King Ahaz of Judah was an extremely wicked king; he made idols for Baal, “burnt his children in the fire,” established false temple worship, and more (2 Chronicles 28:1–25). During his reign, the armies of two other kingdoms—Israel (also called “Ephraim”) and Aram—invaded Judah. The war was fierce, and Judah lost 120,000 warriors in a single day “because they had forsaken the Lord God” (2 Chronicles 28:6). In this context of false worship and warring kingdoms, Isaiah prophesies to Ahaz that the two invading armies and their kings would be like smoldering sticks of firewood; their power would soon be extinguished and their plans for conquering Judah would be unsuccessful.
Aram (perhaps Syria) is the territory, located northeast of Israel, that belonged to several Aramaean peoples and states. went up to war against Jerusalem. This war devastated the kingdom of Judah (see 2 Chronicles 28:5–15), although Judah survived.
hearts of Ahaz and his people shook. Isaiah poetically compared the fear of the people of Judah to trees blowing in the wind.
Shear-jashub. God commanded Isaiah to take his son, Shear-jashub, to meet King Ahaz at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool of Jerusalem. Why take Shear-jashub? Because Isaiah and his children were “signs and wonders” (or symbols) for the house of Israel. The Hebrew name Shear-jashub means “a remnant will return.” In view of the imminent war with Assyria, Shear-jashub was a living symbol that a remnant of Israel would indeed return to its land and God, despite the fact that Israel would soon be scattered and for the most part destroyed.
The Lord promises, firmly and assertively, that the kingdoms of Aram and Israel will not successfully conquer the kingdom of Judah—“It will not happen; it will not come to pass.” God, who is omnipotent and in charge of the affairs of nations, knows the future. He foresees not only what will happen but also what will not happen.
within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the Assyrians destroyed Ephraim, or the kingdom of Israel, in 721 BC.
If you do not trust, surely you will not hold firm. The two verbs are plural forms—the Lord is speaking to king Ahaz as well as to his court and the people of Judah.
In the previous section, Isaiah prophesied that the invading armies from Israel and Aram would not have complete success against Judah. To give King Ahaz confidence in Isaiah’s prophecy, the Lord invites King Ahaz to ask for a sign; but Ahaz, a wicked man, refuses this magnanimous gift from the Lord. However, the Lord determines to give Ahaz a sign anyway—the sign of Immanuel, which is a sign of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Sheol refers to the spirit world. depths of Sheol/heights above. Our all-powerful God can reach into the farthest corners of His creations to give a sign, in Sheol (spirit world) or in heaven (“heights above”). He gave the greatest sign of all, one that pertained to the birth of the Messiah.
O house of David. The Immanuel prophecy is directed to the entire house of David.
Lord Himself will give you a sign. The sign, one of the most well-known Messianic prophecies to Christians, is that a virgin will conceive, bear a son, and call His name “Immanuel.” This prophecy seems to have both a contemporary fulfillment as well as a future fulfllment in Jesus Christ. (1) The contemporary fulfillment: a close examination of specific terms (especially in the Hebrew language), used in both Isaiah 7:14–17 and 8:3–7, encourage us to consider that the contemporary fulfillment pertained to Isaiah, his wife, and their son. These terms (translated into English) are: conceive, bear, son, call, name, before, child, knows, and king of Assyria. Other correspondences also exist. But how can Isaiah’s wife be called a virgin? Virgin refers to one who has not had sexual intercourse; but virgin also pertains to one who is pure and undefiled from the world. The term virgin, therefore, can apply to both Mary, the mother of Jesus and to Isaiah’s wife. (2) The future fulfillment in Christ pertains to the virgin Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ, who is called “Immanuel.” As Matthew recorded, “She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet [Isaiah], saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and they shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:21–23). the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and call His name Immanuel. The apostle Matthew cited this verse and applied it to Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:22–23). My translation of virgin is based on the Greek Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac. Note also that the KJV, ESV, NIV and other translations read “virgin.” Compare Proverbs 30:19. The English translation of the Hebrew ‘almah is “marriageable girl” or “young woman.” For Mary as a virgin, see Luke 1:27 and 1 Nephi 11:13, 15, 18. Immanuel. A Hebrew word, literally, “God with us” (or “God is with us”). This title is used in 7:14 and 8:8, 10. Immanuel emphasizes that Jesus is God (“God with us”) and also that He came down to live in the flesh (“God with us”). Note also that in Doctrine and Covenants 128:22, Jesus is called “King Immanuel.”
He will eat butter. “Butter” (Hebrew chem’ah) can also be translated “cream” or “sour milk.”
before the child knows. Before the child reaches the age of accountability, which is eight years old (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25), the kingdoms of Aram and Israel will be laid waste. Aram and Israel both fell to Assyria within eight years.
Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will use Assyria as an instrument to invade the kingdom of Judah. This prophecy was possibly fulfilled when the Assyrian king Sennachderib seized much of Judah (circa 701 BC); but the Lord would protect Jerusalem, which would later fall to the Babylonians (see Isaiah 36–37). Note the Lord’s active role: “The Lord will bring upon you. . . . the Lord will whistle. . . . the Lord will use the king of Assyria” (7:17–18, 20). Why will the Lord allow this invasion into the kingdom of Judah? Because King Ahaz and many of his people had turned to idolatry and a variety of gross sins.
whistle for the flies/bees. Isaiah uses irritating flies to represent Egypt and swarming bees to symbolize Assyria. Bees, the more dangerous of the two, portray the Assyrian warriors’ great numbers and their ability to invade all parts of Judah, including its “crevices,” “bushes,” and “watering places.” Judah will have no place to hide. The JST omits “part of the rivers of.”
shave with a razor. The Assyrians humiliated and tortured their captives by shaving them from head to toe (“head . . . private parts . . . beard”). Compare 2 Samuel 10:4–5. hair of the private parts. The Hebrew literally reads, “the hair of the feet,” where feet is a euphemism for private parts.
heifer/two sheep. The war-torn families of Judah will no longer possess herds of cattle, but in poverty they will maintain a heifer and a couple of sheep, which will provide them with scant dairy products (milk and butter) for their sustenance.
thousand vines. The kingdom of Judah once had vast vineyards, but because of the devastation of war, “thorns and briars” have replaced the vineyards.
bows and arrows. Inasmuch as the “briars and thorns” have replaced crops and vineyards, hunters are forced to hunt for food with their “bows and arrows.”