(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.)
In this chapter we have two speakers, the Lord and Isaiah and two audiences, Isaiah and Judah. The Lord tells Isaiah what to name his son, as well as gives him prophecies about what is going to happen to Israel, Aram, and Judah at the hands of the Assyrians. There are also sections about fearing God and not man, and warnings about consulting mediums.
Read Isaiah 8:1-4. Here the Lord is speaking to Isaiah, then later Isaiah speaks in the first person.
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Bay means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”
When I started to study these verses I discovered a discrepancy between the NIV (which is what I’m using) and the other translations. The problem is with the placing of the closing quote in verses 1 and 2 — In the NIV the closing quote is placed at the end of verse 2, in the other translations the closing quote is placed at the end of verse 1. I must assume then, that is is Isaiah, not the Lord, who calls Uriah and Zechariah “reliable witnesses.” (I used the point that God calls Uriah a reliable witness to support my thesis that Uriah was a good man, but weak, in my discussion on the last chapter. Having Isaiah be the speaker weakens my case somewhat, though not completely. It could be that Isaiah chose Uriah as a witness because of his position as high priest and not because of his character.)
There is a lot going on in these few verses ‘” a sort of scriptural short hand! I had some obvious questions while I was looking at these verses:
Why did God want Isaiah to write this name down?
Why was the scroll large?
Is there a significance to using an “ordinary pen”?
We know that Uriah was probably the high priest and that in the future he will cooperate with King Ahaz in the making of a page altar — but who was Zechariah son of Jeberekiah?
By reading these four verse together we can kind of “fill in the gaps” in regards to the Lord’s actions. Firstly we know that the Lord gives Isaiah this name, even before his son is conceived. In the previous chapter we know that a son was going to be born, and since the prophecy was given through Isaiah, the logical family for the son to be born into would be Isaiah’s. When the child is born, the Lord reminds Isaiah to give him this name, because of its prophetic meaning.
Some translations substitute “large scroll” with “tablet” ‘” the picture we have, therefore, is of something that could be used as a placard or poster. “ordinary pen” has been translated into “common script”, “capital letters” and “common characters”. Whatever this exactly means, we get the general idea that Isaiah was supposed to write on the scroll in such a way that the majority of people seeing the scroll would be able to read what it says. (Well, at least the men, since few women would have been able to read.) And since the scroll is large, it is implied that Isaiah is supposed to write in large letters. The scroll, therefore, would have been placed outside his house for passerbys to read, and hopefully wonder and ask what it means. Isaiah called in Uriah and Zechariah as witnesses to the fact that the sign was written before his son was born and before the Assyrians arrive to plunder Samaria and Damascus (the capital cities of Israel and Aram/Syria).
There are about 27 different men in the Bible named “Zechariah”, which means “whom Jah remembers.” (The most famous Zechariah, of course, is the prophet with his own book of the Bible, but he isn’t born for about another 200 years.) It is possible that this particular Zechariah is the father of Ahaz’s queen. Read 2 Kings 18:1-2. If this is true, then he would have been a person of rank and importance, and politically useful as a witness to Isaiah’s prophecy.
Many years later the Lord has Isaiah use this same device of writing on a large scroll or tablet (and displaying it, implied), as a warning against Judah’s making an alliance with Egypt. Read Isaiah 30:6-8
This image reminds me of those people who walk around with the sandwich board signs proclaiming “The World is Coming to an End!” It gets our attention, but how quickly we become jaded and ignore the message!
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah