2 Nephi 18:3
Background: 8th century BC
Isaiah's ministry was during the time when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were divided. He began his ministry during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah and continued through three more, Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah. At the time that these scriptures were given Judah was under threat of attack from Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, King of Israel. Isaiah obviously did not have a high opinion of Pekah because he often refused to refer to him by name, simply calling him "Remaliah's son." Not long after these prophecies were given the children of Israel fell into captivity and the ten tribes were scattered.
Facts about her:
- She was the wife of the prophet Isaiah;
- She bore a son to Isaiah named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means "destruction is imminent"
- Isaiah refers to her as "the prophetess";
- After Isaiah received the prophesy on Christ (chapter 7) he was commanded to write on a great roll with a "man's pen" (perhaps meaning that it was easy to be read) the prophecy the Lord had given him about "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (referring to the destruction which is to come to the children of Israel from Assyria). After Isaiah wrote the prophesy he "went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (Isaiah 8:3);
- In Isaiah 8: 18 Isaiah stated that "... I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and wonders in Israel..." His sons were living testaments to the coming of Jesus Christ and the future of Israel.
- The scriptures don't specify but it is very likely that she was also the mother of Isaiah's other son Sherajashub, whose name means "a remnant shall return" ;
- Since Isaiah was from upper class society it is likely that she was as well;
- There is much controversy about the correct translation of the Hebrew word "almah" in Isaiah 7:14 which says, "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Traditionally Christians have translated the word as "virgin" and have seen this scripture as a reference to Mary, the mother of Christ and his divine birth. Jews on the other hand claim that the word should not be translated as "virgin" but as "young woman" and doesn't denote a woman's sexual status. They claim that Isaiah's prophesy in 7:14 was either a referring to a random woman in the crowd that Isiah was preaching to or that he was referring to his own wife (perhaps indicating that Isaiah's first wife, the mother of Sherajashub, had died and that Isiah had remarried a young woman). This is a highly contested issue between Christan and Jewish scholars and there is a lot of literature on it. I think that this article gave a good concise explanation of both sides, even though it is a little skewed to the Jewish side.
It is so interesting to me that Isaiah, out of all the words he could have used to describe his wife, choose to call her "the prophetess." It may be that he was just referring to her status as the wife of a prophet but he may also have been referring to her ability to speak by the spirit and testify of truth. Throughout the scriptures it is not unusual for women who have the ability to receive and use the gift of prophecy to be called "prophetesses". James E. Talmage wrote,
In addition Bruce R. McConkie taught that,
“No special ordination in the Priesthood is essential to man’s receiving the gift of prophecy. … This gift may be possessed by women also.” (Articles of Faith, 12th ed., Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1924, pp. 228–29.)
In addition Bruce R. McConkie taught that,
“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61.)
Seeing as Isaiah's wife was a very active participant the conception, birth, and naming of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, who was a living testament of Isaiah's prophecy on Christ given in chapter 7, I think that it is fair to assume that Isaiah was referring to her as a "prophetess" in the very essence of the word. She literally, by giving birth to her son, "brought forth" prophecy. Also, one can only imagine that people thought her son's name was strange even back then. I'm sure it made people ask questions and wonder why anyone would name their child "destruction is imminent." Every time she spoke her son's name she had the opportunity to testify of Christ and prophesy of the future.
In addition if Sherajashub (whose name "a remnant shall return" prophesied of the scattering and gathering of Israel) was also her son, then both of her sons had prophetic names that testified of the coming Savior and the future events that awaited the children of Israel. While we may not have a written record of any of the words she spoke, through her sons we have evidence of her daily dedication and faith in God. She lived and breathed her testimony just like her husband did.
Questions to think about:
- Who would you consider to be a prophetess? How does one develop the characteristics of a prophetess?
- How do you think she felt being married to a prophet like Isaiah who received much criticism and skepticism as he warned and chastised his people?
- In what ways do you bear testimony of Christ in your daily life?
- This is one of only a few instances where we learn anything about the wife of prophet. Still we know that most of the prophets must have wives. I challenge you, the next time you come across a prophet in your reading of the scriptures, to try to imagine what their wife must have been doing, feeling or experiencing at the time they were writing. How does that change your perspective?