King Ahaz rebuffed God’s offer of reconciliation and strong help. According to the prophet Isaiah, the young king now wearied God with his sorry excuses. But rather than depart from him, God would give Ahaz a sign of God’s power and promise.
God’s Sign to King Ahaz
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
(1) “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel.
(2) “He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.Isaiah 7:14-16 (NRSV)
Sign of the Virgin
Though you and I recognize this as a Messianic prophecy, God intended its first, immediate fulfillment to act as an unmistakable sign for King Ahaz.
In his time, the sign of the virgin was meant to convey a noteworthy child would be born as the first child to a young woman, and the child would be named “God is with us.”
Scholars have theorized who this virgin, this young, perhaps just-married woman might be.
- Perhaps King Ahaz’s queen was expecting her first child. In fact, Ahaz’s crown prince Hezekiah would become one of the few good kings of Judah.
- Maybe she was Isaiah’s wife, perhaps a second wife, the one Isaiah later referred to as the Prophetess.
- Some posit she represented young mothers across the land, expressing their hope in God.
The child’s arrival would be confirmation that God’s word was true and God’s promises sure, that God would protect Judah, and David’s lineage and throne.
Curds and Honey
At first glance, the phrase “curds and honey” might seem to convey prosperity in some way. But this plenty would come because of sudden depopulation, so that what would be left could be shared among the few who remained. God was saying the lands of Aram and Israel would be deserted so that curds and honey would now, unexpectedly, be plentiful.
Knowing Good From Evil
Jewish tradition holds this age of accountability as thirteen for boys and twelve for girls, according to the Torah, the Law of Moses.
And as for your little ones who you thought would become plunder, your children who today do not yet know right from wrong, they shall enter there; to them I will give it, and they shall take possession of it.Deuteronomy 1:39 (NRSV)
God was giving King Ahaz a specific timeline for understanding the sign. Before thirteen years had transpired, Kings Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Aram (Syria) would be no more, their regions conquered, their people taken captive.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
Did it really go down like that?
The ancient historical record bears it out. In less than three years, so around 733-32 B.C., Assyria did lay both Aram and Israel to waste. Aram’s king Rezin was killed by the Assyrians. And in Israel’s political intrigue, Pekah was assassinated and Hoshea became the new king, a vassal to Tiglath Pilezer.
Ten years later Samaria, the capital city of Israel, fell to Assyrian rule and the promised child would have been about thirteen years old by that point.
This near-term fulfillment authenticated every word Isaiah spoke on God’s behalf.
Judgement Rolls Down
But now Isaiah’s oracle turned its attention to the nation of Judah.
“The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”Isaiah 7:17 (NRSV)
Remember that Isaiah had brought his son with him, name A Remnant Shall Return. His name had several layers of meaning.
- On the one hand, he was living proof of Isaiah’s credentials as a prophet. One day God knew Isaiah would be standing before King Ahaz, reassuring him that no matter how bad it looked, God was on his side and would protect him.
- On the other hand, his name also revealed that God knew what Ahaz would do. God stood by God’s promise to Ahaz that the two nations menacing him would fall.
But Ahaz’s unbelief would be costly. Not just for him, but for the whole nation.
God knew that Ahaz had taken God’s treasure and used it as a bribe to purchase Assyria as an ally.
I wonder if Ahaz must have caught his breath when Isaiah mentioned Assyria?
– Who is it who calls on Assyria? It is not Ahaz, it is God.
On that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the sources of the streams of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the clefts of the rocks and on all the thornbushes and on all the watering holes.Isaiah 7:18-19 (NRSV)
– Who is it who hired Assyria? Not Ahaz. God is the one.
On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well.Isaiah 7:20 (NRSV)
– Who would be taken captive, and their land left deserted? Not just Aram and Israel. But one day, Judah as well.
On that day one will keep alive a young cow and two sheep and will eat curds because of the abundance of milk that they give, for everyone left in the land shall eat curds and honey.
On that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns.
With bow and arrows one will go there, for all the land will be briers and thorns, and as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not go there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.Isaiah 7:21-25 (NRSV)
At first it would look like Ahaz had been pretty smart. Here would come Assyria to save the day, both King Rezin and King Pekah would be dead, the nations of Aram and Israel would no longer be a threat, the people would cheer, King Ahaz would be a hero! Confetti! Ticker-tape parade! Crowns of victory!
Certainly God’s name would not appear in the headlines. Because it would be all about Ahaz and his secret alliance using temple treasure. So much for trusting in God, right? Brains, political and diplomatic savvy, and plenty of money are what would save the day.
But God was now publicly proclaiming the opposite was true. God would direct the Assyrian armies to bring judgment, one-by-one, to all three kings, and all three lands, for the same ill pervaded them all, the fatal illness of idolatry.