Isaiah 8:1-22 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What instructions does the Lord give Isaiah in Isaiah 8:1-2 (printed below?)

Then Jehovah said to me, Take a large tablet and write upon it in plain letters: Quick to the plunder, Swift to the spoil. (2) I will call Uriah the priest and Zechariah, son of Jeberekiah, as reliable witnesses to record my testimony. (Isaiah 8:1-2)

The Lord commands Isaiah to take a large tablet and write upon it in plain letters. The prophet is to record this message he is about to receive from God and to make it very plain for all to see; it is to be highly visible (written on a large tablet, like a modern day billboard), and it is to be very intelligible (written in plain letters i.e.; written in common, ordinary language). Isaiah is instructed to inscribe upon the tablet the words, “Quick to the plunder, Swift to the spoil” (in Hebrew, “Maher Shalal Hash Baz.”) This is a prophecy of the impending doom of those two enemy nations (Syria and Israel) whom Judah feared. The Lord Himself declares that He will call two men (Uriah and Zechariah) to serve as witnesses for Him (verse 2). These two men will bear witness that Isaiah has received this message from God at this time, so that when it is fulfilled they may bear witness that the Lord, indeed, foretold these events and was faithful to bring them to pass.

2. What event does Isaiah report in verse 3 (printed below) and what further instruction does he receive in verse 4 (printed below?) What do you think is the purpose of these things?

So I had intercourse with the prophetess and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Then Jehovah said to me, Name him Maher-Shalal-hash-baz… (Isaiah 8:3)

…for before the child knows how to say, My father, or, My mother, the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria. (Isaiah 8:4)

Isaiah testifies that he then proceeded to have intercourse with the prophetess, his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son (verse 3). The Lord instructs Isaiah to give this son the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. The infant son is to be a living word of prophecy, bearing the same message as the word inscribed upon the large tablet. The Lord testifies that before the child can speak his first words (“My father, My mother,”) Syria and Israel shall be conquered. The Lord provides these witnesses (the message inscribed on the large tablet and the child who bears the same message in his name) in order to verify the fact that He is absolutely reliable. When the prophesied conquest of Judah’s enemies came to pass, the Lord could say to Judah, “I gave you My Word, and now you see that I have kept My Word. I am reliable!”

3. What charges does the Lord bring against Judah (see verses 5-6 printed below) and what does He declare that He will do (see verses 7-8 printed below?) Note: “The waters of Shiloah” is a reference to the little spring from which Jerusalem received her water supply and it symbolically represents Judah’s view of the Lord and the help He supplies.

Jehovah spoke to me again, saying, (6) …this people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and are white with fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah (Isaiah 8:5-6)

…the Lord will therefore bring upon them the mighty flood waters of the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria and all his glory. It will overflow all its channels and run over all its banks. (8) It will sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching as high as the neck. Its outstretched wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel! (Isaiah 8:7-8)

The Lord charges that the people of Judah have rejected “the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” (verse 6). As stated above, “the waters of Shiloah” refers to the spring from which the city of Jerusalem received her water supply, a source that appeared as an unimpressive little brook. Just as the waters of Shloah appeared as a little brook instead of a mighty river; so, too, to the people of Judah the help of the Lord appeared to be inconsequential and inadequate to meet their present need. The Lord goes on to declare that these people “are white with fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah” (verse 6b). The people of Judah have looked upon the combined forces of Syria and Israel as an overwhelming threat, something that is too big for God to handle, and consequently, something that leaves them terror-stricken. The Lord declares that because His people have viewed His divine help as being nothing more than an insignificant little stream (inadequate to meet their present need), He is going to bring against them the raging waters of the Euphrates River—the Euphrates was the river that formed the border of the land of Assyria (verses 7-8). The Assyrian army is compared to the Euphrates River, overflowing its banks, sweeping through the nations of Syria and Israel, and then continuing on with uncontrollable force to “flood” the land of Judah as well.

4. Isaiah can face the advancing Assyrian armies with boldness (verses 9-10) because of what the Lord has told him. What message did the Lord give Isaiah? See Isaiah 8:11-14a (printed below)

I proclaim these things because Jehovah spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, instructing me not to follow the way of these people. He said, (12) With regard to all that these people speak of as “The alliance!” you must not say, “Oh, the alliance!” Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread of it. (13) Jehovah of hosts, him you must sanctify; he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread—(14) and he will be a sanctuary for you. (Isaiah 8:11-14a)

The Lord told Isaiah, “Do not fear what your countrymen fear.” They were terror-stricken and filled with despair when they contemplated the fate of their nation and their own fate; they spoke of “The alliance” between Israel and Syria which they viewed as being an unconquerable foe that was sure to annihilate them and from whom there was no deliverance (verse 12). Furthermore, Isaiah is told to “sanctify the Lord”—that is to say, regard the Lord as being high and exalted, and reverence Him with the godly fear due Him (verse 13). By doing so Isaiah will find the Lord to be his sure sanctuary (verse 14a)—the Lord shall be a Refuge, a sure and safe retreat.

5. What message does the Lord instruct Isaiah to give the people in this time of national crisis? See Isaiah 8:19-20 (printed below)

When men ask you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter; ask them, Should not a people consult their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (20) Instruct them to ask you to look to the Law and to the Testimony! If they do not make this request, there will be no light of dawn for them. (Isaiah 8:19-20)

Verse 19 tragically depicts the spiritual apostasy of the nation of Judah. The Lord informs Isaiah that the people will, indeed, approach him, but they will not come seeking the Lord their God. On the contrary, they will actually request the prophet of the Lord to contact mediums and spiritists on their behalf. In their hour of need they will abandon all faith and confidence in the Lord: either viewing Him as unable to help them, or spitefully rejecting Him because of what He has seen fit to bring into their lives to discipline them and chastise them (namely, first the combined forces of Syria and Israel and now the “flood waters of the Euphrates River” in the form of the invading Assyrian armies). In response to their request Isaiah is to urge the people to consult their God and receive instruction from His Word. Then follows the warning of the fate of those who refuse to heed the call to seek the Lord and trust in Him: “there will be no light of dawn for them … they will be driven into utter darkness—they shall have no hope and no deliverance (verses 20-22).