Chapter 8 begins with a prophecy of upcoming destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, comprising verses 1 through 10. This prophecy continues Isaiah’s messenger speech to Ahaz, begun in Chapter 7. The prophecy is followed by a priestly sermon, comprising verses 11 through 18, in which Isaiah declares that Christ will be as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to Israel and Jerusalem because of their wickedness. The final part, comprising verses 19 through 22, is a condemnation of Israel’s wickedness, reliance upon mediums and diviners for spiritual guidance, and the consequences thereof. Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with few changes; differences in wording are shown in italics where quoted. Compare 2 Nephi 18.
Isaiah and his children are given to Israel for signs and for wonders from the Lord, as stated in verse 18.1 An example is given in verse 1, in which the Lord instructs Isaiah: “Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” The Hebrew word translated as “a man’s pen” means “an engraving tool of a man.”2
In verse 2, Isaiah declares: “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” Two or three witnesses are required under the Law of Moses to establish any matter.3
Verse 3 states: “And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD unto me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” “The prophetess” as used in this verse by Isaiah refers to his wife, likely reflecting her well-exercised spiritual sensitivity. The lengthy name given to their son means, in Hebrew, “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey,”4 foretelling Judah’s destruction and captivity.5
Circumstances surrounding the conception and birth of the oldest of Isaiah’s sons were designated by the Lord and carried out expressly by Isaiah; the name of this son was to be a sign of a then-future event.
In verse 4 the meaning of the “sign and wonder”6 is given: “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, my father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.” The Book of Mormon renders this passage with subtle changes: “For behold, the child shall not have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, before the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”7 This testifies as to the short time before these events would transpire—Syria and Israel would be defeated and their riches presented to the king of Assyria.8,9
In verses 5 and 6, Isaiah declares: “The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,
“Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son—” Here the Lord states reasons for the impending destruction.
“Shiloah,” transliterated from the Hebrew Shiloach, means “sent.”10 It is also the name given a spring southeast of Jerusalem, which provided drinking water for the ancient city.11 This word is used only in this verse in Isaiah and in the equivalent place in the Book of Mormon.12 “The waters of Shiloah” metaphorically means the gospel of Jesus Christ; before His mortal ministry it meant the Law of Moses. In this metaphor the source of drinking water for the city of Jerusalem is compared to the divine source of living water—the Savior, who provides eternal salvation.13
“Shiloah” in verse 6 is chiastically equivalent to “the LORD” in verse 7, revealing Isaiah’s intended meaning. “The waters of Shiloah that go softly” means that the gospel is easier to practice than enduring the alternative—chaos, wickedness, strife, and destruction at the hands of the Assyrian army. Compare the words of the mortal Redeemer: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”14 By contrast, “Rezin and Remaliah’s son” designate the wicked leaders of Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, together with their characteristic worldliness.
“Shiloh,” translated from the Hebrew Shiyloh,15 means “he to whom it belongs.”16 This single word describes the Lord’s role as Creator and ultimate owner of the earth and its resources, to whom we owe a duty of stewardship. Near the end of his lengthy life the patriarch Jacob blessed each of his twelve sons; upon Judah’s descendants he conferred the right of kingship: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”17 David and his descendants, including Jesus Christ, were descendants of Judah and were participants in this blessing. Isaiah’s purpose in using “Shiloah,” which is pronounced nearly the same as “Shiloh” and is set chiastically equivalent to “the LORD,” is to establish the metaphoric comparison of the life-giving waters of the spring to the living waters of the Gospel.
“Shilo” is used by the prophet Joseph Smith in his inspired translation of a portion of Genesis:
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die, and go unto my fathers; and I go down to my grave with joy. The God of father Jacob be with you, to deliver you out of affliction in the days of your bondage; for the Lord hath visited me, and I have obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of my loins, the Lord God will raise up a righteous branch out of my loins; and unto thee, whom my father Jacob hath named Israel, a prophet; (not the Messiah who is called Shilo;) and this prophet shall deliver my people out of Egypt in the days of thy bondage.18
Clearly, “Shiloh” means Jesus Christ, the Messiah who should come—the Creator, and therefore Owner, of the earth and its resources. As used here by Isaiah, it refers to the Giver of the law as well: He whose finger wrote upon the tablets of stone on Mount Sinai. This essential truth should be evident to all readers of the scriptures. Jehovah—rendered “the LORD” in the King James Old Testament—and Jesus Christ are one and the same.
The name Shiloh was given to a location in the inheritance of the descendants of Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.19 When the Twelve Tribes led by Joshua entered the land of Canaan, the Tabernacle—including the Ark of the Covenant—was first set up at Shiloh.20 When Israel, consisting of the ten northern tribes, separated from Judah, comprising the two southern tribes, Shiloh became a religious center equivalent to Jerusalem including the building and establishment of a temple. The Ark of the Covenant was kept there for many years.21 After the conquest and removal into captivity of the ten tribes, Shiloh was a part of what became known as Samaria.
In verses 7 and 8 Isaiah describes the invading Assyrian armies metaphorically, as though they were a flood inundating the land. Verse 7 begins: “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.” “Glory,” as used in this instance, means military strength.22 In this statement Isaiah gives the interpretation of the metaphor, which is applied in several other places in his writings. “The waters of the river” means the Euphrates, which is a type for the king of Assyria.23 Use of “the Lord” rather than “Jehovah,” emphasizes His role as military commander using the king of Assyria as proxy. The Great Isaiah Scroll uses both terms: “Jehovah, Lord.”24
Verses 4 through 7 contain a chiasm:
A: (4) For behold, the child shall not have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, before the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
B: (5) The LORD spake also unto me again, saying, (6) Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters
C: of Shiloah that go softly,
D: and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son;
C: (7) Now therefore, behold, Jehovah, Lord bringeth up upon them
B: the waters of the river, strong and many,
A: even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.
“King of Assyria” in verses 4 and 7 comprises the introductory element and its reflection. “Waters of Shiloah” is antithetic to “waters of the river,” contrasting the peace and security from gospel obedience to destruction by the invading army of Assyria—characterized metaphorically as a raging flood. “Shiloah” is equivalent to “Jehovah, Lord,” clearly identifying the military Commander. Rejoicing in Rezin and Remaliah’s son rather than in the Lord is given as the reason for this predicted destruction.
Verse 8 continues: “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.” “Thy land, O Immanuel” refers to the land promised by the Lord—the Savior who should come—to His people.
Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:
A: (7) Now therefore, behold, Jehovah, Lord bringeth up upon them
B: the waters of the river, strong and many,
C: even the king of Assyria, and all his glory:
D: and he shall come up over all his channels,
D: and go over all his banks:
C: (8) And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck;
B: and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land,
A: O Immanuel.
“Jehovah, Lord” is chiastically equivalent to “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us,” again establishing the identity of Jehovah—the military commander acting through Assyria as proxy—as the Messiah who should come. Both the metaphors “waters of the river” and “wings” describe the advance of the Assyrian army and its spread across the land. “Assyria” contrasts with “Judah,” denoting their adversarial relationship. “Come up over all his channels” is equivalent to “go over all his banks” which, as the central focus of the chiasm, describe metaphorically the advance of the Assyrian army.
Verses 9 and 10 comprise threats and warnings, foreseen prophetically by Isaiah, that would be given by the king of Assyria. Verse 9 begins: “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.” The meaning is that it would do no good for Jerusalem to form associations or alliances with other countries, nor would it do any good for her defenders even to gird themselves with weapons and armor, for they would all be broken to pieces. Three repetitions of this last phrase emphasize the seriousness of the threat.
The king of Assyria continues in verse 10: “Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.” Because of the wickedness of the Israelites, God would bring this great army down upon them to destroy them and carry them into captivity. Their taking counsel together would amount to nothing. The phrase uttered by the king of Assyria, “God is with us,” would in fact be true; the Assyrian king would act as an instrument in God’s hands.
Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm:
A: (8) …O Immanuel.
B: (9) Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries:
C: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
C: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
B: (10) Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand:
A: for God is with us.
“Immanuel” is chiastically equivalent to “God is with us,” providing its Hebrew definition.25 “Associate yourselves, O ye people” is equivalent to “Take counsel together,” providing the intended meaning. Two repetitions of “gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces” emphasize the seriousness of the Assyrian king’s threat.
Note that the chiasm of verses 7 and 8 overlaps the chiasm of verses 8 through 10, with the introductory statements for both chiasms being equivalent. “Jehovah, Lord,” “Immanuel,” and “God is with us” are all equivalent, denoting that the God of the Old Testament is the same who would be born of a virgin.26 He is a different and separate being from God the Father, called Elohim in Hebrew, whose words Isaiah records later, in the first part of Chapter 42.27
Verses 11 through 18 comprise a priestly sermon. Verse 11 commences: “For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying—” “A strong hand” means a strong handshake, or with power.28 This statement describes a close, personal relationship between the Lord and His prophet. “The way of this people” usually means knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, but among the people addressed by Isaiah it had become greatly corrupted.29
Verse 12 continues the sentence of verse 11: “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” The meaning intended by Isaiah is “don’t agree with those who want to form a defense alliance, and don’t fear their fear, and don’t be afraid.”
In verse 13, Isaiah declares that the people must change their ways: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,” the prophet admonishes.
Verses 12 and 13 are paraphrased by the Apostle Peter:
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (emphasis added).30
The people of Judah, however, did not heed Isaiah’s counsel. We are informed in 2 Kings that Ahaz, king of Judah:
[S]ent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.
And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria.
And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.”31
In verse 14 Isaiah’s sermon continues: “He shall be for a sanctuary: but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” To the righteous, the Lord’s commandments serve as a sanctuary from life’s problems. The Lord’s teachings open up the way to receive spiritual guidance, comfort, and assurance in this life and eternal life in the world to come.32 For those who refuse His commandments, He will serve as a stumbling block and a snare.
Verse 14 is quoted by Peter and Paul in the New Testament. Paul says: “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”33
Verse 15 describes the result of the obstinacy of the wicked: “And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” Stumbling and falling are spiritual consequences for not heeding the truth or giving heed to false doctrines, whereas being broken, snared, and taken into captivity are temporal consequences, here foretold by Isaiah.
Verse 16 reads “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Although interpretation of this passage appears to present some challenges, it is rendered the same in the Book of Mormon34 and in the Great Isaiah Scroll,35 indicating that this is the correct meaning in the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word translated as “law” means “teachings” or “doctrine.”36
Verse 16 contains two parallel phrases, “Bind up the testimony” and “seal the law.” Because they are parallel phrases “bind” and “seal” are synonymous and “testimony” and “law” are also synonymous. Note that they are matched in reverse order in verse 20, as the descending side of a chiasm.
Their synonymy is borne out in two passages in Doctrine and Covenants where they are interchanged. In one place they are rendered “bind up the law and seal up the testimony,”37 whereas in the other they are rendered “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony.”38 In neither of these renditions is the meaning changed.
The “law,” of course, refers to the Law of Moses or, after the advent of Christ, the law of the gospel, with special reference to its written form—the scriptures. In the New Testament “the law and the prophets” is used to denote the Jewish canon of scripture.39 Thus the law or the gospel, as recorded in the scriptures, is what is to be bound up or sealed in the minds and hearts of the disciples.
To “bind up the testimony” and “seal the law among my disciples” is the principal task of prophets and ecclesiastical leaders throughout the ages, assigned to them by the Lord; and parents should accept a similar charge regarding their responsibilities toward their children. In verse 16 this task is given by the Lord to Isaiah.
The meaning of this passage is apparent in the supplication of Joseph Smith in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple: “Therefore, O Lord, deliver thy people from the calamity of the wicked; enable thy servants to seal up the law, and bind up the testimony, that they may be prepared against the day of burning” (emphasis added).40
The same intent is rendered by the Apostle Paul: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”41
A literal meaning for verse 16 may be that Isaiah took the scroll upon which he had written these prophecies, rolled it up and tied it with a strip of leather or a cord, and then sealed it with a clay seal as a symbol that the prophecies were complete. Isaiah then gave the prophecies to his disciples for future reference. When his prophecies were fulfilled in the future, this would be a testimony that he was a true prophet.42
Verse 17 is Isaiah’s attestation that he accepts the charge given to him by the Lord in verse 16: “And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.” The Lord hides His face from the house of Jacob because of iniquity.
Furthermore, in verse 18, the prophet offers himself and his children for the purposes of the Lord: “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” One example is the names Isaiah gave his sons: Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey”43 and Shear-jashub, which means “the remnant shall return.”44 Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves.”45 “The LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” denotes that it would be Jehovah who would come to dwell on the earth in the latter days. “Mount Zion” as used here means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem— especially the temple at Jerusalem.46
In verses 19 and 20 the Lord warns against sorcery. Verse 19 states: “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” The Book of Mormon renders: “for the living to hear from the dead?”47 These rhetorical questions reveal the folly of sorcery. A negative question, such as “should not a people seek unto their God?” means that the premise is so obvious as to be a foregone conclusion—in this case, that the people should, indeed, seek unto their God.
Verse 20 asserts: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Here, “the law and the testimony” refers to the written scriptures and the covenants contained therein, to which the people must return.
In verses 21 and 22 Isaiah describes what will befall those who have no light in them. Verse 21 begins: “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.” The archaic word “bestead” means “situated;”48 thus, “hardly bestead” means poorly situated, or homeless. “Fret themselves” means “become angry.”49
Verses 14 through 21 contain a chiasm:
A: (14) And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and (for) a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
B: (16) Bind up the testimony,
C: seal the law among my disciples.
D: (17) And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
E: (18) Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
E: (19) And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and (that) mutter:
D: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to hear from the dead?
C: (20) To the law
B: and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (21) And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry:
A: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
“Stone of stumbling” is equated with “curse their king and their God,” describing how the wicked are made to stumble. “Testimony” and “law” match “law” and “testimony” in reverse order; and “I will wait upon the LORD” is equivalent to “seek unto their God.” “I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders” is antithetic to “seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep.” The folly of seeking after peeping wizards is contrasted with receiving guidance and inspiration from the Lord.
Verse 22 concludes: “And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” This description of the state of the wicked is similar to wording used elsewhere by Isaiah to describe the lands from which the elect are to be gathered in the latter days: “And if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.”50 Trouble, anguish, and spiritual darkness—the predominant condition of the wicked—characterize the lands from which Israel is to be gathered in the latter days.
1. See Isaiah 8:18.
2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 2747, p. 384.
3. Deuteronomy 19:15.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4122, p. 555.
5. Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD/said unto me/I took/Uriah/Zechariah/I went/then said/the LORD.
6. See Isaiah 8:18.
7. 2 Nephi 18:4.
8. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 17:2; 42:24; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
9. Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm: I…prophetess/son/name/Maher-shalal-hash-baz/child/father…mother.
10. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7975, p. 1019.
11. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 148.
12. 2 Nephi 18:5.
13. Compare John 4:10-14.
14. Matthew 11:30.
15. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7886, p. 1010.
16. Bible Dictionary—Shiloh.
17. Genesis 49:10.
18. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p.114-116.
19. See Bible Map 10.
20. See Joshua 18:1.
21. See 1 Samuel 4:4.
22. See Isaiah 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12.
23. Isaiah 17:12-13; 28:2, 17; 43:2.
24. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, pages 60 and 270.
25. See Matthew 1:23.
26. See Isaiah 7:14.
27. See Isaiah 42:1-7 and pertinent commentary.
28. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 86.
29. See Isaiah 3:12; 26:7-8; 28:7; 40:3 and pertinent commentary.
30. 1 Peter 3:14-15.
31. 2 Kings 16:7-9.
32. See Doctrine and Covenants 59:23.
33. Romans 9:33; see also 1 Peter 2:8.
34. 2 Nephi 18:16.
35. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 62.
36. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8451, p. 435.
37. Doctrine and Covenants 88:84.
38. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.
39. See Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21.
40. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.
41. Hebrews 8:10. See also Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 31:33, and Proverbs 3:3.
42. David Rolph Seely, “Isaiah Chapter Review: 2 Nephi 18/Isaiah 8,” Book of Mormon Reference Companion: Dennis L. Largey, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 2003, p. 373.
43. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4122, p. 555; see also Isaiah 10:6.
44. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7610, p. 984.
45. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3470, p. 447.
46. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
47. 2 Nephi 18:19.
48. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 145.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7107, p. 893.
50. Isaiah 5:30.