Isa 7:1-9

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Home > The Old Testament > Isaiah > Chapter 7 > Verses 7:1-9
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  • Isa 7:1. The revelation begins with a narrative account of the historical context, one reported in a rather narrative fashion. While this verse provides a rather broad summary of the whole event, the revelation itself was received at the outset of the war, indicating that this first verse was written later as a historical summary. Either Isaiah wrote the revelation down, and a later editor (perhaps Isaiah himself as editor) added the first verse to the record, or the whole revelation was written down only after the end of the attack.
  • Isa 7:2: Confederate with. The Hebrew word used here, nwch, is typically translated rest. Although the primariy meaning conveyed by the KJV "confederate with" seems reasonably accurate (as in settle down with or camp together), the connotations of the word nwch are rich. The word seems most often used in a positive sense describing the rest that is found in the Lord. For example: to convey the peace that Israel enjoyed in the promised land after vanquishing their eneimes (see usage in Joshua); or to describe Sabbath day rest (e.g. Ex 20:11; Ex 23:12; Deut 5:14). Later, Isaiah uses the term in a similar way (cf. Isa 14:3, 7; Isa 28:12; see also Isa 25:10; Isa 57:2]]; Isa 63:14). However, the "resting with" described here seems to be later condemned (cf. "evil counsel" in v. 5). Using the word nwch to describe this confederacy seems to suggest a misguided search—the Lord offers genuine and lasting rest, but Ephraim and Syria seek rest in each other. The word nwch also establishes a poetic contrast between the movement of the trees and Ahaz's heart. Later in verse 19, the word is used again to describe the invading Assyrian army resting/settling in the land—instead of choosing to settle/rest with God, God will send the Assyrians army to settle with Judah.
  • Isa 7:2: Moved. The Hebrew word nwa has a back-and-forth connotation and is frequently translated reel, stagger, wander, or shake. The usage here seems to establish a contrast with the way that the "posts of the door" move in Isa 6:4: whereas this kind of reeling/movement seems appropriate in the presence of the Lord (see also Isa 19:1), here it seems inappropriate (hence the admonition to to "fear not" in verse 4). Later, Isaiah employs this term in the context of drunkeness (see Isa 24:20; Isa 29:9). These usages seem to build upon one another: drunkeness connotes a mistaken revelry (cf. Isa 28:1ff) just as fear of man connotes a mistaken fear. Whereas God's presence is indeed staggering (this is depicted very clearly in Isa 6), the staggering in the presence of a human foe seems needless, especially for the Lord's people. The unsteadiness indicated by the double use of this word here seems to be richly juxtaposed against the firmness, steadiness, and faithfulness indicated in verse 9. Indeed, this contrast suggests a connecton between the swaying trees and Israel's infidelity toward God: rather than being faithful, true and steady, Ahaz and the rest of Israel are not established (KJV of v. 9)—that is, like a fading flower (Isa 28:2), Israel's life will be cut short. Even the "covenant with death" described in Isa 28:15, 18 seems to be prefigured here by Ahaz and Israel's swaying.
  • Isa 7:2: Trees of the wood. The use of these two synonymns (either word seems to be synonomous with the other, wood = tree and tree = wood) together is unusual and provocative. Trees and wood have very rich connotations which Isaiah employs frequently. Israel is likened to a tree (see Isa 5:1ff) that, when righteous, yields pleasing fruit but, when wicked, will cut the tree down (cf. Isa 10:15). In the negative sense, wood is used to describe unfruitfulness and death analogous to idols (see Isa 37:19; Isa 45:20). Though God nourishes the tree, it only brings forth wild grapes (Isa 5:2). Here, the swaying of the trees underscores the vulnerability and fickleness of Ahaz which is typ-ical of all of Israel.
  • Isa 7:2. The house of David (meaning, of course, the king) finds out that Syria and Ephraim have joined forces and are gathering to attack Judah. The king and the people are afraid, as indicated above in the Lexical Note, they were quaking with fear "as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind."
  • Isa 7:3. Isaiah's call to enter the situation is set, narratively, against the fear of the king and the people. The very placement suggests a sort of fearless prophet, one called to stand firm while all the rest are shaking and waving in the wind. The unquestioning reference to Isaiah (written with the presupposition that any reader is aware of him) is another beautiful narrative move: if the text was written before its inclusion in the "book" of Isaiah, the narrative introduces Isaiah without introduction, presents him as the prophetic figure everyone is supposed to know, like Merlin's appearances in Arthurian legends. This is especially emphasized in the text by the fact that Ahaz, the king (!), requires a genealogy to make sure that the reader knows who is being talked about, while the prophet simply walks right into the story without any such contextualization: Isaiah comes, as it were, absolutely, without ties, without lineage, without a word, and perhaps precisely for these reasons, with power.
Isaiah is told specifically to "meet" Ahaz. This differs from other similar prophetic experiences. Whereas the prophet is usually sent to the king in his quarters, Isaiah is to meet the king on the way. This amounts quite clearly to a sort of relativization of the king, a humbling of the king. Rather than having the prophet appear to the king as a subject, the two are to meet quite simply on the road, on "the highway of the fuller's field," the homeliest place in Jerusalem: Isaiah is supposed to run into the king at the laundromat. Perhaps emphasizing this point still more, Isaiah is to bring with him his son, "Shear-jashub." But this detail complicates things quite a bit.
That Isaiah is to bring his son with him, and then that he is to prophesy of two more of his sons still to come when he meets the king, is of some major significance, especially because the climax of the prophecy he will speak to Ahaz will be the announcement of the birth of the king's son. These six chapters (7-12) are, in the end, built around the discussion of four sons, three of Isaiah's, and one of Ahaz's. The whole of the oracle begins with the mention of this first son, one already living. The name of the son says it all, as will the commanded names of Isaiah's other two sons (Immanuel and Maher-halal-hash-baz): "Shear-jashub" means "a remnant shall return." The significance of this son, and most especially of his name, must not be overlooked.
First of all, it is significant that Shear-jashub is already a child, whereas Isaiah's other two sons to be wrapped up in this six-chapter oracle are as yet unborn (Isaiah's prophecies concerning them are prophecies concerning their coming births). Of the three sons--"God with us," "Destruction comes quickly," and "A remnant shall return"--the firstborn and the only one already alive is Shear-jashub. This is interesting, because it sets Shear-jashub as the primary heir, as the privileged child: the return of the remnant is of primary significance, and in some ways it sums up the other two children (if the children are read in reverse order: "Destruction comes quickly," but "God is with us," so "A remnant shall return"). But beyond these questions of immediate context, there is some question of the meaning of "remnant" in general. Its place in the prophetic texts of the Old Testament cannot be impeached, and after the exile it becomes almost a catch phrase. But the fact of the matter is that its real significance is decided upon only in the six chapters here under consideration: if the doctrine of the "remnant" is anywhere to be explored carefully, it is here that it must happen. Hence, any real work on its significance can only begin here. At least this much can be said from the very beginning of the six-chapter oracle: the theme is introduced at the very beginning of things, but it is not developed for several chapters. The reasons for this will have to emerge over the course of the commentary.
  • Isa 7:4. The Lord provides Isaiah with specific words for Ahaz, which come together in a rather straightforward message, though the language is quite rich: do not fear because of Syria and Ephraim. The Lord calls, and Isaiah is to call, the two confederates "the two tails of these smoking firebrands." The image is evocative: they are the sticks the children play with in the fire that, once pulled out, are nothing but a dying spark that produces a whole lot of smoke (where there is smoke, there is not necessarily fire). It is of significance, moreover, that Rezin, king of Syria, is named, but Pekah, king of Israel, is not graced with such a courtesy. He is, rather, taken simply as the son of his father, and his nation is not even mentioned. The point of the word to Ahaz is certainly one of deemphasis: these political powers are absolutely nothing to worry about.
  • Isa 7:5. The Lord instructs Isaiah to specify the oracle by presenting dramatically the very conversation of the two kings, a conversation that begins with the following verse.

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  • Isa 7:1: Reference in historical books. See 2 Kgs 16:5 for discussion of Rezin etc.


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