Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 8:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

To the law and to the testimony "Unto the command, and unto the testimony" - "Is not תעודה teudah here the attested prophecy, Isaiah 8:1-4;? and perhaps תורה torah the command, Isaiah 8:11-15;? for it means sometimes a particular, and even a human, command; see Proverbs 6:20, and Proverbs 7:1, Proverbs 7:2, where it is ordered to be hid, that is, secretly kept." - Abp. Secker. So Deschamps, in his translation, or rather paraphrase, understands it: "Tenons nous a l'instrument authentique mis en depot par ordre du Seigneur," "Let us stick to the authentic instrument, laid up by the command of the Lord." If this be right, the sixteenth verse must be understood in the same manner.

Because there is no light in them "In which there is no obscurity" - שחר shachor, as an adjective, frequently signifies dark, obscure; and the noun שחר shachar signifies darkness, gloominess, Joel 2:2, if we may judge by the context: -

"A day of darkness and obscurity;

Of cloud, and of thick vapor;

As the gloom spread upon the mountains:

A people mighty and numerous."

Where the gloom, שחר shachar, seems to be the same with the cloud and thick vapor mentioned in the line preceding. See Lamentations 4:8, and Job 30:30. See this meaning of the word שחר shachar well supported in Christ. Muller. Sat. Observat. Philippians p. 53, Lugd. Bat. 1752. The morning seems to have been an idea wholly incongruous in the passage of Joel; and in this of Isaiah the words in which there is no morning (for so it ought to be rendered if שחר shachar in this place signifies, according to its usual sense, morning) seem to give no meaning at all. "It is because there is no light in them," says our translation. If there be any sense in these words, it is not the sense of the original; which cannot justly be so translated. Qui n'a rien d'obscur, "which has no obscurity." - Deschamps. The reading of the Septuagint and Syriac, שחד shochad, gift, affords no assistance towards the clearing up of any of this difficult place. R. D. Kimchi says this was the form of an oath: "By the law and by the testimony such and such things are so." Now if they had sworn this falsely, it is because there is no light, no illumination, שחר shachar, no scruple of conscience, in them.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

To the law … - To the revelation which God has given. This is a solemn call of the prophet to try everything by the revealed will of God; see Isaiah 8:16.

If they speak not - If the necromancers - those that pretended to have contact with the dead.

According to this word - According to what God has revealed. By this standard all their pretended revelations were to be tried. By this standard all doctrines are still to be tried.

It is because - There has been a great variety of criticism upon this verse, but our translation expresses, probably, the true idea. The word rendered here ‹because,‘ אשׁר 'ăsher commonly denotes ‹which;‘ but it seems here to be used in the sense of the Syriac? “Dolath,” or the Greek ὅτι hoti No light - Margin, ‹Morning.‘ Hebrew שׁחר shāchar The word usually means the morning light; the mingled light and darkness of the aurora; daybreak. It is an emblem of advancing knowledge, and perhaps, also, of prosperity or happiness after calamity, as the break of day succeeds the dark night. The meaning here may be, ‹If their teachings do not accord with the law and the testimony, it is proof that they are totally ignorant, without even the twilight of true knowledge; that it is total darkness with them.‘ Or it may mean, ‹If they do not speak according to this word, then no dawn will arise, that is, no prosperity will smile upon this people.‘ - Gesenius. Lowth understands it of obscurity, darkness:

‹If they speak not according to this word,

In which there is no obscurity.‘

But there is no evidence that the word is ever used in this sense. Others suppose that the Arabic sense of the word is to be retained here, deception, or magic. ‹If they speak not according to this oracle, in which there is no deception.‘ But the word is not used in this sense in the Hebrew. The meaning is, probably, this: ‹The law of God is the standard by which all professed communications from the invisible world are to be tested. If the necromancers deliver a doctrine which is not sustained by that, and not in accordance with the prophetic communications, it shows that they are in utter ignorance. There is not even the glimmering of the morning twilight; all is total night, and error, and obscurity with them, and they are not to be followed.‘

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The prophet foresaw that the Lord would hide his face; but he would look for his return in favour to them again. Though not miraculous signs, the children's names were memorials from God, suited to excite attention. The unbelieving Jews were prone to seek counsel in difficulties, from diviners of different descriptions, whose foolish and sinful ceremonies are alluded to. Would we know how we may seek to our God, and come to the knowledge of his mind? To the law and to the testimony; for there you will see what is good, and what the Lord requires. We must speak of the things of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, and be ruled by them. To those that seek to familiar spirits, and regard not God's law and testimony, there shall be horror and misery. Those that go away from God, go out of the way of all good; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment. They shall despair, and see no way of relief, when they curse God. And their fears will represent every thing as frightful. Those that shut their eyes against the light of God's word, will justly be left to darkness. All the miseries that ever were felt or witnessed on earth, are as nothing, compared with what will overwhelm those who leave the words of Christ, to follow delusions.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 153

The words of Moses possess deep meaning. “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” Leviticus 10:1-3. This has a lesson for all who are handling the matter that goes forth from our publishing institutions. Sacred things are not to be mingled with the common. The papers that have so wide a circulation should contain more precious instruction than appears in the ordinary publications of the day. “What is the chaff to the wheat?” Jeremiah 23:28. We want pure wheat, thoroughly winnowed. 7T 153.1

“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, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.... Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples.... To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:11-20. 7T 153.2

I call the attention of all our workers to the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Read the experience of God's prophet when he saw “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.... Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:1-8. 7T 153.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 463

“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, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.... To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The world is not to be our criterion. Let the Lord work, let the Lord's voice be heard. TM 463.1

Those employed in any department of the work whereby the world may be transformed, must not enter into alliance with those who know not the truth. The world know not the Father or the Son, and they have no spiritual discernment as to the character of our work, as to what we shall do or shall not do. We must obey the orders that come from above. We are not to hear the counsel or follow the plans suggested by unbelievers. Suggestions made by those who know not the work that God is doing for this time will be such as to weaken the power of the instrumentalities of God. By accepting such suggestions, the counsel of Christ is set at nought.... TM 463.2

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 59

August 24, 1850, I saw that the “mysterious rapping” was the power of Satan; some of it was directly from him, and some indirectly, through his agents, but it all proceeded from Satan. It was his work that he accomplished in different ways; yet many in the churches and the world were so enveloped in gross darkness that they thought and held forth that it was the power of God. Said the angel, “Should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” Should the living go to the dead for knowledge? The dead know not anything. For the living God do ye go to the dead? They have departed from the living God to converse with the dead who know not anything. (See Isaiah 8:19, 20.). EW 59.1

I saw that soon it would be considered blasphemy to speak against the rapping, and that it would spread more and more, that Satan's power would increase and some of his devoted followers would have power to work miracles and even to bring down fire from heaven in the sight of men. I was shown that by the rapping and mesmerism these modern magicians would yet account for all the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that many would believe that all the mighty works of the Son of God when on earth were accomplished by this same power. [When this view was given, spiritualism had but just arisen and was small; there were but few mediums. Since that time it has spread all over the world and counts its adherents by many millions. As a general thing, spiritualists have denied the Bible and derided Christianity. Individuals have, at different times, deplored this and protested against it, but they were so few that no attention was paid to them. Now spiritualists are changing their method, and many call themselves “Christian spiritualists,” Declaring that it will not answer to ignore religion, and affirming that they have the true Christian faith. Bearing in mind, also, that many prominent clergymen are in sympathy with spiritualism, we now see the way open for the complete fulfillment of this prediction, given in 1850. Read also remarks by the author on page 86.] I was pointed back to the time of Moses and saw the signs and wonders which God wrought through him before Pharaoh, most of which were imitated by the magicians of Egypt; and that just before the final deliverance of the saints, God would work powerfully for His people, and these modern magicians would be permitted to imitate the work of God. EW 59.2

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 559

Says the prophet Isaiah: “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? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:19, 20. If men had been willing to receive the truth so plainly stated in the Scriptures concerning the nature of man and the state of the dead, they would see in the claims and manifestations of spiritualism the working of Satan with power and signs and lying wonders. But rather than yield the liberty so agreeable to the carnal heart, and renounce the sins which they love, multitudes close their eyes to the light and walk straight on, regardless of warnings, while Satan weaves his snares about them, and they become his prey. “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” therefore “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11. GC 559.1

Those who oppose the teachings of spiritualism are assailing, not men alone, but Satan and his angels. They have entered upon a contest against principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places. Satan will not yield one inch of ground except as he is driven back by the power of heavenly messengers. The people of God should be able to meet him, as did our Saviour, with the words: “It is written.” Satan can quote Scripture now as in the days of Christ, and he will pervert its teachings to sustain his delusions. Those who would stand in this time of peril must understand for themselves the testimony of the Scriptures. GC 559.2

Many will be confronted by the spirits of devils personating beloved relatives or friends and declaring the most dangerous heresies. These visitants will appeal to our tenderest sympathies and will work miracles to sustain their pretensions. We must be prepared to withstand them with the Bible truth that the dead know not anything and that they who thus appear are the spirits of devils. GC 560.1

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