The Sign of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz

8: 1-4

    DIG: What do the names of Isaiah’s two sons symbolize in the context of Chapters 7 and 8? What did this second son’s name mean? Why was it significant? To whom was it directed? Why was Isaiah’s wife called a prophetess?

    REFLECT: How does the LORD communicate with you today? How can you be sure that what you are being told is reliable (Second Timothy 3:16)? In what ways do you simply walk in obedience to God without being sure of where you will end up? Who is watching you walk with the LORD? Your children? Your spouse? Your co-workers? In what ways are you a positive model for them? How do you react when you slip up?

    The Assyrian domination of the northern kingdom of Isra'el in Chapters 6 and 7 foreshadow its domination of the southern kingdom of Judah in Chapter 8. Isaiah had already prophesied about the fall of the Syrian-Isra'el alliance (7:4-17). Now he gives another prophecy about the same event. Like Chapter 7, the prophecy involves the birth of a baby, this time to Isaiah’s wife, a prophetess. God allowed this prophecy to be witnessed by several important people to prove to the northern kingdom of Israel once again that Isaiah was speaking for the LORD and His words were reliable.

    The LORD said to His prophet: Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shala-Hash-Baz (8:1). Isaiah used a large scroll as a visual aid to help the people understand his prophecy. He was to write the name of his soon-to-be-born son even before he was born. This would point to the certainty of the birth. The name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz is the longest personal name in the Bible. It means quick to plunder, swift to spoil. Soldiers would shout these words to one another as they defeated their enemy. Isaiah’s listeners would remember his prophecy of the fall of the Syrian-Israel alliance and would understand the significance of his son’s name. Those two nations would be plundered and the Assyrian army would take their spoil.

    Isaiah wrote the words he was told on the scroll. Not until the boy was born did he himself fully understand the significance of what he had done. Isaiah simply walked in obedience, a model for the people of God.

    ADONAI said He would call in two witnesses (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:5) who could confirm that His words were true. He then called Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah because they were faithful or reliable witnesses (8:2). In what sense were Uriah and Zechariah reliable or faithful? They were not faithful in the sense of being faithful to the covenant of God. But they were faithful witnesses for God in the sense that these were not men who would side with Isaiah against Ahaz; they would side with Ahaz against Isaiah. In other words, because they would tend to be anti-Isaiah rather than pro-Isaiah, they were reliable witnesses. When Isaiah’s prophecy did come true, they could testify that Isaiah prophesied truthfully about it beforehand. The first sign, then, was this impressive large scroll.

    Then I went to the prophetess and she conceived and gave birth to a son (8:3a). Nine months later we see the second sign, and it is a living one. The living witness, Isaiah’s second son, would then replace the lifeless, large scroll. And the LORD said to me: Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3b). Like Immanuel, the boy possessed four names. But he foreshadowed doom, whereas the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (9:6b), focuses on hope. The naming of the son communicated the message that God’s word is sure and can be trusted. After the birth of his son, Isaiah probably knew that he must call his wife a prophetess, because she had literally been the bearer of the Word of the LORD. If she was a prophetess in her own right; however, we have no biblical record of it.

    For before the boy knows how to say “My father,” or “My mother,” the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria (8:4). Before the child could say two syllable words, my father or my mother, Assyria would plunder both Damascus (Syria’s capital city) and Samaria (Israel’s capital city). Most children can say those words before, or soon after, they are one year old. As a result, the boy would serve as a time-indicator of what his name foreshadowed.

    The king of Assyria mentioned here is Tiglath-Pileser III. In 734 BC he marched down the Israeli seacoast as far as the Egyptian border. Egyptian aid was then cut off. In 733 BC Israel lost Galilee, the Transjordan (Second Kings 15:29), Megiddo and other cities. Only the swift submission of Hoshea gave the northern kingdom of Israel a few more years. When Damascus and Samaria fell in 742 BC, Judah should have turned to God as Isaiah had told her to do. But Uriah the priest, one of the two witnesses, followed Ahaz’s orders and changed the Temple worship to mirror the pagan worship that had been practiced in Damascus (Second Kings 16:10-16). Apparently he was an influential priest and the nation followed him into spiritual adultery with tragic results.

    Failure to listen to the LORD has dire consequences. Those consequences may come quickly or they may be delayed, but they will come. God, however, is merciful and gives us warning in advance. His warnings may come in different ways to different people. There is no formula. But we do need to be attentive. Make Him your best Friend, communicate with Him daily, and be in the Word. He may speak loudly or He might possibly come with a gentle whisper (First Kings 19:12), but He promises that you will find Him. He tells us: I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me find Me (Proverbs 8:17).


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