Isaiah 7 – “Aram and Israel March on Jerusalem; A Prophetic Warning Concerning Assyria”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The people panic when an Aramean and Israelite army marches towards Jerusalem. Although Isaiah tells the people to stay calm, he describes how the Assyrians will destroy their land and decimate the population.

II. Photo
The people are terrified: “Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of their people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind.” (v. 2)

III. Important Verses
2: Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of their people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind.
10-12: The LORD spoke further to Ahaz:  “Ask for a sign from the LORD your God, anywhere down to Sheol or up to the sky.” But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask, and I will not test the LORD.”
13-17: “Listen, House of David,” [Isaiah] retorted, “is it not enough for you to treat men as helpless that you also treat my God as helpless? Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel. (By the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good, people will be feeding on curds and honey.) For before the lad knows to reject the bad and choose the good, the ground whose two kings you dread shall be abandoned. The LORD will cause to come upon you and your people and your ancestral house such days as never have come since Ephraim turned away from Judah — that selfsame king of Assyria!
23-24: For in that day, every spot where there could stand a thousand vines worth a thousand shekels of silver shall become a wilderness of thornbush and thistle. One will have to go there with bow and arrows, for the country shall be all thornbushes and thistles.

IV. Outline
1. The Arameans and Israelites march on Jerusalem
2. The people are terrified
3-9. God’s message to Ahaz: do not be afraid
10-11. Ahaz is told to ask for a sign
12. Ahaz trusts in God
13-17. Isaiah warns of worse things to come, i.e. the Assyrians
18-25. Assyria will decimate the population and turn the fields to wilderness

V. Comment
Chapter 7 concerns the events mentioned in 2 Kings 16, namely the advance of Aram and the destruction of Damascus:

  • Then King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel advanced on Jerusalem for battle. They besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome [him]. At that time King Rezin of Aram recovered Elath for Aram; he drove out the Judites from Elath, and Edomites came to Elath and settled there, as is still the case. Ahaz sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria to say, ‘I am your servant and your son; come and deliver me from the hands of the king of Aram and from the hands of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.’ Ahaz took the gold and silver that were on hand in the House of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent them as a gift to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria responded to his request; the king of Assyria marched against Damascus and captured it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.

Although Isaiah tells the people of Jerusalem to stay calm, he warns them of the ominous threat posed by the Assyrian army. Indeed, the Assyrians pose a much greater threat than the kings of Israel and Aram.

Although they appear in a positive context elsewhere, there are two aspects of our chapter that are meant to be viewed as a threat instead of a blessing. Verse 3 mentions Isaiah’s son Shear-yashub (“a remnant shall return”): “But the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the Upper Pool, by the road of the Fuller’s Field.’” Collins writes: “Isaiah’s children, like those of Hosea, are walking billboards, bearing their father’s message. In the following chapter we shall meet Maher-shalal-hash-baz (‘hasten for spoil, hurry for plunder’). The implication of the name Shear-yashub is that only a remnant shall return. At a time when no Judeans had been taken into exile, this seems like a disastrous prospect. Later, of course, the survival of a remnant would be the seed of hope. But the initial force of the child’s name was to prophesy deportation and exile.” (312)

The second aspect is the threat in vv. 15 and 22, i.e. that the people will “eat curds and honey.” While the phrase “milk and honey” conjures up an image of blessings in Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5 etc., in our chapter it is meant as a curse. Collins writes: “Fat and milk were generally regarded as signs of abundance in the ancient Near East, and milk and honey were used in cultic activity in Mesopotamia…. [Yet,] this is brought out in a series of additions to the passage, each introduced by the formula ‘on that day.’ Isaiah 7:21-25 explains that ‘on that day’ everyone will eat curds and honey because the population will be decimated. Moreover, the vineyards will be ravaged and there will be little agriculture, but cattle will be let loose and people will live off the natural produce of the land. They will still have milk and honey, but not the vineyards and wine to which they have become accustomed.” (313) For more on this, see chapter 1 in “Nature in Our Biblical Heritage” by Nogah Hareuveni (trans. H. Frenkley; Israel: Neot Kedumim, 1980) 11-26.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Isaiah 1-39” The Anchor Bible vol. 19 (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Sweeney, Marvin A. “Isaiah 1-39 with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 16 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996).
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