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Deeper Commentary


Isaiah 22:1 The burden of the valley of vision- LXX "the burden of the valley of Zion". Perhaps Isaiah gave this prophecy in one of the valleys around Jerusalem, perhaps the Kidron valley from where the water from the Gihon spring was brought into the city (alluded to in :9). But it could equally have been the valley of Hinnom, which became the symbolic place for the final judgment of the condemned. It was from a valley like this that Ezekiel saw the dry bones of Israel being revived from their condemnation (Ez. 37).

What ails you now, that you have all gone up to the housetops?- I suggest this could be Israel’s question to Isaiah, as he went up on the flat roof to weep for them. And thus he replies in Is. 22:4: “Therefore said I, Look away from me, I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people”. But this can also be read as being addressed to the people of the city. There is a strong association between their housetops and idolatry. As they had kindled fire on their roofs in offering sacrifices to Baal, so Yahweh through the Babylonians would set fire to those same houses (Jer. 32:29). Hence LXX "that now ye are all gone up to the housetops which help you not?".

Isaiah 22:2 You that are full of shouting, a tumultuous city, a joyous town; your slain are not slain with the sword, neither are they dead in battle-
This is the idea of Lam. 4:9, that the people of Zion died by famine and disease rather than the quick death of the battlefield. Isaiah is complaining that the people were feasting instead of fasting in repentance (as in Is. 32:13 and cp. Is. 23:7), and he juxtaposes their present feasting with the painful and slow death threatened. But it seems there was repentance amongst a minority and so the threatened destruction of Zion's population at the hands of the Assyrians was averted; but it was actually only deferred to the time of the Babylonians. This explains the connections between this prophecy and Jeremiah's lamentations, as he weeps for what was then done to Zion.

Isaiah 22:3 All your rulers fled away together. They were bound by the archers. All who were found by you were bound together. They fled far away-
LXX "All thy princes have fled, and thy captives are tightly bound". This didn't happen at Isaiah's time because there was some repentance; and so the words were reapplied to the destruction by the Babylonians and the fleeing of Zedekiah and the rulers.

Isaiah 22:4 Therefore I said, Look away from me. I will weep bitterly. Don’t labour to comfort me for the destruction of the daughter of my people-
Jeremiah in his prophecy and Lamentations often uses this phrase "daughter of my people". The whole verse sounds like Jeremiah mourning the Babylonian destruction of Zion (Lam. 1:4 etc.). But it is actually Isaiah lamenting the threatened and envisaged destruction of Zion by the Assyrians. Due to the intercession and repentance of the remnant, the Assyrian destruction was averted; but it was actually deferred to the time of the Babylonians. So the feelings of the prophet Isaiah are transferred to the prophet Jeremiah; just as prophecies whose fulfilment was deferred or averted at the time were transferred to other persons, entities, times and contexts.

When it came to prophesying the doom of Jerusalem, people came to comfort Isaiah in his grief and breakdown, not perceiving the heart that bled within him. He wept, because of how they would weep in future (Is. 22:4,5). Such was his passionate identity with them. The prophets weren’t merely informing men ahead of time that God’s judgments were coming; rather were they sharing with the people the Divine pathos, His feelings and sense of tragic rejection; and they were deeply aware of His openness to changing His plans in response to human repentance (Jer. 18:8-10). The prophets were therefore not mere fax machines; their own feelings were involved in the act of transmission of God’s feelings to men through words. Even despite the special psychological strengthening which they received, sometimes the whole prophetic experience seemed too much for them, as it does for us. The prophets believed their own message, to the point that it overcame them with grief that men wouldn’t heed them. Is this how we feel at the rejection of our message? Is our testimony to Jesus really in the spirit of these prophets…?

Isaiah 22:5 For it is a day of confusion and of treading down and of perplexity from the Lord Yahweh of Armies, in the valley of vision; a breaking down of the walls, and a crying to the mountains-
This clearly had application to the Assyrian invasion; Hezekiah may allude to this prophecy when he says that "This is a day of trouble... rebuke... and of blasphemy" (Is. 37:3). But he looked up from the valley where he was (:1) and foresaw the breaking down of the walls above him, and the valley echoing with the crying of the people to their gods of the high places. But all that was averted by some measure of repentance. The day of "treading down" was in order to humble their pride (as in Is. 2:12), but it seems there was some humbling before Isaiah's words and so humbling by condemnation was therefore not seen as necessary at the time.

Isaiah 22:6 Elam carried his quiver, with chariots of men and horsemen; and Kir uncovered the shield-
These were part of the Assyrian alliance which came against Jerusalem. But not an arrow was fired by these archers against Jerusalem (Is. 37:33); the catastrophe was averted. But it was deferred until these same nations came with the Babylonians against Jerusalem at a later date (Jer. 49:35). See on :7.

Isaiah 22:7 It happened-
The idea may be that Isaiah is transported in vision to see these things happening.

That your choicest valleys were full of chariots, and the horsemen set themselves in array at the gate- In reality, the Assyrians didn't "come before" the city (Is. 37:33). But it was deferred until the Babylonians against Jerusalem at a later date. It is all a great lesson in the power of the repentance and intercession of a minority.

Isaiah 22:8 He took away the covering of Judah-
This idea is repeated in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who speak of Judah being stripped naked and judged as a whore, stoned to death by her lovers after gang raping her. This could have happened at the time of the Assyrian invasion, but it was averted by repentance and deferred to the Babylonian time.

And you looked in that day to the armour in the house of the forest- To trust in weapons, foreign powers etc. rather than on God alone was something about which Isaiah wailed and lamented (Is. 22:8,11). In our terms, this may translate into situations like what we do when we feel the first onset of an illness; when our car won’t start… do we trust on human strength, on the pretensions of science, and turn to God if all else fails? There can scarcely be one of us who doesn’t see this pattern of response in our lives. And yet, in prophetic terms, this is awful! That we don’t first and totally turn to our God.

LXX "they shall look in that day on the choice houses of the city". Perhaps they looked to those wealthy families for help; or that they looked to break down those houses "to fortify the wall" (:10). But the same lesson emerges, of not trusting in human strength. The records stress that at the time of the Babylonian invasion, it was these great houses which were also destroyed along with the temple (Jer. 52:13).

Isaiah 22:9 You saw the breaches of the city of David, that they were many; and you gathered together the waters of the lower pool-
See on :1. LXX "And they shall uncover the secret places of the houses of the citadel of David: and they saw that they were many, and that one had turned the water of the old pool into the city". The person who did this was Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20). But here it appears to be criticized as a trusting in human strength. Perhaps this is why 2 Kings 20:20 says it was done in his might- not Yahweh's.

Isaiah 22:10 You numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall-
This appears to be cited in the context of criticizing Hezekiah and Shebna for fortifying the city in human strength rather than in trust in God. See on :8. Numbering the houses recalls David's numbering of Israel rather than trusting in the Angelic armies. Jer. 33:4 likewise criticizes the breaking down of the houses to fortify the city wall. Jeremiah elsewhere criticized the building of these great houses on the walls of Jerusalem- for they were built on the back of abusing the poor for material and labour. They were finally torn down by the Babylonians (Jer. 52:13), but even before that, the owners themselves broke them down and the materials were used to shore up the breaches in the city walls. Likewise there are foretastes of judgment ahead of time in the lives of all God's people.

Isaiah 22:11 You also made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool-
This would have been in the Kidron valley, perhaps the scene of this prophecy (:1). The person who did this was Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20). But here it appears to be criticized as a trusting in human strength. Perhaps this is why 2 Kings 20:20 says it was done in his might- not Yahweh's.

But you didn’t look to Him who had done this- Perhaps the one they didn't "look to" who had done this was Hezekiah, who had made the pool / reservoir. They didn't accept his spiritual leadership and purge of idolatry. But of course it may be that the "Him who had done this" was God. They did not look to / regard Yahweh, and so He rejected them by no longer regarding or looking at them (s.w. Lam. 4:16). As so often in the prophets, condemnation was articulated in language which showed it to be but a continuation of attitudes and positions the condemned had already adopted in their lives.

Neither did you have respect for Him who purposed it long ago- The idea of God 'preparing' implies that there is therefore a gap between the plan being made, and it being executed- hence “The Lord has both planned and done what He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon” (Jer. 51:12; Jer. 4:28; Lam. 2:17; Is. 22:11; Is. 37:26; Zech. 1:6; Zech. 8:14). This ‘gap’ is significant when we come to consider the idea of God’s ‘repentance’ or change of mind- stating something is going to happen, but then changing His mind because of human behaviour during the ‘time gap’ between the statement and its’ execution.

Isaiah 22:12 In that day, the Lord Yahweh of Armies called to weeping and to mourning and to baldness and to dressing in sackcloth-
The call to repentance was apparently not being heard (:13). But the Assyrian destruction of Jerusalem was still averted. We can conclude that this therefore was due to God's extreme sensitivity to the intercession and repentance of a minority. And this is a challenge and encouragement to us today.

Isaiah 22:13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing cattle and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die-
See on :12. Esau's desperate pleading for Jacob's pottage at the cost of his birthright seems to be the background for 1 Cor. 15:32 which quotes this verse; those without the hope of covenant resurrection are described as saying "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die", just as the faithless in Israel did in Hezekiah's time. Instead of weeping in repentance, their attitude was "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die". This category is associated with Esau, craving for the things of today at the cost of an eternal tomorrow. And it is the spirit of our age, although as Paul shows, the resurrection of Jesus guarantees ours and therefore this should not be our attitude.

Isaiah 22:14 Yahweh of Armies revealed Himself in my ears, Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die, says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies-
The implication is that what Yahweh discreetly and intimately told Isaiah, he was preaching. It seems the Lord Jesus alludes to this in Mt. 10:27 and asks us each one to live in the spirit of prophets like Isaiah: "What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops". The death of these sinners was required; and yet the Assyrian destruction was averted by the repentance of a minority. But although these sinners didn't die when and as potentially planned, they still died. The idea however may be as in 1 Sam. 3:14; their sin could not be purged by sacrifice. If they were truly penitent, then like David they would be drive to throw themselves upon God's grace outside of the Mosaic system.

Isaiah 22:15 Thus says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, Go, get yourself to this treasurer, even to Shebna, who is over the house, and say-
LXX "Go into the chamber" suggests Isaiah was sent to meet Shebna in the burial vault he was preparing for himself (:16). "Shebna" is an Egyptian name and may have been installed in office by Hezekiah as part of his deal with Egypt, upon whom he trusted rather than solely in Yahweh. He had the office of being "over the house" but by the time of the Assyrian invasion Shebna had been replaced in this office by Eliakim (:20; Is. 36:3; 37:2). However, Shebna had not been completely 'hurled away' as required by :17, because he is mentioned there as being the "scribe", a senior secretary, although Eliakim was "over the household". This seems typical of the partial response made to Isaiah's prophecies. But it seems Yahweh accepted that partial response and repentance of a remnant, and so the invaders were destroyed and the awful outcome threatened upon Jerusalem in this chapter was averted or at best deferred. For more condemnation of Shebna, see on Is. 32:5.

The idea of prophecies and scripture being re-written under inspiration shouldn’t come as strange to us. Many of the Psalms are clearly relevant to David, and yet just as clearly relevant to Hezekiah and other Kings. Thus Ps. 41 is David’s reflection on the situation of 2 Sam. 15- but evidently it’s been re-written with reference to Hezekiah, also afflicted with an “evil disease”; and Ahithophel’s part in David’s life was perhaps played out in Hezekiah’s life by Shebna (Is. 22:15).

Isaiah 22:16 ‘What are you doing here? Whom do you have here, that you have dug out a tomb here?’. Cutting himself out a tomb on high, chiselling a habitation for himself in the rock!-
As explained on :15, Isaiah was sent to meet Shebna in the burial vault he was preparing for himself. To be buried in a specially dug tomb in Jerusalem was for the kings of Jerusalem; the force of "what are you doing here" [asked twice] may be that he was preparing a tomb for himself amongst those of the former kings; so perhaps by preparing his tomb there, Shebna was politically asserting himself as the effective king of Judah, although he was likely an Egyptian (see on :15,17). Perhaps he was planning on acting like this during Hezekiah's sickness. "On high" would then refer to the choice of the highest tombs- amongst the former kings.

The question "What are you doing here?" was that asked of Adam and Elijah in their moments of weakness. In each case, the question was intended to elicit repentance; and the same here. See on :19. Presumably Shebna made no response, and so his condemnation is stated in :17. Shebna was happy to die in glory; he had the attitude explained on :13, that he was happy to live for today and then eternally die. Sadly despite the warning from the example of Shebna and the specific command not to just live for today and resign ourselves to an eternal death (:13), Hezekiah at the end of his life gave in to just this same mentality (Is. 39:8).

Isaiah 22:17 Behold, Yahweh will overcome you and hurl you away violently. Yes, He will grasp you firmly-
This is effectively a command to hurl Shebna out of his position of power. As explained on :15, this was only partially obeyed. But at least there was some response, and even that partial response was so pleasing to God that the Assyrian invasion was averted. We too should not despise the partial response of others to God's word. The LXX offers: "And will take away thy robe and thy glorious crown". This would connect with the suggestion made on :16, that the Egyptian Shebna was pretending to the throne, and perhaps in Hezekiah's weakness and illness he was even wearing the crown; or a crown and robe which signalled his pretension to the throne. 

Isaiah 22:18 He will surely wind you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a large country. There you will die, and there the chariots of your glory will be, you shame of your lord’s house-
LXX: "And he will bring thy fair chariot to shame, and the house of thy prince to be trodden down". Shebna was pretending to the throne (see on :15-17) and was acting as if he was the effective king; perhaps riding in the royal chariot whilst Hezekiah was indisposed. Shebna's prince would have been Pharaoh of Egypt as he was an Egyptian (see on :15). Perhaps part of the political deal for Egyptian support was that Shebna would come to Jerusalem and be the effective ruler on Egypt's behalf, and a "house", perhaps an idol temple, built on behalf of the Egyptians. There is no evidence however that Shebna was taken captive into Assyria. It could be that he was to thrown out by the leadership of Judah- and they didn't do this. The prophetic scenario here was however ameliorated by the repentance of a remnant in Judah.

Isaiah 22:19 I will thrust you from your office. You will be pulled down from your station-
As explained on :17, this is effectively a command to hurl Shebna out of his position of power. As explained on :15, this was only partially obeyed.  There is no evidence however that Shebna was treated like this; the prophetic scenario here was however ameliorated by the repentance of a remnant in Judah. The LXX has "And thou shalt be removed from thy stewardship"- quoted by the Lord in His parable of the unjust steward (Lk. 16:4). It seems He saw Shebna as a bad man, who all the same could have repented. This would explain why "What are you doing here?" was a call for him to repent (:17).

Isaiah 22:20 It will happen in that day that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah-
Eliakim is being set up as a potential Messiah figure according to the following verses. See on :15. He was to replace Shebna, and as noted on :15, this was obeyed by the leadership of Judah; although they did not expel Shebna as they were intended to. "My servant" may imply Eliakim was one of the school of prophets headed by Isaiah (Is. 20:3).

Isaiah 22:21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and strengthen him with your belt. I will commit your government into his hand; and he will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah-
During Hezekiah's indisposition and illness, Shebna angled to take over the kingship. But God wanted Eliakim to do so. The language here is exactly that of Is. 9:6. Eliakim could have become a Messiah figure at the time, but he failed (Is. 22:25). So the prophecies were reapplied to the Lord Jesus. "Belt" is the word for the High Priest's girdle (Ex. 39:29). Shebna had blasphemously set himself up as a king-priest; but this was to be the characteristic of Messiah, and God wanted Eliakim to be that figure.

Isaiah 22:22 I will lay the key of the house of David on his shoulder. He will open, and no one will shut. He will shut, and no one will open-
Again, the Messianic language of Is. 9:6 is applied to Eliakim. In the same way as Solomon could have been the Messiah, so perhaps could men like Eliakim; for the language of Is. 22:20-25 is later transferred to the Lord Jesus. For all God’s foreknowledge otherwise, so the Messianic Kingdom could have come at the time of the restoration from Babylon. But Eliakim failed (:25), and so this verse is quoted about the Lord Jesus (Rev. 3:7) to whom the Messianic hope was reapplied. See on Is. 26:2.

Isaiah 22:23 I will fasten him like a nail in a sure place. He will be for a throne of glory to his father’s house-
God would have established Eliakim, fastening him like a nail. He could have been the "pin" (s.w. "nail") of Ez. 15:3 who although weak was strengthened by God to be able to bear any weight. "Sure" is the word for faith or belief; the place of belief or faith was surely the Jerusalem temple. Eliakim as a descendant of David could have been the fulfilment of the prophecies that David's throne was to be made glorious. But he snapped (:25). But there were later possibilities too- who also likewise failed. I submit that the Messianic prophecies of the restoration prophets could have had their fulfilment in Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel, or some other Messianic figure at that time. Everything was made possible to enable this- Joshua, who couldn’t prove his Levitical genealogy, was given “a place of access” amongst the priesthood, those who “stood” before the Lord (Zech. 3:7 RV). Ezra thanked God that they had returned and that they had “a nail in his holy place” (Ezra 9:8), a reference surely to a Messiah figure whom he felt to be among them, the “nail in a sure place” of Is. 22:23. According to Mt. 1:12 and Lk. 3:27, Zerubbabel was the Prince of Judah, and the rightful heir to David’s throne. But due to his weakness, the fulfilment was deferred to Jesus.

Isaiah 22:24 They will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, every small vessel, from the cups even to all the pitchers-
The Hebrew word for "glory" is literally "weight", that which is heavy. He could have been the promised seed of David, "his father's house", who reigned on David's glorified throne. But the idea is that even the lightest small vessels caused him to snap (:25). He was fastened and strengthened by God to bear the glory; but he snapped at the slightest load.

Isaiah 22:25 In that day, says Yahweh of Armies, the nail that was fastened in a sure place will give way. It will be cut down, and fall. The burden that was on it will be cut off, for Yahweh has spoken it
- LXX "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, The man that is fastened in the sure place shall be removed and be taken away, and shall fall; and the glory that is upon him shall be utterly destroyed". I suggest that the idea is that a potential Messiah figure would be raised up, but he would fail, and would not function as intended. This was what happened to Eliakim, Hezekiah, Zerubbabel and others who were set up as the potential Messiah figures. The impression is given that an awful lot 'hung' on that one individual; the reestablishment of the Kingdom was going to depend upon this one individual because the people generally were spiritually weak. But all would fall, because he would not be strong enough. And so this all will come to fulfilment in Messiah Jesus. He would be cut down and would fall- the language of the invasion and destruction of Zion (Is. 9:10). But that was not how Eliakim came to his end; the idea may simply look forward to how the true Messiah would never be cut down or fall but would last eternally.