What does Isaiah chapter 8 mean?Isaiah 8 picks up where the previous chapter left off. The forces of Israel and Syria are threatening Judah (Isaiah 7:6). Ahaz and the people of Jerusalem are bracing for an attack (Isaiah 7:2). Isaiah, though, has revealed to King Ahaz that the attack will fail (Isaiah 7:7). In fact, it is Israel and Syria who will be wiped out (Isaiah 7:8).
As further confirmation of this, the Lord now tells Isaiah to make a large sign. He is to make it while two prominent witnesses with connections to King Ahaz watch him. On that sign, Isaiah is to write a long, complicated name: Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The words mean something like "speeding to the plunder, hurrying to the spoil." The name is a prophecy about two things: the coming birth of a son to Isaiah and the coming destruction of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 8:1–2).
The prophet soon conceives a son with a woman referred to as "the prophetess." Since a connected prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 said that a virgin would conceive, Isaiah may have taken this woman as his wife, when she had never been married before. She would also serve as a messenger of the Lord in some way (Isaiah 8:3).
God tells Isaiah to give their son the name he had written on the sign. The Lord says that before the boy is old enough to call out to his parents, the king of Assyria will plunder the wealth of Damascus, the capital of Syria. Ruin will also come to Samaria, then the capital of the ten tribes of Israel to the north (Isaiah 8:3–4).
That's the good news for Judah to the south. The bad news is that the king of Assyria will not stop with conquering Syria and Israel. The Lord poetically describes the coming judgment through Assyria as a mighty river. It overflows its banks and sweeps destruction over the land. Using the same ornate language, God says the people of Judah have rejected the gentle "waters of the Shiloah" that He would have given to them if they had just trusted in Him. Instead, they will get the raging river that is Assyria (Isaiah 8:5–8).
Then, using a section framed as overt poetry, Isaiah calls for the people of Judah to be broken and shattered despite all their preparations for war (Isaiah 8:9–10).
The Lord next gives Isaiah a strong warning not to follow the path of the people of Judah. He is not to believe in baseless conspiracies nor live in fear of both real and imagined dangers. Isaiah must honor the Lord as holy. He should choose to fear the power of the Lord to bring destruction, as well as seeing God as the source of sanctuary (Isaiah 8:11–13).
Isaiah describes the Lord as a stone of offense and stumbling. Peter will cite this metaphor in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:8). That which could have been a solid foundation is, instead, what the people trip over. Instead of trusting the Lord and finding safety in Him, both houses of Israel, north and south, including Jerusalem, will trip over the Lord and be trapped by Him. They will not escape but will be taken away by their enemies (Isaiah 8:14–15).
He declares that despite the Lord's choice to hide His face from His people in this season, he will continue to wait for God to keep His promises. He will not falter in his hope in the Lord. He and his children will be part of the faithful remnant who still trust in God and provide evidence that He has not abandoned His people entirely (Isaiah 8:16–18).
The chapter ends with Isaiah's disgust at those in Judah who go looking for answers from the dead through mediums and necromancers. These practices had been prohibited by God, and for good reason (Leviticus 19:31). Why ask the dead? Why not bring their questions to their own God? They have already been given revelation of truth through teaching and testimony. Since the people have not received the word already given by the Lord God, they will live in darkness and frustration. The daylight will not come for them (Isaiah 8:19–22).