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The Syro-Ephraimite War took place in the 8th century BC, when the Neo-Assyrian Empire was a great regional power. The tributary nations of Aram-Damascus (often called Aram) and the Kingdom of Israel (often called Ephraim because of the main tribe) decided to break away. The Kingdom of Judah, ruled by King Ahaz, refused to join the coalition. In 735 BC Aram-Damascus, under Rezin, and Israel, under Pekah, attempted to depose Ahaz through an invasion. Judah was being defeated and, according to 2 Chronicles 28, lost 120,000 troops in just one day. Many significant officials were killed, including the king's son Maaseiah. Many others were taken away as slaves. Telling of the same war, 2 Kings 16:5 states that Rezin and Pekah besieged Jerusalem but failed to capture it.
Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Israel
|Commanders and leaders|
Tiglath-Pileser III, Assyrian king |
Ahaz, Judahite king
Rezin, Aram king |
Pekah, Israelite king
During the invasion, the Philistines and Edomites were taking advantage of the situation and raiding towns and villages in Judah. Ahaz asked Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria for help. The Assyrians defended Judah, conquering Israel, Aram-Damascus and the Philistines, but the post-war alliance only brought more trouble for the king of Judah. Ahaz had to pay tribute to Tiglath-Pileser III with treasures from the Temple in Jerusalem and the royal treasury. He also built idols of Assyrian gods in Judah to find favor with his new ally.
Isaiah tells King Ahaz that the invasion will be unsuccessful and tells him to ask God for a sign. Ahaz refuses, claiming he does not want to test God. Isaiah then announces that God himself will choose the sign:
A young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when 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 8 details another prophecy about a child by the name of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Hebrew: מַהֵר שָׁלָל חָשׁ בַּז "Hurry to the spoils!" or "He has made haste to the plunder!"). Isaiah then explains that the significance of this name is that before this child can speak, Assyria will plunder both Syria and Ephraim. Isaiah concludes these prophecies concerning his children, Shear-Jashub (meaning "the remnant shall return"), Immanuel (meaning "God with us"), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, by saying,
Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
The context continues into chapter 9 which also uses a birth of a child as its object.
- Walton, John H.; Hill, Andrew E. (2004). Old Testament Today. Zondervan. p. 164. ISBN 9780310238263.
- biblical literature :: The divided monarchy: from Jeroboam I to the Assyrian conquest - Britannica Online Encyclopedia