Tribal War and Exile. Isaiah chapter 7
1. King Ahaz of Judah and the Ten Tribes
2. The Ten Tribes are Exiled by Assyria
3. The Contemporary Commentary of Prophecy (Isaiah Chapter 7)
1. King Ahaz of Judah and the Exile of the Ten Tribes
Saul, David, and Solomon, ruled over all Israel.
When Solomon died the kingdom divided into two. Judah was in the south, and Israel in the north.
Isaiah prophesied from Judah.
The kings of Judah after Solomon were Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Ahazia, Jehoram, Athalia, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. In the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekieh the Ten Tribes were exiled. Then came Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiacin, Zedekiah. The Jews were then exiled to Babylon but a small remnant returned after 70 years.
Like Ahaz and Hezekieh, the Prophet Isaiah lived through the Exile of the Ten Tribes.
Isaiah lived in Judah. His father Amots was the son of King Jehoash and the brother of King Amaziah.
We saw (Isaiah ch.6) Isaiah prophesying during the reign of King Uzziah (also known as Azariah) son of Amaziah of Judah. After Uzziah came Jotham then Ahaz. Just as Jotham began his reign as co-regent with Uzziah so too did Ahaz at the beginning reign jointly alongside Uzziah his father. Ahaz was 20 when he became king of Judah and reigned for 16 years.
William F. Albright has dated the reign of Ahaz to 744 - 728 BC.
The rule of Ahaz is described in 2-Kings 16; Isaiah 7-9; and 2-Chronicles 28.
King Ahaz of Judah copied the conduct of the Kings of northern Israel and this brought disaster on Judah.
Very often when a person links up with bad people, copies their behavior and identifies with them, they are the ones who betray him and do him harm.
2 But he [Ahaz] walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made molten images for the Baals. 3 Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.
Ahaz was opposed by a coalition formed by northern Israel, under Pekah, and Damascus (Aram, i.e. Syria), under Rezin.
5 Wherefore, the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted him with heavy casualties. 6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah 120,000 in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers. 7 And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king's son and Azrikam the ruler of the house and Elkanah the second to the king.
Even though the northern Tribes fought wars against Judah they still had some fraternal feelings towards each other, as the following incident demonstrates:
8 The sons of Israel carried away captive of their brethren 200,000 women, sons and daughters; and they took also a great deal of spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria. 9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out to meet the army which came to Samaria and said to them, Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand, and you have slain them in a rage which has even reached heaven. 10 Now you are proposing to subjugate for yourselves the people of Judah and Jerusalem for male and female slaves. Surely, do you not have transgressions of your own against the LORD your God? 11 Now therefore, listen to me and return the captives whom you captured from your brothers, for the burning anger of the LORD is against you. 12 Then some of the heads of the sons of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, arose against those who were coming from the battle, 13 and said to them, You must not bring the captives in here, for you are proposing to bring upon us guilt against the LORD adding to our sins and our guilt; for our guilt is great so that His burning anger is against Israel. 14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the officers and all the assembly. 15 Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria.
Despite the release of the captives from Judah, Judah was still threatened by Israel and Aram in the north and by the Edomites and Philistines in the south.
Ahaz appealed to the Assyrians for help against Israel and the Aramaeans. Tiglath-Pileser sacked Damascus and the population of Aram was deported (2-Kings 16:9).
Ahaz went to meet the king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser at Damascus, which had just been conquered. Ahaz then introduced changes based on that of Aram Damascus into the Temple worship of Jerusalem (2-Kings 16:10-11). He also copied Assyrian practices (2-Kings 16:18).
It did not help him. Edomites and Philistines conquered portions of Judah and settled in them. Assyria weakened him (2-Chronicles 26:21).
2. The Ten Tribes are Exiled by Assyria
Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria attacked the northern Kingdom of Israel.
2 Kings 15:
29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-Beth-Maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria.
Tiglath-Pileser also records this act in an inscription.
(James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament , 3rd ed.; 1969, 283).
Around this time (either beforehand or somewhat later) the Israelite tribes east of the Jordan were also exiled.
So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day.
At the end of the reign of Ahaz most of the northern Israelites had been exiled. Only a small segment still remained centered on the area of Samaria. These too were to be exiled in the time of Hezekiah son of Ahaz and his successor.
3. The Contemporary Commentary of Prophecy (Isaiah Chapter 7)
Isaiah prophesied concerning the End Times but he used the era he lived in as a living example to extrapolate from.
In the time of Isaiah Rezin the King of Aram ("Syria") and Pekah the son of Remaliah the King of the northern entity of "Israel" (the Ten Tribes) attempted to conquer Jerusalem the capital of Judah but they could not (7:1).
1 Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it.
In Hebrew "Syria" is Aram. The region of Aram usually corresponded with that of present-day Syria though it could also extent further north or eastward. The people of Aram included Edomite Tribes. Aram had also conquered large areas that had been formerly populated by Israelites. The mother of Machir the first born son of Manasseh was Maaacah and she was from Aram (1-Chronicles 7:14).
Edom had a small kingdom in the southeast but most descendants of Esau (forefather of Edom) were in the north. The present-day descendants of the peoples of "Aram" are to be found mainly in Europe especially Germany. The name Armenia is related to Aram. The Bavarians of Germany had a strong tradition that they came from Armenia. The germans are descended in part from Edom, from Aram, and from Gomer son of Japhet, and from others. There were once elements of the Ten tribes within Germany but they mostly moved out.
We therefore have here the ancestors of the Lost Ten Tribes (Anglo-Saxons etc) allied with the ancestors of some of the Germans against the Jews of Judah.
This did not turn out well for the Ten Tribes.
"REZIN THE KING OF SYRIA": In Biblical Hebrew the word translated as "Syria" is Aram. Rezin was the last king of Aram. Ahaz persuaded Tiglathpileser of Assyria to attack Aram whch he did, killing King Rezin and exilng the people of Aram to a country named Kir (2-Kings 16;8-9) which is said to have been in the Caucasus region.
"THE KING OF ISRAEL" here means the king of the Ten Northern Tribes of "Israel" as distinct by the southern kingdom of "Judah".
PEKAH king of Israel was the 2nd last king of ten-tribed Israel. Pekah had rebelled against the previous king Pekahiah (2-Kings 15;25) and killed him. The names Pekah and Pekahiah are similar in sound and in meaning. This often happens in the Bible and in history. When I was a child I once read a short article (on the back-cover of a "Classic" comic book whose title I have forgotten) about the significance of names in history. One of the examples I remember was that of Eisenhower and Stalin. Eisenhower was the President of the USA and the antagonist of Stalin who ruled the USSR. "Eisenhower" means "steel-cutter" and "Stalin" means "steel"!
"BUT COULD NOT CONQUER IT": The Commentary "Daath Mikra points out that Jerusalem had been strengthened by Uzziah the grandfather of king Ahaz of Judah. Uzziah had strengthened the walls, built towers, war machines, catapults, "engines invented by cunning men", and supplies of war-equipment. (1-Chronicles 26; 9-15). Even today the present-day State of Israel (populated largely by the remnant of "Judah") is amongst the leaders in war industry. In the field of technological advancement it has been claimed that there are three leading regions in the world today: The West Coast of the USA, the East Coast of the USA, the State of Israel.
2 When it was reported to the house of David, saying, The Arameans have camped in Ephraim, his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.
3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-Jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fullers field,
4 and say to him, Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.
Isaiah was told to take a message to King Ahaz of Judah and tell him to be strengthened (7:4).
5 Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying,
6 Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,
The Malbim says TABE-EL was a nobleman of Ephraimite origin whom they wished to make king over Judah. Today the USA attempts (usually with success) to appoint its favorites as the heads of government in the State of Israel. The US sense of taste appears (in polite language) to be somewhat lacking on occasion.
7 thus says the LORD God: It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.
The plans of his enemies would not succeed (7:5-7).
8 For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people),
According to tradition this was referring to a Prophecy by Amos (cf. Amos 7;17: "Israel shall surely go into captivity") who had made such a prophecy ca. sixty-plus years ago.
Ephraim (Samaria) was destined to be exiled completely at the end of a prophesied sixty-five years. Rashi says that the expression "WITHIN SIXTY-FIVE YEARS EPHRAIM WILL BE BROKEN TO PIECES SO THAT IT WILL NO LONGER BE A PEOPLE" (7:8) was a well-known quotation from Amos that Ahaz should have been aware of and that the already-predicted 65 year waiting period would soon be up (7:8-9).
9 and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.
10 Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying,
11 Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
Ahaz King of Judah was requested to ask for a sign from heaven to affirm the reassurance from heaven that Isaiah had imparted (7:10-11).
12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!
He refused and was rebuked (7:11-12).
13 Then he said, Listen now, O House of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?
14 Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
The sign given is that a young woman (a wife of King Ahaz?) who was already pregnant would bear a son named "Emanuel" (7:14).
15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.
16 For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.
Before the child is weaned or shortly after the Northern Kingdom will be abandoned.
Shortly after the child is weaned the combined Land (?) of "Israel" and "Aram" will be deserted (7:16).
17 The LORD will bring on you, on your people, and on your fathers house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria.
"SINCE THE DAY THAT EPHRAIM DEPARTED FROM JUDAH" : When Ephraim split off from Judah it appears that a terrible calamity had taken place on the physical level that paralleled the spiritual and psychological shock we have never ever really recovered from.
Even now the psychic framework of both Judah and Ephraim is impaired due to the split between the two halves of Israel.
The disaster would be occasioned by the King of Assyria and the calamity will be as great as when the Northern Ten Tribes split away from Judah and formed their own kingdom (7:17).
18 In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is in the [o]remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
EGYPT was also involved in the exile of the northern tribes. Several verses refer to this, the Radak (Kimchi) discusses it but details are lacking. Irish legends also imply that Israelite exiles from Egypt moved via North Africa and Spain to Britain and Ireland.
19 They will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places.
20 In that day the LORD will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the river [Euphrates] (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard.
The area will be cleaned out of inhabitants like a razor passing over a head of hair and the rest of the body (7:20).
21 Now in that day a man may keep alive a heifer and a pair of sheep;
22 and because of the abundance of the milk produced he will eat curds, for everyone that is left within the land will eat curds and honey.
The land will be given up for a place of grazing where previously it had been intensively and productively cultivated.
23 And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns.
24 People will come there with bows and arrows because all the land will be briars and thorns.
25 As for all the hills which used to be cultivated with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but they will become a place for pasturing oxen and for sheep to trample.
There will be desolation in the Northern Kingdom (7:22-25). How this ties up with the 65 year scenario noted above is not clear. Pekah is listed as ruling over Israel in the tears 737-735 BCE. The Exile of the northern kingdom occurred in stages and is conventionally considered to have been completed with the fall of the city of Samaria in 722 BCE.
The Land of Israel in which the Ten Tribes had dwelt will become desolate. Where there had been townships and settlements will be pasturing land for cattle and sheep, and goats.