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
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.