Take Your Son Shear-Jashub to Meet Ahaz

7: 3-9

    DIG: Why did the LORD command this seemingly unimportant boy to accompany his father on this critical confrontation? Is this the place for a boy to be? How did Sher-Jashub become an object lesson for King Ahaz? What was Isaiah’s purpose here in going to see King Ahaz? What was ADONAI trying to accomplish? What did two smoldering stubs of firewood represent? But in what way had Ahaz already taken a step that would prove his undoing? What was God trying to accomplish in His words through Isaiah? Who was He responding to? Did YHVH get through to King Ahaz? What happened as a result?

    REFLECT: Is there anything that God wants you to change so that you will be able to see what He is trying to teach you? How open are you to change? Have you been willing to change things in the past? Do you resist it, or embrace it? If you really thought the LORD wanted you to change something big in your life could you do it? What situation are you facing that frightens you now? What forces are involved? On a scale of 1 to 10, how trusting of God are you in that situation? What makes it difficult for you to trust YHVH in such fearful times? When have you found that following your solution to a problem, rather than His only made the problem worse? If Ahaz did not trust ADONAI, he had no future. Have you ever made any decisions in your life on your own strength that affected your future negatively? How did you turn it around? How can you use your experience to help others? Where does your security lay?

    At this point a message is given to Ahaz. He was evidently investigating Jerusalem's water supply in preparation for the coming siege when Isaiah met him. This is a turning point for both Ahaz personally and Judah nationally.

    Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field" (7:3). Isaiah, accompanied by his son, is directed by God to meet Ahaz outside Tziyon. The Washerman’s Field, or Fuller’s Field, was on the western side of Yerushalayim, where there is still an Upper Pool (Second Chronicles 32:30). The Upper Pool was a reservoir that held water from the Gihon Spring close to Jerusalem. The fullers, or the cleaners and thickeners of woolen fabrics, carried on their occupation near this pool. The road, which ran past this Washerman’s Field, was the one that leads from the western gate to Joppa. This was the same exact location where, thirty-three years later, Sennacherib’s field commander would hurl insults at King Hezekiah’s Jewish delegation (36:2).

    King Ahaz was there, on the west side of Jerusalem, outside of the gates preparing for the coming of a second siege by checking the water sources and supplies. For until the time of Hezekiah (22:1-4), Tziyon received its water supply over ground from the upper Gihon pool and was therefore more vulnerable. Without water, the Holy City could not hope to endure a siege for more than a few days. It was there that the LORD instructed Isaiah to go and meet Ahaz.

    And in addition, Isaiah is told to bring his son Shear-Jashub, whose name means a remnant will return. It is a name with two possible meanings: the noun comes first for emphasis, but does it mean only a remnant . . . or a guaranteed remnant . . . ? Was the name of the boy a threat doom or a promise of survival? Isaiah was so sure it was both, unbelief that would destroy his people and trust that would save them, that he made both names a reality by bringing his son as an object lesson for the mighty king. If Ahaz got the significance of the message, he surely paid no attention to it.

    One of the emphases which ties the Book of Immanuel together is the use of children, with Shear-Jashub in 7:3; Immanuel in 7:14 and 8:9; Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in 8:3; Isaiah’s children in 8:18; and the royal child in 9:5. The point is that if God’s people would change and see His light, then the child Immanuel could deliver them from their enemies.

    Isaiah and his son Shear-Jashub met King Ahaz on the west side of Jerusalem, outside of the gates preparing for the coming of a second siege by checking the water sources and supplies. The prophet was trying to comfort the king by telling him, "Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid or loose heart" (7:4a). This was a warning to the king not to take any action that would separate himself from the LORD. He needed to be calm, and in reality, Isaiah was telling him to do nothing.

    King Ahaz, however, had in mind to do plenty. He was going to play the clever politician by entering into a covenant with Assyria as his security against his two previous allies (Second Kings 16:7-9). This is exactly what Isaiah was warning Ahaz not to do! It was as if Ha'Shem was saying to the king of Judah, “Do not trust the noisy Assyrians, but trust in the quiet confidence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” There was going to be a contrast between the quiet and the noise. This contrast is consistent throughout the book as a motif in reference to the remnant of Y'hudah.

    Isaiah saw the situation differently than Ahaz. With a stinging metaphor, Isaiah showed Ahaz he had nothing to fear. King Rezin of Syria and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, king of Isra'el, might display flaming anger, but they were merely two smoldering stubs of firewood (7:4b). Their lives would soon end. Like firewood, they would be burned up and gone in no time. Both men died two years later in 732 B.C. They had done all the damage to Judah that they were going to do. They would not be allowed to do any more. They had ravaged Judah, but they would not be allowed to take Tziyon.

    If only Ahaz could be persuaded to stop playing politics. Assyria would crush the northern kingdoms and ADONAI would preserve Judah – as He ultimately did (37:36-37). But if Ahaz continued to rely on what he thought was his own political insight and yoke himself to Assyria, he will have bitten off way more than he could chew!

    The conspiracy itself is found in the next two verses. From a strictly human point of view Ahaz had a right to be terrified. Syria and Pekah, son of the king of Isra'el, have plotted your ruin, saying: Let us invade Judah. Let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it (7:5-6). Syria and Isra'el, whose capital was in Ephraim, threatened to invade Y'hudah, split it between the two conquering nations, and set up a puppet king. In fact, Tabeel did set up a dynasty of sorts later. We read in Ezra 4:7 that a couple of centuries later the descendants of Tabeel were enemies of Judah and Jerusalem.

    As I have said previously, Isaiah likes to use word-plays. Here, he takes the name Tabeel and rewords one vowel pattern and changes the meaning of his name. In Hebrew, ta-va-ale means God is good. So by changing one basic vowel, ta-va-ul, his name changes to good for nothing. So this house of Tabeel was good for nothing.

    Nevertheless, God’s message through His prophet was very clear. In effect He was saying, “Do not panic. Trust in Me.” Similar words were spoken to Joshua when he faced the impossible task of succeeding Moshe and conquering the land of Canaan: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut 31:6). In all of this the question is clear. Is salvation by faith or works? Will Ahaz be saved politically by trust in God or by his supposedly astute political insight? This is no less true for our political leaders today than it was then. But it is also just as true on a personal level. Salvation by works is just as doomed today as it was then. Only faith/trust/belief in Messiah saves.

    Previously, Pekah, the ruler of the northern kingdom of Isra'el (Ephraim) had threatened to invade Judah along with his ally Syria (Isaiah 7:6). Here, YHVH responds to that threat. The two northern kings had arrogantly announced their plan; now ADONAI Elohim would announce His plan.

    ADONAI was trying to change Ahaz’s perspective. If there was no one who sits enthroned about the circle of the earth (40:22a), then we at the mercy of evil men (40:27). But if there is such a Protector, then we need not fear what such men can do to us (40:28-31; Psalm 56:4). The northern invaders concerns were merely local, but God’s scope is the entire universe. If Ahaz could believe that, his perspective would change radically and the house of David would truly be established.

    Ha'Shem announced through His prophet that the conspiracy of Syria and Isra'el against Judah was doomed to fail. ADONAI Elohim said that the attack would not take place, it would not happen (7:7). The emphasis here is that all Remaliah’s son (God despised him so much that He will not even call him by his name Pekah as in 7:1) will ever be is king over the northern kingdom of Isra'el; he would be no more than that. In other words, he would never become king over Zion.

    The next two verses form a six-line poem. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (7:8-9). In lines 8ab and 9ab the country, Syria and Ephraim (or the northern kingdom of Isra'el) is traced to its capital, Damascus and Samaria, and its king, Rezin and Remaliah’s son.

    If Ahaz refused to believe in Elohim, he had no future. In lines 8cd and 9cd three conclusions are drawn. First, there was common sense. Why are you afraid of these two seemingly powerful nations? If you trace them back to their leadership, who are you really afraid of only Rezin and Remaliah’s son? Who were merely big fish in a small pond? Secondly, there was implication. If Syria and Ephraim could be traced back to their capitols, what about Judah? Its capital is Jerusalem with its King David, the City ADONAI where he choose to dwell (First Kings 11:13); and after him, King Solomon sat on the LORD’s throne (Second Chronicles 29:23); all backed by God’s own words directly from the mouth of His prophet, "It will not take place, it will not happen" (7:7). Wasn’t that enough? Thirdly, there was warning. Ephraim choose the non-existent security of military alliance with Assyria, but time would expose the foolishness of her decision.

    Isaiah’s prophecy came true. The Assyrian army fell upon the coalition and destroyed both of them. In 732 BC Tiglath-pileser destroyed Syria and her capital Damascus. True to Isaiah’s prophecy, Judah escaped the fate of Isra'el. In 722 BC, because of renewed rebellion, Tiglath-pileser’s successor Shalmaneser V (726-722 BC) marched into the northern Kingdom, overran her lands in Galilee and the Transjordan, and turned them into three Assyrian provinces.

    Isaiah prophesied that the northern kingdom of Isra'el would not be a people within 65 years. This prophecy was given in 735 BC and the northern Kingdom fell in 722 BC. That was only 13 years later, not 65, so how could this prophecy be true? The answer lies somewhere else. Although Sargon II was the Assyrian king that defeated the northern kingdom of Isra'el militarily, it was actually Esarhaddon, a later Assyrian king, who took the Jews out of Isra'el (Ezra 4:2), and brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria in 670 BC (Second Kings 17:22-24; Second Chronicles 33:11). So 735 BC to 670 BC is exactly 65 years! This is the exactness of the Book of Immanuel.

    Elohim had purposed to accomplish what He had announced through the mouth of His prophet. The destruction of the two invaders from the north was going to happen regardless of what Ahaz believed or disbelieved. But as for Ahaz personally, Isaiah challenged him to believe what he was telling him, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (7:9b). Once again the prophet plays with one letter, ta-ahmenu to ta-ahmanu; with one little shift of the vowel pattern is the difference between having faith, and not standing at all. An English equivalent would be something like: If in God you do not confide, then in power you will not abide. If in God you do not believe, then a blessing you will not receive. Only through trusting in the present and ultimate reality of ADONAI Elohim is any real security possible at all.

    Ahaz could have faith that the LORD would fulfill both predictions: that Isra'el would be shattered sixty-five years later and that in his day the northern confederacy (Syria and Isra'el) would not overpower Judah. If he did not believe both predictions, then he too would not stand at all. If Ahaz saw Elohim, he would not see Pekah and Rezin; but if he looked to Pekah and Rezin, all he could see was Assyria as his false deliverer. The choice was his, he stood at the point of no return.

 

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