Ephraim was the younger son of Joseph, son of Jacob, and Asenath, daughter of Potiphera (priest of the sun god Re of Heliopolis). Ephraim is the ancestor of the Tribe of Ephraim. Before his death, Jacob adopted his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh to be equal with his own sons (Genesis 48:5).
Sheol: When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in ancient Alexandria around 200 BC, the word “Hades” (the Greek underworld) was substituted for Sheol, and this is reflected in the New Testament where Hades is both the underworld of the dead and the personification of the evil it represents.
Verse 14 is a prophecy about the tribe of Judas’ future. This prophecy tells Judas that God is giving them a sign. In the face of it, the verse promises that God will give them a sign (the virgin birth) in the near future to tell them that they will not perish. But reading between the lines, the verse tells Judas that the sign which God is giving them right then and there is the PROMISE that they have already been elected to be the nation in which Jesus Christ will be born. The sign is the promise of the birth and not the act of birth itself. So, although the act of birth is in the very long future, it could be still considered an effective sign in the meantime IF Judas would believe the promise of God and would strengthen their faith. So, in another word, if Judas truly believed the prophecy Isaiah gave, and if they truly believed the promise of God about the coming of Emmanuel, then their faith will render the prophecy and promise to be a sign for them. (The faithful could have reasoned this way: If God has already elected us to be the nation that saves the world, then this is enough sign for us to tell us that we will not perish).
Clearly, Judas neither understood the meaning of the sign nor were willing to put their faith and assurance on God’s promises.
Verse 15: He shall eat: It is not saying that the action of eating will be repetitive. The verse might be talking about a type of nourishment that is not regular and hasn’t been given before. For if Isaiah was talking about regular food, he would formulate the sentence in a different way, as ‘he would grow eating on curds and honey’, and ‘curd and honey will nourish him throughout the days of his life’, ‘curd and honey would be his daily food’, etc.
Instead, Isaiah said: He shall eat. It’s a one time action. It’s not only this. Let’s look at the rest of the sentence.
The action of eating is linked with the conditional ‘when’. He will do this when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Now let’s analyze the remainder of the sentence: “when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good”. When do people learn how to do those two things? Is there a particular age, when a man usually learn to be perfect? In fact, is a man ever able to be perfect? Is there truly a particular age to perfect wisdom; when a man learns (knows) how to refuse what is evil and choose what is good?
Some Bible interpreters understood this to mean a person’s ability to know what is right and wrong at the age of 12. But is this really what Isaiah meant?
As we can see, this verse does not say ‘when he knows what is good‘ but instead, it says “when he knows how to choose the good“. Most of us know what is good, but not most of us know how to choose what is good. In actual fact, most fail to choose good over evil, although they can intellectually distinguish very well between the two. This means that humanity is yoked by some sort of compulsion to doing evil. The understanding is there, the will in some respects is also there, but knowing how to overcome the compulsion, the strong emotional tendencies to doing what we know we’re not supposed to do, is the thing that Isaiah refers to, between the lines, in this chapter.
Besides, the verse did not say: “When the boy knows what is evil“, but instead it said: “when he knows how to refuse the evil”. It is an ability that reflects maturity, strength in character, and a deep knowledge of Truth.
In addition, the verse “he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good” does not imply a temporary ability to resisting Evil and choosing Good. The skill here isn’t to be able to resist evil sometimes, and for the rest of the time to fail, like everybody else. On the contrary, the verse means that he learned the ‘How To’ once and for all. When we fully know how to do something, then we become skilled at it, and so we will always know how to do it right. The emphasis here is on the KNOWING HOW. This ‘knowing how’ is completely different from ‘trying and being able to’. To know how to do something is to discover (or get given) the secret coding of its making (the making of the self), and the technique on how to monitor it and control it.
But let’s just assume that the verse doesn’t really hide a metaphor. Let’s assume that Isaiah was talking literally about food intake, and about the age of the child.
Now, if this is the case, a 12-year-old child may indeed reach some sort of spiritual wisdom, but how come that the boy will only start eating (weaning) when he is at about the age of 12?! Don’t children start eating solid food when they are infants; at least at the age of one?
We can see that associating between the age of spiritual maturity and of weaning is not logical in the literal sense. The age of twelve years is too late to start weaning a child solid food, and one year is too early to develop perfect wisdom regarding the issues of good and evil.
The other thing to look at in trying to penetrate this verse is what did curd and honey mean to the Israelites of that time? Both curds and honey are natural food. Honey could be consumed as it is without being processed. It only needs to be taken from the honeycomb. Curd, on the other hand, needs to be milked from the cow or sheep, then put in a suitable container (usually made out of goat skin). This need to be shaken fiercely for some time, then put indoors to cool down. As we see, both foods do not need any major preparation to become suitable for eating. Both foods come straight from the main (the sheep or the bee), without the need for an intermediary (the middleman who is the farmer or the grinder or the cook, etc).
Besides, both of these types of food are concentrated and known to be extremely healthy for the body.
“Honey is used because of its antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It is also soothing, anti-inflammatory effects on respiratory issues. Milk contains vitamin and minerals including vitamin-A, B, and D, as well as calcium, animal protein, and lactic acid.”
This is how honey and curds affect the body. But is this how they also affect the mind?
Medical researchers have long established that there is indeed a dialectical relationship between what we eat and how we feel, think and act. Unfortunately, as for all dialectical relationships, it has to have a point at which the relationship is instigated. The relationship between humanity and food begins after the moment of conception; the formation of the DNA and the development of the fetus.
The DNA sets the foundation of the sole; that is the mind, the will, and the emotions. It also provides the parameters within which the sole can stretch or shrink. Spirituality and wisdom are birthed from within these parameters and shaped by them. This is why we notice billions of shades and colours to the truth in the human mind. The environment on the other hand; including the nature of food ingested, plays a very limited role in the expansion or the shrinking of the soul. Good food may help stabilise the condition of the soul; be it anxiety, fear, distress, etc but it cannot undo its vulnerabilities. In the same way, bad food, drink or drug consumption can lead to mental illness where vulnerabilities already exist in the soul/DNA of the consumer. Medical researchers provide evidence that cigarettes, for example, don’t contribute to cancer in every single case. The impact of alcohol is not necessarily a violent behaviour in every drinker and drugs don’t lead to madness in each case of drug addiction. This is not to dismiss the impact of these elements even on those who have the best of DNAs but to say that someone with a DNA that has no mental or psychological vulnerabilities will probably never succumb to any of these addictions anyway.
Linking the curds and honey with the condition of knowing how to resist evil and choose good can only be metaphorical. These two types of food are used here as a metaphor for something greater. They are either a spiritual reward for the person’s spiritual breakthrough or it is a consequence of his spiritual breakthrough, regardless of whether this consequence is negative or positive in itself. This means, regardless of whether this consequence is a joyful state (being filled by the Holy Spirit) or it is a price to pay (the crucifixion).
Once this boy knew how to control himself, resist the evil and choose the good, he then became a master of himself and his choices.
“16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
Understanding the verse:
Although it sounds as if the ‘before’ is the very near past, there is no reason for it not to mean ‘hundreds of years before the boy knows, etc’. This may mean that before Jesus Christ became a temple to the Holy Spirit, or in general sometime before the action of redemption took place, those two kings had failed.
So, the two kingdoms were Syria, although in the Arabic version ‘Aram’, and the other is Israel. Syria was a small kingdom based on modern-day Damascus.