Notes on Isaiah 8 – 9:7

David H. Linden, University Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces, NM USA


8:1-4   The name Maher Shalal Hash Baz means “Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty” (NKJV), or “The Spoil Speeds; the prey hastens” (ESV), or “Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil” NIV, or “Speed, spoil, haste, booty” (Motyer). The point is that the son about to be conceived with that time sensitive name conveys a message. It was a sign (8:18). Before he would be able to talk, the Assyrians would successfully attack Aram and Israel soon and carry off the spoil. Ahaz was paying no attention to this promise of God which would have brought him great relief. What God said would happen made Ahaz’s treaty with the Assyrians foolish.   


8:5-10   This little segment speaks of the northern kingdom of Israel as “this people”. Two hundred years earlier they had rejected the House of David as king, though it was God’s ordained monarchy.  The gentle waters of Shiloah flow from the Gihon spring into Jerusalem.  At Gihon the son of David was anointed and declared to be king (1 Kings 1:32-35). In Isaiah 8 Israel had a different interest – its alliance with Rezin. Israel’s king was a rejection of the House of David. He was only the son of Remaliah, not David. The difference is stated in waters, the gentle stream of God’s chosen monarchy was rejected and they would endure the devastating flood of the Assyrian army. The choice was the promised blessings through David (55:3) or the pronounced judgment through Assyria. The Assyrian flood that overwhelmed Israel would not wipe out Judah. It would come up to the neck but no farther. Jerusalem did not fall to Assyria; it did not drown in the Assyrian invasion.


8:9,10   Ahaz had a strategy to deal with all this, a strategy to trust Assyria; it was all figured out in his mind. Later in 33:1, that trust was shown to be in a traitor. In Isaiah 8, Aram, Israel, and Assyria are all in the picture. Vv. 9 & 10 speak of their plans as failures. Two had threatened Jerusalem (7:1,2), and Assyria was yet to invade Judah. All would fail because God’s promises cannot be thwarted by any power. The language is strong. It is like, “Go ahead and make your crazy plan; it will still fail!”  Every plan against the purpose of God, the Son of God and the people of God will fail (54:14-17), whether it be political, religious, or military.


Why will every strategy and well-conceived opposition against the church fail? The answer is because God is with us (in Hebrew: Immanuel!). So the land was Immanuel’s and the protection was from Immanuel (v.10). This is not new. The LORD Who cared for Israel and supplied their needs in the desert was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). The Assyrian would spread its wings like a great bird of prey over all of Judah, but it was still Immanuel’s land. The people who would enjoy God’s salvation have always been the people of Christ. And as they were threatened and in trouble, He would take that on as His trouble all the way to the cross for us. The Immanuel of Isaiah 7 & 8 is the Savior. There is no other Savior than the LORD Himself (43:10-12; 45:15,21).





Counsel for Holiness   8:11-22  


8:12,13   Against Worldly Thinking: First, the call is to reject thinking in the way of the world around them. The world’s appraisal of a situation is not to be the one adopted by believers.  Godly people should not fear what they fear, but fear the Lord instead.  V.13 is quoted in 1 Peter 3:15 with Christ inserted into the quotation so that we must regard “Christ as Lord”.  LORD here in Isaiah 8:13 is the divine name Yahweh!  We are always squeezed into accepting the world’s viewpoint. It is easy and natural to think like the world. We must not conform to it, but with minds renewed, enlightened, and transformed by the Lord, we will be able to think clearly. (See Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 5:15-17).


8:14,15   Sanctuary or Stone of Stumbling:   For all men the Lord is either a sanctuary or a stone of stumbling. The sanctuary is the holy place where God dwells and is approached by sacrifice for acceptance and thus protection. For those who will not take Him seriously, the Lord is a stone in the way. Unbelievers run into Him and are broken. Jesus was destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). People stumble because they disobey the message about Christ (1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:32,33). People will believe in Him and be saved, or else they will crash into Him and be destroyed. He is snare or Savior. No one can get away from Christ. Many will stumble, but not all; the remnant will turn to Him as their sanctuary.


8:16-18   Holding to the Word of God:   In terrible trouble, people look for answers.  What God said through Isaiah was God’s word.  After it was spoken to a people who would not hear (6:9,10), Isaiah’s prophecy was to be carefully preserved. That word was believed by Isaiah, his family, and his disciples. In time to come it would prove to be a true word. Each one in the remnant would say, “I will put my trust in Him,” a trust that is synonymous with accepting His Word.


In addition to written prophecies, the names of Isaiah’s family members served to  communicate truth. One name promised that there would be a remnant, Shear-Jashub (7:3. Maher-Shalal Hash Baz was a prediction that swift destruction would come on Judah’s enemies. It happened while he was still an infant. Isaiah means “the Lord saves”, which is the gospel in three words. Immanuel would appear in flesh in the line of David centuries after Isaiah spoke, but the Person Immanuel was already caring for His people in the time Isaiah wrote.


8:19-22   Rejecting God’s Word   Those who reject God’s revelation must run to something else for consolation and wisdom. When the Light of Israel (10:17; 49:6 and Exodus 10:23) was rejected, the people had only darkness. They turned to mediums who supposedly speak to the dead. By doing this they broke God’s law (Deuteronomy 18:9-13), listened to false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:14-22), and preferred some word from the dead over the Word of the Living God. He was their God (vv.19 & 21), but they were rejecting Him. In doing so they lost their heritage, blessing, and life. The result was that they cursed their king and their God. Unbelief would bring distress, darkness, and fearful gloom.


The issue is the same today. We may decline to believe and follow God’s law and His word by prophets, culminating in His Son and our Lord’s apostles. God directs us with truth. If we decline God’s revelation and direction in favor of some other “light”, we will not have light at all but darkness and the despairing gloom that comes with it.



The Coming of Christ   9:1-7  


The setting is that the line of David was threatened. God said it would be preserved. That means the Lord Jesus, the ultimate son of David, is related to Ahaz’s plight. God cannot break His covenant with David. No power on earth can prevent the Messiah from coming among His people. The people may refuse to believe but a remnant will. There is horrible gloom and darkness, but God promised the people would see a great light.


When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."   Matthew 4:12-16


The region of Israel in the north was closest to Assyria and so closest to the judgment God would bring on His wayward people. This area is the very place in which the Savior would do most of His public ministry. Assyrian soldiers would murder and plunder in Galilee; Jesus would some day heal (even raise the dead in Nain and Capernaum), and feed a crowd beside the Sea of Galilee. The light of the Messiah’s ministry would shine in that region.


9:3   Isaiah 9 must be read in connection with Isaiah 8. The light vs. darkness contrast in v. 2 is obvious. The joy in v. 3 is the opposite of the gloom in 8:21,22. The Lord revealed that the nation would be enlarged, which is so different from it being cut down to a tenth and then cut down even more so that only a stump would be left! (6:13).  


The enlarged nation is a result of Messiah’s ministry. Matthew notes that Isaiah 9 was fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry. (The enlarging of the nation reappears again in 54:1-3.) Was Israel really enlarged as a result of Jesus coming? We must say, yes. Yet God Who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) swore in His wrath that gospel rejecters would not enter His rest (Hebrews 4). In Psalm 95 the unbelieving generation lasted 40 years. The Lord Jesus was rejected by crucifixion in 30 AD, and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. That would amount to much cutting down of the number of Israel. How can we say the nation has been enlarged by the ministry of Christ, when He wept over Jerusalem and spoke of its approaching destruction? – a slaughter that surpassed anything done even by Babylon? (Luke 19:41-44). The Romans left no survivors. Jesus’ birth meant many in Israel would fall (Luke 2:34). The appearance was that the nation would shrink.


Yet the nation was enlarged. Many would believe from well beyond the borders of Israel. They would be added to God’s new Zion temple (28:16) as living stones, not stones from a quarry. These chosen people would obey the gospel message Israel stumbled over. Peter then calls these Gentile believers “a holy nation,” and “a people belonging to God.” These Gentiles were once not a people, but “now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:9,10). Of course, Jews are not excluded, because Peter addressed “you who believe” (1 Peter 2:7). The coming of the Lord Jesus prophesied in Isaiah 9 meant that true Israel would be greatly enlarged (14:1), far more than any in Isaiah’s time could imagine (Ephesians 3:20,21). The multitudes who would believe became children of Abraham (Galatians 3:26-29). Many would believe in Christ, and thereby the nation would be enlarged by the Lord.


9:3-5   The coming deliverance is pictured in images of military victory.  The weapons of their enemies would be broken, and the blood soaked clothing of the dead gathered and burned, because the Messiah is a mighty Deliverer. Gideon’s victories in the time of Midian (Judges 6) included Naphtali and Zebulun in the region of Galilee. The Messiah will set His people free. We must not take all figurative language literally. Unlike Gideon’s day, His victory would involve no weapons. Two swords would be more than enough! (Luke 22:38). It is a different kind of fight (John 19:36; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). In the first promise of a Redeemer, Christ defeats an enemy no sword can harm. Christ was crushing Satan (Genesis 3:15) as He went about healing all who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38). The Father “has qualified you to share in the kingdom of light, for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness…” Colossians 1:12,13


He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets long ago) salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  (Luke 1:69-75)


A child is born 9:6,7   Isaiah speaks of the son of David, Jesus, born of a virgin (7:14) and called Immanuel, whose land of Israel is His (8:8)! As child He is human; as son He qualifies to be King. Then He is also called the Mighty God. The two natures of Christ are joined in these titles.


We must not miss the “For” of v. 6. (In Hebrew, verses 4, 5, & 6 all begin with a “for”.)  Why the deliverance of vv. 1-5? It is for this reason: a child has been born who will deliver. A future certainty may be stated in a past tense. If the government is on His shoulders, that means He is King reigning eternally on David’s throne. In Christ the covenant with David finds perfect fulfillment. 


Isaiah’s son MSHB had a four-part name, all single words; Jesus will be described in four titles, all two-word combinations. (The King James Bible is mistaken to list them as five titles; His names are not first Wonderful and then second, Counselor. The first name is Wonderful Counselor.)


As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ is the prophet who speaks the counsel of God to us. Wonderful in Judges 13:17,18 is a name the Lord used for Himself. That Hebrew word is as close as any in Hebrew to supernatural. A ruler with wisdom far beyond natural understanding is qualified to give direction.


As Mighty God He is the powerful Deliverer of His people from His enemies and theirs. This title is later used of the Lord in 10:21. Mighty God means that He is God. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods (Psalm 95:3).  That the Lord is king and that the King is the Lord is common to the Psalms.


As Everlasting Father, He is not the Father in the Trinity, but the human replacement of Father Adam who disobeyed bringing guilt and condemnation to all his children. Jesus the last Adam has obeyed for us and so He fulfilled the covenant Adam broke. Christ brings justification to us (Romans 5:12-19). So far I have argued for Father in a human sense. Scripture shows the Lord is like a Father in His compassion for His children (Psalm 103:13). All care of His own is a “fatherly” aspect of God’s providence (63:16). Jesus refers to His family as His children in Hebrews 2:13,14.


As Prince of Peace, Christ is again seen as a king Who rescues from enemies (Luke 1:74) to bring peace, and who guides into a path of peace (Luke 1:79).  As our priest He has brought peace since He sacrificed for the people. After a sacrifice the priest pronounced a benediction of peace upon sinners who had come to the Lord (Numbers 6:22-27). In Christ we have peace with God (26:12 and Romans 5:1) and peace with brothers (Ephesians 6:23).


The four titles show Christ as supremely qualified to direct, powerful to rescue, caring for His family, and providing total safety and security.


The nation will be enlarged (9:3). Jesus’ reign and blessings will only increase. No end of peace is a wonderful promise when we remember the trouble of the time when Isaiah wrote. Peace and stability would never be established by Pekah’s method of murdering his predecessor (2 Kings 15:23-25). Never shall the serpent enter God’s Garden again to destroy peace. Christ has brought permanent peace. God will establish and maintain the kingdom of this Son of David. No worldly means is needed. The throne of David has divine protection and a divine Person to sit on it. The justice missing in the vineyard (5:7) and within Jerusalem (1:17) will be the constant quality of this redeemed Zion (1:27). Unlike every other kingdom and civilization on earth, this one will last forever. It is not true that there will always be an England. There will always be the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.