My three favorite reader explanations for Isaiah, Chapter 8.
1. Evan Donovan writes:
"I'm not sure what the Jewish interpretation, especially for the original audience, would be, but here's a stab at it: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, Isaiah's son, is the child referred to in Chapter 7. Here in Chapter 8, the amount of time before Damascus and Samaria will be judged by Assyria is further specified. Isaiah's son will still be a toddler before this happens—thus, the time remaining is even shorter than it seems in Isaiah 7. The latter part of the chapter, beginning 'For the Lord spoke to me thus,' goes on to say that people will find it difficult to believe in this prophecy, since their faith is in geopolitical realities—the seen—rather than the coming judgment of God. But God promises Isaiah that He will be a sanctuary for those who have faith in Him and a "stone of stumbling" for those who do not. Later this will be attributed to Christ, as the last part of the passage segues into another Messianic prophecy."
2. Tom Sellers ignored my request that answers be limited to 100 words, but he's so entertaining that it doesn't matter:
The name 'Maher-shal'al-hash-baz' means 'Plunder hastens; spoil quickens.' The key to Chapter 8 is in Verse 18: 'Behold, I and the children whom Hashem has given me are signs and symbols for Israel ...' In Chapter 7, Isaiah's son Shear-jash'ub (A Remainder will return) and Immanuel (God with us) also serve as Prophetic signs.
Prophets of Israel often used symbolic actions and events to dramatize their messages and to testify to their validity. Isaiah wants to communicate a very important message to Israel in regard to the threat of Syria and Samaria. What's the best way to do this? Suppose I'm a prophet of Israel and predict that "Christmas" will be no longer be celebrated. When will it happen? I could say, 'Scribe Plotz will have a son with the name Merry no more and before his son calls him Papa, you will receive word that Christmas is against the law.' (Especially sending Christmas cards).
Does this get your attention and keep it? I'm also going to write this prophecy down before it happens in front of reliable witnesses in very clear language on tablets that even, say, Mr. Plotz could understand. Folks will say, "'eah, it was written right here before it all happened. It's not just rumor or hearsay. Prophet Tom received a true revelation.'
Substitute Syria and Samaria for Christmas, Maher-shalah-hash-baz for 'Merry no more' and you get the gist of Chapter 8. Syria and Samaria are no threat to Judah because Assyria will plunder them like the namesake of Isaiah's son. As for those who have allegiance to Syria and Samaria (put in metaphorical terms of 'rejecting the flowing water of Shiloah'), you will receive the drowning river of the Euphrates from the homeland of the Assyrians. But for those who are faithful (Immanuel), God is with us.
Now I wonder what effect these names had on Isaiah's children? Can 'Plunder hastens, spoil quicken' come out to play? It has to be hard to be the preacher's son."
3. Christopher Blair has an alternative reading:
" 'Then the Lord said to me, Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, 'Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.'
... da doo run run run
da doo run run ..."