Wednesday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 8:16-9:7.
I will pass over the well-worn, but joyful Messianic prophecy of 9:1-7, and focus instead on the end of Isaiah 8. These verses speak of “YHWH Who hides His face from the house of Jacob.”(8:17) This lack of communication by YHWH prompts the people to turn to sorcery, as king Saul did.
By contrast, Isaiah is in God’s counsels, and is himself a sign from YHWH to the people of Israel:
18 Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me!
We are for signs and wonders in Israel
From the LORD of hosts,
Who dwells in Mount Zion.
It is hard to imagine the stress and strain on a family like that of Isaiah or Hosea, in which the marriage itself, the names of the children, indeed the whole family-life is subordinated to the father’s prophetic vocation.
Verse 19 is poorly translated by some versions. The NKJV is typical:
19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?
Rather, the quotation continues beyond “mutter” to encompass the entire verse, and makes good sense if we translate Elohayw as “their gods” rather than “their God”: “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter. Should not a people seek their gods, the dead on behalf of the living?” Recall that when Samuel’s ghost is called up by the witch of Endor, Saul asks her, “What do you see?” and she replies, “I see elohim ascending out of the earth.”
By contrast, Isaiah says that YHWH has spoken plainly: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”