(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 8:5-8. here we have a poetic picture of contrasts between
“the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” and “the mighty floodwaters of the River” (that is, the Euphrates)
Remember the book of Isaiah was written for the people of the day, so the imagery used would be of things and places the people of Judah would immediately relate to.
This is the only place in the Bible that the word “Shiloah” is mentioned. This is not another spelling for “Shiloh”, which has a very different meaning. Shiloah means “a sending of water; an aqueduct.” My Bible dictionary states that they believe this was another name for the pool of Siloam, in Jerusalem.
Read John 9:1-7. Here Jesus uses the pool of Siloam as part of his healing of a blind man. If we were to continue reading in this chapter we would see how Jesus also cures the man of a spiritual blindness.
As the Euphrates represents Assyria, so this small, gently flowing stream from the Pool of Shiloah or Siloam represented Judah and her God, Jehovah. God is saying I am gentle and humble, not a roaring, overwhelming torrent like Assyria. I woo, I don’t force.
The Lord uses similar imagery when the He deals with the prophet Elijah. Read 1 Kings 19:9-13. The Lord comes as a gentle whisper, not as a powerful wind, earthquake or fire.
Jesus also uses this same imagery of gentleness and humility. Read Matthew 11:28-30
But the Judaens are not only rejecting God; this image of the small, humble stream and pool can also be used to represent the ruling house of Judah, in this case, King Ahaz. The people of Judah are rejected Ahaz and “rejoicing” over Rezin and Pekah (the son of Remaliah).
When I was preparing my notes for this verse I stared and stared at this phrase for a long time, trying to understand what was going on. After all Israel and Syria (Aram) were coming to attack and invade Judah! Why would the people be rejoicing? I looked at other translations, but the meaning held up. One commentary finally cleared up the mystery ‘” the people of Judah were tired of Ahaz’s ineffectual rule and were hoping that being under Israel’s rule would be better. They wanted their years of prosperity and security back and their current king just didn’t cut it! Because they were not only rejecting God but also their God-given king, Judah would be judged.
The picture we have of Assyria here is that of a great river, overflowing its banks in a flood, covering all of Judah. Just like with the swarms of bees in the previous chapter, this shows that there will be no where to hide from the Assyrians. I have never been caught in a flood, but I’ve seen pictures on tv. You can’t reason with it or ignore it, it is in charge, you get out of its way and it does whatever it darn pleases with your home and your property.
But, this flood will only come up to the neck, as we see from verse 8. Judah’s head won’t be submerged, that is, for all Assyria’s attacks, Judah won’t be completely destroyed. (The Babylonians do that later.)
Read Isaiah 8:8b. “Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!” Isaiah changes metaphors in midthought from Assyria as a flooding river, to that of a bird of prey. (This metaphor switching is not uncommon in his writings.)
“your land, O Immanuel!” Isaiah is most likely speaking of the coming Divine Messiah, not of his own infant son here, since his son could not claim ownership of the land. I think there is an implied message in this brief statement: yes, Assyria is going to come and invade Judah, but Judah belongs to God and it is God who is allowing Assyria to do this, He is in control. Later, we know, Assyria in turn will be judged for her wickedness.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah