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 mean time 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).
Verse 15: He shall eat: The verse 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 up eating curds and honey’, and ‘curds 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 conjunction ‘when’ to mean the condition; he will do this, when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Now let’s analyse 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 set of age, when man usually learns to do that? In fact, is man ever able to do that? Does man really reach an age when s/he learns (knows) how to refuse the evil and choose the good?
Some interpreted this by the ability to know what is right and wrong at the age of 12. But is this really what the text means here? The verse doesn’t 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. We know very well that what we are doing is not good, even as we’re doing it.
Also, the verse didn’t say: When the boy knows what is evil, but instead it said: when he knows how to refuse the evil. It’s an ability that reflects strength in character, maturity and deep knowledge that most people don’t gain throughout their entire life.
The verse says: he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. This sentence means that the person didn’t only develop an ability to resist the evil and choose the good sometimes, but that he learnt how to do it once and for all. Because if you knew, if we all knew how to do it, then we’ll always do it (full stop). The skill here isn’t to be able to resist evil sometimes. 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 way the wording of the verse was put doesn’t really hide a metaphor. Let’s assume that, on one hand, Isaiah was talking about food intake in general, and he is talking about the age when it is generally agreed that a child starts knowing what is right and what is wrong.
Now, if this is the case, how come that the boy will only start eating (weaning) when he is at about the age of 12 or 11 or 10???!!!
It doesn’t matter how much we are going to lower the age, it will always be either too late to start weaning a child solid food, or too early to develop knowledge about what is right and what is wrong.
The other thing to look at in trying to penetrate this verse is what did curds 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 honey comb. 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 sometime, then put indoor to cool down. As we see, both foods do not need any major preparation to become suitable for eating. Both food come straight from the main (the sheep or the bee), without the need for an intermediary (the middle man who is the farmer or the grinder of the wheat or the person who bakes, 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.”
Linking the curds and honey with the condition of knowing how to resist evil and choose good tells us that those two types of food are used here as a metaphor for something greater. They are either a spiritual reward for the ‘boy’s’ spiritual break through or consequence of his spiritual break through, regardless on whether this consequence is negative or positive in itself. This means, regardless on 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.