(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.)
Read Isaiah 6:8. This chapter is often called “Isaiah’s Commission”, but actually Isaiah had been serving the Lord as a prophet for quite some time previous to this. (Remember, chapters 1-5 were written during the time of King Uzziah, the previous king of Judah.) This chapter seems to be more of a “re-dedication” and/or “reaffirmation” for Isaiah.
Notice the pronouns here “I send” and “go for us.” This alludes to the plurality of God. In the New Testament, we learn about the Trinity and understand how God is 3-in-1, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament God’s plurality is mentioned very rarely, the only other example I can think of at present is in Genesis 1:26.
Isaiah responds immediately in the affirmative to God’s question. No wishy-washyness here. Not all the prophets responded as positively when they were called.
Read Exodus 3:10-11. Moses response is to question how he can perform the tasks God asks of him.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-8. Jeremiah’s response is to say that he’s too young to be of any use to God.
Isaiah, however, is brief and to the point. “Here I am. Send me!” He lets God take care of the details. We should emulate Isaiah in his trusting, giving attitude.
Read Isaiah 6:9-10. These verses on first read seem very hard and even cruel, like God doesn’t want Judah to understand or perceive what is really going on around her in the spiritual realm — to really comprehend and fear the coming judgment, so God can have the pleasure of hurting them. Instead I believe that this is a warning for Judah (don’t be like this!) as well as words of preparation for Isaiah. Isaiah is going to talk and talk and warn, but though the people will hear the words they won’t apply them to their personal lives in any deep way. (It was considerate of God to let Isaiah know what was going to happen and help him not be discouraged when few take heed.)
The “seeing” and “perceiving” aspect of these verses relate, I believe, to later miracles that God is going to do in Judah’s sight, but once again, though they “see” the realities of God there won’t be a deep (nationwide) repentance. Their hearts will be calloused, not soft to God’s voice.
Jesus himself quotes these verses to describe the heart state of the majority of the Jews during His time on earth. Read Matthew 13:10-17. Here was the Messiah, God himself in the flesh, and they did not recognize him! I think that this heart state is more common than not, among the modern day, as well.
Read Isaiah 6:11-12. Isaiah asks how long Judah & Israel are going to be under judgment. God alludes back to the coming Assyiran invasion described in the previous chapter. Remember all of Israel (the 10 northern tribes) will eventually all be taken into captivity by Assyria.
Read Isaiah 6:13a. I think this is referring to the later invasion by Babylon in which Judah, the remaining 2 southern tribes, are taken into exile.
But there is hope —
Read Isaiah 6:13b. Terebinith is a small tree native to Palestine; it is mentioned only one other time, in Hosea. (provides context, doesn’t appear to have symbolic meaning)
I’m assuming that with both kinds of trees, if you leave the stump in the ground after cutting down the tree, new shoots will sprout and, in time, grow a new tree. I believe God is alluding to two future events with this symbolism.
A remnant of Jews will return to Judah from exile, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and serve God once more as a holy people. The book of Ezra gives the story of those who left Persia (what used to be Babylon) and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. This occurred 70 years after going into exile. Read Ezra 1:1-4
The second future event I believe God is alluding to in Isaiah with the term “holy seed” is the coming Messiah. Isaiah 11:1
As a side note, the book of Daniel also uses the symbol of a tree stump to represent a king and/or nation come under judgment, in this case King Nebuchadnezzar. Read Daniel 4:13-15, 26.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah