In these verses we have a prophecy of the successes of the king of Assyria against Damascus, Samaria, and Judah, that the two former should be laid waste by him, and the last greatly frightened. Here we have,
I. Orders given to the prophet to write this prophecy, and publish it to be seen and read of all men, and to leave it upon record, that when the thing came to pass they might know that God had sent him; for that was one end of prophecy, John 14:29. He must take a great roll, which would contain those five chapters fairly written in words at length; and he must write in it all that he had foretold concerning the king of Assyria’s invading the country; he must write it with a man’s pen, in the usual way and style of writing, so as that it might be legible and intelligible by all. See Hab. 2:2; Write the vision, and make it plain. Those that speak and write of the things of God should avoid obscurity, and study to speak and write so as to be understood, 1 Cor. 14:19. Those that write for men should write with a man’s pen, and not covet the pen or tongue of angels. And forasmuch as it is usual to put some short, but significant comprehensive title before books that are published, the prophet is directed to call his book Maher-shalal-hash-baz—Make speed to the spoil, hasten to the prey, intimating that the Assyrian army should come upon them with great speed and make great spoil. By this title the substance and meaning of the book would be enquired after by those that heard of it, and remembered by those that had read it or heard it read. It is sometimes a good help to memory to put much matter in few words, which serve as handles by which we take hold of more.
II. The care of the prophet to get this record well attested (Isa. 8:2): I took unto me faithful witnesses to record; he wrote the prophecy in their sight and presence, and made them subscribe their names to it, that they might be ready, if afterwards there should be occasion, to make oath of it, that the prophet had so long before foretold the descent which the Assyrians made upon that country. He names his witnesses for the greater certainty, that they might be appealed to by any. They were two in number (for out of the mouth of two witnesses shall every word be established); one was Uriah the priest; he is mentioned in the story of Ahaz, but for none of his good deeds, for he humoured Ahaz with an idolatrous altar (2 Kgs. 16:10, 11); however, at this time, no exception lay against him, being a faithful witness. See what full satisfaction the prophets took care to give to all persons concerned of the sincerity of their intentions, that we might know with a full assurance the certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed, and that we have not followed cunningly-devised fables.
III. The making of the title of his book the name of his child, that it might be the more taken notice of and the more effectually perpetuated, Isa. 8:3. His wife (because the wife of a prophet) is called the prophetess; she conceived and bore a son, another son, who must carry a sermon in his name, as the former had done (Isa. 7:3), but with this difference, that spoke mercy, Shear-jashub—The remnant shall return; but, that being slighted, this speaks judgment, Maher-shalal-hash-baz—In making speed to the spoil he shall hasten, or he has hastened, to the prey. The prophecy is doubled, even in this one name, for the thing was certain. I will hasten my word, Jer. 1:12. Every time the child was called by his name, or any part of it, it would serve as a memorandum of the judgments approaching. Note, It is good for us often to put ourselves in mind of the changes and troubles we are liable to in this world, and which perhaps are at the door. When we look with pleasure on our children it should be with the allay of this thought, We know not what they are yet reserved for.
IV. The prophecy itself, which explains this mystical name.
1. That Syria and Israel, who were now in confederacy against Judah, should in a very little time become an easy prey to the king of Assyria and his victorious army (Isa. 8:4): “Before the child, now newly born and named, shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and My mother” (which are usually some of the first things that children know and some of the first words that children speak), that is, “in about a year or two, the riches of Damascus, and the spoil of Samaria, those cities that are now so secure themselves and so formidable to their neighbours, shall be taken away before the king of Assyria, who shall plunder both city and country, and send the best effects of both into his own land, to enrich that, and as trophies of his victory.” Note, Those that spoil others must expect to be themselves spoiled (Isa. 33:1); for the Lord is righteous, and those that are troublesome shall be troubled.
2. That forasmuch as there were many in Judah that were secretly in the interests of Syria and Israel, and were disaffected to the house of David, God would chastise them also by the king of Assyria, who should create a great deal of vexation to Judah, as was foretold, Isa. 7:17. Observe, (1.) What was the sin of the discontented party in Judah (Isa. 8:6): This people, whom the prophet here speaks to, refuse the waters of Shiloah that go softly, despise their own country and the government of it, and love to run it down, because it does not make so great a figure, and so great a noise, in the world, as some other kings and kingdoms do. They refuse the comforts which God’s prophets offer them from the word of God, speaking to them in a still small voice, and make nothing of them; but they rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son, who were the enemies of their country, and were now actually invading it; they cried them up as brave men, magnified their policies and strength, applauded their conduct, were well pleased with their successes, and were hearty well-wishers to their designs, and resolved to desert and go over to them. Such vipers does many a state foster in its bosom, that eat its bread, and yet adhere to its enemies, and are ready to quit its interests if they but seem to totter. (2.) The judgment which God would bring upon them for this sin. The same king of Assyria that should lay Ephraim and Syria waste should be a scourge and terror to those of their party in Judah, Isa. 8:7, 8. Because they refuse the waters of Shiloah, and will not accommodate themselves to the government God has set over them, but are uneasy under it, therefore the Lord brings upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, the river Euphrates. They slighted the land of Judah, because it had no river to boast of comparable to that; the river at Jerusalem was a very inconsiderable one. “Well,” says God, “if you be such admirers of Euphrates, you shall have enough of it; the king of Assyria, whose country lies upon that river, shall come with his glory, with his great army, which you cry up as his glory, despising your own king because he cannot bring such an army as that into the field; God shall bring that army upon you.” If we value men, if we over-value them, for their worldly wealth and power, it is just with God to make them thereby a scourge to us. It is used as an argument against magnifying rich men that rich men oppress us, Jas. 2:3, 5. Let us be best pleased with the waters of Shiloah, that go softly, for rapid streams are dangerous. It is threatened that the Assyrian army should break in upon them like a deluge, or inundation of waters, bearing down all before it, should come up over all his channels, and overflow all his banks. It would be to no purpose to oppose or withstand them. Sennacherib and his army should pass through Judah, and meet with so little resistance that it should look more like a march through the country than a descent upon it. He shall reach even to the neck, that is, he shall advance so far as to lay siege to Jerusalem, the head of the kingdom, and nothing but that shall be kept out of his hands; for that was the holy city. Note, In the greatest deluge of trouble God can and will keep the head of his people above water, and so preserve their comforts and spiritual lives; the waters that come into their souls may reach to the neck (Ps. 69:1), but there shall their proud waves be stayed. And here is another comfortable intimation that though the stretching out of the wings of the Assyrian, that bird of prey, though the right and left wing of his army, should fill the breadth of the land of Judah, yet still it was Immanuel’s land. It is thy land, O Immanuel! It was to be Christ’s land; for there he was to be born, and live, and preach, and work miracles. He was Zion’s King, and therefore had a peculiar interest in and concern for that land. Note, The lands that Immanuel owns for his, as he does all those lands that own him, though they may be deluged, shall not be destroyed; for, when the enemy shall come in like a flood, Immanuel shall secure his own, and shall lift up a standard against him, Isa. 59:19.
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