Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Isaiah 7: 17-20


Trials to Come for Judah

17 The Lord will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria.
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.  
19 They will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places.
20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the Euphrates (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard.

Ahaz made his stand, God offered up deliverance for Israel through a coming child and, now, Judah stands to face trials in the face of its faithlessness. How bad? 

"...Days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah...." This refers to the separation of Israel, with 10 tribes forming the Northern Kingdom and the remaining the Southern Kingdom. But, as if that weren't bad enough, the trials would come at the hand of "the king of Assyria." (vs. 17)

Judah was like the old woman in the shoe--she had so many enemies, she didn't know what to do! So, she reached out to Assyria. King Ahaz must have figured that if he had the Assyrian Empire on his side, what enemy could stand? But, how to get Assyria on his side without turning Judah over completely.... Powerful leaders need powerful, persuasive presents! 

"So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, 'I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.' Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria."
--II Kings 16: 7 and 8
Tiglath-pileser does appear to have taken the gift sincerely, waging war on Damascus, taking its people into exile and killing Rezin. But the verses from this chapter today tell us that the bribe doesn't stick. God has humbled Judah, and Ahaz's plan isn't going to go down the way he thought.

Verse 18 brings us another look at an earlier reference in Isaiah: the fly and the bee [see blog on Isaiah 5:26], and the whistle. When the Lord whistles, there is a speedy sense of urgency to His call. Remember, it's like the tea kettle on high boil! He is calling to order the fly, common to Egypt, and the bee, common to Assyria, to be His armies putting the move on Judah. They will be prolific, filling in the region's heights and lowlands, thickets and secret crags (vs. 19).

"They shall come and rest in the low grounds like swarms of flies and bees, and shall render themselves impregnable by taking shelter in the holes of the rocks, as bees often do, and showing themselves formidable by appearing openly upon all thorns and all bushes; so generally shall the land be overspread with them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Our last verse for today, verse 20, gives us yet another indication of God's hand in the trials to befall Judah, and it's holding a razor! God will "hire"--not in the literal sense--attackers to bring Judah down. He is orchestrating the circumstances and wooing the enemies, all to bring about His purposes. To understand the kind of terrible loss this will be for Judah, we have to understand something about shaving. In the culture, "shaving the head is a sign of mourning and a way of humiliating conquered enemies." [Reformation Study Bible] God isn't just talking about shaving the head here either. Note, He also says the hair from the legs and the beard.

Of course, when I hear razor and think Biblical stories, Samson is the first one that pops to mind. As a Nazirite, he took a vow not to cut his hair. He explains the razor's power--quite foolishly--to an eagerly waiting Delilah:

"'A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.'"
--Judges 16: 17

As with Samson, Judah would also become weak, humiliated and mournful. Samson had his eyes gorged out in his resulting weakness. Judah would examine its spiritual blindness in Babylonian exile--but, only after an invasion by the King of Assyria. Yes, Isaiah's prophecy would come to fulfillment, but not until the days of King Hezekiah. More on all this to come.

Finishing up with Chapter 7, as Isaiah describes the decimation of the land.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 7: 21-25

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).