Isaiah 8 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 8)

Verse 1

[1] Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.

A roll — Or, a great volume, because the prophecy to be written in it was large, and God would have it written in large and legible characters.

Pen — With such a pen as writers use.

Concerning — Concerning that thing which is signified by the name of the child, which is here mentioned by way of anticipation.

Verse 3

[3] And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.

Prophetess — To his own wife, so called, because the wife of a prophet.

Verse 4

[4] For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

To cry — To speak and to know his parents; which is within the space of two years. And his agrees with the other prophecy, chap. 7:16. Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and chuse the good, which requires a longer time than to distinguish his parents, and suits well to Shear-Jashub, who, being born some years before, was capable of that farther degree of knowledge, as soon as this was capable of the lower degree.

Before — In his presence, and by himself and his forces.

Verse 6

[6] Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son;

This people — The people of Israel, of whom he last spake, who rejoiced not only in their own king, but also in the assistance of so powerful an ally as Rezin.

Shiloah — That small brook which ran by Jerusalem. Hereby he understands the munitions and strength of the Jews, which their enemies derided.

Verse 7

[7] Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:

The river — Of Euphrates, called the river, for its eminent greatness; whereby he understands the Assyrian forces.

Glory — His numerous and puissant army.

He — This great river shall overflow its own proper channels. That is, this great monarch shall enlarge his dominions, and add the lands of Syria and Israel to them.

Verse 8

[8] And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

Reach — So that they shall be in great danger of being desired. He persists in the metaphor of a river swelling so high as to reach to a man's neck, and be ready to overwhelm him. Such was the danger of Judah's land, when Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah, 2 Kings 18:13, and sent his army against Jerusalem.

Wings — Of his forces, or of the wings of his army, as they still are called.

My land — Of the land of Judah, so called because the Messiah, who is called Immanuel, should be born there. And this is added emphatically for the consolation of God's people, to assure them, that notwithstanding this dreadful scourge, yet God would make a difference between Israel and Judah, and whereas Israel should not be a people, Judah should be restored, for the sake of the Messiah, to be the place of his birth and ministry.

Verse 9

[9] Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.

Ye people — Syrians and Israelites.

All ye — Whosoever you be, who conspire against Immanuel's land.

Gird — Prepare yourselves for war.

Broken — This is repeated for the greater assurance of the thing, and the comfort of God's people.

Verse 11

[11] For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,

Spake — With a vehement and more than ordinary inspiration.

In the way — Of the generality of the people of Judah; whose eminent danger and calamity he foretells.

Verse 12

[12] Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

Say not — Thou Isaiah, and my children, do not consent to this confederacy with the king of Assyria.

Their fear — That thing which they fear, that, if they do not call in the Assyrian succours, they shall be destroyed by those two potent kings.

Verse 13

[13] Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

Sanctify — Give him the glory of his power, and goodness, and faithfulness, by trusting to his promises.

Let him — Let God, and not the kings of Syria and Israel be the object of your fear.

Verse 14

[14] And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Sanctuary — A sure refuge to all that truly fear him, and rely upon him.

A stone — An occasion of sin and ruin, at whom they will take offence and stumble, so as to fall and be broken.

To both — To the two kingdoms, that of the ten tribes, and that of the two tribes.

Jerusalem — Which are distinctly mentioned, as a wonderful thing, because Jerusalem was the seat of the temple, and of God's solemn worship, where all the means of knowledge and grace were in greatest plenty, where the thrones of civil and ecclesiastical judicature were established, where the most wise and learned doctors had their constant abode. And that such a place and people should reject Immanuel when he should appear, was so strange an occurrence, that the prediction of it was highly necessary, lest otherwise, when it came to pass, it should shake the faith of all who did believe on him; whereas now the accomplishment hereof was a notable confirmation of their faith.

Verse 15

[15] And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

Many — Not all; for there shall be a remnant, as was foretold, chap. 6:13.

Stumble — At that stone or rock, mentioned, verse 8:14. This was accomplished at the coming of the Messiah, whom the Jews rejected to their own destruction.

Verse 16

[16] Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

The testimony — By the testimony and the law or doctrine, he understands one and the same thing, as he doth also, verse 20, the word of God, and especially that which is the main scope thereof, the doctrine of the Messiah, which, though now professed by all the Israelites, shall be disowned by the generality of them, when the Messiah shall come. Bind up and seal are to be understood prophetically, declare and prophesy, that it shall be bound up and sealed. Moreover, bind up and seal, design the same thing. Security and secrecy, signifying, that it should certainly be fulfilled, yet withal kept secret from the unbelieving Jews. By the disciples he means those who were taught of God.

Verse 17

[17] And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.

Yet — Yet, notwithstanding this dreadful prophecy concerning the rejection of Israel.

Wait — I will cast my care upon him, and expect the accomplishment of his promise, in sending the Messiah, and in conferring upon me and all believing Israelites all his mercies and blessings.

Hideth — That now withdraws his favour and blessings, from the people of Israel.

Verse 18

[18] Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.

Behold — These words are literally spoken by Isaiah concerning himself, but mystically concerning Christ; and therefore they are fitly ascribed to Christ, Hebrews 2:13.

The children — His spiritual children, whom he had either begotten or brought up by his ministry.

Wonders — Are a gazing flock, for our folly in believing God's promises.

From the Lord — Which comes to pass by the wise providence of God.

Zion — Where the temple now was, and where the Messiah was to set up his kingdom.

Verse 19

[19] And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?

And when they — The Israelites, who are fallen from God, into superstition and idolatry.

You — My children, whom the prophet arms against the common temptation.

Mutter — That speak with a low voice, as these two words signify, which they affected to do, speaking rather inwardly in their bellies, than audibly with their mouths.

Should not — This answer the prophet puts into their mouths, doth not every nation, in cases of difficulty, seek to their gods? Much more should we do so, that have the only true God for our God.

For the living — That is, for living men to enquire of the living God, is proper and reasonable; but it is highly absurd for them to forsake him, and to seek dead idols, either to the images, or to the spirits of dead men, which are supposed to speak in them.

Verse 20

[20] To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

To the law — Let this dispute between you and them be determined by God's word, which is here and in many other places called the law, to signify their obligation to believe and obey it; and the testimony, because it is a witness between God and man, of God's will, and of man's duty.

They — Your antagonists.

No light — This proceeds from the darkness of their minds, they are blind, and cannot see.

Verse 21

[21] And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.

It — Their own land.

Hungry — Sorely distressed, and destitute of food, and all necessaries.

Their king — Either because he doth not relieve them; or because by his foolish counsels, he brought them into these miseries.

God — Their idol, to whom they trusted, and whom they now find unable to help them.

Look — To heaven for help.

Verse 22

[22] And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

Earth — Finding no help from heaven, they turn their eyes downward, looking hither and thither for comfort.