Isaiah: Chapter 7 | The Wolfe Notes

Welcome, Family! We're spending 2024 with the prophet Isaiah. While we claim no expertise, we're excited to sit with you as we both learn at the feet of Jesus. Each month, we offer a calendar that outlines daily exercises (adapted from Jenn Wilkin's Women of the Word Bible study process) to progress through Isaiah. Download February's calendar to begin with us and witness what we uncovered in our weekly "Wolfe Note" postings.

A cutting board with buttered bread and a jar of honey makes the background for Isaiah 7:15


Contents:

  1. Different Versions Noting and clarifying differences between DARBY & CEV.
  2. Annotation My thoughts, connections, clarifications, and questions.
  3. Research About the Sign of Immanuel.
  4. Summary An approximately twenty word overview of the chapter.
  5. Memorize Why I chose to memorize Isaiah 7:15.
  6. Cross Reference Studying cross references of Isaiah 7:15
  7. Respond Based on reflections on God's character and myself.

Different Versions

I read Chapter Seven in the Darby Translation (DARBY) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV). The DARBY is a word-for-word translation and the CEV is a thought-for-thought translation.

Major differences I noticed (*My thoughts alone are in italics and designated with an asterisk.):
  • on the highway of the fuller's field (DARBY) vs. on the road near the cloth maker's shops (CEV). Verse 3. In Hebrew, kabas, meaning to wash. Also translated as launderer. *CEV's rendering of cloth makers' shop might modernize it but confuses also, because why would a cloth makers' shop be at the end of an aqueduct? But DARBY's is also confusing because we no longer use the term "fuller's field" regularly. Wikipedia notes that fulling "is a step in woollen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of of...cloth...to eliminate...oils, dirt, and other impurities, and to make it shrink by friction and pressure." *So, all three interpretations, are all accurate in their own regard. 
  • take heed and be quiet (DARBY) vs. stop worrying (CEV). Verse 4. *I read the DARBY interpretation to mean be cautious. The Hebrew is shamar - to keep, watch, preserve - and shaqat - to be quiet or undisturbed. *So, over all, stay strong, be alert.
  • son of Remaliah (DARBY) vs. King Pekah (CEV). Verse 5. *DARBY's preference is genealogy whereas CEV's preference is clarifying the person.
  • for the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin (DARBY) vs. Damascus is just the capital of Syria, and King Rezin rules only in Damascus (CEV). Verse 9. *By adding "just" CEV clarifies the meaning and message God communicates here: "They are only people ruling over one small area. I am God who rules over everything." Poole and Barnes note the meaning hear also reassures that Samaria will remain the capital of Israel. King Pekah will not overtake Jerusalem.
  • "Ask for thee a sign" (DARBY) vs. "Ask me for proof that my promise will come true" (CEV). Verse 11. *The CEV clarifies what is meant by a sign.
  • "And he said" (DARBY) vs. "Then I said" (CEV). Verse 13. *The CEV clarifies Isaiah as the speaker here.
  • "the virgin shall conceive" (DARBY) vs. "A virgin is pregnant" (CEV). Verse 14. *As this is prophecy, and a sign, the verb tense matters. DARBY suggests a future happening and CEV a current one. Most versions favor future tense. Verb tense isn't specified in Hebrew, but as it was a prophecy for a sign, it would make sense to be in future tense.
  • "Butter" (DARBY) vs. "Yogurt" (CEV). Verse 15. *Also translated as curds other places. The one similarity between all: it's a byproduct of milk. Denotes scarcity due to a cessation of agriculture, notes Cambridge, yet Gill and Poole suggest a time of prosperity.
  • "Ephraim" (DARBY) vs. "Israel" (CEV). Verse 17. *Ephraim, one of the tribes of Israel, separated from the House of David, splitting the 12 tribes (I Kings 12:16). 10 tribes joined with Ephraim (Israel) and Benjamin joined with Judah, or Jerusalem (Amazing Bible Timeline). Again, CEV favors clarity and DARBY genealogy.
  • [even] the King of Assyria (DARBY) vs. "He will even bring the king of Assyria to attack you. (CEV). Verse17. *CEV adds much needed clarity to this verse.
  • "And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] a man shall nourish" (DARBY) vs. "Anyone who is able to save only (CEV). Verse 21. *DARBY sounds more prophetic, CEV more ability driven. Pulpit notes that this describes a return to pastoral living versus more abundant agricultural living. Yet, Gill adds, it's sufficient to feed them because the population is so scare.
*Conclusions: DARBY feels similar to KJV with older, poetic language, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand meaning or follow the events. CEV uses modern, precise language which helps with interpretation but loses some of the feeling of the text. CEV, at times, forces its interpretation to favor clarity.

Annotation

Notes on my process*Denotes my thoughts alone. ! Denotes a connection. Researched quick answers are in italics. *Indicates a topic with more extensive notes under the research heading.

  1. Rumors of War (v1 &2)
    1. *The King of Syria and Israel wanted to rage war on Judah, but they weren't able to. (v1)
    2. *When David's house heard Syria and Ephraim were allied, anger (perhaps fear?) arose.
  2. God's Message (v3-9)
    1. *God sends Isaiah and his son to meet with Ahaz, king of Judah. (v3)
      1. ? Was Ahaz king at this time? Yes. See Hebrew. Ellicot notes that Jotham, Ahaz's father, reigned in the space between chapters 6 and 7.
      2. The place God sends them to is very specific, is there a reason for this? Ellicot & Cambridge suggest Ahaz is making preparations for war by cutting of the supply of water outside the walls.
    2. *Ahaz is told to be cautious and courageous regarding Syria's and Ephraim's kings who plot against him to harass, breach, and usurp his kingdom with the son of Tabeal. (v4-6)
      1. ? What is a firebrand? (v4) Ellicot & Cambridge define it as the stumps of smoking, or expiring, torches.
      2. ? When did Ephraim leave Israel? (v4) During the reign of King Solomon's son, Rehoboam. Ephraim, led by Jeroboam, split off. (I Kings 12:16-33)
    3. God predicts Syria's and Ephraim's plan won't work because Ephraim will break in 65 years, but warns Ahaz that if he doubts God's prophecy then Ahaz won't stand. (v7-9)
      1. ? Why is it relevant that we know who is head of Syria and Ephraim here? Is it to show God's supremacy? Ellicott notes it emphasizes the weakness. They won't come together, remaining separately hostile and therefore weak. But Judah, with which Pulpit agrees, is led by God, a divine and strong leader.
      2. ? Is God saying that Ahaz won't stand or Ahaz's kingdom won't stand? (v9) Pulpit, Ellicott, and Cambridge agree, without faith in God, Ahaz's is weakened.
  3. The Sign (v10-15)
    1. *God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign to prove what He says is true. Ahaz refuses. (v10-12)
    2. *Isaiah (?) responds by observing that not only are men getting tired of Ahaz, but now He is also frustrating God - which is no small matter. (v13)
    3. *But, since that is your choice, God chooses to give you a sign regardless. Immanuel, a son born of a virgin will be nourished by milk and honey to condition him to choose good. (v14-15)
      1. ? Why did God provide a sign even though Ahaz refused to ask for one? (v14) *R
      2. ? Does the prophecy really point to Jesus? (v14) *R
      3. ? How do milk and honey lead to good? Is it because you're confident in the source of your provision? (v15) Many commentators agree that learning discernment by eating milk and honey is bizarre. Instead, believes it more likely expresses a time - "until He shall know" - when the child has grown enough to know the difference between right and wrong, the pleasant and the painful. 
        1. ! "that the LORD promised your ancestors and their descendants. It's rich with milk and honey, and you will live there and enjoy it for a long time." Deuteronomy 11:9 CEV
        2. ! "She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:12 KJV
  4. Destruction Prophecy (v16-25)
    1. *Before he knows to refuse evil and do what is good, Syria and Ephraim will be destroyed. (v16) 
      1. ? Why switch from the unborn child to a prophecy of destruction? Gill favors the idea that his prophecy focuses on Isaiah's child and denotes that Syria and Ephraim will face destruction soon.
    2. *God will return His people to hard times, times like before Ephraim turned away. (v17)
      1. Was Judah the king of Assyria, or is it referencing Ephraim turning away from Judah? Cambridge and Barnes admit the admission of "even the King of Assyria" is an awkward construction. Benson and Poole suggest it serves as a metaphor for a "plague" that Israel is about to face.
    3. *Then, God will call forth pests from Egypt and Assyria to settle over all Israel and rid you of your pride. (v18-20)
      1. ! Connects to other places in Isaiah: Ten acres of vineyard will produce just one bath (5:10); They shall go into caves of the rocks, and into the holes of the earth (2:19); [God] will his for one from the end of the earth; and behold, it will come rapidly [and] lightly. (5:26).
      2. Shaving their head, according to CEV footnotes, would be considered a huge insult. 
      3. ? Does the insult of shaving the head have any connection to I Corinthians 11:15 KJV: "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering" ? Christian Pure notes the significance of hair in the Bible including a sign of strength, modesty, submission, honor, and holiness. *Although it doesn't specifically link the two scriptures, hair is significant to God: He knows how many number our head (Luke 12:7). Perhaps shaving the head was seen as shameful because it removed a way God honors and intimately knows us.
    4. *After, those that remain will nourish livestock and receive an abundance of milk and honey. (v21-22)
      1. ? Is there any significance, symbolic or otherwise to a cow and two sheep? Commentators agree that it serves to describe the scarcity in the land more than anything else.
      2. ! Promised land promise: milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). 
      3. ! Matthew 24:13 KJV: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
    5. *But everyplace that was abundant will be desolate and those that live there must fight and toil to survive. They will no longer plant the mountains, but instead use them for livestock. (v23-25)
      1. ? Is there significance to 1000? Silver pieces? Commentators point to similarities  in Song of Solomon 8:11 "Solomon has a vineyard...which he rents to others for a thousand pieces of silver each." *In Solomon's case, the vineyard was fruitful and the contrast here shows how desolate it has become. Which, remembering we are God's vineyard, this description rings true of the state of Israel at this time.
    6. * It interests me that those who remain will be cared for by living things, like cows and sheep (i.e. bread of life John 6:35 / living water John 4:10), instead of by their own toil in thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18-19).

Research

*Thoughts that are mine alone are marked with an asterisk and italicized.
Why did God give Ahaz a sign even though he didn't ask for one and how do we know that the sign was fulfilled in Jesus?

From Bible Hub and Enduring Word commentaries:

  • Therefore: Even though you're perverse, God will still carry out what he planned. (Pulpit & Poole) *This reminds me of God in Esther 4:14: "If you don't speak up now, we will somehow get help..." God, being that 'somehow' to me. His plans will not fail, his people will still be protected regardless of our choices.
  • The Lord himself: Acted of his own free will (Pulpit) As only He could do because 1) it is important for the nation's welfare, 2) the confirmation of His religion, and 3) it shows He is the one true God; the birth of a child could only be known and accomplished by God (Barnes
  • Shall give you: The house of David, and also the nation to convince them of their safety (Barnes); for the believers in David's house because God's covenant is everlasting, and not for the unbelieving Ahaz's sake (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown)
  • A sign: Evidence that what was predicted is fulfilled (Barnes
  • Behold: A forewarning of a great event (Pulpit) Here saying "Everyone! Take notice: God protects and saves" (Barnes) .
  • A virgin: young woman / bride, not necessarily today's modern definition of virgin (Ellicott) The wording chosen applies more fully to Jesus as the ultimate solution than a temporary solution here in Isaiah (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown). Pulpit & Barnes note there would be no need for a grand proclamation - Behold! - if it were not a true virgin, almah instead of bethulah or naarah
  • And call his name: Typical for mothers to name their children, although fathers would formally. (Barnes & Jamieson-Fausset-Brown)
  • Immanuel: God with us. (John 1:14, Isaiah 8:8, 10) (Gill and Cambridge). This name serves as a rebuke to Ahaz, for if God is with us why do we fear? (Wolf). God being with us is true in fact, not just a title (Enduring Word). Immanuel describes his attributes, his character, if not the name he's called by. (Barnes Jamieson-Fausset-Brown
  • Conclusions: There are three theories surrounding this verse: 1) The son would come at the current time only. 2) Jesus is the only sign of fulfillment here discussed. 3) God planned a sign both in the time of Isaiah and in the future with Jesus. Pulpit notes that the third theory is favored. Spurgeon notes that while this is one of the most difficult and argued verses in scripture, he did not feel that way about it until he read the commentaries. After which he felt thoroughly confused.
*Conclusions: 1) God gave a sign, though Ahaz refused to ask for one, so that the people who did believe would have one. 2) Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy, defeating the kings of sin and Satan (Pulpit). There may also have been a temporary fulfillment in the time of Isaiah.

Summary

God gives a sign to David's house which testifies to God's faithful deliverance of Israel from the two kings.

Memorize

I chose to memorize Isaiah 7:15:
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Because it reminds me to feast on God's provision, milk and honey, instead of my own. Only God's provision strengthens us to refuse what is evil and choose what is good. 


Cross References

To Isaiah 7:15

  • Isaiah 7:22 (DARBY) and it shall come to pass, from the abundance of milk they shall give, [that] he shall eat butter; for every one that remaineth in the midst of the land shall eat butter and honey.
  • Amos 5:15 (DARBY) Hate evil, and love good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that Jehovah, the God of hosts, will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
  • Matthew 3:4 (CEV) John wore clothes made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
*Connections: What you consume matters and effects the future. Consider what you ingest - through food, conversation, and observation. Is it soul-nurturing, or world nurturing?

About Butter

  • Judges 5:25 (*Paraphrase) Jael brings the commander of the invading army butter (curds or milk) after he asks for water and before she kills him.
  • Job 20:17 (*Paraphrase) Job's friend, Zophar the Naamathite, notes that wicked shall not see brooks of butter.
  • Job 29:6 (*Paraphrase) Job notes that at one time he washed his steps with butter.
*Conclusions: Butter seems to imply lavish provision.

About Honey

  • Throughout Exodus, God promises to bring the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey (verses about milk and honey)
  • Judges 14:8-20 (*Paraphrase) Samson kills a lion and finds honeycombs in its corpse. This becomes a riddle at his wedding feast which the guests pressure his Philistine bride into getting the answer from Samson. Angry, he fulfills his promise by killing others and eventually the Philistines are destroyed by Samson, through God's providence which he prepared Samson from before birth to do.
  • I Samuel 14:25-45 (*Paraphrase) Jonathan, son of King Saul, does not hear the proclamation that no one should eat. If they eat, they will die. Jonathan partakes of honey that is flowing through the land. After the battle, King Saul learns of Jonathan's slight but the people plead on behalf of Jonathan. Jonathan is pardoned.
  • II Samuel 17:28-29 (*Paraphrase) King David is brought curds (milk, yogurt, or butter) and honey to eat while he is on the run from his son and the Israelites who betrayed him.
*Conclusions: Honey seems to be a reminder of God's involvement in every story and especially comes through at trying times. Perhaps signifies His grace.


Respond

  1. God is protective of His people. I am one of His people. I can rest knowing that no matter how chaotic the situation feels, God will bring everything to good. My job is to keep trusting God, no matter what.
  2. God is in control. I am not. I can respond to His providence by looking for His movement in my life, trusting that what He says will happen, and by handing my worry over to Him.
  3. God teaches us what is good. I, in my own wisdom, do not know what is good. By feasting on a diet of God's promises from His word (honey) alongside a hearty helping of the tangible ways I witness Him providing for me (milk), I can learn to refuse the evil and choose the good.

In Closing

Father God, You protect me, provide for me, and have control over every situation. When I feel lost, uncertain, and weary, You set Your table of milk and honey before me in the presence of my enemies to remind me of Your goodness. I taste it. I see it. Thank you, Jesus!

Learning with You,

Ready for Isaiah 8 and 9?

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*Image Credit: Bread Slices by eat kubba at Pexels.

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