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On Isaiah 7-12
These six chapters stand together as the Lord's response to the Syro-Ephraimite war. While Isaiah's prophecy transcends this historical situation, it is the historical setting ties the many themes of this lengthy prophecy together. One major theme of this prophecy is that of "the remnant." While almost universal among the Old Testament prophets, this theme takes on a more absolute character in this prophecy of Isaiah and in the contemporary writings of Micah. Book of Mormon writers would later draw upon Isaiah and Micah in their discussions of the "remnant". Any approach to the subject of the "remnant" must begin with a careful investigation of Isaiah 7-12 and Micah 4-5. The following outline of the historical context and structure of these chapters provides background for better understanding this important prophecy.
The Syro-Ephraimite War was an attempt to ward off the mounting threat of Assyria's vast power. The king of Syria (Rezin) set up a coalition of several small states, including king Pekah of the Northern Kingdom. The two appealed to Ahaz in Jerusalem to join the coalition, but he refused and Syria and Israel declared war against Judah. Chapter 7 opens with the announcement of this attack, and Ahaz's fear. Isaiah tells Ahaz not to worry. However, Ahaz does not listen and sets up a coalition with Assyria against the Syro-Ephraimite power, for which Isaiah tells Ahaz that Assyria will come through Judah in great destruction. The resulting Syro-Ephraimite War was the foundation of the fall of the Northern Kingdom. By the time Assyria was through with Israel, only Samaria stood as an outpost for the nation, and Judah was in a perilous position due to its political compromise with Assyria. Isaiah's six-chapter revelation explores this situation, and reveals the threat of Assyrian power. The revelation is in part a prophecy against Ahaz, as it foretells the rise of a new Judahite king and his incredible power against Assyria.
As to the structure of these six chapters, it obviously hangs on the historical events related in the last paragraph:
- 7:1-9 Isaiah is sent to comfort Ahaz (with the first of Isaiah's sons, Shear-jashub: "the remnant shall return")
- 7:10-16 Isaiah gives Ahaz a sign (second of Isaiah's sons)
- 7:17-25 Isaiah tells Ahaz that Assyria will begin to subjugate Judah as well as Israel
- 8:1-4 Isaiah speaks of a second sign (third of Isaiah's sons)
- 8:5-8 Assyria's attack is described
- 8:9-22 Isaiah describes the split between those who respond politically and those who respond prophetically
- 9:1-7 Isaiah predicts the birth of Hezekiah
- 9:8-10:4 Isaiah prophesies the fall of the Northern Kingdom
- 10:5-14 The king of Assyria decides to conquer Judah as well
- 10:15-19 The Lord responds with fury against Assyria
- 10:20-23 The remnant of Israel is to return
- 10:24-34 Isaiah watches Assyria's conquest in vision as he tells Judah to be comforted
- 11:1-16 A saving king emerges among the remnant, and a utopian era begins (compare Isa 6:13)
- 12:1-6 The prophecy ends with a hymn of praise to the Lord
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