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A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Isaiah 7-9

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 14 November 2023 *




Isaiah 7-9 Timeline
Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Isaiah 7-9 as a cryptochiasmus in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text ( see definition of cryptochiasmus in [1] ). If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Section 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

Isaiah 7:14-9:7 contains some of the key prophecies about Jesus Christ, particularly that in 7:14, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel". This passage on the virgin birth is confoundingly placed in a context of Isaiah's time, but with this reconfiguration we will show that it applies exclusively to Christ.

Note that this is one of the few prophecies in the Bible that are explicitly designated as sealed (other passages are Dan. 8, 10-12 & Isa. 28-33). Note also that this study has a commentary on the introductory passage, Isaiah 7:1-13.


Discussion

1. Presuppositions

We base our parse of Isaiah 7:14-9:7 on the assumption that it refers to 3 periods:

  1. From the Start of the Exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Start of Judah's exile (c.733BC - c.605BC).
  2. From the Birth of Christ to The First Jewish–Roman War (5BC-73AD).
  3. The Start of Christ's Millennial Reign (2027AD).

2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will use the NIV Bible for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing portions of the text into three categories as above. We will call the period of the Exile of Israel Period 1, the Birth of Christ to the time of the First Jewish-Roman War Period 2 and the start of Christ's Millennial Reign Period 3.


Categorizing Isaiah 7:14 - 9:7

Ch 7:14 belongs to Period 2. "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son" - Jesus will be born of a virgin.

Ch 7:15 - Ch 8:8a belong to Period 1. The 'Kings of Assyria' defeat and exile Samaria and Jerusalem. (We categorize the last phrase in 8:8, 'God is with us', as belonging to the next subunit.)

Ch 8 Vs 8b-10 appear to belong to Period 3. The Millennial Reign will be a time of peace.

Ch 8 Vs 11-13 belong to Period 1. Those who truly fear God need not fear anything else.

Ch 8 Vs 14-18 belong to Period 2. Jesus will be a stumbling block to some, because those who do not believe in him will be killed in the Roman attack on Jerusalem. We include vs 17b-18a in this subunit based on Hebrews 2:13.

Ch 8 Vs 19-22 belong to Period 1. Trust God and do not consult mediums.

Ch 9 Vs 1-2 belong to Period 2. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light" - Christ teaches his Gospel (see Matt. 4:13-16).

Ch 9 Vs 3-7 belong to Period 3. The start of the Millennial Reign of Christ and his Messiah.


Original text

We color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: red for Period 1, blue for Period 2 and green for Period 3. We have retranslated parts of the text.


Isaiah 7 14 Surely [a] the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also. 21 In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. 23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.


Retranslation notes for Isaiah 7
[a] vs 14 "Surely" instead of "Therefore" (as in 1 Samuel 28:2).

Isaiah 8 The Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it clearly about Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” [a] 2 So I called in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. 3 Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”
5 The Lord spoke to me again:
6 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8a and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. His [b] outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land.”

8b God is with us! [c]
9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! 10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:
12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.

14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
16 Bind up this testimony and seal up this teaching [d] among my disciples.
17a I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
17b I will put my trust in Him.
18a Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.
18b We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.

19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not you people inquire of your God instead [e]? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Look to God’s Law and the testimony of His prophets. If anyone's beliefs are not in accordance with God's word, they have no light. [f] 21 They will go through life distressed and hungry; in their times of hunger they will become enraged and they will curse their king and their god. They will look upward 22 and [g] they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

Retranslation notes for Isaiah 8
[a] vs 1 "Take a large tablet and write on it clearly about Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz." instead of "Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.".
[b] vs 8 "His" instead of "Its".
[c] vs 8 'land." God is with us!' instead of 'land, Immanuel!"'.
[d] vs 16 "and seal up this teaching" instead of "of warning and seal up God’s instruction".
[e] vs 19 "you people inquire of your God instead" instead of "a people inquire of their God".
[f] vs 20 "Look to God’s Law and the testimony of His prophets. If anyone's beliefs are not in accordance with God's word, they have no light" instead of "Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn". (We take "speak" to refer to a declaration of belief.)
[g] vs 21,22 "21 They will go through life distressed and hungry; in their times of hunger they will become enraged and they will curse their king and their god. They will look upward 22 and" instead of "21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then".


Isaiah 9 Truly, there will be no more darkness for those who were spiritually straitened [a]. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan. [b]
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the extent of his reign [c] and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Retranslation notes for Isaiah 9
[a] vs 1 "Truly, there will be no more darkness for those who were spiritually straitened" instead of "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress".
[b] vs 1 Changed punctuation: "." instead of "—".
[c] vs 7 "extent of his reign" instead of "greatness of his government".


3. Building the reconfigured text

From this parse, it appears that Isaiah 7:14 - 8:15 forms a cryptochiasmus as below:

A1   Ch 7 Vs 14 Period 2. Birth of Christ
  B1   Ch 7 Vs 15 - Ch 8 vs 8a Period 1. Samaria and Jerusalem are exiled
    X   Ch 8 Vs 8b-10 Period 3. The Millennial Reign will be a time of peace
  B2   Ch 8 Vs 11-13 Period 1. Fear God only
A2   Ch 8 Vs 14-18 Period 2. Christ as a stumbling stone


We now reconstruct the passages in the right order based on the chiastic structure above and based on the ordering rules of a cryptochiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]        (1)

We have the following sequence when we include verses 8:16-9:7:
X         - Period 3
[A1,A2] - Period 2
[B1,B2] - Period 1
Ch 8 Vs 19-22 - Period 1. Do not consult mediums
Ch 9 Vs 1-2 - Period 2. Christ teaches the gospel
Ch 9 Vs 3-7 - Period 3. Christ's Millennial Reign


We still have text for the periods in a non-contiguous form. We can treat this as a doubly-applied cryptochiasmus as below.


M1   X   Period 3
  N1   [A1,A2] Period 2
   XX   [B1,B2], Ch 8 Vs 19-22 Period 1
  N2   Ch 9 Vs 1-2 Period 2
M2   Ch 9 Vs 3-7 Period 3

The sequence selected for rearrangement is:
XX  [M1,M2]  [N1,N2]        (2)


Translating this sequence (2) into the subunits of the first chiasmus, we get:

[B1,B2], Ch 8 Vs 19-22,  [[X], Ch 9 Vs 3-7]   [[A1,A2], Ch 9 Vs 1-2]        (3)

Further translating (3) into verse numbers, we get:

[[Ch 7 Vs 15 - Ch 8 vs 8a, Ch 8 Vs 11-13], Ch 8 Vs 19-22],  [[Ch 8 Vs 8b-10], Ch 9 Vs 3-7]   [[Ch 7 Vs 14, Ch 8 Vs 14-18],Ch 9 Vs 1-2]        (4)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (4).



4. Isaiah 7:14-9:7 Reconfigured

From the Start of the Exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Start of Judah's exile (c.733BC - c.605BC) (Ch 7 Vs 15 - Ch 8 vs 8a, Ch 8 Vs 11-13, Ch 8 Vs 19-22)

Chiasmus 1: The Israelites are exiled (733BC-605BC)

Ch 7 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also.
21 In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey.
23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.
Ch 8 1 The Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it clearly about Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” 2 So I called in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. 3 Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”

Chiasmus 2: Worship and fear the One True God only

Ch 8 5 The Lord spoke to me again: 6 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8a and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. His outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land.”
11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: 12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not you people inquire of your God instead? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?
20 Look to God’s Law and the testimony of His prophets. If anyone's beliefs are not in accordance with God's word, they have no light. 21 They will go through life distressed and hungry; in their times of hunger they will become enraged and they will curse their king and their god. They will look upward 22 and they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.


The Start of Christ's Millennial Reign (2027AD) (Ch 8 Vs 8b-10, Ch 9 Vs 3-7)
Ch 8 8b God is with us! 9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! 10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.
Ch 9 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the extent of his reign and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.


From the Birth of Christ to The First Jewish–Roman War (5BC-73AD) (Ch 7 Vs 14, Ch 8 Vs 14-18, Ch 9 Vs 1-2)
Ch 7 14 Surely the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Ch 8 14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
16 Bind up this testimony and seal up this teaching among my disciples.
17a I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. 17b I will put my trust in Him. 18a Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.
18b We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Ch 9 1 Truly, there will be no more darkness for those who were spiritually straitened. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.



5. A Commentary on the Reconfigured Text

5.0 Introductory section (Ch 7 vs 1-13)

This section lies outside the chiasmus but is included here, as it establishes the context of the prophecy.


Chapter 7 1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.

Rezin king of Aram (Syria) and Pekah king of Israel (the Northern Tribes / Ephraim) besieged Ahaz king of Jerusalem in 735BC, but they could not conquer Jerusalem at the time (see 2 Kings 16:5, 15:37).



Chapter 7 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

Although the attack was thwarted, the leadership of Jerusalem ("house of David") was informed that the Northern Tribes and Syria remained strongly aligned, and that they planned to return. This terrified king Ahaz and his people, the Judahites.



Chapter 7 3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field.

The Lord tells Isaiah to go, with his son, to king Ahaz to convey a message. Isaiah's son's name, Shear-Jashub, meaning "a remnant will return", signifies that, although the Northern Tribes may soon be exiled, a portion of the Israelites will return to their God at the start of the Millennial Reign (see Period 3 below). The aqueduct of the Upper Pool, also known as the Shiloam channel, conveys water from the Gihon Spring, and seems to represent wisdom from the God of Jerusalem (see comment on Isa. 8:6 below). Ahaz may have come to this location as part of his preparation for another siege of Jerusalem.



Chapter 7 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it. 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘It will not take place, it will not happen,”

Ahaz is told not to fear Rezin and Pekah, as both are dying embers ("smoldering stubs") - they are at the end of their reigns. Rezin and Pekah plotted to conquer Judah and place it under the control of a puppet king, the son of Tabeel, so that they might strengthen their alliance against Assyria, but God promises that they will not succeed. Note the frequent, disdainful references to king Pekah as "Remaliah's son" (that is, a nobody), probably because he was a usurper (2 Kings 15:25).



Chapter 7 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’”

The implied sense of this passage is that since Rezin and Pekah are doomed ("smoldering stubs"), the lands they lead ('head') will share their fate - they need not be feared.

Rezin would soon be killed by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 16:7-9), Damascus destroyed and Aram exiled (see 2 Kings 16:9). Rezin was king ("head") of Damascus, which was the capital ("head") of Aram/Syria.

Ephraim would also be defeated by Tiglath-Pileser (see 1 Chron 5:26) - it was later completely destroyed after 65 years by Assurbanipal (670BC) - and Pekah would be assassinated. Pekah was king ("head") of Samaria, which was the capital ("head") of Ephraim. ( The ultimate destruction of Ephraim after 65 years is mentioned to allude to the fact that it would be defeated within 3 years. It is mentioned before the allusion to Pekah's death to indicate the chronological sequence of these events, for Pekah was assassinated by one of his own men after Ephraim's defeat.)

The defeat of Aram and Ephraim took place by 732BC, within 3 years of the prophecy. So all that was required of Ahaz was that he have faith in God. But Ahaz had more faith in other gods than he had in the God of Israel, and he and the Judahites were punished for it (see Period 1 below).



Chapter 7 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?

Ahaz is told to ask for any sign at all that proves that God is in control. But, feigning piety, Ahaz refuses, probably because looking to God would have angered the pagan god he worshipped (2 Kings 16:3). The leadership of Judea ("house of David"), who had tried the patience of faithful Judahites with their idolatry and corrupt governance, now risked facing God's wrath by disobeying His direct order.



5.1 From the Start of the Exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Start of Judah's exile (c.733BC- c.605BC) (Ch 7 Vs 15 - Ch 8 vs 8a, Ch 8 Vs 11-13, Ch 8 Vs 19-22)

This Period is structured as a series of 2 chiasmi. Chiasmus 1 is regarding the exile of the Israelites and Chiasmus 2 is an exhortation to worship only the God of Israel.

Chiasmus 1: The Israelites are exiled (733BC-605BC)

The passage below in 7:15-8:4 is arranged in the form of a two-unit chiasmus:

A1 7:15-17 The Exile of the Northern Tribes (c. 733BC)
  B1 7:18-20 The Exile of Judea (c. 605BC)
    X 7:21-22 The remnant are blessed with abundance (after 605BC)
  B2 7:23-25 The Exile of Judea (c. 605BC)
A2 8:1-4 The Exile of the Northern Tribes (c. 733BC)


Subunit A1: The Exile of the Northern Tribes (c. 733BC) (7:15-17)

Chapter 7 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”

A boy born to Isaiah will be a sign to Ahaz that within the first 2 years of the boys life, Samaria and Damascus will be devastated. Isaiah's son will be eating "curds and honey" before he is 2 years old, because the land north of Judea will be sparsely populated by then. Through a comparison with Isaiah 8:4, we infer that the age of "knowing right from wrong" is around the time the child learns to speak short phrases, about 20 months old. Apparently until this age, children are in a state of pre-fall Edenic innocence, not knowing right from wrong (see also Gen 3:5-7, sign of the Dragon of Rev 12 in [3]).

"Curds and honey" must have been suitable produce for sparsely populated, uncultivated regions because of an abundance of land for grazing (see 7:21-25); and the produce of a depleted Samaria was presumably sold in Judea and Jerusalem. "Curds and honey" seems to be a sweetened milk product, in which the 'curds' is cottage cheese (milk that is curdled with an acid, as in 'curds and whey'), and the 'honey' acts as a sweetener and preservative (similar recipes are still used in eastern lands).

This prophecy was made in 735BC, and Isaiah's son was born around a year later in 734BC. The prophecy was fulfilled when Tiglath-Pileser III, Monarch of Assyria, defeated the Northern kingdom of Israel in 733BC and Damascus in 732BC and deported parts of their populations (2 Kings 15:29, 2 Kings 16:9, 1 Chron 5:26).



Chapter 7 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

Ahaz made an alliance with Tiglath-Pileser to defeat Damascus and Samaria (see 2 Kings 16:7-9), but this created problems for the Judahites afterwards. For Judea would later be harassed by Assyria (2 Chron. 28:20) as punishment from God for their unfaithfulness (see 8:6). After Ephraim had broken away from Judea (c. 930BC), the Northern Kingdom had acted as a strong buffer state between Judea and the powerful empires of the Mesopotamian region, but a devastated Ephraim could no longer perform this function.



Subunit B1: The Exile of Judea (c. 605BC) (7:18-20)

Chapter 7 18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also.

Many years after the defeat of Samaria, the great armies of Egypt and 'Assyria' ('flies' and 'bees') will attack Judea and Jerusalem. God will use the 'king of Assyria' to humiliate and devastate the region and take the people captive into slavery (the king will "shave" Judea of everything of value - its people and its treasure).

This prophecy was fulfilled around 125 years later. In 609BC, Necho II of Egypt, during a campaign against the Babylonians, defeated Josiah, King of Judah, at Megiddo and turned Judah into a vassal state (2 Kings 23:29–35, 2 Chron. 35:20-24). Nebuchadnezzar (a "razor" employed by God - see Jer. 25:9) then defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish, and began a campaign against Jerusalem, starting in 605BC (Dan 1:1 and 2 Kings 24:1), that ultimately resulted in the humiliating destruction and plunder of the temple and city, and the exile of the majority of the Judahites to Babylon (c. 587BC).

Although this passage appears to predict an Assyrian invasion, we believe it refers to this Babylonian attack under Nebuchadnezzar. The initial exile of Judahites took place in the same year Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Assyrians (Egypt's allies) at Carchemish (605BC) to become the 'king of Assyria'.



Pivot X: The remnant are blessed with abundance (after 605BC) (7:21-22)

Chapter 7 21 In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey.

With the Northern Tribes and Judah exiled, only a few poor but righteous Israelites remained in the land (see 2 Kings 25:12), and they enjoyed an abundance of everything: land, milk and honey. This passage in the pivot symbolizes the rewards for those who are righteous and remain faithful to God.



Subunit B2: The Exile of Judea (c. 605BC) (7:23-25)

23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.

With all of Judea exiled for its unfaithfulness, the once flourishing, cultivated regions of Judea turn into barren brushland. This subunit symbolizes the utter devastation that comes upon those who turn away from God in their wickedness.



Subunit A2: The Exile of the Northern Tribes (c. 733BC) (8:1-4)

This subunit restates the prediction in Subunit A1. ( We believe that this passage in 8:1-4 is part of the prophecy and not a break in the prophecy to record what actually happened - prophecies with breaks in them cannot be chiastically reconfigured.)


Chapter 8 1 The Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it clearly about Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” 2 So I called in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. 3 Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”

On a tablet, the prophet is to clearly inscribe the prophecy about his son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz - presumably the predictions in 7:15-16 and 8:3-4 - and have it formally attested. This tablet can later be used as irrefutable public proof, particularly to Ahaz (see 7:10-13), that God's prophecy was accurately fulfilled.

Isaiah's wife gave birth to the boy Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz as predicted. Both parts of the boy's name, Maher-Shalal and Hash-Baz, mean "hasten to the spoil" - the repetition serving to intensify the urgency, as in "Hurry, come quickly!" (the name can be considered a war cry that incites the Assyrians to battle Damascus). The name is symbolic, because within the time the boy learns to put together short phrases like "My mother" (around 20 months - the terminus ad quem), Samaria and Damascus will be plundered.


We propose the following as a likely timeline:

So with this sign, God effectively predicted both the approximate start date (around the length of a pregnancy) and the approximate end date (about 20 months after the birth) of this war between Assyria and Judah's enemies (734-732BC). This war proved to be the beginning of the end of the Israelite nation: the exile of the Northern Tribes began immediately and was completed 65 years later (see Isa. 7:8), and the events surrounding the war contributed to the defeat and exile of Judea (605BC-587BC).

Note the explicit mention of the act of intercourse in vs. 3, usually unnecessary and omitted, as though to aver that this was not a virgin birth, and also note that the boy was not called 'Immanuel'. All of this serves to validate this parse - Isaiah 7:14b refers to Jesus Christ and not Isaiah's son.




Chiasmus 2: Worship and fear the One True God only

The passage below in 8:5-8a,11-13,19-22 is arranged in the form of a two-unit chiasmus:

A1 8:5-8a Those who reject God will suffer for it
  B1 8:11-12 Do not consult mediums
    X 8:13 Worship, Fear and Obey the one true God
  B2 8:19 Do not consult mediums
A2 8:20-22 Those who reject God will suffer for it


Subunit A1: Those who reject God will suffer for it (8:5-8a)

Chapter 8 5 The Lord spoke to me again:
6 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah,

The "gently flowing waters of Shiloah" that provides life sustaining water to Jerusalem from the Gihon spring represents the God who gave Judah the city (cf. 1 Kings 1 38-39); by extension, "Rezin and the son of Remaliah" represent the gods of Damascus and the Northern Tribes of Israel. King Ahaz and the Judahites rejected God's instruction to patiently wait for a few years (7:4-9) and instead started worshipping the pagan gods of Damascus and Samaria, because they felt that these foreign gods were stronger than the God of Israel (cf. 2 Chron. 28:19,22-26, 2 Kings 16:10-18).



Chapter 8 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8a and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. His outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land."

As punishment for the waywardness of Ahaz and Judea, the Lord brought against them the powerful Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser ("the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates"). Ahaz had invited Tiglath-Pileser to subdue Samaria and Damascus (these nations were Tiglath-Pileser's proper "channels"), but the Assyrian king harassed Judea as well (he "overflowed" his "channels" and "swept into Judea") and took partial control ("up to the neck") of the Southern Kingdom (see 2 Chron 28:20-21). The metaphor of the "outspread wings" indicates that the Assyrian king turned Judea into a vassal state for a time.



Subunit B1: Do not consult mediums (8:11-12)

Chapter 8 11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:
12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.

Ahaz and the people of Judea were terrified. They had apparently consulted necromancers (see corresponding subunit B2 below), and these occultists had warned them of a conspiracy against Judea by powerful pagan gods (fallen angels). God strongly urged ("with his strong hand") the prophet to trust in Him and not fear these rumours along with the rest of the Judahites (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).



Pivot X: Worship, Fear and Obey the one true God (8:13)

Chapter 8 13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.

Worship the one true God and honour the Creator of all things. Fear and obey the Almighty God only. This passage in the pivot conveys the central principle of the Bible, the primary essential truth.



Subunit B2: Do not consult mediums (8:19)

Chapter 8 19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not you people inquire of your God instead? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

The Judahites are told to trust God and seek His instruction; they are not to seek the counsel of necromancers. Occultists had apparently terrified the Judahites by telling them of a great conspiracy against them in the spiritual realm (see Subunit B1 above). If they had sought God's advice, He would have assured them of His protection.



Subunit A2: Those who reject God will suffer for it (8:20-22)

This subunit expands on the lesson of the corresponding subunit A1 above.


Chapter 8 20 Look to God’s Law and the testimony of His prophets. If anyone's beliefs are not in accordance with God's word, they have no light.

We are to seek spiritual instruction only from the Almighty God. Those who follow false teachers and have beliefs that are not in alignment with God's word do not have the light of truth.



Chapter 8 21a They will go through life distressed and hungry; in their times of hunger they will become enraged and they will curse their king and their god.

Those who follow other gods will suffer distress and spiritual hunger. In their spiritual hunger, they will curse the pagan god they worship (we believe that "king" in this context is a synonym for "god", because earthly kings are not responsible for spiritual problems).



Chapter 8 21b They will look upward 22 and they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

Those who reject God and the light of His word will look everywhere - the heavens and the earth - for answers, but they will only find spiritual gloom, distress and darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).



5.2 The Start of Christ's Millennial Reign (2027AD) (Ch 8 Vs 8b-10, Ch 9 Vs 3-7)

This Period is arranged in the form of a two-unit chiasmus:

A1 8:8b-10 The coming Messiah establishes justice and peace in the world
  B1 9:3 The Messiah rules over Israel for Christ
    X 9:4-5 The Beast army is defeated at the start of the Millennial Reign
  B2 9:6 The Messiah rules over Israel for Christ
A2 9:7 The coming Messiah establishes justice and peace in the world


Subunit A1: The coming Messiah establishes justice and peace in the world (8:8b-10)

Chapter 8 8b God is with us!
9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! 10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.

This subunit is a call for peace on earth during the Millennial Reign, but it is ironically phrased in the form of an aggressive, repeated war-cry. The passage is bracketed with the affirmation, 'god is with us'. All to indicate that Christ ('Immanuel'/'god with us') will enforce peace on earth through supernatural means and through his Messiah, the Prince of Peace.



Subunit B1: The Messiah rules over Israel for Christ (9:3)

Chapter 9 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

Under Christ and his Messiah, the reconstituted Israel will be a joyful nation. It will be made greater in every way - in terms of geographic size (see Obadiah 1:19-20), wealth, power, influence etc. (see Zephaniah 3:20).

The New Israel will also be much larger in terms of population. Isaiah took his son Shear-Jashub (which means "A remnant will return") with him to pass on this prophecy to Ahaz (7:3) as a sign that the righteous among the Israelites from around the world will turn back to God and gather into the new nation (see Jeremiah 31:10).



Pivot X: The Beast army is defeated at the start of the Millennial Reign (9:4-5)

Chapter 9 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

During the reign of Satan's Beast (2023-2027AD), its army tyrannically controls most of the world ("the yoke that burdens them...") (see Rev 13). At the start of the Millennial Reign, the Beast's army (Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 39) launches an attack on the New Israel. But this giant army is miraculously defeated (see Rev 19:17-21, 14:14-20), just as Midian was in the time of Gideon (Judges 7). After this humiliating defeat, the Israelites living near the battlefield use this army's clothes and equipment as fuel for fires (see also Ezekiel 39:9). With Satan's comprehensive defeat in this battle, his reign over the world ends (see Rev 20:1-3).



Subunit B2: The Messiah rules over Israel for Christ (9:6)

Chapter 9 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The coming Messiah of the Millennial Reign of Christ will be a human descendant of David ("a child is born", "a son is given"), and he will represent Christ as the ruler of the New Israel. The Messiah will be considered a Wonderful Counsellor (a source of extraordinary wisdom and knowledge from God & Jesus - Isa. 11:2-4), a Mighty Lord (a great and powerful king, an incarnation of the god Archangel Michael), an Everlasting Father (a nurturing governor of the nation and guide to the world forever), the Prince of Peace (a maintainer of peace and justice in the nation and the world - Isa. 11:6-9).



Subunit A2: The coming Messiah establishes justice and peace in the world (9:7)

Chapter 9 7 Of the extent of his reign and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Though the Messiah is officially only ruler over Israel ("David's throne"), he will be de facto ruler of the world, because of Israel's worldwide hegemony during the Millennial Reign. And not only will the Messiah rule on earth with righteousness and justice (Rev. 19:11), he will rule for Christ in his heavenly kingdom forever. ( We take "the extent of his reign" to be regarding both time and space.) All of this is a solemn promise from God ("the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this").



5.3 From the Birth of Christ to The First Jewish–Roman War (5BC-73AD) (Ch 7 Vs 14, Ch 8 Vs 14-18, Ch 9 Vs 1-2)

This Period is arranged in the form of a three-unit chiasmus:

A1 7:14 Christ's Mission: Introduction
  B1 8:14-15 Christ's Mission and Message: For the Israelites
    C1 8:16 The prophet and the prophecy
      X 8:17-18a Christ came to reform the Judahites first
    C2 8:18b The prophet and the prophecy
  B2 9:1 Christ's Mission and Message: For the Gentiles
A2 9:2 Christ's Mission: Conclusion


Subunit A1: Christ's Mission: Introduction (7:14)

Chapter 7 14 Surely the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Jesus was born of Mary, who was a virgin at the time (Luke 1:34,35). He was not named 'Immanuel', but the meaning of the name, 'god with us', was a suitable characterization of Christ (in the manner of Isaiah 9:6). For while Christ is not God, he is a god ("el" in Hebrew), a divine being in the sense in Psalm 82:6 (see John 10:33-36). With this reconfiguration, it is clear that this famous passage applies originally and exclusively to Jesus Christ (see also Matthew 1:23).

Christ's birth to a virgin, and his status as a god among men were signs of the coming of a New Covenant from God for the Judahites and for the whole world ("the Lord himself will give you a sign"). The name "Jesus" means "God is salvation", a reference to the salvation of the New Covenant that comes through Christ's message and through his death.



Subunit B1: Christ's Mission and Message: For the Israelites (8:14-15)

Chapter 8 14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”

To the Judahites who believed in him, Christ was a refuge and a cornerstone (a "holy place"), but those in Judea that did not believe in Jesus were severely punished - to them, Christ was a "stumbling stone". The non-believers in Judea did not heed Christ's warning to flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16), and they were all captured or killed ("fall and be broken"...) during the Roman attack on Jerusalem in 70AD.

Like the Judahites of this Period, only a remnant of the Northern Tribes ("Israel") will turn to their God and to Christ at the start of the Millennial Reign in Period 3 (see Isaiah 10:22), and the rest will be destroyed (see Jer 30:7).

This passage alludes to the First Jewish-Roman war, something we see in all cryptochiastically structured passages (see details on the war in [2]). Note that the metaphors of Jesus as both a stumbling stone and cornerstone are used in other passages, such as 1 Peter 2:7,8 and Matthew 21:42,44.



Subunit C1: The prophet and the prophecy (8:16)

Chapter 8 16 Bind up this testimony and seal up this teaching among my disciples.

God indicates that he has sealed this prophecy, so that students of His Word ("disciples") could not understand it fully. The 'seal' refers to the difficult chiastic structure of this prophecy that obfuscates its true meaning. At the opening of this 'seal'- the fourth 'seal' of Rev. 6 - before the start of the Millennial Reign, the rider on the pale horse is loosed (see Rev. 6:7-8). ( Note that this unit, Unit C, has information about the prophecy itself.)



Pivot X: Christ came to reform the Judahites first (8:17-18a)

Based on Hebrews 2:13, we believe that this passage in the pivot is spoken by Christ.


Chapter 8 17a I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. 17b I will put my trust in Him.

As punishment for worshipping other gods, God had forsaken the Northern Tribes and spiritually blinded their descendants to His truth (Isaiah 29:10). But Jesus knows that God will reveal himself to the descendants of the Northern Tribes ("descendants of Jacob") at a later date - it is clear from this and other prophecies that the people of the Northern Tribes will turn to God and Christ at the start of the Millennial Reign in Period 3 (see, for example, Jer. 31:1-6, Romans 11:25-27).



Chapter 8 18a Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.

However, at his First Coming, Christ must pass on the Gospel from God to the Judahites ("the children" assigned to Christ in this Period) and reform them first (see Heb. 2:14-18, Romans 1:16). Because those Judahites that do not come under the New Covenant by 70AD will be brutally killed.



Subunit C2: The prophet and the prophecy (8:18b)

Chapter 8 18b We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.

The name 'Isaiah', which means "God is salvation", predicts the salvation offered by Jesus through his death in this Period (the name Jesus also means "God is salvation"). So the names of the prophet and his two sons are signs from the God of Israel that are relevant to each of the 3 Periods of this prophecy: "Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz" for Period 1, "Isaiah" for Period 2, "Shear-jashub" for Period 3.



Subunit B2: Christ's Mission and Message: For the Gentiles (9:1)

Chapter 9 1 Truly, there will be no more darkness for those who were spiritually straitened. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.

Jesus honoured the despised region of Galilee by making Capernaum his home. The people of this region were living in the "darkness" of false doctrines ("spiritually straitened"); Jesus taught them the Gospel ("light") from God (Mark 1:21-22). The region of Galilee, located by the Sea of Galilee and north of the river Jordan, was originally allocated to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. This region was considered forsaken by God (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” - John 1:46), because the unfaithful Northern Tribes had been exiled from the region (in Period 1), and the mongrel population at the time of Jesus was a mix of pagan foreigners ("nations" or "goyim") and a small remnant of the Northern Tribes.

We propose that this passage about "Galilee of the nations" implies that Christ's message is not only for the Israelites but also for the rest of the world. The Gentiles will be the mainstay of Christianity around the world until the start of the Millennial Reign (see Romans 11:25).

The passage in 9:1-2 is paraphrased in the New Testament in Matt. 4:13-16 as referring to Christ. Matthew may have also paraphrased this passage in Matt. 2:23 when he said that Jesus, in fulfilment of prophecy, would be called a Nazarene, because Galilee may be synecdochically referred to as Nazareth.



Subunit A2: Christ's Mission: Conclusion (9:2)

Chapter 9 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Jesus brought with him the Gospel ("great light") and a New Covenant from God to a world steeped in the false doctrines of demon gods (see also John 8:12, Matt. 4:16).



Conclusion

With this chiastic reconstruction of the text, we have shown that it contains prophecies on 3 Periods. The first Period predicts the separation and exile of the people of Israel and the last Period predicts their return to a glorious united Israel under Christ. The common theme of the last two Periods is the birth of the Messiahs: Jesus Christ in Period 2, and the coming Messiah of the Millennial age in Period 3.

The prophecy is interspersed with four important passages quoted in the New Testament as predictions about Christ - 7:14b, 8:14, 8:17b-18a and 9:1-2 - and this reconfiguration unites them into Period 2. Most Old Testament Messianic prophecies predict the coming Messiah of the Millennial Reign (as in Isa. 9:6-7), and so the Judahites were expecting a human king who would rule Israel and the world. This reconstruction indicates that there will also be another more divine Messiah, born of a virgin, the "Lord with us", Jesus Christ.



References

[1] A Definition of Cryptochiasmus
[2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"
[3] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 12





* First version published on 1 January 2020.