Isaiah 8

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Verses 11 to 19

 

There seems to be a general agreement in bible commentaries that Isaiah is the author-teller of verses 16-22 and that the speaker in verses 12-16 is God himself. I’m going to demonstrate that this is almost impossible for a variety of reasons. But first, I will need to put the same verses in a slightly different layout. All that is between quotation mark is the object of the speech of the Lord. All that is not, it is Isaiah’s:

11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

12“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.”
“13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. ”
“14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offence and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
“16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching[f] among my disciples.”
“17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.”
“18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
“19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?”
“20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
“21 They will pass through the land,[g] greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against[h] their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.”
“22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”

We can see that Isaiah didn’t speak since verse 11. All the rest of the chapter was monopolised by another speaker. Let’s see who’s speaking in the remainder of chapter 8.

I- Was the Lord (= God the Father) the speaker in verse 12-22?

The interpretation of the identity of the Lord in verse 11, could easily be based on the direct assumption that it is equal to the identity of God the Father. However, this interpretation becomes more challenging when we regard the Lord as being the speaker in verses 12-22. This interpretation could only work fine with verse 12  “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear
The reason why this interpretation works fine with verse 12 is that the verse came first in the ‘Lord’s message’ before any further information indicating the contrary, was revealed.
However, from verse 13 onward, this interpretation starts running into problems.

In verse 13, the speaker calls Isaiah to honour and glorify the Lord of Hosts.
13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
[ The speaker (who is not Isaiah because He is addressing Isaiah using the pronoun YOU) is talking about another majestic entity greater than him, called the LORD OF HOSTS, using the pronoun ‘He’. Therefore, the speaker and the Lord of Hosts are not the same person]

In verse 17, the speaker tells Isaiah that He will wait for the will of the Lord (Lord of the Hosts), who, He says, is hiding his face. He also said to Isaiah that He will put his hope in the Lord.
17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
[The speaker, who is not Isaiah, promises to wait for another majestic entity greater than him, called THE LORD OF HOSTS. The Lord of Hosts, the speaker said, is hiding his face from the nation of Israel. Therefore the speaker is not the Lord of Hosts, because the speaker is there in the mist of the nation.]

The speaker reveals to Isaiah that He (the speaker) and the children He was assigned by the Lord of Hosts (who lives on Mount Zion) are signs and portents to the lost sheep.
18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
[The speaker, who is not Isaiah, declares that He, and other beings/humans who He calls children of God and disciples, are sent by THE LORD OF HOSTS to be signs and portents to the nation of Israel.]

[The speaker comments on the fact that some people ask Isaiah (regularly perhaps) to inquire of mediums and necromancers. The speaker is rhetorically wondering if it was not far better to enquire of the Lord of Hosts.]
19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?”
[the speaker, who is not Isaiah, now talks to Isaiah using the pronoun (YOU), to comment on people seeking prophecies from mediums and necromancers, noting that they should be enquiring from the Lord of Hosts  instead.]

Nouns and Pronouns:

All the previous verses show that there is only one speaker between verse 12 and 22, but that there are three pronouns (I, He, you).

1- Pronoun [I] for the speaker: The speaker spoke about himself indirectly and directly in all the verses between 12-22 but He spoke about himself more clearly in verses 17 and 18.

2- Pronoun [you] for Isaiah:
The speaker in verses 12-22 spoke to Isaiah directly using the pronoun YOU.

(11 For the Lord spoke thus to me ….., saying: 12“Do not call …)

3- Pronoun [He] for the Lord of Hosts:
The speaker in verses 12 – 22, spoke to Isaiah about the Lord using the pronoun [HE] to mark his gender and distance (the Lord of Hosts was not a part of the conversation therefore He was absent).
+The speaker spoke about the Lord calling him: THE LORD OF HOSTS (twice in 13/18) and once as the Lord in verse 18.
+The use of the word Lord only is seen here as a shortening for the combined word: THE LORD OF HOSTS. The context in verse 18 indicates this “18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts
It makes more sense that the Lord who has given the children to Him is the same as the Lord who used them as signs and portents.
+Therefore we conclude that the speaker, only spoke about THE LORD OF HOSTS to Isaiah.

We then conclude that the Lord of Hosts and the speaker are not the same person.

II- If the Lord of Hosts is different from the speaker, and verse 11 tells us that the Lord spoke, does this imply that there are two Lords?

This lead to one of the following semantical conclusions:
1- Either The Lord in verse 11 is the same as the speaker in the next verses.
2- Or The Lord in verse 11 is different from the speaker in the next verses.

1- If the Lord in v.11 is the same as the speaker, then we can conclude that the Lord in v11 cannot be God the Father, because the speaker in the following verses declares a greater entity than himself. This goes in contrast with what we believe God to be in the Christian faith. God is the Head. He is the biggest power there is.

2- If The Lord in verse 11 is indeed God the Father, then Him and the speaker in v12-22 must be different. In which case, how and where did the linguistic transition taken place?
This hypothesis requires more in-depth reading to Isaiah 8, and in particular to verse 11, to know how did the Lord of hosts who was declared to be the future speaker, turned out not to be the future speaker after all.
This will also lead us to assume that either there are two Lords, one of which is higher than the other, or that the message of the Lord of Hosts was delegated somehow to a lower entity who spoke independently of Him.
Since neither hypothesis is conclusive, this is a good indication that there is a confusion; a mis-interpretation, somewhere, in the text.
Let’s look at verse 11 closely.

(ESV)11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

This verse 11 is a compound sentence made out of two fundamental sentences:

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

These two sentences which are linked through the conjunction (and) are grammatically speaking equal sentences and could easily be set a part into two independent sentences. Therefore, each of these two parts could be analysed independently from the other. Due to the fact that only the first part of the compound sentence is revealing information about the identity of “THE LORD”, then this is the only part we will be concentrating on.

I- The structure of the 1st part of the Compound Sentence in verse 11:

For The Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me
Grammatical Analysis Conjunction/Connective Subject

[came as Nominal Phrase (article + noun)]

Verb in the past tense Conjunctive Adverb Object: (contains proposition ‘to’ and objective pronoun ‘me’) Adverbial Clause [proposition ‘with’, possessive pronoun ‘his’, adjective ‘strong’, proposition ‘upon’, objective pronoun ‘me’]
Semantical  Analysis For’ justified the previous text (verse) by the use of the following verse. An alternative for the name of God, Jesus and maybe the Holy Spirit also God’s action of speaking set in the past as a result or consequence of this; therefore- It supports the Conjunctive “For” and the use of the past tense. to Isaiah – the prophet is spoken to. He is now on the receiving end. This is to describe HOW The Lord spoke to Isaiah. While reading this, one can imagine that the Lord who supposedly has a similar image to Humans’ physical bodies, was resting his hand on Isaiah while talking to him.
In this sentence, all grammatical parts have simple structure except the adverb, thus we will focus on this part next.

 

with his strong hand upon me
Grammarical Analysis Proposition- Indication is not clear Possessive pronoun Adjective Noun Proposition – indicating the place Objective pronoun
Semantic Analysis Varies?

Find below

Of the Lord For a while, this could represent an interpretation to the meaning that we’re created on the image of God. Varies?

Find below

Isaiah

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 22.11.38

 

To be able to establish which meaning from the list above applies to the proposition ‘with’, we need to establish first the following points:
+Is the phrase ‘talking with his strong Hand’ an Adverbial Complement of time or of manner?

+Is the term Strong Hand used literally or metaphorically?

11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

1-Adverbial Complement of Manner:
The most obvious function of the preposition ‘with’ is to be a complement of manner. Within the frame of this meaning, we assume that this is a description of the way the Lord was positioning his hand while speaking. The grammatical reading to the phrase imposes a semantic too. This semantic reading entails that God has a human like body, which includes hands that are like those of a man and used likewise. The suitable meaning of ‘upon’ that goes with it, is therefore the meaning found in option 1 and 2 in the table above.

2-Adverbial Complement of time:
The other possibility is that ‘with’ is used here to indicate the meaning: When.  Here, the action of speaking is taking place at the same time as another implicit action. This other implicit action could be the ‘placing‘ or  the ’putting’ of the hand of God upon Isaiah , etc: [e.g: The Lord spoke to me while/at the same time as, putting/placing his strong hand, upon me].
When we start interpreting the phrase to mean the above example, more emphasis is given to the sentence’s tail than before. Suddenly it becomes almost as important as the head of the sentence. [The Lord spoke to me while/at the same time as, putting/placing his strong hand, upon me]
Gradually, we start seeing a new interpretation of the text coming alive. The Adverbial Complement of ‘utility’ does not only put focus on the tail, but it also provides both; the head and the tail  with the possibility of being regarded as both equally important. It also offers an even more exciting interpretation of the verse. However, this interpretation will also require the use and provision of synonyms rather than the literal wording of the last phrase:
[The Lord spoke through his strong hand (which He placed ) upon me] OR [The Lord spoke through his strong hand (which came) upon me]

This analysis opens the door to a more in depth reading to the text. Suddenly, we stop seeing the hand laying on Isaiah as being a very unimportant action of which implications and motifs are extremely ambiguous and not understood (like: why would the Lord place his hand on Isaiah while talking to Him? How did the Lord place his hand on Isaiah, him being a spiritual entity? Why that seemingly trivial detail, was mentioned in the verse anyway, and how can that be important to the reader?)
Next, we begin discovering the significance of such a phrase in the verse.

[The Lord spoke to me (not directly) but through his Hand]
The “Hand” here becomes more alive and bursting with meaning. On one hand, it is perceived to be the channel through which the Word of God travels, and on the other hand it becomes seen as a part of God which is conscious in itself; a person.

I find this interpretation to be more faithful to the parabolic and metaphoric style that Jesus for example adopted, and to the theology of the Trinity which sees God as being a lot bigger and more complex than humans.

God is extremely vast and complex, to the point that each part of him, constitute a separate conscious being. Example of these parts are God’s Word, which is also his son; Jesus Christ. And another example is God’s Holy Spirit, which is also a person, but which remains the Spirit of God nevertheless.

Therefore, I conclude that the “Hand” of God is also a conscious person who plays the role of the messenger of God in Isaiah 8. This messenger could well turn out to be one of the two parts that we’re already familiar with; Jesus or the Holy Spirit themselves. Or He could turn out to be yet another part of God that was not talked about a lot in Christian Theology; for example the angel Gabriel, although this is very unlikely considering the context presented in the following verses. If the Hand was the Holy Sprit, then the preposition ‘upon’ would fit the meaning of coming on me or through me.
We now able to see three pronouns in verse 11. Isaiah (I), the Lord (He), and the Hand of God (He).
So, who is the “Hand” of God in Isaiah 8:11?
The more we advance in this chapter, the more we will find key words and phrases that can be seen as indications to the true identity of the Hand of God, which also gives us more clues about the identity of the true speaker in Isaiah 8:12-22.

16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching[f] among my disciples.
[The speaker has disciples among us]

17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
[The speaker talks about the Lord of Hosts, projecting a relationship of faith, hope and prayer; the same as us! It is also a relationship of trust and understanding from the part of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. He knows the Father very well, and so He is prepared to wait patiently for the Father to bring forth his promises.]

18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
[The speaker here tells us that He is being used by God, which confirms his status as the hand of God. He also talks about his disciples/children who were given to him by the Father. There is a big significance in knowing the true identity of the speaker through this declaration: who is He and what is his mission?]

I conclude then, that the Lord who spoke in these versus is either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Light Hearted Comment:

I’d like to comment on this by using a non-scriptural data. I find very interesting the fact that some modern day people, who have experienced going to Hell during their near death experiences, tell us that  after crying to God, they saw a big strong hand, recognised to be the hand of Jesus, snatching them from there! (Please have a look in the NDE section in the Home Library)

Summary:

11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

12“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.”
“13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. ”
“14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offence and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
“16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching[f] among my disciples.”
“17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.”
“18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
“19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?”
“20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
“21 They will pass through the land,[g] greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against[h] their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.”
“22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

In verses 12-22 of Isaiah 8, the speaker talks about the Lord of Hosts. The Lord of Hosts seems to be the highest power in Heaven and earth, and therefore He is God Himself. If the Lord in verse 11 was the Lord of Hosts, this would mean that He was not the speaker in the verses to follow because that speaker declared (in v 13, 14, 17 and 18) that He was not the Lord of Hosts.

The speaker didn’t ask for glorification for Himself but for the Lord of Hosts.
The speaker carried on talking about God, using the pronoun ‘He’ in the rest of the verses. He never said ‘I, the Lord of Hosts’, for example.
The speaker in verses 12-22 is using the pronoun (I), talking to Isaiah (you), about God (He), and the disciples (them). It doesn’t make sense that God would keep talking about himself using the pronoun (He). Also, the context goes with the fact that (I) is different from the person of God, because the speaker is saying that he will be waiting for the Lord; God, He is used by the Lord; God, etc. Also, it is not possible for the speaker to be Isaiah because the speaker is talking to Isaiah using the pronoun (you).

Therefore, the only possible speaker here is the ‘Hand’ of God.  Through reading and studying the remainder of chapter 8, the ‘hand’ of God could only be either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.

This leaves us to think about the possibility that Jesus/the Holy Spirit was always around. He was here; perhaps from the beginning of the creation.

This also leaves us to think about Jesus/ the Holy Spirit’s relationship with God of the hosts himself (v17). 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”

The fact that Jesus/the Holy Spirit is not on his own, brings up even more food for thought. Jesus has disciples (given children). These given children cannot be lost sheep. In fact, these children were given to Jesus to be used as signs and portents for the lost sheep. So, these children are not sheep and are not lost. They are in fact (according to this reasoning) the spiritual children of Jesus. They are therefore the disciples and apostles of those days and of all days, until the end of time.