Guest Article: More On Isaiah 7-8 By Rod MacArthur- #3

Be sure to go back and begin with article #1 in this series.


Isaiah’s Second Son: Maher-shalal-hash-baz

The story continues into chapter 8. Here are verses 1–4:

Then Yahweh said to me, “Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.”…So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then Yahweh said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

The name Maher-shalal-hash-baz translates into: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. This son augmented the first. Isaiah might well have said, “I’ve got one boy, King Ahaz, you’ve seen him: only a remnant is going to return. If you trust Me now, you’ll be okay; but if you don’t, my second son describes your situation: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. Before he’s old enough to know right from wrong, Assyria will completely remove Israel and Syria, along with their booty.” But he didn’t tell “the rest of the story” until later.


Since Ahaz didn’t trust Yahweh, he hired Assyria, who did come and remove these two nations. But there were also those unwanted, unintended and unprepared for consequences.

Now, let’s read Isa. 85–8:

Again Yahweh spoke to me further, saying,
“Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
And rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah;
Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates,
Even the king of Assyria and all his glory;
And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks.
Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through,
It will reach even to the neck;
And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Frequently an invading army is pictured as a flood; the destruction and devastation of a river rising out of its banks. No river rises out of its banks gently, nicely, calmly, sweetly; it is always roiling muddy water with destruction at its cold heart. So would the king of Assyria be to Immanuel’s land.

Note the irony of verse 8: “Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck.” Ahaz hired it to remove Israel and Damascus; but it would keep on coming. It would sweep on into Judah. It would overflow and pass through (and continue on into Egypt). It would reach even to the neck. What is the neck of Judea? Isn’t it that which connects the body to the head? The head would be the capital city, Jerusalem. What did Sennacherib do to Jerusalem?

Go to Chicago to learn the answer! Visit the University of Chicago and browse the Oriental Institute Museum. In that museum you’ll find an Egyptian section. After you’ve passed through it you’ll come to the Assyrian display. In those show cases, there is—not a facsimile—but the very artifact itself: the prism of Sennacherib. Picture a clay prism, ten to twelve inches high with six sides, each of them four inches wide. Sennacherib wrote on it in cuneiform the exploits of his invasion into the coastal areas of Palestine. He said of Judah that he took forty-six walled cities, and had Hezekiah, king of Judah pinned up like a bird in a cage. Here is his exact quote, translated from the prism: “Him I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage.” So Assyria’s invading army had Jerusalem surrounded. Isaiah said, “It will overflow all of Judah, and will come up to the neck.” It would not cover the nose, in other words, would not drown the victim. It would just come up to the neck. Sennacherib’s own testimony, which is on display for public viewing today, confirms this. Of course, he didn’t relate what happened the next night. But the point here is, Isaiah said: “You don’t trust me; you hired the Assyrian; the Assyrian is going to do more than just take these two cities and their respective nations captive. He’s going to come down and just about swallow up your life.”

Had it not been for two men, righteous King Hezekiah and that righteous prophet, Isaiah, Judah would have succumbed as well, most likely. Or it easily could have been brought to a much lower state. God had a promise to keep through David, I acknowledge that. And to keep that promise, he had to keep David’s nation alive, no matter how wicked they were, until the fullness of time. This I also acknowledge. What I’m saying is the impact of two righteous men actually changed the course and welfare of a nation.

This calamity might all have been averted, had Ahaz simply trusted God’s promise, and quieted his fears. But he did not trust. Instead, he hired Assyria, and so brought darkness to all Israel. Remember, the “sign” was given to the whole house of David, not just to Ahaz. Ahaz’ faithless fear brought a scourge into “Immanuel’s land.” So, remembering the Jesus was named “Immanuel” (Matt. 123), it was His land that was overrun and His land that would be delivered from its darkness.

Next, let’s read Isa. 89–10:

“Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered;
And give ear, all remote places of the earth.
Gird yourselves, yet be shattered;
Gird yourselves, yet be shattered.
Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted;
State a proposal, but it will not stand,
For God is with us.”

In allowing Assyria to execute His wrath (per Isa. 10), God did not allow the Assyrians to “have their way” with Jerusalem. Though they would “gird” on the sword, “devise” their plans and “state” their intentions; never-the-less, such would not prevail. God was with His people, even in their shame, and would not allow the intentions of the enemies to succeed. Here Isaiah showed, not the immediate result of Assyria’s encroachment, but the long-term outcome of the nations’ domination of Israel. Assyria was merely the beginning of the long-running subjugation of Israel by the Gentiles. But, since God is with us (see Rom. 831–39), the raging of the Gentiles will not succeed. (See also Psalm 2 and Peter’s use of it in Acts 423–31).

Though the majority did not trust God, Isaiah still had disciples who did. This was an assurance to them. Assyria would run its course. They would not take Jerusalem; and the final disposition of the matter was that none of his plans would be established. The true disciples still needed to trust Yahweh.

So he said to Isaiah in strong, powerful words in 811–14a:

For thus Yahweh spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:
You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy.
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
It is Yahweh of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear.
And He shall be your dread.
Then He shall become a sanctuary;

All Jerusalem were full of fear and dread; but they feared the wrong king! They thought Assyria might be the answer; their salvation. So, what would happen if Isaiah and his disciples started to come into this same state of mind? They would be just as lost as the others. They would lose sight of their trust in God and have no more hope than the others.

It was rough in Isaiah’s day; it was rougher in Josiah’s day; it was rougher still in the days that followed Jesus’ death. But each time, the disciples—those who believed God’s words—were called to trust Him. Jesus promised to those who put their trust in Him, “The one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved” (Matt. 2413). The lesson for us would be: Don’t get caught up in any fear or panic permeating society. Learn to trust Him.

Instead of being moved by fear; we should regard Yahweh of hosts as holy. And, to be clear about fear and dread; be in fear and dread of Him! World forces have no power over Him; He has ultimate power over them. He should be your fear; He should be your dread. Give Yahweh your heart’s deepest respect; then He shall become your sanctuary. The solution was stated simply, though it was challenging to embrace: trust Him, and He will protect you.

Isaiah expanded his view in 814b–15:

But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,
A snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Many will stumble over them,
Then they will fall and be broken;
They will even be snared and caught.

He was dealing here with more than the collapse of Jerusalem, but also of Israel. But, of what collapse did he speak, and when? Isaiah saw beyond the Assyrian. Jesus applied this to Himself in Luke 21, and Peter applied it to Him as well in 1 Pet.28. Jesus was the rock that tripped them up. More than that, those who tripped over Jesus would themselves trip up many others. Perhaps this is the basis for Jesus’ scathing rebuke in Matt. 2313: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”