby he understands the Assyrian forces, as the next words explain the metaphor.
All his glory; his numerous and puissant army, in which he gloried. See Isaiah 10:8.
He shall come up over all his channels; this great river shall overflow its own proper channels. The meaning is, This great monarch shall enlarge his dominions, and add the lands of Syria and Israel to them. Some render the words, he shall come up with all his channels or streams; for the Hebrew particle all sometimes signifies with, as Job 38:30. But it seems hard to understand the same particle one way in this clause, and another in the last clause. Besides, the last clause favours the former interpretation, the same thing being repeated in it, as is usual in the sacred writings. Or this may be understood of the channels and banks of the people or land of Israel. The enemy being represented under the metaphor of a river breaking in upon their land, may fitly be said to overflow all their channels and banks, to wit, all places, both low and high, so that nothing shall be able to withstand his fury.
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.He; or, it, to wit, the river, Isaiah 8:7 which yet designs the same person and thing, to wit, the invasion of the king of Assyria.
Shall pass through Judah; and when he shall have finished his work against you, he shall invade the land of Judah, as Sennacherib did some few years after his conquest of Samaria, 2 Kings 18:9,13.
He shall reach even to the neck; so as they shall be in great danger of being drowned or destroyed. He persists in the metaphor of a river swelling so high as to reach to a man’s neck, and be ready to overwhelm him. Such was the danger of Judah’s land,
when Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah, 2 Kings 18:13, and sent his army against Jerusalem.
Of his wings; of his forces, or of the wings of his army, as they anciently were and still are called.
Of thy land, O Immanuel; of the land of Judah, so called because the Messiah, who is called by God himself Immanuel, Isaiah 7:14, should certainly be born, and live, and die there. And this is added emphatically for the consolation of God’s people, to assure them, that notwithstanding this dreadful scourge, yet God would make a difference between Israel and Judah; and whereas Israel should be so broken by the Assyrian, that they should not be a people, as was threatened, Isaiah 7:8, Judah should be restored and preserved, for the sake of the Messiah, to be the place of his birth and ministry, according to that famous prophecy, Genesis 49:10.
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.O ye people; Syrians and Israelites. Immanuel’s name inspireth the prophet with new courage, and makes him send a challenge to all God’s enemies, and foretell their certain downfall.
Ye of far countries; whosoever you be, whether far or near, who do or shall conspire against Immanuel’s land.
Gird yourselves with sword and belt; prepare yourselves for war.
Ye shall be broken in pieces: this is repeated for the greater assurance of the thing, and the comfort of God’s people, who are apt to despond upon such occasions.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.Speak the word; declare and fix your purpose, and make your boast of it.
God is with us; the almighty and only true God fighteth for us, and against you. He gives the interpretation of the name Immanuel expressed before, Isaiah 8:8; for though the word in the Hebrew be the same here and them, yet there it seems to be taken properly, and here appellatively.
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,With a strong hand; with a vehement and more than ordinary inspiration, strongly imprinting it in my mind. Of this people; of the generality of the people of Judah; whose eminent danger and calamity he foretells, Isaiah 8:8, but withal gives them full assurance that God would deliver them out of it, Isaiah 8:9,10; which he doth to aggravate the present sin of Ahaz and his people, in forsaking God, and seeking to the king of Assyria for help, as they did, 2 Kings 16:6-8.
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor 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.
Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.Sanctify the Lord of hosts; give him the glory of his power, and goodness, and faithfulness, by trusting to his promises for your deliverance.
Let him be your fear; let God, and not the kings of Syria and Israel, be the chief object of your fear.
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.Your sanctuary; a sure refuge to all that truly fear him, and rely upon him.
For a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence; an occasion of sin and ruin, at whom they will take offence and stumble, so as to fall and be broken, as it is expressed, Isaiah 8:15.
To both the houses of Israel; to the two royal families of Israel, largely so called; that of Judah, to wit, the house of David; and that of Ephraim: or, to the two kingdoms, that of the ten tribes, and that of the two tribes.
For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; which are distinctly mentioned, as a very observable and wonderful thing, because Jerusalem was the seat of the temple, and of God’s solemn worship, where all the means of knowledge and grace were in greatest power and plenty, where the thrones of civil and ecclesiastical judicature were established, where the most wise and learned doctors had their constant or frequent abode. And that such a place and people should reject Immanuel, or their Messiah, when he should appear, was so great and strange an occurrent, that the prediction of it was highly necessary, lest otherwise, when it came to pass, it should shake the faith of all who did believe on him; whereas now the accomplishment hereof was a notable confirmation of their faith, and an evidence that Christ was the true Messiah.
And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.Many among them; not all, for there shall be a remnant, as was foretold, Isaiah 4:2 5:13.
Shall stumble at that stone or rock, mentioned Isaiah 8:14. This was accomplished at the coming of the Messias, whom the Jews rejected to their own destruction.
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.These are, by the consent of all, God’s words to the prophet. By the testimony and the law or doctrine (for so this word is frequently taken) he understands one and the same thing, as he doth also to wit, the word of God, and especially that which is the main scope and substance thereof, the doctrine of the Messias, which, though now professed by all the Israelites, shall be disowned by the generality of them, when the Messiah shall come.
Bind up and
seal are to be understood prophetically, Declare and prophesy that it shall be bound up and sealed; as Isaiah is said to make fat, and to blind, &c. Isaiah 6:10, and Jeremiah to root out and pull down, &c., Jeremiah 1:10, when they foretell these events. Moreover, bind up and
seal design the same thing, and that is, either,
1. Security and certainty, as things are bound up or sealed that they may not be lost. So he signifies, that although this doctrine would be lost among the body of the Israelites, yet it should be preserved among his disciples. Or,
2. Secrecy, as many things are bound up or sealed that they may be hid from the eyes of others. And so he informeth them that this doctrine now was and should be hid in a great measure among all God’s people, even till the accomplishment of it; and that even when it was accomplished, it should still continue to be as a secret and mystery, known indeed to his true disciples, but hid from the body of the nation, who would not see it, and therefore should be blinded by God’s just judgment, that they should not see it, as was prophesied, Isaiah 6:9,10. Or,
3. Both security and secrecy, signifying that it should certainly be fulfilled, yet withal kept secret from the unbelieving Jews. For why may not these two be joined in the exposition of this text, as they were in the event? By God’s disciples he means those who were taught of God, as it is expressed, Isaiah 54:13, where this very word is used; or, every one that hath heard and learned of the Father, and therefore cometh unto Christ, as it is explained, John 6:45.
And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.And, or, as this particle is rendered Jeremiah 2:32,35, and elsewhere, yet, notwithstanding this dreadful prophecy concerning the unbelief and rejection of Israel,
I will wait upon the Lord; I will refer myself and this matter unto God, casting my care upon him, and expecting the accomplishment of his promise in sending the Messiah, and in conferring upon me and all believing Israelites, all his mercies and blessings, to be procured by and through his blood and merits.
That hideth his face; that now doth, and threateneth that he will hereafter, withdraw his favour and blessing as this phrase signifies, Psalm 10:1 27:9, and oft elsewhere.
From the house of Jacob; from the family or people of Israel.
I will look for him with an eye of faith and expectation, till his time cometh.
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.Behold; it is worthy of your observation and admiration. These words are literally spoken by Isaiah concerning himself, but withal mystically concerning Christ, of whom he speaks more frequently and fully than any other prophet, and of whom he was an evident type; and therefore they are fitly applied to Christ, Hebrews 2:13.
1. His natural children, whose very names were prophetical, and signs of future events, Isaiah 7:3 8:3,4; or,
2. His spiritual children, whom he had either begotten or brought up by his ministry. For the prophets were called fathers not only with respect to the young prophets, who were commonly called the sons of the prophets, but also in relation to others, as 2 Kings 2:12 13:14. And this sense seems more probable than the former, because it agrees best,
1. With the following words, which seem to be too lofty and emphatical to be used concerning his natural children; for their prophetical names, which, if they were signs, could not properly be called
2. With the context and scope of the place, which is to set forth the incredulity of the Israelites, and their contempt and rejection of Christ, and of all his faithful messengers, both the prophets, who were sent as harbingers before his coming, and the apostles, who were witnesses of his coming.
3. With Hebrews 2:13, where they are expounded of spiritual children.
Are for signs and for wonders in Israel; are a gazingstock to and admired by them, for our folly in believing God’s promises. For so the believing Jews now were to Ahaz and the generality of the people, who thought it their wisdom and interest to procure aid from Assyria, and esteemed those fools who, upon pretence of relying upon God, would neglect so great an advantage. And so the prophet foretells that they should be when the Messiah did come; which is the mystical, as the other is the literal sense; and so both of them may be meant in this place.
In Israel; even amongst the Israelites, who have been taught and do profess better things.
From the Lord of hosts; which come to pass by the wise counsel and providence of God, in which I willingly acquiesce.
Which dwelleth in Mount Zion; where the temple now was, and where the Messiah was to set up his kingdom.
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?When they, the Israelites, to whom I and my children are signs and wonders, who are fallen from God, and his true religion and worship, into superstition and idolatry, and will endeavour to seduce you into the same impiety, shall say unto you, my children, whom the prophet here arms against the common temptation.
Seek unto them for advice and help, and seek no more to the prophets, who have hitherto deluded you with vain words. This was the counsel of the ungodly and unbelieving Jews.
Wizards; of whom see Leviticus 19:31 20:27 Deu 18:11.
That peep, and that mutter; that speak with a puling and low voice, as these two words signify; which they affected to do, speaking rather inwardly in their bellies, than outwardly and audibly with their mouths and voice, as the title of ventriloqui, commonly given to them, signifies.
Should not a people seek unto their God? this answer the prophet puts into their mouths, to the foregoing counsel. Doth not every nation, in cases of difficulty or distress, seek to their own gods for relief? Much more should we do so, that have the only true God for our God.
For the living to the dead; shall they seek (which words are easily understood out of the foregoing clause) for the living, &c? That living men should inquire of the living God is proper and reasonable; but it is highly absurd for them to forsake him, and to seek to dead idols, either to the images, or to the spirits of dead men, which are supposed to dwell and speak in them.
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.To the law and to the testimony; let this dispute between you and them be determined by God’s word, which is here and in many other places called
the law, to signify their obligation to believe and obey it; and the testimony, because it is a witness between God and man of God’s mind and will, and of man’s duty; and so these two titles contain two arguments against these idolatrous practices.
If they; your antagonists, that seek to pervert you, Isaiah 8:19.
It is because there is no light in them; this proceeds from the darkness of their minds, because they are blind, and will not see, and God hath shut their eyes that they cannot see. But these words are by divers learned interpreters understood not as a declaration of their ignorance, but a commination and prediction of their misery, light being most commonly used in Scripture for comfort and happiness, and darkness for sorrows and calamities. And this sense seems to be much favoured by the following passages. And then the words may be thus rendered, assuredly (for the Hebrew particle asher is frequently used as a note of asseveration, as 1 Samuel 15:20 Psalm 10:6 95:11, &c., as hath been more than once observed before) no light or morning light shall be (for that may as well be understood as is) to them; a night of misery shall come upon them, and they shall never have a morning of deliverance from it; they shall be swallowed up in endless calamities.
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, the idolatrous and apostatical Israelites,
shall pass through it, or, in it, to wit, their own land, which is easily understood out of the context, and from the phrase itself; the pronoun relative being put without an antecedent, as it is in other places, which have been formerly noted. They shall either pass through it into captivity, or wander hither and thither in it, like distracted men, not knowing whither to go, nor what to do; whereas if they had not forsaken God, they might have had a quiet and settled abode in it.
Hardly bestead; sorely distressed, as this word is used, Genesis 35:16 Job 30:25; and hungry; destitute of food, and of all necessaries, which are oft signified by food. Curse their king; either because he doth not relieve them, or because by his foolish counsels and courses he brought them into these miseries.
Their God; either,
1. The true God; or rather,
2. Their idols, to whom they trusted, and whom they now find too late unable to help them.
Look upward to heaven for help, as men of all nations and religions in great calamities use to do.
And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.They shall look unto the earth; finding no help from heaven, they turn their eyes downward, looking hither and thither for comfort.
Trouble and darkness. &c.; many words expressing the same thing are put together, to signify the variety, and extremity, and continuance of their miseries.