God had publicly proclaimed that it was the Lord who 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.
God had declared that both Egypt to the south, and Assyria to the north would come in like a swarm. King Ahaz had chosen to trust in worldly means. But now it would backfire on him. God, Who would have been the king’s true ally, if only he had been willing to trust in the Lord, would now allow Judah to fall to Assyria.
Because King Ahaz and his people had refused to trust God, a day of reckoning was scheduled on their calendar, and its date was On That Day.
“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.”
“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)
On that day, the Assyrian army would bring complete humiliation on Judah, that is what shaving the hair and beard meant.
“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)
On that day, so many people would die that everyone who was left could eat curds and honey, usually a delicacy.
“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.”Isaiah 7:21-22 (NRSV)
On that day, prime farmland would turn to briers and thorns.
“On that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns.”Isaiah 7:23 (NRSV)
On that day, people would have to turn to hunting just to find something to eat.
“With bow and arrows one will go there, for all the land will be briers and thorns,”Isaiah 7:24 (NRSV)
On that day, all that valuable hillside land, usually used for vineyards and orchards, would be no good, so might as well let what cows and sheep are left graze there.
“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 7:25 (NRSV)
Perhaps King Ahaz did not quite grasp the full weight of the prophet’s oracle, for God’s sign had not yet come to pass.
But did this terrible prophecy ever come to pass? Yes, just as God described.
First Wave of Exile
In his days King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up; Jehoiakim became his servant for three years, then turned and rebelled against him.
[King Nebuchadnezzar] sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, bands of the Arameans, bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites; he sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets.
Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to pardon.
. . . The king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken over all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Wadi of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
– He carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord
– and the treasures of the king’s house;
– he cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord that King Solomon of Israel had made, all this as the Lord had foretold.
– He carried away all Jerusalem,
all the officials,
all the warriors,
ten thousand captives,
all the artisans and the smiths;
no one remained except the poorest people of the land.
– He carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the elite of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
– The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, seven thousand,
– the artisans and the smiths, one thousand, all of them strong and fit for war.2 Kings 24:13-16 (NRSV)
It was not uncommon for conquering kings to take into exile all those who could be of some use to the empire. We know Nebuchadnezzar took particular interest in the young nobles, seeking to enculturate them into the Babylonian system, and retrain them as Babylonian administrators and governors. Daniel and his companions are the most famous members of Nebuchadnezzar’s reconditioning program.
But notice that not only nobility were taken, but every artisan, every smith—gold smiths, those who worked with copper and iron, and bronze workers. All these were esteemed so highly that most smiths worked within the temple precincts, as their work was considered not only sacred but supernatural.
The king also coopted Judah’s own armies, converting these men of valor into conscripted soldiers and mercenaries.
Second Wave of Exile
In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
– He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.
– All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.
– Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the multitude.
– But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.2 Kings 25:8-12 (NRSV)
It seems hardly possible there could have been any people left, if only the poorest of the poor had remained after the first wave. But there it was. Those few who remained could finally eat curds and honey, for no one else was there.
God With Us
To God’s people, God is Immanuel, always with us.
True security comes through faith in Immanuel
This does not mean God prevents crises and trials, far from it. This is a troubled and broken place, filled with troubled and broken people. That you and I might be truly free, God has given us the moral prerogative to choose between good and evil. So often, people do not make good choices.
Yet, if you and I will trust God, the Lord will be with us through it all, upholding, sustaining, comforting, equipping, and finally, in the end, bringing us home to God.
To refuse the Lord, can only bring sorrow and loss, in the end.