Isaiah 8

CHAPTER VIII

Prediction respecting the conquest of Syria and Israel by the

Assyrians, 1-4.

Israel, for rejecting the gentle stream of Shiloah, near

Jerusalem, is threatened to be overflowed by the great river of

Assyria, manifestly alluding by this strong figure to the

conquests of Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser over that kingdom,

5-7.

The invasion of the kingdom of Judah by the Assyrians under

Sennacherib foretold, 8.

The prophet assures the Israelites and Syrians that their

hostile attempts against Judah shall be frustrated, 9, 10.

Exhortation not to be afraid of the wrath of man, but to fear

the displeasure of God, 11-13.

Judgments which shall overtake those who put no confidence in

Jehovah, 14, 15.

The prophet proceeds to warn his countrymen against idolatry,

divination, and the like sinful practices, exhorting them to

seek direction from the word of God, professing in a beautiful

apostrophe that this was his own pious resolution. And to

enforce this counsel, and strengthen their faith, he points to

his children, whose symbolic names were signs or pledges of

the Divine promises, 16-20.

Judgments of God against the finally impenitent, 21, 22.

The prophecy of the foregoing chapter relates directly to the

kingdom of Judah only: the first part of it promises them

deliverance from the united invasion of the Israelites and

Syrians; the latter part, from Isa 8:17, denounces the desolation

to be brought upon the kingdom of Judah by the Assyrians. The

sixth, seventh, and eighth verses of this chapter seem to take

in both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. "This people that

refuseth the waters of Shiloah," may be meant of both: the

Israelites despised the kingdom of Judah, which they had deserted,

and now attempted to destroy; the people of Judah, from a

consideration of their own weakness, and a distrust of God's

promises, being reduced to despair, applied to the Assyrians for

assistance against the two confederate kings. But how could it be

said of Judah, that they rejoiced in Rezin, and the son of

Remaliah, the enemies confederated against them? If some of the

people were inclined to revolt to the enemy, (which however does

not clearly appear from any part of the history or the prophecy,)

yet there was nothing like a tendency to a general defection.

This, therefore, must be understood of Israel. The prophet

denounces the Assyrian invasion, which should overwhelm the whole

kingdom of Israel under Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser; and the

subsequent invasion of Judah by the same power under Sennacherib,

which would bring them into the most imminent danger, like a flood

reaching to the neck, in which a man can but just keep his head

above water. The two next verses, 9 and 10, Isa 8:9, 10, are

addressed by the prophet, as a subject of the kingdom of Judah, to

the Israelites and Syrians, and perhaps to all the enemies of

God's people; assuring them that their attempts against that

kingdom shall be fruitless; for that the promised Immanuel, to

whom he alludes by using his name to express the signification of

it, for God is with us, shall be the defence of the house of

David, and deliver the kingdom of Judah out of their hands. He

then proceeds to warn the people of Judah against idolatry,

divination, and the like forbidden practices; to which they were

much inclined, and which would soon bring down God's judgments

upon Israel. The prophecy concludes at the sixth verse of Isa 9:6

with promises of blessings in future times by the coming of the

great deliverer already pointed out by the name of Immanuel, whose

person and character is set forth in terms the most ample and

magnificent.

And here it may be observed that it is almost the constant

practice of the prophet to connect in like manner deliverances

temporal with spiritual. Thus the eleventh chapter, setting forth

the kingdom of Messiah, is closely connected with the tenth, which

foretells the destruction of Sennacherib. So likewise the

destruction of nations, enemies to God, in the thirty-fourth

chapter, introduces the flourishing state of the kingdom of Christ

in the thirty-fifth. And thus the chapters from xl. to xlix.

inclusive, plainly relating to the deliverance from the captivity

of Babylon, do in some parts plainly relate to the greater

deliverance by Christ.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

Verse 1. Take thee a great roll-"Take unto thee a large mirror"]

The word gillayon is not regularly formed from galal,

to roll, but from galah, as pidyon from

padah, killayon from , calah,

nikkayon from nakah, elyon from alah,

&c., the yod supplying the place of the radical he.

galah signifies to show, to reveal; properly, as Schroederus

says, (De Vestitu Mulier. Hebr. p. 294,) to render clear and

bright by rubbing; to polish. gillayon, therefore,

according to this derivation, is not a roll or volume: but may

very well signify a polished tablet of metal, such as was

anciently used for a mirror. The Chaldee paraphrast renders it by

luach, a tablet, and the same word, though somewhat

differently pointed, the Chaldee paraphrast and the rabbins render

a mirror, Isa 3:23. The mirrors of the Israelitish women were

made of brass finely polished, Ex 38:8, from which place it

likewise appears that what they used were little hand mirrors

which they carried with them even when they assembled at the door

of the tabernacle. I have a metalline mirror found in Herculaneum,

which is not above three inches square. The prophet is commanded to

take a mirror, or brazen polished tablet, not like these little hand

mirrors, but a large one; large enough for him to engrave upon it

in deep and lasting characters, becheret enosh, with a

workman's graving tool, the prophecy which he was to deliver.

cheret in this place certainly signifies an instrument to write or

engrave with: but charit, the same word, only differing a

little in the form, means something belonging to a lady's dress,

Isa 3:22,

(where however five MSS. leave out the yod, whereby only it

differs from the word in this place,) either a crisping-pin, which

might be not unlike a graving tool, as some will have it, or a

purse, as others infer from 2Ki 5:23. It may therefore be called

here cheret enosh, a workman's instrument, to distinguish

it from cheret ishshah, an instrument of the same name,

used by the women. In this manner he was to record the prophecy

of the destruction of Damascus and Samaria by the Assyrians; the

subject and sum of which prophecy is here expressed with great

brevity in four words, maher shalal hash baz; i.e.,

to hasten the spoil, to take quickly the prey; which are

afterwards applied as the name of the prophet's son, who was made

a sign of the speedy completion of it; Maher-shalal-hash-baz;

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.

The prophet is commanded to take a great roll, and yet four

words only are to be written in it, maher shalal

hash baz, Make haste to the spoil; fall upon the prey. The great

volume points out the land of Judea; and the few words the small

number of inhabitants, after the ten tribes were carried into

captivity.

The words were to be written with a man's pen; i.e., though the

prophecy be given in the visions of God, yet the writing must be

real; the words must be transcribed on the great roll, that they

may be read and publicly consulted. Or, cherot enosh, the

pen or graver of the weak miserable man, may refer to the already

condemned Assyrians, who though they should be the instruments of

chastening Damascus and Samaria, should themselves shortly be

overthrown. The four words may be considered as the commission

given to the Assyrians to destroy and spoil the cities. Make haste

to the spoil; Fall upon the prey, &c.

Verse 4. For before the child] For my father and my mother, one

MS. and the Vulgate have his father and his mother. The prophecy

was accordingly accomplished within three years; when

Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, went up against Damascus and

took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew

Rezin, and also took the Reubenites and the Gadites, and the

half-tribe of Manasseh, and carried them captive to Assyria,

2Ki 15:29; 16:9; 1Ch 5:26.

Verse 6. Forasmuch as this people refuseth-"Because this people

have rejected"] The gentle waters of Shiloah, a small fountain and

brook just without Jerusalem, which supplied a pool within the

city for the use of the inhabitants, is an apt emblem of the state

of the kingdom and house of David, much reduced in its apparent

strength, yet supported by the blessing of God; and is finely

contrasted with the waters of the Euphrates, great, rapid, and

impetuous; the image of the Babylonian empire, which God threatens

to bring down like a mighty flood upon all these apostates of both

kingdoms, as punishment for their manifold iniquities, and their

contemptuous disregard of his promises. The brook and the river

are put for the kingdoms to which they belong, and the different

states of which respectively they most aptly represent. Juvenal,

inveighing against the corruption of Rome by the importation of

Asiatic manners, says, with great elegance, that "the Orontes has

been long discharging itself into the Tiber:"-

Jampridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes.

And Virgil, to express the submission of some of the Eastern

countries to the Roman arms, says:-

Euphrates ibat jam mollior undis.

AEn. viii. 726.

"The waters of the Euphrates now flowed more humbly and gently."

But the happy contrast between the brook and the river gives a

peculiar beauty to this passage of the prophet, with which the

simple figure in the Roman poets, however beautiful, yet

uncontrasted, cannot contend.

Verse 8. He shall reach even to the neck] He compares Jerusalem,

says Kimchi, to the head of the human body. As when the waters

come up to a man's neck, he is very near drowning, (for a little

increase of them would go over his head,) so the king of Assyria

coming up to Jerusalem was like a flood reaching to the neck-the

whole country was overflowed, and the capital was in imminent

danger. Accordingly the Chaldee renders reaching to the neck by

reaching to Jerusalem.

Verse 9. Associate yourselves-"Know ye this"] God by his prophet

plainly declares to the confederate adversaries of Judah, and bids

them regard and attend to his declaration, that all their efforts

shall be in vain. The present reading, rou, is subject to many

difficulties; I follow that of the Septuagint, deu, γνωτε

Archbishop Secker approves this reading. deu, know ye this,

is parallel and synonymous to haazinu, give ear to it, in

the next line. The Septuagint have likewise very well paraphrased

the conclusion of this verse: "When ye have strengthened

yourselves, ye shall be broken; and though ye again strengthen

yourselves, again shall ye be broken;" taking chottu as

meaning the same with , ye shall be broken.

Verse 11. With a strong hand-"As taking me by the hand"] Eleven

MSS., (two ancient,) of Kennicott's, thirty-four of De Rossi's,

and seven editions, read kechezkath; and so Symmachus,

the Syriac, and Vulgate. Or rather with a strong hand, that is,

with a strong and powerful influence of the prophetic Spirit.

Verse 12. Say ye not, A confederacy-"Say ye not, It is holy"]

kesher. Both the reading and the sense of this word are

doubtful. The Septuagint manifestly read kashah; for they

render it by σκληρον, hard. The Syriac and Chaldee render it

merda, and merod, rebellion. How they came by this

sense of the word, or what they read in their copies, is not so

clear. But the worst of it is, that neither of these readings or

renderings gives any clear sense in this place. For why should God

forbid his faithful servants to say with the unbelieving Jews, It

is hard; or, There is a rebellion; or, as our translators render

it, a confederacy? And how can this be called "walking in the way

of this people?" Isa 8:11, which usually means, following their

example, joining with them in religious worship. Or what

confederacy do they mean? The union of the kingdoms of Syria and

Israel against Judah? That was properly a league between two

independent states, not an unlawful conspiracy of one part against

another in the same state; this is the meaning of the word

kesher. For want of any satisfactory interpretation of this

place that I can meet with, I adopt a conjecture of Archbishop

Secker, which he proposes with great diffidence, and even seems

immediately to give up, as being destitute of any authority to

support it. I will give it in his own words:- "Videri potest ex

cap. v. 16, et hujus cap. 13, 14, 19, legendum vel

kadosh, eadem sententia, qua Eloheynu, Ho 14:3. Sed

nihil necesse est. Vide enim Jer 11:9; Eze 22:25. Optime tamen

sic responderent huic versiculo versiculi 13, 14." The passages of

Jeremiah and Ezekiel above referred to seem to me not at all to

clear up the sense of the word kesher in this place. But the

context greatly favours the conjecture here given, and makes it

highly probable: "Walk not in the way of this people; call not

their idols holy, nor fear ye the object of their fear:" (that is,

the σεβασματα, or gods of the idolaters; for so fear here

signifies, to wit, the thing feared. So God is called "The fear of

Isaac," Ge 31:42, 53:) "but look up to JEHOVAH as your Holy One;

and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall

be a holy Refuge unto you." Here there is a harmony and

consistency running through the whole sentence; and the latter

part naturally arises out of the former, and answers to it.

Idolatry, however, is full of fears. The superstitious fears of

the Hindoos are very numerous. They fear death, bad spirits

generally, and hobgoblins of all descriptions. They fear also the

cries of jackalls, owls, crows, cats, asses, vultures, dogs,

lizards, &c. They also dread different sights in the air, and are

alarmed at various dreams. See WARD'S Customs. Observe that the

difference between kesher and kadosh is chiefly in

the transposition of the two last letters, for the letters resh

and daleth are hardly distinguishable in some copies, printed as

well as MS.; so that the mistake, in respect of the letters

themselves, is a very easy and a very common one.-L.

Verse 14. And he shall be for a sanctuary-"And he shall be unto

you a sanctuary"] The word lachem, unto you, absolutely

necessary, as I conceive, to the sense, is lost in this place: it

is preserved by the Vulgate, "et erit vobis in sanctificationem."

The Septuagint have it in the singular number: εσταισοιεις

αγιασμον, it shall be to THEE. Or else, instead of

mikdash, a sanctuary, we must read mokesh, a snare, which

would then be repeated without any propriety or elegance, at the

end of the verse. The Chaldee reads instead of it mishpat,

judgment; for he renders it by purean, which word

frequently answers to mishpat in his paraphrase. One MS. has

in stead of mikdash uleeben, lahem leeben,

which clears the sense and construction. But the reading of the

Vulgate is, I think, the best remedy to this difficulty; and is in

some degree authorized by lahem, the reading of the MS. above

mentioned.

Verse 16. Among my disciples.] belimmudai. The

Septuagint render it τουμημαθειν. Bishop Chandler, Defence of

Christianity, p. 308, thinks they read , that it be not

understood, and approves of this reading.-Abp. Secker.

Verse 18. Lord of hosts] One MS. reads Elohey

tsebaoth, God of hosts.

Verse 19. Should not a people seek-"Should they seek"] After

yidrosh, the Septuagint, repeating the word, read

hayidrosh: ουκεθνοςπροςθεοναυτουεκζητησουσιτιεκζητησουσι

περιτωνζωντωντουςνεκρους; Should not a nation seek unto its

God? Why should you seek unto the dead concerning the living? and

this repetition of the verb seems necessary to the sense; and, as

Procopius on the place observes, it strongly expresses the

prophet's indignation at their folly.

Verse 20. To the law and to the testimony-"Unto the command, and

unto the testimony."] "Is not teudah here the attested

prophecy, Isa 8:1-4? and perhaps

torah the command, Isa 8:11-15? for it means sometimes a

particular, and even a human, command; see Pr 6:20, and

Pr 7:1, 2, where it is ordered to be hid, that is, secretly

kept."-Abp. Secker. So Deschamps, in his translation, or rather

paraphrase, understands it: "Tenons nous a l'instrument

authentique mis en depot par ordre du Seigneur," "Let us stick to

the authentic instrument, laid up by the command of the Lord." If

this be right, the sixteenth verse must be understood in the same

manner.

Because there is no light in them-"In which there is no

obscurity."] shachor, as an adjective, frequently signifies

dark, obscure; and the noun shachar signifies darkness,

gloominess, Joe 2:2, if we may judge by the context:-

"A day of darkness and obscurity;

Of cloud, and of thick vapour;

As the gloom spread upon the mountains:

A people mighty and numerous."

Where the gloom, shachar, seems to be the same with the

cloud and thick vapour mentioned in the line preceding. See

La 4:8, and Job 30:30. See this meaning of the word

shachar well supported in Christ. Muller. Sat. Observat. Phil.

p. 53, Lugd. Bat. 1752. The morning seems to have been an idea

wholly incongruous in the passage of Joel; and in this of Isaiah

the words in which there is no morning (for so it ought to be

rendered if shachar in this place signifies, according to its

usual sense, morning) seem to give no meaning at all. "It is

because there is no light in them," says our translation. If there

be any sense in these words, it is not the sense of the original;

which cannot justly be so translated. Qui n'a rien d'obscur,

"which has no obscurity."-Deschamps. The reading of the Septuagint

and Syriac, shochad, gift, affords no assistance towards the

clearing up of any of this difficult place. R. D. Kimchi says this

was the form of an oath: "By the law and by the testimony such and

such things are so." Now if they had sworn this falsely, it is

because there is no light, no illumination, shachar, no

scruple of conscience, in them.

Verse 21. Hardly bestead-"Distressed"] Instead of niksheh,

distressed, the Vulgate, Chaldee, and Symmachus manifestly read

nichshal, stumbling, tottering through weakness, ready to

fall; a sense which suits very well with the place.

And look upward-"And he shall cast his eyes upward."] The

learned professor Michaelis, treating of this place (Not. in de

Sacr. Poes. Hebr. Prael. ix.) refers to a passage in the Koran

which is similar to it. As it is a very celebrated passage, and on

many accounts remarkable, I shall give it here at large, with the

same author's farther remarks upon it in another place of his

writings. It must be noted here that the learned professor renders

nibbat, hibbit, in this and the parallel place,

Isa 5:30, which I translate

he looketh by it thundereth, from Schultens, Orig. Ling. Hebr.

Lib. i. cap. 2, of the justness of which rendering I much doubt.

This brings the image of Isaiah more near in one circumstance to

that of Mohammed than it appears to be in my translation:-

"Labid, contemporary with Mohammed, the last of the seven

Arabian poets who had the honour of having their poems, one of

each, hung up in the entrance of the temple of Mecca, struck with

the sublimity of a passage in the Koran, became a convert to

Mohammedism; for he concluded that no man could write in such a

manner unless he were Divinely inspired.

"One must have a curiosity to examine a passage which had so

great an effect upon Labid. It is, I must own, the finest that I

know in the whole Koran: but I do not think it will have a second

time the like effect, so as to tempt any one of my readers to

submit to circumcision. It is in the second chapter, where he is

speaking of certain apostates from the faith. 'They are like,'

saith he, 'to a man who kindles a light. As soon as it begins to

shine, God takes from them the light, and leaves them in darkness

that they see nothing. They are deaf, dumb, and blind; and return

not into the right way. Or they fare as when a cloud, full of

darkness, thunder, and lightning, covers the heaven. When it

bursteth, they stop their ears with their fingers, with deadly

fear; and God hath the unbelievers in his power. The lightning

almost robbeth them of their eyes: as often as it flasheth they go

on by its light; and when it vanisheth in darkness, they stand

still. If God pleased, they would retain neither hearing nor

sight.' That the thought is beautiful, no one will deny; and

Labid, who had probably a mind to flatter Mohammed, was lucky

in finding a passage in the Koran so little abounding in poetical

beauties, to which his conversion might with any propriety be

ascribed. It was well that he went no farther; otherwise his taste

for poetry might have made him again an infidel." Michaelis,

Erpenii Arabische Grammatik abgekurzt, Vorrede, s. 32.

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