God was with us, God is with us, and God will be with us...
The fear of God is not the fear of punishment, which is upon the unrepentant, but the awe of redemption, which is received by the repentant.
At the end of chapter 7 Israel was left with the prophetic words describing the devastation and desolation that was soon to consume the entire land. Chapter 8 adds to that prophecy by instructing Isaiah with the words, “Take a large tablet/mirror and write on it using a human engraving tool concerning hurried spoil, hastening robbery…”
The writings of the prophet Isaiah have a redemptive rhythm that conveys the meta-narrative of God’s redemptive plan and purpose for Israel and subsequently unto the nations. It is therefore unfortunate that the traditional Christian chapter division of Isaiah 8 and 9 does not take the Hebraic formula into account. The traditional Christian division of the text places the last verse of Isaiah 8 in the position of the first verse of Isaiah 9 and thus reduces the impact of the redemptive rhythm of the prophet’s words. For the purposes of my commentary I have included the complete contents of chapter 8 as correctly discerned and ordered by our rabbis.
Isa 8:1 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to me, “Take a great gilayon tablet/mirror, and write on it using a common human (enosh) engraving tool (cheret), concerning Le-Maheir (Hurry) shalal (Spoil) chash (Hasten) baz (Robbery).”
What HaShem says here to Isaiah is an addition to the prophecy of the previous chapter, thus, “And”. Isaiah (Salvation of YHVH) is instructed to take a large tablet or mirror, and engrave upon it the warning, “Hurried spoil, hastening robbery”. At this point in the prophecy the Hebrew phrase that was to become the name of Isaiah’s son is simply a statement of warning and not used as a proper noun.
The Hebrew gilayon refers to a tablet of wood, stone or polished metal, and is thus also used to describe ancient mirrors which give a reflection, albeit a murky one. Tablets were used to record the written word by engraving or chiselling out the text. There are many archaeological examples of this ancient practice attributed to the period. Scrolls made from kosher animal skin were also used for recording purposes during this period of Israel’s history. The word cheret describes an iron engraving stylus and the Hebrew enosh, meaning man or human, infers common use.
The Hebrew gilayon is significant because it reflects the dual meaning of both a written warning and a mirrored indictment. Judah is being both warned and given an opportunity to look in the mirror. Judah’s actions have hurried spoil and hastened robbery (The people of Judah had taken what little spoil the poor had [Isaiah 3:5, 15; 5:8], and Achaz their king had effectively robbed HaShem’s Har Beit (Mountain House) by giving the Temple silver and gold to the king of Assyria [Ashur] in payment for his help against Ephraim and Aram [2 Kings 16:7-8]).
The hastening of Judah’s destruction and the hurrying of her captivity is a direct response to her mocking words recorded in Isaiah 5:19, “They say, ‘Let Him hurry and hasten His work that we may see it…”
Isa 8:2 And I took to myself trusted witnesses, Uriyah (My light is YHVH) the cohen priest, and Zechar’yahu (YHVH Remembers) the son of Ye’varekhyahu (YHVH Blesses).
With regard to the two witnesses the Torah itself is the best commentary:
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any perversity or any sin, in any sin that he sins, upon the mouth of two witnesses or upon the mouth of three witnesses will a word (d’var) rise up (yakum), be established, stand.” –Deuteronomy 19:15
There are at least two possibilities here regarding the phrase, “trusted witnesses”:
1.) Uriah the priest is not the same man as is mentioned sinning against God by becoming an accomplice in Achaz’s building of a pagan altar [2 Kings 16].
2.) Uriah is the same priest mentioned in 2 Kings 16, and the phrase “trusted witnesses” refers to their being trusted by the people of Judah rather than being a description of their personal moral character.
Regardless of the moral character of the witnesses, their names reflect God’s grace and love toward His disobedient people: HaShem (Mercy) is my light, HaShem (Mercy) remembers, HaShem (Mercy) blesses. It is interesting to note that this section of Isaiah ends with a promise of “Heavy Glory/Light” because HaShem “Remembers” His people and “Blesses” them because of His character and not because of their character (8:23 [9:1]).
Isa 8:3 And I went in to ha-naviyah the prophetess; and she conceived, and gave birth to a son. Then said HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) to me, “Kera Proclaim his name Maheir (Hurry)-shalal (Spoil)-chash(Hasten)-baz (Robbery).”
Isaiah was not instructed to simply name his son “Maheir-shalal-chash-baz” but to proclaim his name, that is, in the hearing of the people of Judah on a public occasion. Thus he has now written a warning from HaShem on a tablet, reflected that message, seeded a son who would bear the same message and shouted out the message, making it both a warning and a living proper noun. Judah and Ephraim have been justly warned.
Isa 8:4 For before this boy will know how to cry, “Avi My father”, and “Imi My mother”, the riches of Damesek (Silent sackcloth weaver) and the spoil of Shomeron (Watch Mountain) shall be taken away before the king of Ashur (A step).
This prophecy was spoken in late 733 BCE/BC and its literal fulfilment began less than a year later in 732 BCE/BC when Damascus (Damesek) was captured by the Assyrians (Ashur) and Samaria (Shomeron) subsequently ceased to be a kingdom in 722 BCE/BC.
Isa 8:5 Yosef Adding, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) dabeir spoke to me continually (going round, circuit), saying, Isa 8:6 For as much as this people refuses the waters of Shiloach (To walk) that go softly, and rejoice in Retzin (Firm) and Remalyahu's (Protected by YHVH) son;
It is interesting to note the correlation between the perpetual or circuit-like words of HaShem to Isaiah and the subsequent outcome prophesied in 8:23 [9:1].
The people have refused the mayim waters (life) of shiloach my walking or sent one (Living out God’s instruction, given by His prophet [sent one]), and have instead rejoiced in the Assyrian king and the strength of human beings.
Shiloach (Siloam), meaning “sent one” or “of me walking”, is the same pool at which Yeshua ministered to a blind man (John 9:1-12). It is the pool whose wall was repaired by Shallun son of Kol-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah during the time of Nehemiah the prophet (Nehemiah 3:15 [444 BCE/BC]). It is also the pool from which water was drawn for the water ceremony of Sukkot (Booths, dwellings). Thus the symbolism is both poignant and clear. God has sent this living water for the healing and cleansing of the people. It is easily accessed at the foot of Mount Zion and is available to all the people, existing as a physical symbol of God’s provision of spiritual vision given to the sightless, and yet they have refused this gift of living water from HaShem and have instead hastened to seek their own desolation by investing their hope in the king of Assyria. A king who will one day soon rule over them and make them captive to his empire.
Isa 8:7 Hinei Now therefore, behold, Adonai brings up upon them the waters of the river (Euphrates), strong and many, even the king of Ashur (A step), and all his kevodo glory: and he shall overflow all his channels, and overflow all his banks: Isa 8:8 And he shall pass through Yehudah (Praise); he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of your land, imanu (Be with us) El (God).
The waters that Judah have chosen to trust in will overflow and consume them. The waters of Shiloach were soft and flowed gently, offering healing and renewal. On the other hand the waters of the river (Euphrates), which symbolizes the Assyrians, will rush upon them like a tidal wave, instantaneously and violently drowning the people. These flood waters being the result of Judah’s reliance on the river of the king of Assyria. They will reach the neck, meaning that if it were not for HaShem’s protection of the Davidic Dynasty, they would have consumed even the head. However, HaShem will stop them at the neck so that the head (Davidic Dynasty producing the Messiah) is not cut off.
In the face of this prophecy Isaiah is emotionally torn in two. He is tasked with speaking the truth and with warning his people but at the same time he is of Yehudah (Judah), he is one of them, albeit a righteous one. In his desperation over his own people’s coming destruction he cries out to HaShem as if to remind himself that “Imanu (with us), El (is God, the Judge).” The use of the phrase Imanu-El is also a cry for help, calling on the son of the virgin whose birth was yet future.
Isa 8:9 Wicked peoples, be broken in pieces; and give ear, all you of far off lands: equip yourselves, and you will be broken in pieces; encompass yourselves (with protection), and you will be shattered.
In light of the horrifying revelation concerning Judah’s destruction at the hands of her supposed allies, Isaiah now turns his attention to Israel’s enemies. He speaks to warn the nations against gloating over Israel’s temporary desolation (Which is a disciplining and not an annihilation). Paul (Rav Shaul) the Shaliach (Sent one [writing in approx. 60-70 AD/CE]) speaks in a similar way when he warns arrogant Gentile Christians not to despise unbelieving ethnic Israel (Romans 11).
“Do not be arrogant toward these branches (Ethno-religious Israel). If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” –Romans 11:18
Isaiah explains to the nations who are to come against Israel that God will not allow them to trust in human strength either. All their efforts to protect and strengthen themselves will be brought down and shattered.
Isa 8:10 Take counsel together, and it will come to nothing; speak the word, and it will not stand: for imanu (with us) El (is God).
Isaiah now alludes to the reason for the destruction of the nations who come against Israel, “With us is God”, which infers that God is not with the nations who attack Israel. God is for all humanity but He is with Israel and those who honour her through His Son, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Again “Imanu-El” is both a phrase and a description of the Messiah’s character.
Isa 8:11 For HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has spoken to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Isa 8:12 “Don’t call, ‘Conspiracy’, all that this people call, ‘Conspiracy’; neither are you to fear what they fear, nor be afraid.”
Isaiah shares a warning with those in Judah who have remained faithful to God. They are warned not to buy into the popular conspiracies and political intrigues of their time. They are not to adopt the prejudices and worries of the secular community. They are not to fear the naysaying words of their superstitious false prophets and mediums, rather they are to be in awe of God and tremble before His judgement.
This same warning is levelled at the observant Jews, Messianic Jews and Christians of today. Too many (so called) Gentile Messianics (Christians) pursue internet Bible teachers and foolish spiritual conspiracy theories that are not of God. Many of these theories come from pseudo learned teachers who have little or no true understanding of the Hebrew view of Scripture. Some of these conspiracies include but are not limited to: Two House Theology (A Satanic Heresy), Kabbalistic Gematria (Occult), accusing every Democratic US President of being the anti-Christ, Misapplying to the Church Scripture pertaining specifically to ethnic Israel, the teaching that spiritual beings have mated with human beings, and the list goes on. Ironically, many of these spiritual conspiracy theories have more in common with Darwinian conjecture and political gossip than they do with authentic spirituality.
Let me echo to you the words of God spoken to Judah through the prophet Isaiah:
“Do not call, ‘Conspiracy’, all that this people call, ‘Conspiracy’; neither are you to fear what they fear, nor be afraid.”
Notice that the righteous are instructed not to fear what the wicked fear. This is because the wicked fear that which cannot redeem them. In other words, by being afraid of conspiracies and false spiritual power they unwittingly become servants of those same entities and enter into a bondage of destruction. The righteous on the other hand are to fear God. In doing so the righteous come under His protection and receive His redemption through the soft flowing waters of Shiloach (Sent one), which is Imanu-El God with us, the Messiah Yeshua.
“Do not fear those who kill the fallen flesh but are unable to kill the nefesh (Soul being): rather, fear Him Who is able to destroy both nefesh (soul unrepentant) and fallen flesh in Gehinnom (place of continual torment).” –Matthew 10:28
Isa 8:13 Only HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Of heaven’s armies, going to war) Himself will you Sanctify; and let Him be your morah (awe, reverence, fear), and let Him be your aratz (trembling, dread).
The righteous are instructed to continually walk in the sanctification of the Holy One HaShem and make Him the sole subject of their devotion, awe and trembling. The fear of God is not the fear of punishment, which is upon the unrepentant, but the awe of redemption, which is received by the repentant.
Isa 8:14 And He will be for a le’mikdash sanctuary; le’even to be a stone striking (a fatal blow and for a u-le’tzur rock of michshol stumbling to both the houses of Yisrael (Judah and Ephraim), for a snare and for a ulmokeish baited lure to those who dwell in Yerushalayim.
Isaiah has repeatedly proclaimed and called upon Imanu-El, God’s intimate closeness and presence with His people. Thus Isaiah now reminds the faithful that Hashem Himself has promised to be manifest in the sign of the virgin birth and to cause the son of that virgin to be a stone which strikes a fatal blow to the unrepentant and a rock (Cliff face) of stumbling that brings the wicked in Israel to their knees (with the view to see them repent and be saved).
God Himself will be the Sanctuary and the stone and rock. Isaiah 28:16 makes the connection between Hashem Who is the Sanctuary and the Stone. Meaning that the Messiah Who is to be the Stone (Even) will also be God and therefore Imanu-El with us, God. Paul (Rav Shaul) the Shaliach (Sent One) applies the words of Isaiah 28:16 to Yeshua:
“Behold, I lay in Tzion (Parched land)
a (even even) stone, stone of testing
and a precious corner foundation (rock) a sure foundation,
and whoever believes in Him shall not act quickly (rashly) [or: shall not be put to shame].”
–Isaiah 28:16 (Romans 9:33)
Isa 8:15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
Those taken, as in the case of Matthew 24:38-46, are the wicked, like those taken in the flood and like Lot’s wife (Luke 17:28-36) [neither text alludes to the false theological construct called “Rapture”].
Isa 8:16 Bind up te’udah the testimony, seal the Torah (Books of Moses, Instruction) in my be’limuday disciples.
The testimony is the Word of the prophets and the righteous ones of God in every generation and the Torah is the foundation of the written word, the books of Moses. Isaiah and the righteous of his time are to bind the actions of the living Word to themselves and keep spiritual truth that might be misused away from the mouths of the unfaithful. They are to seal, protect, make accurate copies of and maintain the unbroken transmission of the written Torah and not allow it to be compromised by the wicked in Israel or by the wicked nations that will come to punish her according to God’s temporary disciplining of her.
This text also tells us that Isaiah, like Yeshua, had disciples who adhered to the Word he taught and diligently followed him walking in the ways of Hashem. This is because Isaiah is both a pre-figure of and a prophetic voice concerning the Messiah Yeshua. Perhaps Isaiah had 12 disciples?
Isa 8:17 And I will wait for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), Who hides His face from the house of Yaakov (Jacob: Judah & Ephraim-Israel), and I will look for Him.
Isaiah waits upon the Lord. The true prophet understands that the future redemption he sees in the spiritual may not be made manifest in his lifetime. Thus he ultimately places trust in Hashem rather than in what he can see with his physical sight. The true prophet accepts that the promises of Hashem are eternal and that the prophet will yet rise at the last day to behold what he has faithful prophesied within time and space.
The phrase, “Hides His face from” means that HaShem has intentionally withheld His manifest countenance from wrestling Jacob (Israel united: prior to her redemption). However, although Hashem’s face is hidden from the one who denies Him, the prophet will seek Him out.
Isa 8:18 Hinei, Now, Behold, I and the children whom HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has given me are for le’otot signs and for ul’mofetiym wonders in Yisrael from HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Of heaven’s armies, going to war), Who dwells in mount Tziyon (Parched land).
Isaiah proclaims his family’s identity as living representations of God’s Word to His people. Yeshua proclaims the same concerning those who have become His followers and therefore Sons of the Living God. We are to be living examples of God’s Word to the world we live in.
Isa 8:19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who consult the dead and those that have familiar spirits, who whisper, moan and growl: shouldn’t a people seek out their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?
Again the prophet rebukes the superstitious people of Judah and their failure to seek God for direction and counsel. Instead they have sought after those who practice witchcraft and are seeking counsel from the dead (Who cannot communicate to the living). This is in direct rebellion toward the Torah and the testimony of the prophets. The Rhetorical question of the prophet is thickened with incredulity.
Isa 8:20 Le’Torah to the Torah and to ve’le’te’udah the testimony! If they don’t speak according to ka’daveir this Word, there is no dawn in them.
Isaiah gives the people of Judah the solution to their predicament, knowing that they will not listen. It is to the Torah they must turn and to the testimony of the prophets. If they fail to do this there will be no dawn (no resurrection) for them. This is a hard word and is as relevant today as it was then. Those who refuse the Living Word (Yeshua) of God and His written Word (Bible/Torah), and who ignore the testimony of His followers, will have no hope of resurrection unto life (dawn). In order to be resurrected unto life the dawn (Yeshua: firstborn from the dead) of God must dwell within us. Imanu-El, with us is God!
Isa 8:21 And they will alienate it, suffering severe hunger: and it has come to pass, that when they will be hungry, they will fret themselves, and curse in their king and uveilohay their God, gods, judges, and turn their gaze upward (Highest part).
The people will alienate God’s Torah and His testimony through the prophets, thus they will invite their own starvation and oppression. As a result they will curse the weakness of their human king who could not save them and curse the false judges and gods who were unable to guide them. They will gaze up toward God in the highest heavens and find no relief because the unrepentant receive silence. No one can come to god without humility.
Isa 8:22 And they will look to the land (of Israel); and Hinei, now, behold distress and darkness, gloom and anguish; and calamity thrust upon them.
Finding no salvation from God because of their unbelief, they will turn their gaze back to the earth only to find that it is filled with calamity, gloom, distress and anguish. This destruction which has been of their own making will come quickly.
Isa 8:23 (Isaiah 9:1) Nevertheless there will be no lasting gloom on her in her anguish, the first will be light affliction on the land of Ze-vu-lun (Exalted) and the land of Naphtali (Wrestling) and afterward heavy glory by way of Ha-yam the body of water beyond ha-Yardein (Descender) Jordan, Geliyl (Circuit, turning) Galilee ha-Goyim of the nations.
Sadly, the reader of the traditional Christian canon will end chapter 8 here in misery and hopelessness. Thank God the rabbis of rabbinical Judaism chose to divide the chapters according to the redemptive rhythm of Isaiah’s words. For the purposes of my commentary I have followed the rabbinical division of chapters and included verse 23 (9:1 in the traditional Christian division of the book).
The majority of commentators suggest that the body of water in this verse refers to the Mediterranean Ocean and that the second clause of verse 23 is therefore describing the trade root that extends from Egypt up via Akko (Acre: costal city north of Haifa) and then across to the Galilee and Jordan River. Thus it makes a type of circuit (Galilee) of trade of the nations (Goyim).
However, a plain reading of the Hebrew text from the context of Isaiah’s view from Jerusalem would seem to indicate that the prophet is speaking in regard to the Galilee itself when he says Ha-yam (The body of water: yam being the Hebrew referring to a body of water and not necessarily an ocean) beyond the Jordan (meaning beyond that place where the Jordan river flows out of lake Galilee*, as perceived from the prophet’s position in Jerusalem). Then he concludes by naming the area of the Galilee that was at times in Israel’s history, and would come to be in her future (Decapolis: 10 towns of foreigners [goyim] First century CE/AD), a location where people of other nations would dwell (East bank of the Galilee and extending down toward Pella). Thus both Israel and the nations will behold the heavy glory that will be manifest in the Galilee region. The glory of the Messiah.
This glorious hope concludes chapter 8 and illuminates the beginning of chapter 9. Of course, the scroll of Isaiah has no such chapter divisions and the rhythm remains intact for the reader who is devoid of the ordered divisions of scholarly interference.
The message of the prophet is clear and redemptive, “Turn from your sins and be saved by the Imanu-el God with us, the light is dawning!”
"Now when Yeshua heard that Yochanan had been handed over, He withdrew to Yam Kinneret (the Galilee). Leaving Natzeret, He came and settled in Kfar Nachum (village of comfort: Capernaum), which is by the yam (Body of water) in the regions of Zevulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfil what was spoken through Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) the prophet, saying,
'Land of Zevulun and land of Naphtali, the way of the lake, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations—the people sitting in darkness have seen a great light, and those sitting in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.'
From then on, Yeshua began to proclaim, 'Turn away from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'”
–Matthew 4:12-17 (Isaiah 8:23-9:1[9:1-2])
*Lake Galilee is called Yam Kinneret in Hebrew. The Hebrew Kinneret meaning Harp, the lake being shaped like a Harp.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
“Behold the almah shall conceive and bare a son and shall call his name Immanuel. This means that our Creator shall be with us. And this is the sign: the one who will conceive is a girl (na’arah), who never in her life has had intercourse with any man. Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power.” –Rashi, Mikraot Gedolot on Isaiah 7:14
Pursuant to Isaiah’s throne room/Temple vision of Adonai (Isaiah 6: approx. 740 BCE/BC), and the promise of a perpetual remnant in the land of Israel; the hope of the people is to rest in the “Holy Seed” both plural (Ethno-religious Israel) and singular (the Messiah Gen. 3:15).
Isaiah 6:13 speaks of “a perpetual tenth (remnant) ve-shava (returning)”: this having been prophesied several years prior to the present account, during the reign of Yotam (750-735 BCE/BC). Now, in anticipation of the attack from Rezin and Pekah, Isaiah is instructed by HaShem (YHVH) to go to Achaz (who reigned from 735 to 719 BCE/BC) the son of Yotam. Isaiah is instructed to take his son She’ar (remnant)-yashuv (return) along with him. Thus the hope of Judah is given a living sign and advocate in the son of Isaiah “She’ar-yashuv”, named for the perpetual promise of Hashem concerning ethno-religious Israel, “A remnant will return”.
I have coined the term “ethno-religious Israel” to refute the satanic lie that says the Christian Church has superseded or replaced Israel. According to Scripture (Tanakh, Brit Ha-Chadashah) Israel was, is and will always be a uniquely chosen ethnic and religious people with whom God has made unbreakable eternal promises (covenants). When spiritual blinded Christian scholars claim that the Church is either a progressive form of (so called) spiritual Israel, or that the Church supersedes or has replaced ethnic/religious Israel as God’s chosen people, they are inadvertently placing their own salvation at risk. For, if God (according to their claims) has reneged on His covenant promises to Israel (in particular the covenant made over the land while Avraham was sleeping, a covenant incumbent on God alone, which was subsequently passed on to Yitzchak and Yaakov), then He cannot be trusted to keep the covenant of redemption He has entered into through the blood of His Son Yeshua our King Messiah. Thus, the self-redundant logic of the supersessionist (progression) movement testifies against its adherents.
This chapter contains an important messianic prophecy (v.14) which is an essential part of the meta-narrative of Isaiah’s message. It is for this reason that aside from Isaiah 53, the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy is fiercely contested by those who have a polemic agenda: despite the fact that the text plainly supports the traditional explanation, they refuse to accept it. However, our ancient rabbis and more recently the medieval commentator Rav Rashi (1040-1105 CE/AD) firmly assert the Messianic understanding of Isaiah 7:14 and affirm the virgin birth.
Isa 7:1 And it came to pass in the days of Achaz (He has grasped) the son of Yotam (HaShem is perfect), the son of Uziyahu (My strength is HaShem), king of Yehudah (Praise), that Retzin (Firm) the king of Aram (Exalted), and Pekah (Opened) the son of Remalyahu (Protected by HaShem), king of Yisrael (Overcomes in God) went up toward Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace, Jerusalem) to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
Achaz the son of Yotam reigned from 735 to 719 BCE/BC. Achaz was 20 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 16 years in Jerusalem: he was one of the wicked kings of Israel who did not walk in the ways of David (2 Kings 16:2-20). His idolatry and political decisions are the primary reasons for the eventual demise of both Ephraim and Judah. By inviting the king of Assyria to help him fight against Aram (Syria) and Samaria, he unwittingly paved the way for the Assyrian invasion of Israel and Judah. Achaz was well suited to play the role of Godless counterpoint to Isaiah.
Equally foolish and even more sinister was the decision of Pekah, king of Israel, to join with Retzin, king of Aram (Syria) in order to wipe out the Davidic dynasty and rule over all of Israel. Had Pekah succeeded, the line of the Messiah would have been cut off. For this reason it is easy to see retrospectively, why in spite of their idolatry and wickedness, God delivered Achaz and Judah from Pekah and Retzin.
Isa 7:2 And it was told the house of David (Beloved of God), saying, Aram (Exalted) rests upon Ephraim (Doubly fruitful). And his lev (Inner man, core being, heart) was shaken, and the lev (Inner person, core being, heart) of his people, as the trees of the forest are shaken in the faces of the spirit/wind (ruach).
The title House of David is used in part to emphasize the grave potential of the approaching army of Aram and Ephraim. Achaz was the king over the Davidic dynasty at the time and regardless of his wickedness, was the head of Judah. Thus he is called “House of David” along with his people (Judah). Achaz has every reason to tremble with fear at the approach of the two armies, who had only recently caused great devastation in Judah (2 Chronicles 28:5-8).
Notice that the lev (inner person) of both Achaz (singular) and his people (plural) are caused to tremble. There is a profound mystery resting in the knowledge that a people has a collective lev (core being, heart, inner person).
Isa 7:3 Then said HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) to Yishayahu (Salvation from HaShem: Isaiah), “Go forward now to meet Achaz (He has grasped), you, and She’ar-yashuv (remnant-returns) your son, at the end (extremity) of the te’alat water course (healing, new skin over broken skin) of Ha-bereichah pool (blessing) Ha-Elyona the elevated (or, of the High God) toward the highway (raised road) of the field of choveis one who washes by treading”;
In spite of the wickedness of Achaz, HaShem was still mindful of His promise to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), thus sending a message of reassurance to Achaz and Judah. The presence of She’ar-yashuv (Remnant returns) is both a confirmation of the certain demise of Judah and at the same time a sign of hope for Judah’s future redemption through the remnant and the Holy Seed.
It is likely that Achaz was at the end of the aqueduct checking on the city’s water supply in anticipation of the pending invasion. In order for a city to survive under siege it must have ample supply of both food and water.
A paraphrase using the alternate literal meanings of the ambiguous Hebrew terms te’alat, bereichah, and Elyona; offers a beautiful insight into the sod (mystery) of this text.
“Mercy said to Salvation is from God, ‘Both you and your son named Remnant Returns are to go to the one who grasps. Meet him at the extreme end of healing from blessing at the elevated place of the High God on the road to the one who washes by treading.’”
Mercy is the Father, Salvation from God is the Son, the Returning Remnant are those in ethnic (religious) Israel who return through the saving work of the Son to share the news of healing with those who like Jacob are still grasping at the heel. The workers of God, in the life of His Son will meet those who grasp and struggle with healing born of blessing on the Mount of God (Elevated Har Beit, Moriah) in Jerusalem: where they will be washed through a disciplining and treading out process unto redemption through the Son’s message and sacrificial covenant. All of this pertaining to ethno-religious Israel.
Isa 7:4 And say unto him, “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be faint-hearted because of the two tails of these smoking firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Retzin (Firm) with Aram (Exalted), and of the son of Remalyahu (Protected by HaShem).
This message of comfort in the midst of turmoil is a mainstay in the ministry of Isaiah. Later in his ministry Isaiah brings a similar message from HaShem to King Hezekiah:
“In returning and rest you will be saved; in tranquillity and trust will be your strength…”
However, like Achaz, Hezekiah chose to trust in the strength of human effort (horses going to war) rather than to place his trust in HaShem.
HaShem is gracious in His loving message of comfort to Achaz. He adds to His instruction an analogy alluding to the weakness and impotency of Judah’s enemies. A “smoking firebrand” is a firebrand that has lost its flame and is about to go out. An army attacking at night relies on the firebrand to light the way and secondarily, to burn down the enemy fortifications. God is saying to Achaz that Aram and Ephraim (10 tribes of the north) will stumble in the darkness for lack of light and lose their ability to make a breach in the walls of Jerusalem. All this is said to Achaz at the end of the water-course in a location where he can look out onto the lower land of approach to Jerusalem and see these very things for himself. God does not ask us to follow Him blindly, He knows we are weak minded and that we often require physical proofs of His promises. Thus, in love, He offers us a glimpse into His eternal purpose by providing us with physical signs. The giving of signs becomes a central theme of chapter 7 of Isaiah’s prophecy (v.14).
Isa 7:5 “Because Aram (Exalted), Ephraim (Doubly fruitful), and the son of Remalyahu (Protected by HaShem), have taken evil counsel against you, saying, Isa 7:6 “Let us go up against Yehudah (Praise), and cause dread, and let us make a breach there for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Taval (God is good)”:
This observation of both the motivation and intended physical actions of Judah’s enemies supports the understanding that Ephraim intended to usurp the throne of David (House of David). Thus, in a very real sense, Ephraim was, at this particular moment in history, being guided by a spirit of anti-Messiah. This explains why, in spite of the wickedness of Achaz, God was intent upon disestablishing Ephraim and defeating Aram (Syria).
Isa 7:7 Thus says Adonai (Lord) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. Isa 7:8 For the head of Aram (Exalted) is Damesek (Silent sackcloth weaver), and the head of Damesek (Silent sackcloth weaver) is Retzin (Firm); and within sixty five years Ephraim (Doubly fruitful) will be broken, that it be not a people.
The title “Adonai HaShem” denotes absolute sovereignty over all things. Not only will the plans of Ephraim and Aram come to nothing, HaShem will also set in motion the breaking and exile of the tribes under Ephraim. The prophecy of 65 years was literally fulfilled as follows:
The remez (hint) in the names of those coming against Judah reveals their fate. Aram, has “Exalted” itself (Pride) and as a result will receive “Sackcloth”, death and mourning (Damesek): and the head of authority of this outcome is “Firm” (Retzin) that is, “Firmly established”. Sixty five years after these things have come to pass the one who has been “Doubly fruitful” (Ephraim), will be disestablished, broken, taken away, and will no longer be a people. This means that Ephraim and the tribes of the north will lose their separate title at the time they go into exile. However, when they return from exile they will be united to Israel under the tribe of Israel’s king Messiah, Judah. Thus all the tribes of Israel became known as Yehudiym (Jews) following their return from the Babylonian exile. Therefore, the tribes were not “Lost” as some claim, but unified under Judah.
Isa 7:9 And the head of Ephraim (Doubly fruitful) is Shomeron (Watch mountain), and the head of Shomeron (Watch mountain) is Remalyahu’s (Protected by HaShem) son. Im lo taaminu lo teamenu If you will not believe, surely you will not be established.
As previously alluded to, Ephraim’s disestablishment has purpose in God’s redemptive plan for Israel. Her dispersion is not the end but a pretext to her new beginning. Thus the text explains that the head of Ephraim is the “Watch Mountain”, which is symbolic of the mountains of Samaria looking for Ephraim’s return. Further still, the head of the watch mountain is the Son born of the “Protection of Hashem”, that is Judah.
Thus the challenge is issued, “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established”. The Hebrew text reads, “Im lo taaminu lo teamenu”. This is a play on the root aman (support, be faithful), which is related to the Hebrew emuna (trust, faith, belief). In a more literal sense the phrase says, “If you don’t support you will not be supported” or “If you aren’t faithful you will not receive faithfulness”.
In the plain (p’shat) sense this means, “If you don’t believe that I am able to defeat your enemies you will not be established”. If Achaz has no faith in God he will inevitably fail to continue his reign over Judah. However, through the remez (hint) we see a deeper meaning. Those in Judah who don’t believe in her redemption through God’s Messiah, will fail to receive His protection and restoration: not because He has not offered it to them but because they have refused it. On the other hand, those who receive Messiah through belief and trust will be established.
ASK FOR A SIGN, MIRACLE, REMEMBRANCE, AND BANNER:
Isa 7:10 Adding, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) spoke to Achaz (He has grasped), saying, Isa 7:11 “Ask you for a Ot sign (signal, banner, miracle, remembrance) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Elohecha your God (Judge); ask it of the profound depths of sheol, or in the exalted higher parts above.”
Verse 3 begins HaShem’s words to Achaz via Isaiah: now HaShem adds to what He has spoken through Isaiah and speaks directly to Achaz. This signifies a catalyst event, a pivotal and profound illumination of the meta-narrative of the prophecy of Isaiah. When HaShem speaks directly to a person He intends that person to understand His redemptive purpose.
In spite of the idolatry and the lack of faith displayed by Achaz, HaShem still says, “HaShem your God (Judge)”. The Holy Name YHVH denotes mercy and the title Elohim, judgement; thus God is speaking to Achaz as the Merciful Judge. It is now up to Achaz to either receive or reject the mercy of the Judge.
HaShem offers Achaz the opportunity to ask for a sign (display, miracle, and memorial) from within any part of creation. It is significant that HaShem says “ask it of the profound depths of Sheol”, for in order for Achaz to see a sign from Sheol, someone must rise from the dead. It is equally significant that HaShem says “or in the exalted higher parts above”, for in order for Achaz to see a sign from the third heaven outside of time and space, God must come down and enter time and space. However, time and space exist within God, therefore, God must manifest part of His unity (person) within Himself, and within time and space.
The Hebrew Ot (sign) has no tense of its own. It is past, present and future. The sign Achaz is offered has no limitations placed upon it: he is free to ask anything good of God, and all that is good will remain.
Isa 7:12 But Achaz (He has grasped) said, “I will not ask, neither will I proof HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)”.
This is a classic example of false piety. Achaz has just been directly instructed by God to ask any sign of Him in order to confirm for Achaz the reality of what will take place. In turn, Achaz rebels against the instruction of God in order to appear to be pious. It is as if Achaz has spat in God’s face.
The Scripture does say “You shall not tempt Hashem your Elohim” (Deut. 6:16). Yeshua Himself rebukes Satan by quoting this text when Satan tempts Him to dishonour God by throwing Himself off the highest point of the Temple (Matt. 4:5-7). However, in the case of Achaz it was HaShem Himself Who instructed him to ask for a sign, making Achaz’s pious refusal an act of hypocrisy and ironically, a testing/tempting of God’s limitless patience.
Isa 7:13 And he (Isaiah) said, “Hear you now, O house of David (Beloved of God); Is it a small thing for you to offend (weary) men, but will you offend (Weary) Ehohay my God (Judge) also?”
Due to the refusal of Achaz to receive God’s offer, HaShem now withdraws His direct Word and speaks again through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah. This proclamation calls not on Achaz alone but on the House of David. Why? Because the sign that is to be revealed is to speak to the greater house of David (those yet to come), it is to be a sign that is yet far into the future. If God had intended the sign to be understood within the generation of Achaz and the subsequent king Hezekiah, He would have addressed “Achaz and Judah”. Instead, HaShem addresses His proclamation of a sign to the greater house of David and the eternal Dynasty that He has promised to establish.
As an intermediary Isaiah rebukes Achaz for his hypocrisy, “You have wearied Judah and now you are wearying God, Who chose Judah from the tribes of Israel to be the root of His Messiah King, Israel’s redeemer”.
Isa 7:14 “Therefore Adonai Himself shall give you a Ot miraculous sign; ‘Hinei Behold, ha-almah the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Imanu-el (with us God)’.
It is important to note that the sign will not be the result of some chain of events that God triggers and allows to come to fruition. The sign will not be the result of some divine toppling of dominos. To the contrary, “The Lord Himself shall give you (Not Achaz but the House of David) an Ot miraculous sign”. This means that God will personally manifest Himself within the sign that He is giving.
As is always the case, “Hinei” is used to draw the reader’s attention to what follows. It is an indication of something profound, even mysterious: something that is to be listened to, received, observed, sought after and pursued. And what is this profound mysterious sign?
“An almah virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Imanu-el (with us God).”
This is one of the most contested verses of the prophets. Why? Not because the plain meaning is difficult to understand, nor because the Hebrew is ambiguous, not even because all the rabbis disagree on the plain meaning. No, it’s not because the meaning is hidden that this text is contested. To the contrary, it is simply because those who contest it do not want to accept its plain meaning.
However, in order to thoroughly refute the scholarly (critical school) lie that the Hebrew word almah does not mean virgin, I will address the word’s etymology, use in Scripture (Both Hebrew and Greek), its meaning as understood by Rashi (One of the Jewish people’s most renowned Biblical commentators), and the fact that not only is almah uniquely qualified to represent virginity, it is the only Hebrew word that can truly be said to do so without compromising the meaning.
Almah is derived from the root alam, “to hide”, “conceal” or “cover”, an apt term for describing virginity. However, etymology alone is not sufficient proof of its unique qualification as the Hebrew word that best conveys the meaning “virgin”. Therefore, we now turn to its usage within the Tanakh (OT).
Almah first appears in connection with Rivkah the future bride of Yitzchak:
“Behold now, (hinei), I’m standing by the well of water, when the virgin (almah) comes to the well to draw water…” –Genesis 24:43
In chapter 24 of Genesis, Rivkah was previously described as follows:
“And the young woman (na’arah) was very beautiful to look at, a virgin (betulah), neither had any man known (had sex) with her.” –Genesis 24:16
Thus, Rivkah is referred to in Genesis 24 as “a young woman”-naarah; “a virgin”-betulah; and almah, another word for virgin or unmarried woman of good repute (meaning she has not had sex with a man). The term almah is never applied to a married woman.
The term almah and its plural form alamot occur a total of seven times in the Tanakh (OT):
Matthew (Levi, the Disciple of Yeshua) renders the Hebrew word almah as parthenos (a virgin), probably qualifying his usage using the Septuagint (Greek text of the Tanakh [OT] approx. 3rd century BCE/BC), the text of which was translated by Jews (70 Rabbis) approximately 400 years prior to the writing of Matthew’s Gospel. The rabbis of that time, devoid of any polemic motivation, understood the word almah to refer to an unmarried virgin daughter. They gleaned this understanding from both its use in the Tanakh (Gen. 24:43; Deut. 22:28) and its root alam, which, as stated previously, means to "hide" or "cover"; because a young woman’s virginity was covered (protected) and her private parts hidden from men.
The most renowned medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi (1040-1105), who was determined in his opposition to Christianity and the idea that Yeshua was the promised Messiah, none the less makes this astonishing observation:
“Behold the almah shall conceive and bare a son and shall call his name Immanuel. This means that our Creator shall be with us. And this is the sign: the one who will conceive is a girl (na’arah), who never in her life has had intercourse with any man. Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power.” –Rashi, Mikraot Gedolot on Isaiah 7:14
Rashi is essentially paraphrasing Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Highest shall over-shadow you…”
Rashi also explains in his commentary on Song of the Songs, that “alamot” the plural form of “almah” means “betulah” (virgins).
It is interesting to note further that in Modern Hebrew the word “virgin” is rendered as either “almah” or “betulah” (Hebrew/English Dictionary. Efros, Kaufman, and Silk, Tel Aviv).
Therefore, it’s clear that etymologically, contextually and historically the word almah means “a virgin”.
Some ask, “Why didn’t Isaiah choose the common noun betulah for virgin rather than almah?” The answer is that betulah, while often used in the Tanakh to refer to a virgin, is sometimes used to refer to a married woman:
“Lament like a virgin (betulah) wearing sackcloth for the husband of her youth” –Joel 1:8
The betulah here is a married woman who has lost her husband and is therefore not a virgin. The foolish argument that engaged woman are considered married bears no weight given that she is lamenting the husband of her youth, a time past, meaning that she has since entered the wedding canopy and the marriage bed and is no longer a virgin.
Likewise Deuteronomy 22:19 describes a married woman after her wedding night as a betulah. Therefore betulah cannot apply exclusively to a virgin. Thus Isaiah employs the only Hebrew word that can be applied exclusively to a virgin. Of all the Hebrew terms Isaiah might have used almah is the best and least ambiguous.
Having been defeated on the grounds of the language used, some Jewish and Christian scholars turn to the desperate argument that Achaz could not have understood this sign to refer to some future Messiah but would have understood it to refer to his lifetime.
The presumption is that a sign from God spoken by a prophet can only be made manifest within the lifetime of its hearers. Given the prophecies of Daniel and the multiple fulfilments of numerous other Hebrew prophecies throughout history, theirs is an untenable position.
Add to this that the prophecy was not spoken to Achaz and his generation alone but to the House of David as a dynasty, and we are left without grounds to claim that the sign was for the generation of Achaz alone. In fact, the sign is relevant for both Achaz, Judah and the House of David as a sign of Israel’s need to turn from apostasy and return to HaShem.
Achaz would have understood the sign as a metaphor that expressed the present help of God in the midst of Judah’s dire predicament.
It is impossible, as some suggest, that this text could refer to Hezekiah or the second of Isaiah’s sons because neither one was born of a virgin, nor did either one fulfil the greater redemptive purpose of the one described in the following verses.
The name Immanuel is also sighted as a reason for rejecting Yeshua as the fulfilment of this prophecy. Those who misunderstand it say that there has been no redeemer born whose name was Immanuel. However, the contraction Immanuel is not intended as a proper name but as a descriptive title of the son who is to be born. This is also true of the many contractions employed in Isaiah 9:6. Thus Immanuel is intended to be understood in this context as a title and not a proper name.
The concept of God dwelling with humanity is one of the central doctrines of the Tanakh. He was present with the Patriarchs (Gen. 26:3; 28:15; 39:2, 3). He was with Moses (Exodus 3:12), and with the people of Israel (Exodus 3:16; 33:15-17). He manifest His presence in both the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) and later in the Holy Place of the Temple in Jerusalem. His presence was seen by the people in the cloud which filled the Mishkhan and the fire which rested over it by night, both of which moved out before Israel as she travelled through the desert (Exodus 40:38). The root for Mishkhan is shachan, literally “to dwell”. Thus Immanuel is a title that connects the divine presence with a human boy child who is to be born of the virgin. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew text doesn’t say “almah” a virgin, but “ha-almah” the virgin. It is referring to a singular and specific virgin who will live in the future. Thus Immanuel is a title that describes God manifesting Himself in the flesh.
“And the Word (Ha-D’var) was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. –Yochanan (John) 1:14
Isaiah will soon proclaim Judah’s security by speaking the following words to her enemies:
“Take counsel from one another, it will all come to nothing, speak the word, it will not stand, because imanu – el (with us is God). –Isaiah 8:10
Isaiah expected the redeemer Immanuel to reign in glory (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-10). He spoke of the coming Messiah by the Spirit of the Messiah (D’var: Living Word) Who dwelt within him (1 Peter 1:10-11). Isaiah was certain that the Messiah would come at a time yet future (1 Peter 1:12).
When we examine the life of Yeshua as it is recorded in the New Testament alongside Isaiah’s prophecy we are able to see that Isaiah’s prophecy could apply only to him.
Isa 7:15 Curds and honey shall he eat, he will know to refuse, reject, despise ba’ro the evil, and choose ba’tov the good.
Curds and honey are a symbol of the naturally occurring provision of God. They are foods associated with the land of Israel even when it is in a desolate state. If the fields go unplanted and the vines untended, the land will still produce curds (cattle) and honey (bees). Curds and honey are also the soft sweet foods fed to infants before they develop enough to consume solid foods. Thus the text infers that the male child who will be born of the virgin will know right from wrong even prior to the age of understanding. This is consistent with our understanding of the sinless Messiah Yeshua (Isaiah 53:9; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:22; Heb. 4:15).
Isa 7:16 Because in the time before hana’ar the boy will know to refuse ba’ro the evil, and choose ba’tov the good, forsaken will be ha-adamah the land that you grieve over of the faces of both her kings.
The boy (Messiah, Redeemer) will know to refuse evil and choose good. The Hebrew na’ar refers to a young boy between 13 and 30 years of age. Thus verse 16 indicates a later stage of his young life. It is at that later stage that the land of Israel will be briefed of the kings of both Judah and Ephraim.
Isa 7:17 HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) shall bring upon you, and upon your people, and upon your father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim (Doubly fruitful) departed from Yehudah (Praise); even the king of Ashur (step, go straight).
Having spoken to Achaz of the future hope of Israel God now sobers him up by alluding to the imminent threat that the king of Assyria (Aram) posed. Achaz has invited the king of Assyria to help him, thus choosing to place his trust in human strength rather than in God. As a result captivity will come to Judah. The disaster that Tiglat-pileser, king of Assyria would inflict on Judah would be such as had never happened before, since the split between the ten tribes of Israel and Judah.
Isa 7:18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Mitzrayim (Double distress, Egypt), and for the bee that is in the land of Ashur (step, go straight). Isa 7:19 And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
Isaiah now identifies the nations that he spoke of in 5:26. HaShem will call on the Egyptian fly and the Assyrian bee. These two nations later fought over Carchemish, a key city on the Euphrates. Josiah the king of Judah became involved in the conflict and was killed prematurely (609 BCE/BC). Carchemish was eventually captured by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BCE/BC. From then onward Judah’s desolation was sealed. In 587-86 BCE/BC. Jerusalem was captured and the people of Judah were led into captivity in Babylon.
Isa 7:20 In the same day shall Adonai shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Ashur (step, go straight), the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
The “razor”, who Achaz had hired is the Assyrian king from beyond the Euphrates. He would shave Judah from head to toe, including the beard. Meaning that he will pillage the land and leave it desolate. The reference to the beard is an insult to manly dignity. For the ancient Hebrew the male beard was a sacred symbol of identity and strength (2 Samuel 10:4). Isaiah prophesied the stripping clean of the land of Israel. This came to fruition when Sennacherib invaded Judah in 701 BCE/BC. Destroying 46 cities and carrying off 200,000 people into captivity.
Isa 7:21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; Isa 7:22 And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat curds: for curds and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land. Isa 7:23 And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand kesef (silver, currency), it shall even be for briers and thorns. Isa 7:24 With arrows and with bows men will come there; because all the land will become briers and thorns. Isa 7:25 And all hills that are dug with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briers and thorns: it will be a place for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.
The few survivors left after the shaving clean of the land would live on curds and honey, the spontaneous produce of the uncultivated land. The valuable vineyards (a thousand shekels) would be torn out, and the rich pasture land and fields of crops would be left uncultivated for lack of workers. The reference to arrows and bows alludes to the hunters that will come there to hunt wild game. Israel would become an unkempt and wild land, left desolate and awaiting redemption.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Genesis 18: HaShem, Three Men, The Promised Son, Sodom’s Demise & the Triumph of Mercy over Judgement
The refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
In Rashi’s view the events of Chapter 18 follow directly on from the previous chapter, taking place three days after Avraham’s circumcision. I see no reason for disputing this. Even if understood as a tradition rather than an inspiration, Rashi’s idea adds to our understanding rather than detracting from it. If Rashi is correct, Avraham is now at the most painful stage of the healing process and is sitting, not only due to the heat of the day but also due to his need for rest and recovery.
As in the case of the previous events, this Divine encounter (theophany) and its outcome teach us a number of spiritual principles and further illuminate the character of G-d and the nature of humanity. The Holy Name of G-d YHVH, which denotes mercy, is used eleven times in this account (12 if the rabbinical interpretation of Adonai in verse 3 is accepted). This seems unusual given that the latter emphasis of the account is on the coming judgement against S’dom and Amorrah. However, it seems that G-d appears to Avraham as Mercy Himself for the purpose of conveying the idea that mercy triumphs over judgement. Avraham in turn, trusting the heart of G-d, becomes a type for the Messiah, pleading for justice seasoned with mercy, something that G-d intended all along.
With regard to Avraham and Sarah, a stark contrast is drawn between trust and disbelief. We are challenged by both Avraham’s eager hospitality and loving kindness, and by Sarah’s disbelief and denial.
When compared to chapter 19, this noon encounter stands in stark contrast to the night scene in Sodom. In the full light of midday G-d comes to Avraham for an intimate meeting of promise, sustenance, common unity and intercession. This is both a beginning and a counterpoint to the events of chapter 19, where in the darkness of night, an already condemned city establishes its wickedness by seeking to soil G-d’s messengers with acts of moral decay born of a depraved worldview, thus refusing intercession. The resulting destruction answers the loveless squalor of the citizens of S’dom and Amorrah, who have rejected G-d’s mercy outright. There is a correlation to Yeshua’s (Jesus) Revelation to Yochanan (John) here.
Verses 1-5 add nothing to the promises of 17:15. What differentiates the accounts is the intimate setting and the challenge to Sarah’s faith or lack thereof. The final result will be Sarah’s decision to trust G-d for the child, in response to His disciplining of her by way of a gentle challenge:
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
Gen 18:1 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) appeared to him (Avraham) at the trees of Mamrei (strength): and he (Avraham) sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
What is clear from the outset is that HaShem Himself is appearing to Avraham. Regardless of how we interpret what follows, we must not lose sight of this fact. Accepting Rashi’s assertion, I see this scene set with the recovering Avraham seated at midday in the shade of his tent, still in a great deal of pain from having been obedient to G-d’s instruction to circumcise both himself and all the males of his household.
Whether we interpret, “the trees” or, “the plain” of Mamrei (strength), the result is the same. Having been obedient to G-d Avraham finds that in his weakness G-d is his strength.
“By trusting they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness…” –Hebrews 11:33-34a
Gen 18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and prostrated himself on the ground,
“Lifted up his eyes” suggests that Avraham was either at rest or in prayerful meditation prior to this theophany (Divine visitation).
Avraham’s response to the appearance of the three men, whom he obviously sees as being representatives of The L-rd, is both courageous and reverential. Imagine getting up to run in the 45 degree (Celsius) plus heat of midday only three days after a painful operation on your private parts and then prostrating yourself before your guests, coming to rest on those very same parts in the hot sand. It’s safe to say, Avraham was extremely excited to see The L-rd and His messengers. This action shows the wonderful tension between friendship and awe in his relating to the Holy G-d. Avraham runs toward G-d and His messengers like a giddy school girl and then prostrates himself, an awe inspired servant.
It has been popular in Christian circles to try and affix the doctrine of the trinity to this meeting. However, it is clear from the remainder of this account (v.22) and the subsequent arrival of the two messengers at Sodom in 19:1, that at least two of the three men are not G-d.
Or HaChaim (Light of Life) suggests that G-d’s visit to Avraham in this instance was intended to demonstrate that Avraham had become a, “Chariot of the Divine Presence” (Bereshit Rabbah 82:6), meaning that Avraham’s physical being became a resting place for the Divine Presence of G-d (John 14:16-18; Romans 8:10, 15; James 4:5).
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. You know Him, because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans; I will come to you.” –Yochanan (John) 14:16-18
“Or do you think that in vain the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the Spirit which He made to dwell in us’”? –Yaakov (James) 4:5
Traditional rabbinic Judaism considers each of G-d’s angels to serve a specific purpose. Thus each angel (Messenger) is named for his function. The Midrash says, “One angel does not perform two missions”. Gur Aryeh explains Rashi’s view of the three angels, by providing the following names and functions:
My personal view is that if we are to accept Rashi/Gur Aryeh’s view, we should swap the functions and order of the Malakhim (Angels) so as to match them to their well-documented Biblical roles and functions. Thus my list would read as follows:
Given that we know two of the men (angels) will depart for Sodom (19:1) leaving one angel to remain behind, and adding to this the fact that Avraham speaks to the remaining lord as if he were speaking directly to HaShem; it seems unlikely that the third angel was Raphael (an angel not mentioned directly in Scripture). However, the name Raphael, which is a composite of Rapha (Healing, wholeness, and rescue) and El (G-d), is certainly symbolic of the attribute of healing and wholeness in the G-d head. There is then a healing messenger of G-d Who comes to mind, being represented here as one of the three men, that is Yeshua our Messiah.
It is important to note that the Hebrew anashim meaning men is being used here to describe angelic beings. This is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the Hebrew malakh (angel) means, messenger.
Gen 18:3 And said, “My L-rd (Adonai: Master), if now I have found favour in Your eyes, please, don’t pass away from your servant:
Most rabbinical interpretations of this verse claim that the Hebrew Adonai used here in its standard form refers to YHVH, which is usually pronounced Adonai in respect for the Holy Name HaShem. Based on this view, HaShem: YHVH:Mercy, is referred to directly 12 times in total during this account.
Notice that Avraham rushes out to the three men but addresses only one of them, using the singular, “Adonai” (My lord). If he had intended to address all three as lord he would have said “Adonim”.
Gen 18:4 Please let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
The washing of the feet of weary travellers is a common Middle Eastern custom that has been practised by Jews and Arabs alike for thousands of years. It refreshes the entire body and in ancient times was usually performed by the lowliest servant in the household, however, it seems that Avraham’s intention was to wash the feet of the travellers himself, an act reminiscent of the Mashiyach (John 13:3-17).
Gen 18:5 And I’ll fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort your hearts; after that go on your way: for it is for this purpose that you’ve come to your servant”. And they said, “So do, as you have said”.
“I’ll fetch a morsel of bread” is a hospitable understatement given the feast that Avraham organizes for the three men. This is part of a rhythm of nomadic custom that is still practised today among Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews. The Hebrew idiom, “comfort your hearts” uses lev in the traditional Hebrew sense to convey the centre of the being where all parts of the being converge. Thus the inference is that they might be refreshed in their entire being based on the complete performance of hospitable practice.
Notice that, “they” respond. This kind of interchangeable tense is familiar to theophany, as is the case in Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of Hashem (Gen. 32) and the meeting the Angel of HaShem has with the parents of Samson (Judges 13). We must not lose sight of the fact that we have significant clues within the text (v.22, 19:1) that allow us to deduct which of the three is being called lord and who the remaining two are.
Michael (Who is like G-d) is known in Scripture as the arch angel who guards Israel and is representative of G-d’s might. He is a warrior messenger (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, Jude 1:9, Rev. 12:7). It seems that he plays a similar role here (Chapter. 19) in protecting Lot, while Gavriel (Mighty one of G-d), who is known in Scripture as a herald of G-d (Daniel 8:16; 9:21, Luke 1:19, 26) is seen here proclaiming blessing for Avraham and then enforcing G-d’s judgement against the people of S’dom and Amorrah. Notice that in the book of Daniel both angels are associated with G-d’s proclamation of blessing for Israel and His judgement against His enemies.
Gen 18:6 And Avraham (Father of a Multitude) hastened into the tent to Sarah (Princess, Noble woman), and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make round bread upon the hearth (convex metal surface)”.
The first thing we observe is the speed with which Avraham operates in order to care for his guests. Second, we see that Avraham does not instruct Sarah to add yeast to the bread, therefore, this is maztot (unleavened bread). It is from this verse and the subsequent reference in 19:3 that the rabbis’ determine that this was the season of Pesach (Passover) and that Avraham was prophetically observing the future deliverance of his progeny. This text was written down by Moses at Sinai following Israel’s first Pesach. Thus the attention to detail with regard to the type of bread being prepared in this story is intended by the author to draw the reader’s attention to this particular season in the Jewish religious year.
The three men, three measures of fine meal and the three days since Avraham’s circumcision all point to an established promise of G-d. The son that is to come has been firmly established and as has the judgement that is to come against the wickedness of S’dom and Amorrah. While the complex unity of G-d is not present in the plain meaning of the text, it is revealed in the remez (hint) of symbolic Biblical numerology. The number three reminding us of the Father (Av), Son (Ben) and Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh).
Gen 18:7 And Avraham ran to the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he rushed to prepare it.
Avraham is close to 100 years old and still recovering from circumcision, and yet he personally runs to select a calf for his guests. He had any number of servants he could have called upon to perform this act, however, these three men were extremely important to him. In particular, one of the men is G-d with us, the manifest humanoid form of that person of the One G-d we know to be, the Angel of HaShem, The Healer, the Son.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers—for in doing so, some have entertained angels (Messengers) without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:2
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in;” –Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 25:35 (TLV)
Gen 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the trees, and they ate.
The custom of standing by while guests eat their fill is still practiced today in many Middle Eastern homes and among the Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews.
They were eating beneath the trees of Mamrei (strength). The strength of G-d had formed a canopy over Avraham in his weakness and his longing for an heir. In his weakness Avraham placed his trust in G-d’s strength.
Gen 18:9 And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold, in the tent.”
Here, “they” speak, asking after Sarah. However, in the following verse, “He” speaks the promise. G-d knows where Sarah is, He need not ask. He asks, all be it through His Angel, in order to show Avraham His desire for relationship with the entire household, beginning with Sarah.
Gen 18:10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life (season); and, behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah heard from inside the tent door, which was behind him.
The, “He” here is clearly not Avraham because the words are being spoken as a promise to Avraham concerning his wife Sarah and the birth of Isaac. Nor is it, “they” speaking together. So who is left? HaShem appeared to Avraham at the beginning of the encounter and has not left. So too the three men arrived and have not left. Therefore the speaker here is one of the three men and is also a manifestation of the person of G-d (18:14). Only one individual in all of Biblical history fits this description, Yeshua the Messiah, Emmanuel (G-d with us).
Sarah, being modest, had stayed within the tent according to protocol, but was listening intently to the conversation of the men outside. The man speaking to Avraham has His back to Sarah.
Gen 18:11 Now Avraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women (She had already experienced menopause).
Gen 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have fine skin (a return of fertility), my lord (husband) being old also?”
What is clear from Sarah’s response is that either Avraham hadn’t told her of the promise of the child or he had told her and she had maintained disbelief. Either way she responds here in a way that emphasizes her doubt, laughing out of a place of mistrust. Where Avraham laughed in joyous awe asking, “How will this occur?” thus inviting the probability, Sarah laughs in disbelief asking, “Shall it occur?” thus denying the possibility. Notice that Sarah laughs within, her words are thoughts contained in her inner being, no one could have known how she responded unless they could see into her core being. Only G-d is truly capable of this. Picture then the awesome scene that follows when the man responds to Sarah’s inner musings.
According to both Radak and Sforno, Sarah believed that such a radical rejuvenation was as impossible a miracle as the raising of the dead. This is interesting given the fact that Isaac, who is later to be offered by Avraham in sacrifice and then saved by the Ram (A type for Messiah: Genesis 22), is spoken of in the book of Hebrews in relationship to trust in the Messiah Yeshua, Who was raised from the dead for our redemption.
“He (Avraham) reasoned that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up even from the dead—and in a sense, he did receive him back from the dead.” –Hebrews 11:19
Gen 18:13 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I be certain that I’ll bear a child, when I’m old’?”
Gen 18:14 Is anything too hard for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)? At the time appointed I will return unto you, according to the time of life (season), and Sarah shall have a son.
Avraham is perhaps thinking, “What laughter? I didn’t hear her laugh or say anything?” In turn Sarah is probably thinking, “How is it possible that this man knows my inner thoughts?”
We note here that it is HaShem who has heard Sarah and that it is He Who will return in a year’s time at this season (Pesach) to witness the birth of the son.
With the words, “Is anything too hard for HaShem” G-d challenges Sarah’s unbelief (mistrust).
Gen 18:15 Then Sarah denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “Not so; you did laugh.”
Sarah, now caught in her disbelief and being fearful of G-d, choses to lie rather than confess. However, G-d, Who is present in mercy (YHVH), disciplines Sarah as a beloved child, refuting her lie with the simple statement, “Not so; you did laugh”. Here, “laugh” is synonymous with, “doubt”. Therefore, we can read, “Not so; you did doubt”.
Remember that up to this point the man (G-d with us) has had His back turned to Sarah, now He turns to look her in the eye and gently challenge her unbelief.
We know that Sarah took HaShem’s challenge to heart because she eventually found trust in HaShem, and considering Him trustworthy, believed she would give birth to the promised child.
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
It is also worth noting here the similarities between the birth of Isaac and the later birth of the Messiah. The Ram which delivers Isaac in Genesis 22 is a type for the Messiah and his sacrificial death and His resurrection. Thus, when we see the proclamation to Sarah, we also hear the proclamation to Miriyam (Mary). When we hear of the miraculous birth that is to take place, we’re also reminded of the miraculous birth of our Messiah. When we see the two angels that accompany G-d with us (Emmanuel: the third man), we also think of the angel that visited Miriyam (Mary) and the angel who brought a legion of angels to announce the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds of Israel’s sacrificial flocks.
Gen 18:16 And the men rose up from there, and turned their faces toward S’dom (burning): and Avraham walked with them on the way.
We know that two of the three men arrived in S’dom, named as messengers (malakhim: angels) 19:1.
It seems that Avraham, went with the men for part of their journey as they began to head toward S’dom.
Gen 18:17 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Shall I hide from Avraham the thing which I am doing; Gen 18:18 seeing that Avraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), to do justice and judgment; that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) may bring upon Avraham that which He has spoken of him.”
This conversation seems to be taking place between HaShem and the men (angels). Given our former deduction regarding Who the third man is, we can suggest that G-d with us (Yeshua), the third man, is conversing with Michael and Gavriel. These two angels already know what G-d has instructed them to do in S’dom, thus, for the reader’s sake the text alludes to a sort of legal tribunal being conducted in line with the attributes of mercy, justice and judgement, which are the attributes G-d is trusting Avraham to pass on to his offspring. This therefore is the reason for the consultation and the subsequent opportunity for Avraham to offer a righteous argument for the consolation of justice and mercy. Not because G-d is unjust or unmerciful but because G-d has imparted His attributes to Avraham a heart of mercy and justice which will be a light to the nations.
“Shall I hide” infers a friendship between G-d and Avraham (Isaiah 41:8). Yeshua illuminates the relationship between G-d and His servants when He says:
“I am no longer calling you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing. Now I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” –Yochanan (John) 15:15 (TLV)
This friendship is further emphasized by the phrase, “I know him” the Hebrew, “yada” denoting intimate knowledge of a person. In this case it is a knowledge that transcends time and space, an observation of the present eternity spoken into time and space in this conversation between G-d and the angels. In other words, G-d has already seen Avraham’s future righteousness and is speaking it into time and space.
Gen 18:20 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Because the cry of S’dom (Burning) and Amorrah (Submersion) is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
Ibn Ezra notes that the, “Outcry” is either the outcry of the rebellion of the Sodomites or the outcry of those who had suffered as a result of the evil conduct of the Sodomites. Rambam claims that it is the cry of the oppressed looking for liberation.
The opinion of the Jewish sages is that the cruelty of S’dom stemmed from the maxim, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” (Avot 5:10). A similar modern idiom says, “Neither a borrower or a lender be”. Both colloquialisms offer the pretence inherent in worldly wisdom but directly oppose the charitable mission of G-d’s people.
Gen 18:21 I will descend, and inspect what they have done according to the outcry, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know (I will be known).”
“I will descend” is for the sake of the human audience. G-d uses kinetic terms to convey a sense of His present action within time and space, however, He remains invisible and immutable, existing outside of all things, the eternal G-d.
G-d, within Whom all things exist and have their being, need not descend. Additionally, G-d with us (Emmanuel), the angel, will descend. The inspection of S’dom is intended to emphasize the judicial nature of this judgement. S’dom is being given a just and fair trial, her destruction will not be without merit.
The phrase, “And if not, I will know (yada)” may mean, “If they repent, I will know (yada) them” or, “I will be known by them”.
Gen 18:22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward S’dom: but Avraham remained standing before HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
The present reading of verse 22 is according to the Masoretic scribal correction of the text. Possibly intended to avoid conjecture over the position of Avraham in relation to G-d. However, there is a good case for reading the original Hebrew as, “but HaShem remained standing before Avraham”. This reading qualifies the former correlation between the manifestation of G-d in humanoid form and the third man (angel). Regardless, only two men (angels) arrive at S’dom (19:1), leaving the third to remain. Thus it is the L-rd with us (Emmanuel) as the man (angel) Who remains standing before Avraham, or if you like, before Whom Avraham stands.
Gen 18:23 And Avraham drew near (nagash: an intimate closeness), and said, “Will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
Avraham now draws near, an intimate positioning of himself close to the third man, face to face. This is the intense relational context of the conversation that follows.
In the previous chapter Avraham had received his new name and had become the Father of the nations. He takes this role seriously by drawing near to G-d as an intermediary on behalf of the people of S’dom and the surrounding cities who will be destroyed by the ensuing destruction brought about by G-d’s righteous judgement. G-d has placed in him the desire to see justice tempered with mercy. Thus the G-d of mercy is seen at work within the heart of His servant.
Avraham had intervened on S’dom’s behalf in the past (Genesis 14:14) for the sake of his nephew Lot. His continued concern and deep connection to his nephew can be heard in his pleading for mercy.
Gen 18:24 “What if there were fifty righteous within the midst of the terror (the city): will You also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are there?
“So it was, as God destroyed the cities of the surrounding area, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the upheaval, when He demolished the cities where Lot had dwelt.” –Bereishit (Genesis) 19:29 (TLV)
Based on Genesis 19:29 Rashi suggests that all five of the cities mentioned in Genesis 14:2 are to be condemned in the judgement against S’dom. Thus the plea for the holding back of judgement on account of 50 righteous ones is in fact a plea for 10 (a quorum for worship/prayer—minion) from each of the five condemned cities. This infers that the number of righteous is related to the potential for their faithful worship of G-d, to have a redemptive effect upon those around them and thus cause the cities to repent and turn away from evil. This is consistent with the continual use of the Holy Name YHVH: mercy, throughout the chapter.
Gen 18:25 That be far from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from You: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Simply put Avraham is saying, “It is not in Your Character to punish the righteous with the wicked”. In other words, “that be far from You” means, “It’s not Who You are”. Additionally, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is rhetorical and best understood to mean, “I know that the Judge of the earth will do what is right”.
Gen 18:26 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “If I find in S’dom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
The key phrase here is, “within the city” which means inside the walls, in the midst of the evil behaviour.
Gen 18:27 And Avraham answered and said, “Behold now, I have taken it upon myself to speak unto HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), although I am but dust and ashes: Gen 18:28 If there are five less than fifty righteous: will You destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, “If I find there forty five, I will not destroy it.”
Notice the humility and respect Avraham pays to G-d as he continues to petition Him for mercy. Given the inference in the Holy Name we could read, “I have taken it upon myself to speak unto Mercy”. Rashi notes according to the Midrash that even with five subtracted from the number of the righteous each city would still have nine and G-d would become the tenth member of the quorum for worship and prayer.
Gen 18:29 And he spoke to Him yet again, and said, “ If there are forty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it for forty's sake.” Gen 18:30 And he said unto him, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak: if there are thirty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” Gen 18:31 And he said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto my Lord (Adonai): If there were twenty found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.” Gen 18:32 And he said, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak but once more: if ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
We might be tempted to see this dialogue as some sort of haggling over the judgement of the people of S’dom, however, that is not what’s happening. This dialogue between Avraham the advocate and G-d the Merciful Judge is intended to express G-d’s desire to see all come to a saving knowledge of Him (1 Timothy 2:3-5). Avraham is acting as a type for the then future coming of the Messiah, the greatest advocate of all time. One of the key evidences for this being a conversation of friendship, or of Teacher and disciple, is the fact that G-d does not respond with a counter to Avraham’s requests, He simply concedes to each of Avraham’s demands until at last Avraham learns that G-d has shown great mercy already and that the refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
The petitioning for mercy ends at the number 10, the number for a single complete quorum of worship and prayer or alternatively, 2 people in each of the five condemned cities grouped together with S’dom and Amorrah. It is interesting to note that Yeshua seems to have used the traditional rabbinical requirement for a quorum of ten as a platform for conveying the reality that G-d is present and active even when two are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20).
Gen 18:33 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) went His way (departed), as soon as he had finished communing with Avraham: and Avraham returned unto his place.
G-d didn’t leave until Avraham had finished petitioning Him. This, in and of itself is a clear representation of G-d’s merciful character. Because G-d is everywhere in the sense that all things are in Him, He cannot leave or depart from Himself. However, as explained previously, in order for human beings to read relational interaction in this encounter, kinetic language must be used to convey the tangible sense of relationship that Avraham experienced with G-d. Additionally, the third man still had to depart and did not arrive at S’dom in 19:1, therefore G-d with us (Yeshua), the man (angel), departed.
Avraham returned to his place because he had previously left with the three men toward S’dom and then stopped at a point on the way where he continued to speak with G-d while the two angels (Michael and Gavriel) went to S’dom. He now returned to his tents at the trees of Mamrei.
My daughter’s teachers ask them to put what they term a, “hook” in their essay writing. A repeated phrase, an idea that reconciles each element of the essay. If there is a hook in this theophany, it is this, “Mercy triumphs over judgement”.
“So speak and act as those who will be judged according to a Torah that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless to the one who does not show mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” –Yaakov (James) 2:12-13 (TLV)
© Yaakov brown 2016
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