Isaiah 8:1

(1) Moreover the Lord said unto me . . .--The prophecy that follows was clearly separated by an interval of some kind, probably about a year, from that in Isaiah 7. In the meantime much that had happened seemed to cast discredit on the prophet's words. The child that was the type of the greater Immanuel had been born, but there were no signs as yet of the downfall of the northern kingdom. The attack of Rezin and Pekah, though Jerusalem had not been taken, had inflicted an almost irreparable blow on the kingdom of Judah. Multitudes had been carried captive to Damascus (2Chronicles 28:5). Many thousands, but for the intercession of the prophet Oded, would have eaten the bread of exile and slavery. The Edomites were harassing the south-eastern frontier (2Chronicles 28:15-17). The commerce of the Red Sea was cut off by Rezin's capture of Elath (2Kings 16:6). To the weak and faithless Ahaz and his counsellors, it might well seem that the prospect was darker than ever, that there was no hope but in the protection of Assyria. If such was the state of things when the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, was he to recant and confess that he had erred? Was he to shrink back into silence and obscurity? Far otherwise than that. He was to repeat all that he had said, more definitely, more demonstratively than ever.

Take thee a great roll . . .--Better, a large tablet. The noun is the same as that used for "mirrors" or "glasses" in Isaiah 3:23. The writings of the prophet were commonly written on papyrus and placed in the hands of his disciples to be read aloud. For private and less permanent messages men used small wooden tablets smeared with wax, on which they wrote with an iron stylus. (Comp. Job 19:24; Isaiah 30:8.) Here the tablet was to be large, and the writing was not to be with the sharp point of the artist or learned scribe, but with a "man's pen," i.e., such as the common workmen used for sign-boards, that might fix the gaze of the careless passer-by (Habakkuk 2:2), and on that tablet, as though it were the heading of a proclamation or dedication, he was to write TO MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. That mysterious name, which we may render "Speed-plunder, haste-spoil," was, for at least nine months, to be the enigma of Jerusalem.

Verses 1-4. - THE SIGN OF MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. The sign of Immanuel was recondite. In its more spiritual sense it appealed to faith in an event far distant. Even in its literal import, it was not calculated to cheer and encourage more than a few, since neither the maiden nor the child was pointed out with any distinctness. A fresh sign was therefore given by God's goodness to reassure the mass of the people - a sign about which there was nothing obscure or difficult. Isaiah himself should have a son born to him almost immediately, to whom he should give a name indicating the rapid approach of the spoiler, and before this child should be able to utter the first words which childhood ordinarily pronounces, "Father," "Mother," Damascus and Samaria should be despoiled. Verse 1. - Take thee a great roll; rather, a large tablet. The word is the same as that used for "mirror" in Isaiah 3:23. Write in it with a man's pen; i.e. "write upon it with the pen used by ordinary men" - in opposition to the implements of an engraver. The tablet was probably to be hung up to view in a public place (comp. Isaiah 30:8), so that all might read, and the writing was therefore to be such as was in ordinary use. Concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. These were the words which were to be written on the tablet, which was to be otherwise left blank. They would naturally excite curiosity, like the strange names placarded in modern streets. The name is literally, "Plunder speeds, spoil hastens." It has been imitated by Goethe in his "Habebald-Eilebeute" ('Faust,' act 4. sc. 3).

8:1-8 The prophet is to write on a large roll, or on a metal tablet, words which meant, Make speed to spoil, hasten to the prey: pointing out that the Assyrian army should come with speed, and make great spoil. Very soon the riches of Damascus and of Samaria, cities then secure and formidable, shall be taken away by the king of Assyria. The prophet pleads with the promised Messiah, who should appear in that land in the fulness of time, and, therefore, as God, would preserve it in the mean time. As a gentle brook is an apt emblem of a mild government, so an overflowing torrent represents a conqueror and tyrant. The invader's success was also described by a bird of prey, stretching its wings over the whole land. Those who reject Christ, will find that what they call liberty is the basest slavery. But no enemy shall pluck the believer out of Emmanuel's hand, or deprive him of his heavenly inheritance.Moreover the Lord said unto me,.... This is another prophecy, confirming the same thing that was promised in the preceding chapter Isaiah 7:1; namely, safety to the Jews from the two kings of Syria and Israel, which combined against them:

take thee a great roll; or volume, a writing book, a roll of parchment, in which form the ancients used to write, Psalm 40:7. The Targum renders it, a "table"; a writing table, such an one as Zacharias called for, Luke 1:63 and this was to be a "great" or large one, because much was to be written in it; or what was to be written was to be written in large letters:

and write in it with a man's pen; such as men usually write with; and in such a style and language as may be easily understood by men, even though unlearned; and so clearly and plainly, that he that runs may read; and so the Targum,

"write in it a clear writing;''

very plain, and explicit, and legible:

concerning Mahershalalhashbaz; a son of the prophet Isaiah, so called, Isaiah 8:3 whose name was very significant, and was given him on purpose to express the sudden destruction of the enemies of Judah. The Targum renders it,

"hasten to seize the prey, and to take away the spoil.''

Some translate it, "in hastening the prey, the spoiler hastens"; perhaps it may be better rendered, "hasten to the spoil, hasten to the prey"; as if the words were spoken to the Assyrian monarch, to hasten to the spoil of Damascus and Samaria; and the repetition of the same thing in different words may have respect to the spoils of both, see Isaiah 8:4 and for the greater confirmation of the thing. Gussetius has a very peculiar fancy about the sense of this text; he observes that rendered a "pen", signifies some hollow vessel, in which things were put; and supposes that it here designs a man's chest, or some such thing, in which garments might be laid up and reserved: and is the singular of a word used in Isaiah 3:23, for some sort of luxurious garments wore by women; so that, upon the whole, the reading and sense of the words are, that the prophet is bid to take a large garment of the above sort, and write upon it, putting it into the chest. This for Mahershalalhashbaz; signifying it was to lie there till this child was born; and intimating hereby, that the women, far from battle, would be spoiled of their soft and precious garments, as well as the men be slain in war (m), though this is more tolerable than the fancy of Huetius (n), that the whole is an euphemism, in modest terms, expressing the prophet's coition with his wife.

(m) Vid. Comment. Ebr. p. 286. (n) Demonstr. Evangel. prop. 7. parag. 15. p. 352.

Isaiah 7:25
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