The background to this chapter is this: Assyria is pushing westward, conquering territory, and quickly becoming the dominant world power. Under these circumstances, two old foes, Syria and Israel, form a league for mutual protection. The two then try to get Judah to unite with them as well. Judah, however, refuses. Therefore, the two decide to remove Judah’s king from the throne and empower a king who would join forces with them. As they prepare to overthrow the king, Ahaz (king of Judah) contemplates what he should do. Should he turn and pledge allegiance to Assyria? Isaiah says no, but instead what he needs to do is to depend upon God.
In verse 1 “Israel” is mentioned but in verse two “Ephraim” is mentioned. Ephraim was a prominent northern tribe; so, for this reason Israel is so designated. Such is similar to how many referred to the old USSR as Russia, or to The Netherlands as Holland.
Israel and Syria had taken an offensive against Judah. Much damage was done (2 Kings 16:5-6). However, Jerusalem had not fallen. Ahaz was filled with fear (Isaiah 7:2b).
The Lord instructs Isaiah and his son Shear-Jashub (lit. ‘a remnant shall return’) to meet Ahaz. They were to take a message to him.
The message: (1) Don’t panic over this alliance – v. 4a; (2) This opposition is like “two smoldering stumps of firewood” (NIV) – v. 4. That is, they are but removed; (3) Their plans will not be allowed to prosper – v. 7; (4) Israel as a nation will only exist for another 65 years – v. 8b; (5) Your continuance depends upon your having faith in God – v. 9b.
Ahaz did not have such faith (2 Kings 16:7-9, 10, 16). God’s wrath was turned against him (2 Chronicles 28:22-25).
Verse 10 – 13
To assure Ahaz that he had nothing to fear from the two kings, Jehovah spoke through the prophet saying, “ask for a sign” … To paraphrase: “Ahaz, let me give you a sign that you may trust what I say.”
Ahaz responded by appealing to Deuteronomy 6:16 (cf. Psalm 78:18). Ahaz claimed that he didn’t want to tempt God. But clearly it is not tempting (testing) God wrongfully to do what He says He’ll permit.
It appears to me that Ahaz had already set his mind to appeal to Assyria (2 Kings 16). Whatever his motive, Ahaz refused to ask for a sign.
There is a good principle to use in Bible study, and that is: the best place to find the meaning of a passage is to let the Bible explain itself (e.g., Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:16; cf. Isaiah 7:14 cf. Matthew 1:22-23). The New Covenant very clearly indicates that the reference is to the Christ being born of Mary.
The name “Immanuel”, or “Emmanuel” means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, 10 cf. Matthew 1:20-23). Jesus is Immanuel (Matthew 1:20-23). God would come and dwell among man in the person Jesus (John 1:1, 14).
Observation: It is true that nowhere in scripture is Jesus called by man Immanuel. However, (1) the fact is millions today do call him Immanuel; (2) Solomon was to be called “Jedidiah” (2 Samuel 12:24-25), which means “beloved of the LORD.” The scriptures never record any man actually calling him such, but it does not mean that he was not so called.
Note: There are two big questions which we will not answer until part two. (1) Does this verse refer to a virgin birth? (2) Does this verse have double fulfillment? That is, does it refer to someone in Ahaz’s day and then, secondarily to Jesus?
Many, including me, understand there to be one child in verses 14-16. The child would grow up under somewhat normal circumstances, eating and drinking just like other children do (Luke 2:52 cf. Luke 1:80). The food herein mentioned is not the food of the privileged, the rich, the powerful; instead, this is the food of the poor (Isaiah 7:14 cf. 7:19-25). Joseph and Mary were poor. This is clear from Luke 2:22-24 (cf. Leviticus 12:1-8). Before, the time it would take this child (or any typical child) to know right from wrong (reaching the age of accountability cf. Deuteronomy 1:39-40) … before that age, the confederation of Israel and Syria would come to naught. Two or three years after this prophecy both these conspiring kings would be dead (2 Kings 15:30; 16:9).
However, Franklin Camp was of the opinion that the child of verse 16 to be different than the child of verse 14-15. He suggested that there were two prophecies set forth. One concerned a virgin birth and one concerned Isaiah’s child. He suggested that the child of verse 16 is the child of Isaiah mentioned in Isaiah 7:3. He commented, “It makes no sense for God to command Isaiah to take the ‘child’ and it never be mentioned again … Furthermore … If the ‘child’ of verse 16 is the same as ‘the son’ of verses 14 and 15 why not continue the pronouns, reading thus: ‘For before he,’ not ‘child’? If ‘the child’ of verse 16 is the same as ‘the son’ of verses 14 and 15, there would have been no point in using the word ‘child’ …The change … was by deliberate design and purpose to separate the virgin birth and ‘son’ of verse 14 from the ‘child’ in verse 16. The prophetic action of verse 16 was directed toward Ahaz … As proof that this is correct, compare the language of verse 16 with chapter 8:4” (Franklin Camp, Isaiah 7:14, printed by Tom Wacaster in The Majesty of Jesus: A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew Vol 1, p. 665-678).