Summary: The problem is not that God will not give a sign, but that we are afraid of seeing one. The implications for how we have been living and how we must live are too unnerving.

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Isaiah 7:1-12 Doubting Ahaz

12/3/00e D. Marion Clark


We are in one of the rare sections of Isaiah that is an actual historical recount. Most of the book is made up of Isaiah’s actual prophecy. It takes a bit of study to figure out the context of much of the prophecy. It is clear that Isaiah does not write chronologically. But here we have an actual story that Isaiah is recounting.

It involves King Ahaz, the third king of Judah that Isaiah prophesied under. 6:1 refers to the death of Uzziah. Ahaz, his grandson, ascended to the throne sixteen years later. Let me retell what I said about him back in May when we began the series. Ahaz was the consummate opportunist. He was guided by one principle – to save his skin by whatever means. It was during his reign that Assyria conquered Israel; indeed, by his invitation Assyria took the opportunity to ravage Israel until eventually destroying the country. Israel formed a partnership with Damascus to stand against Assyria. They wanted Judah to join them and intended to dethrone Ahaz, placing their own puppet king on the throne. Ahaz’s reaction was to entreat the king of Assyria to come to his aid. The result was devastation for Israel and submission of Judah. Ahaz also used his throne to promote idolatry and even offered his own sons to the fires.

The Text

When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.

2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

We are in the time period of 733-32 B.C. Jotham is still alive. He dies in 732 B.C. 2 Kings 15:37 reports that the attacks of Pekah and Rezin began against him. Ahaz was co-regent. That is, he began to reign with his father, a practice that was common. Why are the kings of Israel and Aram, which is the territory of Syria, attacking Judah? They are trying to form an alliance to defend themselves against Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser III, is spreading the Assyrian Empire and has already inflicted heavy casualties on Israel. Ahaz will not join their alliance, so they scheme to dethrone him and replace him with the son of Tabeel, who will serve as a puppet king for them and keep Judah in line. The accounts of the attacks and Ahaz’ reign, by the way, are given in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. The chronology of events are difficult to sort out. Israel and Aram attack, and while inflicting a lot of damage, they do not capture Jerusalem in their first invasion.

3 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.

It would seem that it was soon before the second invasion that Isaiah visits Ahaz. All the more reason Ahaz and Judah are fearful. Judah’s army has been devastated. Ahaz has gone out to inspect his defenses, probably here checking on the security of his water supply.

It is interesting that the Lord has Isaiah take his son with him. It might seem like an inconsequential detail except for the son’s name. Shear-Jashub means “a remnant will return.” Commentators note that the stress in the Hebrew text falls on the word “remnant.” The boy, someone, served as a message to Ahaz. We will discuss that later.

Isaiah begins by stating the situation. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.”

The plot of invasion is told, but the message is for Ahaz not to fear. The rendering of the command should be, “Be careful to keep calm and not fear.” Ahaz is quite fearful. He knows the might of Israel and Aram, that they might very well carry out their aim to destroy him. Isaiah is not giving friendly admonition; he is giving the Lord’s command to arrest his fears and be calm under the protection of the Lord.

Ahaz is not to lose heart over the threats of Pekah and Rezin. They have turned from firebrands into smoldering stubs. God had used them to punish Ahaz. 2 Chronicles 28:5 states: Therefore the LORD his God handed him over to the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus.

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