7:1 During 1 the reign of Ahaz son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel marched up to Jerusalem 2 to do battle, but they were unable to prevail against it. 3
7:2 It was reported to the family 4 of David, “Syria has allied with 5 Ephraim.” They and their people were emotionally shaken, just as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. 6 7:3 So the Lord told Isaiah, “Go out with your son Shear-jashub 7 and meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool which is located on the road to the field where they wash and dry cloth. 8 7:4 Tell him, ‘Make sure you stay calm! 9 Don’t be afraid! Don’t be intimidated 10 by these two stubs of smoking logs, 11 or by the raging anger of Rezin, Syria, and the son of Remaliah. 7:5 Syria has plotted with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah to bring about your demise. 12 7:6 They say, “Let’s attack Judah, terrorize it, and conquer it. 13 Then we’ll set up the son of Tabeel as its king.” 14 7:7 For this reason the sovereign master, 15 the Lord, says:
“It will not take place;
it will not happen.
7:8 For Syria’s leader is Damascus,
and the leader of Damascus is Rezin.
Within sixty-five years Ephraim will no longer exist as a nation. 16
7:9 Ephraim’s leader is Samaria,
and Samaria’s leader is the son of Remaliah.
If your faith does not remain firm,
then you will not remain secure.” 17
7:10 The Lord again spoke to Ahaz: 7:11 “Ask for a confirming sign from the Lord your God. You can even ask for something miraculous.” 18 7:12 But Ahaz responded, “I don’t want to ask; I don’t want to put the Lord to a test.” 19 7:13 So Isaiah replied, 20 “Pay attention, 21 family 22 of David. 23 Do you consider it too insignificant to try the patience of men? Is that why you are also trying the patience of my God? 7:14 For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. 24 Look, this 25 young woman 26 is about to conceive 27 and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him 28 Immanuel. 29 7:15 He will eat sour milk 30 and honey, which will help him know how 31 to reject evil and choose what is right. 7:16 Here is why this will be so: 32 Before the child knows how to reject evil and choose what is right, the land 33 whose two kings you fear will be desolate. 34 7:17 The Lord will bring on you, your people, and your father’s family a time 35 unlike any since Ephraim departed from Judah – the king of Assyria!” 36
7:18 At that time 37 the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 38 7:19 All of them will come and make their home 39 in the ravines between the cliffs, and in the crevices of the cliffs, in all the thorn bushes, and in all the watering holes. 40 7:20 At that time 41 the sovereign master will use a razor hired from the banks of the Euphrates River, 42 the king of Assyria, to shave the head and the pubic hair; 43 it will also shave off the beard. 7:21 At that time 44 a man will keep alive a young cow from the herd and a couple of goats. 7:22 From the abundance of milk they produce, 45 he will have sour milk for his meals. Indeed, everyone left in the heart of the land will eat sour milk and honey. 7:23 At that time 46 every place where there had been a thousand vines worth a thousand shekels will be overrun 47 with thorns and briers. 7:24 With bow and arrow 48 men will hunt 49 there, for the whole land will be covered 50 with thorns and briers. 7:25 They will stay away from all the hills that were cultivated, for fear of the thorns and briers. 51 Cattle will graze there and sheep will trample on them. 52
[7:1] 3 tn Or perhaps, “but they were unable to attack it.” This statement sounds like a summary of the whole campaign. The following context explains why they were unable to defeat the southern kingdom. The parallel passage (2 Kgs 16:5; cf. Num 22:11; 1 Sam 17:9 for a similar construction) affirms that Syria and Israel besieged Ahaz. Consequently, the statement that “they were not able to battle against them” must refer to the inability to conquer Ahaz.
[7:2] 6 tn Heb “and his heart shook and the heart of his people shook, like the shaking of the trees of the forest before the wind.” The singular pronoun “his” is collective, referring to the Davidic house/family. לֵבָב (levav, “heart”) here refers to the seat of the emotions.
[7:3] 7 tn The name means “a remnant will return.” Perhaps in this context, where the Lord is trying to encourage Ahaz, the name suggests that only a few of the enemy invaders will return home; the rest will be defeated.
[7:5] 12 tn This sentence opens with the conjunction יַעַן כִּי (ya’an ki, “because”). Consequently some take vv. 5-6 with what precedes, as another reason why Ahaz might be tempted to fear (see v. 4). However, it is more likely that vv. 5-6 give the basis for the Lord’s announcement in vv. 7-9. The conjunction יַעַן כִּי here introduces the basis for judgment (as in 3:16; 8:6; 29:13), which is then followed by the formal announcement of judgment.
[7:6] sn The precise identity of this would-be puppet king is unknown. He may have been a Syrian official or the ruler of one of the small neighboring states. See Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 370.
[7:8] sn This statement is problematic for several reasons. It seems to intrude stylistically, interrupting the symmetry of the immediately preceding and following lines. Furthermore, such a long range prophecy lacks punch in the midst of the immediate crisis. After all, even if Israel were destroyed sometime within the next 65 years, a lot could still happen during that time, including the conquest of Judah and the demise of the Davidic family. Finally the significance of the time frame is uncertain. Israel became an Assyrian province within the next 15 years and ceased to exist as a nation. For these reasons many regard the statement as a later insertion, but why a later editor would include the reference to “65 years” remains a mystery. Some try to relate the prophecy to the events alluded to in Ezra 4:2, 10, which refers to how the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal settled foreigners in former Israelite territory, perhaps around 670
[7:9] 17 tn Heb “if you do not believe, you will not endure.” The verb forms are second plural; the Lord here addresses the entire Davidic family and court. (Verse 4 was addressed to the king.) There is a wordplay in the Hebrew text, designed to draw attention to the alternatives set before the king (cf. 1:20). “Believe” (תַאֳמִינוּ, ta’aminu) is a Hiphil form of the verb אָמָן (’aman); “endure” (תֵאָמֵנוּ, te’amenu) is a Niphal form of this same verb.
[7:13] 21 tn The verb is second plural in form, because the prophet addresses the whole family of David. He continues to use the plural in v. 14 (with one exception, see the notes on that verse), but then switches back to the second singular (addressing Ahaz specifically) in vv. 16-17.
[7:13] 23 sn The address to the “house of David” is designed to remind Ahaz and his royal court of the protection promised to them through the Davidic covenant. The king’s refusal to claim God’s promise magnifies his lack of faith.
[7:14] 24 tn The Hebrew term אוֹת (’ot, “sign”) can refer to a miraculous event (see v. 11), but it does not carry this sense inherently. Elsewhere in Isaiah the word usually refers to a natural occurrence or an object/person vested with special significance (see 8:18; 19:20; 20:3; 37:30; 55:13; 66:19). Only in 38:7-8, 22 does it refer to a miraculous deed that involves suspending or overriding natural laws. The sign outlined in vv. 14-17 involves God’s providential control over events and their timing, but not necessarily miraculous intervention.
[7:14] 25 tn Heb “the young woman.” The Hebrew article has been rendered as a demonstrative pronoun (“this”) in the translation to bring out its force. It is very likely that Isaiah pointed to a woman who was present at the scene of the prophet’s interview with Ahaz. Isaiah’s address to the “house of David” and his use of second plural forms suggests other people were present, and his use of the second feminine singular verb form (“you will name”) later in the verse is best explained if addressed to a woman who is present.
[7:14] 26 tn Traditionally, “virgin.” Because this verse from Isaiah is quoted in Matt 1:23 in connection with Jesus’ birth, the Isaiah passage has been regarded since the earliest Christian times as a prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. Much debate has taken place over the best way to translate this Hebrew term, although ultimately one’s view of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unaffected. Though the Hebrew word used here (עַלְמָה, ’almah) can sometimes refer to a woman who is a virgin (Gen 24:43), it does not carry this meaning inherently. The word is simply the feminine form of the corresponding masculine noun עֶלֶם (’elem, “young man”; cf. 1 Sam 17:56; 20:22). The Aramaic and Ugaritic cognate terms are both used of women who are not virgins. The word seems to pertain to age, not sexual experience, and would normally be translated “young woman.” The LXX translator(s) who later translated the Book of Isaiah into Greek sometime between the second and first century
[7:14] 27 tn Elsewhere the adjective הָרָה (harah), when used predicatively, refers to a past pregnancy (from the narrator’s perspective, 1 Sam 4:19), to a present condition (Gen 16:11; 38:24; 2 Sam 11:5), and to a conception that is about to occur in the near future (Judg 13:5, 7). (There is some uncertainty about the interpretation of Judg 13:5, 7, however. See the notes to those verses.) In Isa 7:14 one could translate, “the young woman is pregnant.” In this case the woman is probably a member of the royal family. Another option, the one followed in the present translation, takes the adjective in an imminent future sense, “the young woman is about to conceive.” In this case the woman could be a member of the royal family, or, more likely, the prophetess with whom Isaiah has sexual relations shortly after this (see 8:3).
[7:14] 28 tn Heb “and you will call his name.” The words “young lady” are supplied in the translation to clarify the identity of the addressee. The verb is normally taken as an archaic third feminine singular form here, and translated, “she will call.” However the form (קָרָאת, qara’t) is more naturally understood as second feminine singular, in which case the words would be addressed to the young woman mentioned just before this. In the three other occurrences of the third feminine singular perfect of I קָרָא (qara’, “to call”), the form used is קָרְאָה (qar’ah; see Gen 29:35; 30:6; 1 Chr 4:9). A third feminine singular perfect קָרָאת does appear in Deut 31:29 and Jer 44:23, but the verb here is the homonym II קָרָא (“to meet, encounter”). The form קָרָאת (from I קָרָא, “to call”) appears in three other passages (Gen 16:11; Isa 60:18; Jer 3:4 [Qere]) and in each case is second feminine singular.
[7:15] 31 tn Heb “for his knowing.” Traditionally the preposition has been translated in a temporal sense, “when he knows.” However, though the preposition לְ (lamed) can sometimes have a temporal force, it never carries such a nuance in any of the 40 other passages where it is used with the infinitive construct of יָדַע (yada’, “to know”). Most often the construction indicates purpose/result. This sense is preferable here. The following context indicates that sour milk and honey will epitomize the devastation that God’s judgment will bring upon the land. Cultivated crops will be gone and the people will be forced to live off the milk produced by their goats and the honey they find in the thickets. As the child is forced to eat a steady diet of this sour milk and honey, he will be reminded of the consequences of sin and motivated to make correct moral decisions in order to avoid further outbreaks of divine discipline.
[7:16] 32 tn Heb “for, because.” The particle introduces the entire following context (vv. 16-25), which explains why Immanuel will be an appropriate name for the child, why he will eat sour milk and honey, and why experiencing such a diet will contribute to his moral development.
[7:16] 34 tn Heb “the land will be abandoned, which you fear because of its two kings.” After the verb קוּץ (quts, “loathe, dread”) the phrase מִפְּנֵי (mipney, “from before”) introduces the cause of loathing/dread (see Gen 27:46; Exod 1:12; Num 22:3).
[7:17] 36 sn Initially the prophecy appears to be a message of salvation. Immanuel seems to have a positive ring to it, sour milk and honey elsewhere symbolize prosperity and blessing (see Deut 32:13-14; Job 20:17), verse 16 announces the defeat of Judah’s enemies, and verse 17a could be taken as predicting a return to the glorious days of David and Solomon. However, the message turns sour in verses 17b-25. God will be with his people in judgment, as well as salvation. The curds and honey will be signs of deprivation, not prosperity, the relief announced in verse 16 will be short-lived, and the new era will be characterized by unprecedented humiliation, not a return to glory. Because of Ahaz’s refusal to trust the Lord, potential blessing would be transformed into a curse, just as Isaiah turns an apparent prophecy of salvation into a message of judgment. Because the words “the king of Assyria” are rather awkwardly tacked on to the end of the sentence, some regard them as a later addition. However, the very awkwardness facilitates the prophet’s rhetorical strategy here, as he suddenly turns what sounds like a positive message into a judgment speech. Actually, “the king of Assyria,” stands in apposition to the earlier object “days,” and specifies who the main character of these coming “days” will be.
[7:18] 38 sn Swarming flies are irritating; bees are irritating and especially dangerous because of the pain they inflict with their sting (see Deut 1:44; Ps 118:12). The metaphors are well chosen, for the Assyrians (symbolized by the bees) were much more powerful and dangerous than the Egyptians (symbolized by the flies). Nevertheless both would put pressure on Judah, for Egypt wanted Judah as a buffer state against Assyrian aggression, while Assyrian wanted it as a base for operations against Egypt. Following the reference to sour milk and honey, the metaphor is especially apt, for flies are attracted to dairy products and bees can be found in the vicinity of honey.
[7:25] sn At this point one is able to summarize the content of the “sign” (vv. 14-15) as follows: A young woman known to be present when Isaiah delivered this message to Ahaz (perhaps a member of the royal family or the prophetess mentioned in 8:3) would soon give birth to a boy whom the mother would name Immanuel, “God is with us.” Eventually Immanuel would be forced to eat sour milk and honey, which would enable him to make correct moral decisions. How would this situation come about and how would it constitute a sign? Before this situation developed, the Israelites and Syrians would be defeated. But then the Lord would usher in a period of time unlike any since the division of the kingdom almost 200 years before. The Assyrians would overrun the land, destroy the crops, and force the people to subsist on goats’ milk and honey. At that time, as the people saw Immanuel eating his sour milk and honey, the Davidic family would be forced to acknowledge that God was indeed with them. He was present with them in the Syrian-Israelite crisis, fully capable of rescuing them; but he was also present with them in judgment, disciplining them for their lack of trust. The moral of the story is quite clear: Failure to appropriate God’s promises by faith can turn potential blessing into disciplinary judgment.