Have Two Wives?
Q. Is it true that the prophet Isaiah was a polygamist?
Possibly but we can't be absolutely certain. We do at least know he had two wives through whether at the same time or not cannot be proven one way or the other. Either way the history of Isaiah's marriages are most interesting.
The children of Isaiah's first wife were each given prophetic symbolic names. In Chapter 7 Yahweh commands Him to name the boy Shear-Jashub (Isaiah 7:3) which means 'a remnant returns', given before the Syrians and northern Israelites (Ephraim) invaded Judah in the days of King Ahaz. His second son was given a Messianic name, Immanuel (v.14) meaning 'God is with us' which was supposed to convince Ahaz that Yahweh would rescue him from his enemies. The same name Immanuel is used again in Isaiah 8:8,10 and many believe that it refers to a son of his second wife, a prophetess like himself, whom he was commanded to call Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz meaning 'hasten the spoil, rush on the prey' (Isaiah 8:2ff). Isaiah 8:2 may well be the partial fulfilment of Isaiah 7:14. The first of the two sons represents mercy whereas the second represents judgment, believed by many to represent the first and second comings of Christ, respectively.
Prophetic signs were normally fulfilled within a few years of a prophecy being given (see Isaiah 20:3; 37:20 cp. 8:18). The fact that this second wife is described as a virgin (Heb. almah) suggests, that like the Virgin Mary, she was young (cp. Proverbs 30:19, NIV, where the same word is translated 'maiden'), and almost certainly the same woman he was betrothed to in Isaiah 8:3. Monogamy-onlyists 'assume' that the first wife died after Shear-Jashub was born but there is no evidence for this. Considering the Messianic prophetic image, as well as ancient Hebrew marriage customs, the second wife would probably have been around 15-16 years old, thus precluding her from being the mother of the first child. Furthermore, she is specifically designated as a "prophetess" (Heb. nebiyah), and while some claim that this meant no more than she was married to a prophet (i.e. Mrs. Prophet = prophetess), in view of the prophetic utterance of the Virgin Mary many centuries later (the Magnificat) it seems more likely to me that she actually possessed the prophetic gift. If this was so, then this was a unique event of a prophet actually marrying a prophetess.
"Therefore Yahweh himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste" (Isaiah 7:14-16, NIV)
Conclusion: Isaiah (Heb. Yah is helper) was probably a polygamist with twos wives, each of whom had a son whom Yahweh used as a prophetic type of events local to Isaiah's time as well as events pointing in the far future to the Messiah.
First created on 14 April 2002
Updated on 17 May 2016
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