When I taught my two year long Bible study on Isaiah, I used The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell to give me a starting point and rough outline of the material covered in the chapters. In this article, when you read the phrase “my commentary”, I am referring to this volume.
This chapter is a mixture of history and prophecy. We get the prophet’s (and the Lord’s) viewpoint of a historic event, when Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Aram (Syria) join together in an attempt to invade and conquer Judah. This chapter is filled with proper names and places, many strange sounding. There are several prophecies given in this chapter, one contemporary (dealing with Isaiah’s time), the other Messianic (dealing with Jesus’ coming.)
Read Isaiah 7:1. This one verse summarizes the historic event – not only Israel’s and Aram’s intent, but that they ultimately fail. The rest of the chapter gives more specific details, from the prophet’s viewpoint.
Before we look at the specifics in Isaiah, let’s look at the historic record, as recorded in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.
Let’s review what kind of man King Ahaz was. Read 2 Kings 16:1-4, 2 Chronicles 28:1-4. Notice the phrase “ways of the kings of Israel.” The Northern Kingdom had fallen into the idol worship of the surrounding pagan peoples much earlier. Worse of all Ahaz’s sins was that he burned his own son in the fire, as a sacrifice to one of these idols.
In the passage in 2 Chronicles we notice that Ahaz worshiped the Baals.
Why is the fact that Ahaz worshipped Baal significant? Well, there were other variants of “Baal” that are also mentioned in scripture. Read 2 Kings 1:1-4. “Baal-Zebub” means “Lord of the Flies.”
We see this name again, in the New Testament, in the form “Beelzebub.”
Read Matthew 12:22-28. So all those worshipers of Baal, back in the Old Testament, were actually worshipping Satan! (That shouldn’t surprise anyone, since only Satan would be pleased by a child’s murder.)
Back to the time of Ahaz… we are going to read three different descriptions of the Syro-Israelitish war, each from slightly different perspectives. We are going to read the description up to when Ahaz makes his big mistake and calls in the Assyrians.
Let’s look at the 2 Chronicles version of the war first. Read 2 Chronicles 28:5-8
Here we see that it is God who sent the Syrians (Arameans) and later the Israelites against Judah because of King Ahaz’ wickedness.
Ahaz is defeated twice here, with great loss, through individual attacks. (These battles occur before the siege of Jerusalem, which is mentioned in Isaiah 7:1, where the two kingdoms unit under a common goal.)
The Israelites take a large number of Judeans captive, with plans to make them slaves. Let’s read on to see what happens next.
Read 2 Chronicles 28:9-15. This is one of the few passages that show the Northern Kingdom in a positive light. They repent and release the prisoners, treating the sick and returning them to Jericho (a city north of Jerusalem). This is the only time the prophet Oded is mentioned.
Read 2 Kings 16:5-6. Here we have a very short, brief description of events. The author focuses on the overall picture, the large events. This coincides with what is said in Isaiah 7:1 and occurs after the two battles described in 2 Chronicles. We have two new proper names to learn, Elath and the Edomites.
Elath is a town on the Gulf of Akabah, part of the Red Sea. In scripture it is often associated with the city Ezion Geber (which I can show on the map). Originally it belonged to the Edomites (more about them later).
Ezion Geber is mentioned as being part of the route for the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, back in Moses’ day. Read Numbers 33:35-36 (This chapter in Numbers, in fact, could be used as a map to trace the Israelites’ journey!)
Eventually this area of land came under King David’s rule.
Later, in Solomon’s day, the port of Ezion Geber was used to host Solomon’s navy and trade vessels. Read 1 Kings 9:26-28, 10:22.
(Where Ophir was — the land of gold – is unknown, though it has been suggested to be somewhere in India, Arabia, or further south in Africa.)
These ports, however, were at the extreme range of Israel’s influence and borders, so it will not surprise you to learn that as the kingdom weakened and split after Solomon, these border towns rebelled and Elath returned back to Edom.
We know that Azariah (Uzziah), King of Judah, did retake it back for Judah. Read 2 Kings 14:21-22. In Ahaz’ time, however, we see that Aram (the Syrians) move back in and take Elath back, returning it to the Edomites.
Now, who are the Edomites? These are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. We will study their history a little more closely when we study Isaiah 21 (which gives a short prophecy against Edom).
Remember how Esau gave up his birthright as elder son to Jacob for a bowl of stew? Let’s review Jacob’s and Esau’s blessings. Read Genesis 27:32-40.
Two things jump out here: Esau will serve Jacob for a time, but in the end, Esau will escape Jacob’s rule. Which is exactly what happened, as we saw as we traced the history of Elath and Ezion Geber, the two cities in Edom.
OK, let’s read the description of how Ahaz and the people of Judah respond when Aram and Israel march up to take Jerusalem, as described by Isaiah. Even though we know the siege will fail (for the first verse says so, as does the description in 2 Kings), those most intimately involved don’t.
To be continued…
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah