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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 22


This chapter is made up of “two” prophecies, one comprising the first fourteen verses, and addressed to the city of Jerusalem; and the other Isaiah 22:15-23.22.25 relating to the fall of Shebna, the prefect of the palace, and to the promotion of Eliakim in his place. They may have been delivered nearly at the same time, but the subjects are distinct.

The first Isaiah 22:1-23.22.14 relates to Jerusalem. It has reference to some period when the city was besieged, and when universal consternation spread among the people. The prophet represents himself as in the city, and as a witness of the alarm.

1. He describes Isaiah 22:1-23.22.3 the consternation that prevailed in the city at the approach of the enemy. The inhabitants flee to the tops of the houses, either to observe the enemy or to make a defense, and the city is filled with distress, mingled with the tumultuous mirth of a portion who regard defense as hopeless, and who give themselves up to revelry and gluttony, because they apprehended that they must at all events soon die.

2. The prophet then describes Isaiah 22:4-23.22.8 his own grief at the impending calamity, and especially at the state of things within the city. He portrays the distress; describes those who cause it, and the people engaged in it; and says that the valleys around the city are filled with chariots, and that the horsemen of the enemy have come to the very gate.

3. He then describes the preparations which are made in the city for defense Isaiah 22:9-23.22.11. The inhabitants of the city had endeavored to repair the breaches of the walls; had even torn down their houses to furnish materials, and had endeavored to secure the “water” with which the city was supplied from the enemy; but they had not looked to God as they should have done for protection. The scope of the prophecy, therefore, is, to reprove them for not looking to God, and also for their revelry in the very midst of their calamities.

4. The prophet then describes the state of “morals” within the city Isaiah 22:12-23.22.14. It was a time when they should have humbled themselves, and looked to God. He called them to fasting and to grief; but they supposed that the city “must” be taken, and that they must die, and a large portion of the inhabitants, despairing of being able to make a successful defense, gave themselves up to riot and drunkenness. To reprove this, was one design of the prophet; and perhaps, also, to teach the general lesson that men, in view of the certainty of death, should not madly and foolishly give themselves to sensual indulgence.

There has been a difference of opinion in regard to the event to which this prophecy refers. Most have supposed that it relates to the invasion by Sennacherib; others have supposed that it relates to the destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. Vitringa and Lowth suppose that the prophet had “both” events in view; the former in Isaiah 22:1-23.22.5, and the latter in the remainder of the prophecy. But it is not probable that it has a twofold reference. It has the appearance of referring to a “single” calamity; and this mode of interpretation should not be departed from without manifest necessity. The general aspect of the prophecy has reference, I think, to the invasion by Sennacherib. He came near the city; the city was filled with alarm; and Hezekiah prepared himself to make as firm a stand against him as possible, and put the city in the best possible state of defense. The description in Isaiah 22:9-23.22.11 agrees exactly with the account given of the defense winch Hezekiah made against Sennacherib in 2 Chronicles 32:2, following; and particularly in regard to the effort made to secure the fountains in the neighborhood for the use of the city, and to prevent the Assyrians from obtaining it. In 2 Chronicles 32:2 ff, we are told that Hezekiah took measures to stop all the fountains of water without the city, and the brook ‘that ran through the midst of the land,’ in order that the Assyrians under Sennacherib should not find water; and that he repaired the walls, and built new towers of defense in the city, and placed guards upon them. These circumstances of “coincidence” between the history and the prophecy, show conclusively that the reference is entirely to the invasion under Sennacherib. This occurred 710 b.c.

Verse 1

The burden - (see the note at Isaiah 13:1). “The valley” גיא gay'. Septuagint, Φάραγγος Pharangos - ‘Valley.’ Chaldee, ‘The burden of the prophecy respecting the city which dwells (that is, is built) in the valley, which the prophets have prophesied concerning it.’ There can be no doubt that Jerusalem is intended (see Isaiah 22:9-23.22.10). It is not usual to call it “a valley,” but it may be so called, either

(1) because there were several valleys “within” the city and adjacent to it, as the vale between mount Zion and Moriah; the vale between mount Moriah and mount Ophel; between these and mount Bezetha; and the valley of Jehoshaphat, without the walls of the city; or

(2) more probably it was called “a valley” in reference to its being “encompassed with hills,” rising to a considerable elevation above the city.

Thus mount Olivet was on the east, and overlooked the city. Jerusalem is also called a “valley,” and a “plain,” in Jeremiah 21:13 : ‘Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord.’ Thus it is described in Reland’s “Palestine:” - ‘The city was in the mountain region of Judea, in an elevated place, yet so that in respect to the mountains by which it was surrounded, it seemed to be situated in a humble place, because mount Olivet, and other mountains surrounding it, were more elevated.’ So Phocas says, ‘The holy city is placed in the midst of various valleys and hills, and this is wonderful (Θαυμαστόν Thaumaston) in it, that at the same time the city seems to be elevated and depressed, for it is elevated in respect to the region of Judea, and depressed in respect to the hills around it.’ (Reland’s “Palestine,” iii. 802, in Ugolini’s “Thesaurus,” vi.) It was common with Isaiah and the other prophets to designate Jerusalem and other places, not by their proper names, but by some appellation that would be descriptive (see Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 29:1).

Of vision - (see the note at Isaiah 1:1). The word here means that Jerusalem was eminently the place where God made known his will to the prophets, and manifested himself to his people by “visions.”

What aileth thee now? - What is the cause of the commotion and tumult that exists in the city? The prophets throws himself at once into the midst of the excitement; sees the agitation and tumult, and the preparations for defense which were made, and asks the “cause” of all this confusion.

That thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops - That all classes of the people had fled to the house-tops, so much that it might be said that all the city had gone up. Houses in the East were built in a uniform manner in ancient times, and are so to this day. (See a description of the mode of building in the notes at Matthew 9:1 ff.) The roofs were always flat, and were made either of earth that was trodden hard, or with large flat stones. This roof was surrounded with a balustrade Deuteronomy 22:8, and furnished a convenient place for walking, or even for eating and sleeping. Whenever, therefore, anything was to be seen in the street, or at a distance; or when there was any cause of alarm, they would naturally resort to the roof of the house. When there was a tower in the city, the inhabitants fled to that, and took refuge on its top (see Judges 9:50-7.9.53). The image here is, therefore, one of consternation and alarm, as if on the sudden approach of an enemy.

Verse 2

Thou that art full of stirs - Of tumult, of commotion, of alarm. Or, perhaps, this whole description may mean that it was formerly a city distinguished for the hum of business, or for pleasure; a busy, active, enterprising city. The Hebrew will bear this, but I prefer the former interpretation, as indicating mingled alarm and consternation, and at the same time a disposition to engage in riot and revelry.

A joyous city - A city exulting; rejoicing; given to pleasure, and to riot. (See the description of Nineveh in Zephaniah 2:15) It is remarkable that the prophet has blended these things together, and has spoken of the tumult, the alarm, and the rejoicing, in the same breath. ‘This may be either because it was the “general” character of the city thus to be full of revelry, dissipation, and riot, and he designates it by that which “usually and appropriately” described it; or because it was, even then, notwithstanding the general consternation and alarm, given up to revelry, and the rather on account of the approaching danger. So he describes the city in Isaiah 22:12-23.22.13.

Thy slain men are not slain with the sword - The words ‘thy slain’ here (חלליך chălâlayikā), seem to be intended to be applied to the soldiers on whom the defense of the city rested; and to mean those who had not died an honorable death “in” the city in its defense, but who had “fled” in consternation, and who were either taken in their flight and made captive, or who were pursued and put to death. To be slain with the sword here is equivalent to being slain in an honorable engagement with the enemy. But here the prophet speaks of their consternation, their cowardice, and of their being partly trampled down in their hasty and ignominious flight by each other; and partly of the fugitives being overtaken by the enemy, and thus put to death.

Verse 3

All thy rulers are fled together - The general idea in this verse is plain. It is designed to describe the consternation which would take place on the approach of the invader, and especially the timidity and flight of those on whom the city relied for protection and defense. Hence, instead of entering calmly and firmly on the work of defense, no inconsiderable part of the rulers of the city are represented as fleeing from the city, and refusing to remain to protect the capital. The word rendered ‘thy rulers’ (קציניך qitsiynayik) denotes either the civil rulers of the city, or military leaders. It is most usually applied to the latter Joshua 10:24; Judges 11:6, Judges 11:11; Daniel 11:18, and probably refers here to military commanders.

They are bound by the archers - Hebrew as in the margin, ‘Of the bow.’ There has been a great variety in the interpretation of this passage. The Septuagint reads it, Σκληρῶς δεδεμένοι εἰσί sklērōs dedemenoi eisi - ‘And the captives are bound with severity.’ The Chaldee, ‘And the captives migrate from before the extending of the bow.’ Jarchi renders it, ‘Who from the fear of arrows were bound so that they shut themselves up in the city.’ Houbigant and Lowth render it, ‘They are fled from the bow,’ reading it הסרוּ hâserû instead of the present Hebrew text אסרוּ 'usrû, but without the slightest authority. Vitringa renders it, ‘They were bound from treading, that is, extending, or using the bow;’ or ‘They were bound by those who tread, that is, use the bow;’ indicating that they were so bound that they could not use the bow in defense of the city. I think that the “connection” here requires that the word אסרוּ 'usrû should be used in the sense of being “bound” or influenced by fear - they were so intimidated, so much under the influence of terror, so entirely unmanned and disabled by alarm, that they could not use the bow; or this was caused “by” the bow, that is, by the bowmen or archers who came to attack the city. It is true that no other instance occurs in which the word is used in precisely this sense, but instances in abundance occur where strong passion is represented as having a controlling or disabling influence over the mind and body; where it takes away the energy of the soul, and makes one timid, feeble, helpless, as if bound with cords, or made captive. The word אסר 'âsar commonly means to bind with cords, or to fetter; to imprison Genesis 42:24; Jdg 16:5; 2 Kings 17:4 : to yoke 1 Samuel 6:7, 1 Samuel 6:10; and then to bind with a vow Numbers 30:3. Hence, it may mean to “bind” with fear or consternation.

Which have fled from far - That is, either they have fled far away; or they had fled from far in order to reach Jerusalem as a place of safety. Probably the latter is the sense.

Verse 4

Look away from me - Do not look upon me - an indication of deep grief, for sorrow seeks to be alone, and grief avoids publicity and exposure.

I will weep bitterly - Hebrew, ‘I will be bitter in weeping.’ Thus we speak of “bitter” sorrow, indicating excessive grief (see the note at Isaiah 15:5; compare Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 2:11; Micah 1:8-33.1.9).

Labour not - The sense is, ‘My grief is so great that I cannot be comforted. There are no topics of consolation that can be presented. I must be alone, and allowed to indulge in deep and overwhelming sorrow at the calamities that are coming upon my nation and people.’

Because of the spoiling - The desolation; the ruin that is coming upon them.

The daughter of my people - Jerusalem (see the note at Isaiah 1:8; compare Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:19, Jeremiah 8:21-24.8.22; Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 4:3, Lamentations 4:6, Lamentations 4:10).

Verse 5

For it is a day of trouble and of treading down - When our enemies trample on everything sacred and dear to us, and endanger all our best interests (see Psalms 44:6; Luke 21:24).

And of perplexity - In which we know not what to do. We are embarrassed, and know not where to look for relief.

By the Lord God of hosts - That is, he is the efficient cause of all this. It has come upon us under his providence, and by his direction (see the note at Isaiah 10:5).

In the valley of vision - In Jerusalem (see the note at Isaiah 22:1).

Breaking down the walls - There has been much variety in the interpretation of this place. The Septuagint renders it, ‘In the valley of Zion they wander, from the least to the greatest; they wander upon the mountains.’ See a discussion of the various senses which the Hebrew phrase may admit, in Rosenmuller and Gesenius. Probably our common version has given the true sense, and the reference is to the fact that the walls of the city became thrown down, either in the siege or from some other cause. If this refers to the invasion of Sennacherib, though his army was destroyed, and he was unable to take the city, yet there is no improbability in the supposition that he made some breaches in the walls. Indeed this is implied in the account in 2 Chronicles 32:5.

And of crying to the mountains - Either for help, or more probably of such a loud lamentation that it reached the surrounding hills, and was re-echoed back to the city. Or perhaps it may mean that the shout or clamor of those engaged in building or defending the walls, reached to the mountains. Compare Virg. “AEncid,” iv. 668:

- resonat magnis plangoribus aether.

Rosenmuller renders it, ‘A cry - to the mountains!’ That is, a cry among the people to escape to the hills, and to seek refuge in the caves and fastnesses there (compare Judges 6:2; Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14).

Verse 6

And Elam - The southern part of Persia, perhaps used here to denote Persia in general (see the note at Isaiah 21:2). Elam, or Persia, was at this time subject to Assyria, and their forces were united doubtless in the invasion of Judea.

Bare the quiver - A ‘quiver’ is a case in which arrows are carried. This was usually hung upon the shoulders, and thus “borne” by the soldier when he entered into battle. By the expression here, is meant that Elam was engaged in the siege, and was distinguished particularly for skill in shooting arrows. That the Elamites were thus distinguished for the use of the bow, is apparent from Ezekiel 32:24, and Jeremiah 49:35.

With chariots of men and horsemen - Lowth proposes, instead of ‘men,’ to read ארם 'ărâm, “Syria,” instead of אדם 'âdâm, “man,” by the change of the single Hebrew letter ד (d) into the Hebrew letter ר (r). This mistake might have been easily made where the letters are so much alike, and it would suit the parallelism of the passage, but there is no authority of MSS. or versions for the change. The words ‘chariots of men - horsemen,’ I understand here, as in Isaiah 21:7, to mean “a troop or riding” of men who were horsemen. Archers often rode in this manner. The Scythians usually fought on horseback with bows and arrows.

Kir - Kir was a city of Media, where the river Kyrus or Cyrus flows 2 Kings 16:9; Amos 1:5; Amos 9:7. This was evidently then connected with the Assyrian monarchy, and was engaged with it in the invasion of Judea. Perhaps the name ‘’Kir’ was given to a region or province lying on the river Cyrus or Kyrus. This river unites with the Araxes, and falls into the Caspian Sea.

Uncovered the shield - (see the note at Isaiah 21:5). Shields were protected during a march, or when not in use, by a covering of cloth. Among the Greeks, the name of this covering was Σάγμα Sagma. Shields were made either of metal or of skin, and the object in covering them was to preserve the metal untarnished, or to keep the shield from injury. To “uncover the shield,” therefore, was to prepare for battle. The Medes were subject to the Assyrians in the time of Hezekiah 2 Kings 16:9; 2 Kings 17:6, and of course in the time of the invasion of Judea by Sennacherib.

Verse 7

Thy choicest valleys - Hebrew, ‘The choice of thy galleys;’ meaning the most fertile and most valued lands in the vicinity of the city. The rich and fertile vales around Jerusalem would be occupied by the armies of the Assyrian monarch. What occurs in this verse and the following verses to Isaiah 22:14, is a prophetic description of what is presented historically in Isaiah 36:0, and 2 Chronicles 32:0. The coincidence is so exact, that it leaves no room to doubt that the invasion here described was that which took place under Sennacherib.

Set themselves in array - Hebrew, ‘Placing shall place themselves;’ that is, they shall be drawn up for battle; they shall besiege the city, and guard it from all ingress or egress. Rabshakeh, sent by Sennacherib to besiege the city, took his station at the upper pool, and was so near the city that he could converse with the people on the walls Isaiah 36:11-23.36.13.

Verse 8

And he discovered - Hebrew, ויגל vayegal - ‘He made naked, or bare.’ The expression, ‘He discovered,’ means simply that it “was” uncovered, without designating the agent.

The covering of Judah - The word used here (מסך mâsak) denotes properly “a covering,” and is applied to the “curtain” or veil that was before the tabernacle Exodus 26:36; Exodus 39:38; and to the curtain that was before the gate of the court Exodus 35:17; Exodus 39:40. The Septuagint understands it of the “gates” of Judah, ‘They revealed the gates (τὰς πύλας tas pulas) of Judah.’ Many have understood it of the defenses, ramparts, or fortifications of Judah, meaning that they were laid open to public view, that is, were demolished. But the more probable meaning, perhaps, is, that the invading army exposed Judah to every kind of reproach; stripped off everything that was designed to be ornamental in the land; and thus, by the figure of exposing one to reproach and shame by stripping off all his clothes, exposed Judah in every part to reproach. Sennacherib actually came up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them and dismantled them 2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1. The land was thus laid bare, and unprotected.

And thou didst look - Thou Judah; or the king of Judah. Thou didst cast thine eyes to that armory as the last resort, and as the only hope of defense.

To the armor - Or rather, perhaps, the “armory, the arsenal” (נשׁק nesheq). The Septuagint renders it, ‘To the choice houses of the city’ (compare Nehemiah 3:19).

Of the house of the forest - This was built within the city, and was called the house of the forest of Lebanon, probably from the great quantity of cedar from Lebanon which was employed in building it 1 Kings 7:2-11.7.8. In this house, Solomon laid up large quantities of munitions of war 1 Kings 10:16-11.10.17; and this vast storehouse was now the principal reliance of Hezekiah against the invading forces of Sennacherib.

Verse 9

Ye have seen also the breaches - You who are inhabitants of the city. That such breaches were actually made, see 2 Chronicles 32:5.

Of the city of David - Of Jerusalem, so called because it was the royal residence of David. Zion was usually called the city of David, but the name was given also to the entire city.

And ye gathered together ... - That is, Hezekiah and the people of the city collected those waters.

Of the lower pool - (For a description of the upper and lower pool, see the notes at Isaiah 7:3). The superfluous waters of the lower pool usually flowed into the valley of Hinnom, and thence, into the valley of Jehoshaphat, mingling with the waters of the brook Kedron. It would seem from the passage here that those waters were not usually retained for the use of the city, though it was possible to retain them in case of a drought or a siege. At present, the lower pool is without the walls, but Hezekiah appears to have extended a temporary wall around it so as to enclose it (see the note at Isaiah 22:11). This he did, probably for two purposes;

(1) to cut off the Assyrians from the supply of water; and

(2) to retain “all” the water in the city to supply the inhabitants during the siege; see 2 Chronicles 32:4, where it is expressly declared that Hezekiah took this measure to distress the Assyrians.

Verse 10

And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem - That is, you have taken an estimate of their number so as to ascertain how many can be spared to be pulled down to repair the walls; or you have made an estimate of the amount of materials for repairing the walls, which would be furnished by pulling down the houses in Jerusalem.

To fortify the wall - The houses in Jerusalem were built of stone, and therefore they would furnish appropriate materials for repairing the walls of the city. In 2 Chronicles 32:5, it is said that Hezekiah not only repaired the broken walls of the city on the approach of Sennacherib, but ‘raised up the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.’

Verse 11

Ye made also a ditch - That is, they made a “reservoir” to retain the water. The word ‘ditch,’ however, will well describe the character of the pool of Gihon on the west side of the city (see the notes at Isaiah 7:3).

Between the two walls for the water of the old pool - Hezekiah built one of these walls himself (2 Chronicles 32:5, 2 Chronicles 32:30; compare 2 Kings 25:5, and Jeremiah 39:4). Between these two walls the water would be collected so as to be accessible to the inhabitants of the city in case of a siege. Before this, the water had flowed without the walls of the city, and in a time of siege the inhabitants would be cut off from it, and an enemy would be able easily to subdue them. To prevent this, Hezekiah appears to have performed two works, one of which was particularly adapted to the times of the siege, and the other was of permanent utility.

(1) He made a wall on the west side of Gihon, so as to make the pool accessible to the inhabitants of the city, as described here by Isaiah; and

(2) he ‘stopped the upper water-course of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David’ 2 Chronicles 32:30.

By this is not improbably meant that he constructed the pool which is now known as the ‘pool of Hezekiah.’ This reservoir lies within the walls of the city, some distance northeastward of the Yafa Gate, and just west of the street that leads to the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Its sides run toward the cardinal points. Its breadth at the north end is 144 feet, its length on the east side about 240 feet. The depth is not great. The bottom is rock, and is leveled and covered with cement. The reservoir is now supplied with water during the rainy season by the small aqueduct or drain brought down from the upper pool, along the surface of the ground and under the wall at or near the Yafa Gate (compare Robinson’s “Bib. Researches,” vol. i. p. 487). This was deemed a work of great utility, and was one of the acts which particularly distinguished the reign of Hezckiah. It is not only mentioned in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, but the son of Sirach has also mentioned it in his encomium on Hezekiah: ‘Hezekiah fortified his city, and brought in water into the midst thereof; he digged the hard rock with iron, and made wells for water’ (Ecclus. 48:17).

But ye have not looked - You have not relied on God. You have depended on your own resources; and on the defenses which you have been making against the enemy. This probably described the “general” character of the people. Hezekiah, however, was a pious man, and doubtless really depended on the aid of God.

The maker thereof - God; by whose command and aid all these defenses are made, and who has given you ability and skill to make them.

Long ago - God had made this fountain, and it had “long” been a supply to the city. He had a claim, therefore, to their gratitude and respect.

Verse 12

And in that day - In the invasion of Sennacherib. It might be rendered, ‘And the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, on such a day calls to weeping;’ intimating that in such a time it was a general truth that God required those who were thus afflicted to weep, and fast, and pray.

Call to weeping - That is, by his providence; or, it was “proper” that at such a time they should weep. Affliction, oppression, and calamity are indications from God “always” that we ought to be humbled, and to prostrate ourselves before Him.

And to baldness - To plucking off the hair, or shaving the head - one of the emblems of grief among the ancients Job 1:20; Micah 1:16.

And to girding with sackcloth - (see the note at Isaiah 3:24).

Verse 13

And behold ... - When they ought to give themselves to fasting and prayer, they gave themselves up to revelry and riot.

Let us eat and drink - Saying, Let us eat and drink. That is, it is inevitable that we must soon die. The army of the Assyrian is approaching, and the city cannot stand against him. It is in vain to make a defense, and in vain to call upon God. Since we “must” soon die, we may as well enjoy life while it lasts. This is always the language of the epicure; and it seems to be the language of no small part of the world. Probably if the “real” feelings of the great mass of worldly people were expressed, they could not be better expressed than in this passage of Isaiah: ‘We must soon die at all events. We cannot avoid that, for it is the common lot of all. And since we have been sent into a dying world; since we had no agency in being placed here; since it is impossible to prevent this doom, we may as well “enjoy” life while it lasts, and give ourselves to pleasure, dissipation, and revelry.

While we can, we will take our comfort, and when death comes we will submit to it, simply because we cannot avoid it.’ Thus, while God calls people to repentance and seriousness; and while he would urge them, by the consideration that, this life is short, to prepare for a better life; and while he designs that the nearness of death should lead them to think solemnly of it, they abuse all His mercies, endeavor to thwart all His arrangements, and live and die like the brutes. This passage is quoted by Paul in his argument on the subject of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:32. Sentiments remarkably similar to this occur in the writings of the Greek and Roman poets. Among the Egyptians, the fact that life is short was urged as one argument for promoting soberness and temperance, and in order to produce this effect, it was customary at their feasts to have introduced, at some part of the entertainment, a wooden image of Osiris in the form of a human mummy standing erect, or lying on a bier, and to show it to each of the guests, warning him of his mortality, and of the transitory nature of human pleasures.

He was reminded that one day he would be like that; and was told that people ‘ought to love one another, and to avoid those evils which tend to make them consider life too long, when in reality it is too short, and while enjoying the blessings of this life, to bear in mind that life was precarious, and that death would soon close all their comforts.’ (See Wilkinson’s “Ancient Egyptians,” vol. ii. pp. 409-411.) With the Greeks and Romans, however, as well as the Jews in the time of Isaiah, the fact of the shortness of life was used to produce just the contrary effect - to prompt them to dissipation and licentiousness. The fact of the temporary pilgrimage of man served as an inducement to enjoy the pleasures of life while they lasted, since death was supposed to close the scene, and no prospect was held out of happiness in a future state. This sentiment was expressed in their songs at their entertainments to urge themselves on to greater indulgence in wine and in pleasure. Thus, in Anacreon, Ode 4:

Eis eauton

Ho d' Erōs chitōna dēesas

Huper auchenos papurō

Methu moi diēkoneito.

Trochos armatos gar oia

Biotos trechei kulistheis

Oligē de keisomestha

Konis, osteōn luthentōn.

Ti se dei lithon murizein;

Ti de gē cheein mataia;

eme mallon, hōs eti zō,

Murizon, kalei d' hetairēn

Prin, Erōs, ekei me apelthein

Hupo nerterōn choreias,

Skedasai thelō merimnas.

‘In decent robe behind him bound,

Cupid shall serve the goblet round;

For fast away our moments steal,

Like the swift chariot’s rolling wheel;

The rapid course is quickly done,

And soon the race of life is run.

Then, then, alas! we droop, we die;

And sunk in dissolution lie:

Our frame no symmetry retains,

Nought but a little dust remains.

Why o’er the tomb are odors shed?

Why poured libations to the dead?

To me, far better, while I live,

Rich wines and balmy fragrance give.

Now, now, the rosy wreath prepare,

And hither call the lovely fair.

Now, while I draw my vital breath,

Ere yet I lead the dance of death,

For joy my sorrows I’ll resign,

And drown my cares in rosy wine.’

A similar sentiment occurs in Horace. Odyssey iii. 13:

Huc vina, et unguente, et nimium brevis

Flores amoenos ferre jube rosae.

Dum res, et aetas, et sororum

Fila trium patiuntur atra.

And still more strikingly in Petronius, “Satyric.” c. 34, “ad finem:”

Heu, heu, nos miseros, quam torus homuncio nil est!

Sic erimus cuncti, postquam nos auferat Orcus:

Ergo vivamus, dum licet esse, bene.

The same sentiments prevailed among the Jews in the time of the author of the Book of Wisdom (Wisd. 11:1-9): ‘Our life is short and tedious, and in the death of a man there is no remedy: neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave. For we are born at all adventure; and we shall be hereafter as though we had never been, for the breath in our nostrils is as smoke, and a little spark in the moving of our heart. Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present; let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments, and let no flower of the spring pass by us; let us crown ourselves with rose buds before they be withered; let none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness; let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place.’ It was with reference to such sentiments as these, that Dr. Doddridge composed that beautiful epigram which Dr. Johnson pronounced the finest in the English language:

‘Live while you live,’ the sacred preacher cries,

‘And give to God each moment as it flies;’

‘Live while you live,’ the Epicure would say,

‘And seize the pleasures of the present day.’

Lord, in my view, let both united be,

I live to pleasure when I live to thee.

Verse 14

It was revealed in mine ears, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you until ye die - That is, the sin is so aggravated that it shall never be expiated or pardoned. Few sins can be more aggravated than revelry and riot, thoughtlessness and mirth over the grave. Nothing can show a more decided disregard of God, and nothing a more grovelling and sensual disposition. And yet, it is the common sin of the world; and there can be nothing more melancholy than that a race hastening to the grave should give itself to riot and dissipation. One would think that the prospect of a speedy and certain death would deter people from sin. But the very reverse is true. The nearer they approach death, the more reckless and abandoned do they often become. The “strength and power” of depravity is thus shown in the fact that people can sin thus when near the grave, and with the most fearful warnings and assurances that they are soon to go down to eternal wo.

Verse 15

Analysis of Isaiah 22:15-23.22.25. - Vision 20.

The remainder of this chapter Isaiah 22:15-23.22.25 is occupied with a prediction respecting Shebna, and the promotion of Eliakim in his place. From the prophecy itself it appears that Shebna was prefect of the palace Isaiah 22:15, or that he was in the highest authority in the time of Hezekiah. That he was an unprincipled ruler is evident from the prophecy, and hence, Isaiah was directed to predict his fall, and the elevation of another in his place. Whether this Shebna is the same that is mentioned in Isaiah 36:3, is not known. The Shebna there mentioned is called a “scribe” Isaiah 22:22, and that was “after” the fall of Shebna mentioned here, for it occurred after Eliakim had been placed over the palace. Eliakim was then in office, and was sent on that embassy to Sennacherib Isaiah 36:2, Isaiah 36:22; Isaiah 37:2. The probability is, therefore, that this was some other man of the same name, unless it may have been that “Shebna,” after being degraded from the rank of prefect of the palace or prime minister, became “a scribe,” or had an inferior office under Eliakim. The prophecy contains the following things:

1. A “command” to Isaiah to go to Shebna, and to reprove him for his self-confidence in his sin Isaiah 22:15-23.22.16.

2. A declaration that he should be carried captive to a foreign land Isaiah 22:17-23.22.18.

3. A declaration that he should be deposed and succeeded by Eliakim Isaiah 22:20.

4. A description of the character and honors of Eliakim, and his qualifications for the office Isaiah 22:21-23.22.24, and

5. A confirmation of the whole prophecy, or a summing up the whole in a single declarationIsaiah 22:25; Isaiah 22:25.

Isaiah 22:15

Thus saith the Lord God of hosts - (see the note at Isaiah 1:9).

Go, get thee - Hebrew, ‘Go, come to.’ This was one of the instances in which the prophets were directed to go personally, and even at the hazard of their life, to those who were high in office, and to denounce on them the divine judgment for their sins.

Unto this treasurer - (הסכן hassokēn). The Vulgate renders this, ‘To him who dwells in the tabernacle.’ The Septuagint renders it, Εἰς τὸ παστοφόrion Eis to pastophorion, denoting properly what is borne into a recess, cell, or chapel, and referring properly to a place where an idol was placed in a temple; and then any recess, or chamber, as a treasury, and referring here to the room which the treasurer of the temple occupied. The Hebrew word שׁכן shâkan means “to dwell with anyone;” then to be an associate or friend, and hence, the participle is applied to one entrusted with the care of anything, a steward, a treasurer. Jerome explains this in his Commentary as meaning, ‘go to him who dwells in the tabernacle, which in Hebrew is called Sochen.’ He understands by this some room, or recess in the temple, where the treasurer or the prefect of the temple dwelt. Our translators have expressed probably the true sense by the word ‘treasurer.’

Which is over the house - That is, either who is over the temple, or over the palace. I understand it of the latter. Shebna was not high priest, and the expression, ‘over the house,’ more properly denotes one who had the rule of the palace, or who was the principal minister of the king. See 1 Kings 18:3 : ‘And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house.’ What was the offence or crime of Shebna, it is impossible to say. The Jewish commentators say that he was intending to betray the city to Sennacherib, but although this is possible it has no direct proof.

Verse 16

What hast thou here? - This verse contains a severe repoof of the pride and ostentation of Shebna, and of his expectation that he would be buried where be had built his own tomb. It also contains an “implied” declaration that he would not be permitted to lie there, but would be removed to a distant land to be buried in some less honorable manner. It is probable that Isaiah met him when he was at the sepulchre which he had made, and addressed this language to him there: ‘What hast thou here? What right to expect that thou wilt be buried here, or why do you erect this splendid sepulchre, as if you were a holy man, and God would allow you to lie here?’ Probably his sepulchre had been erected among the sepulchres of holy people, and perhaps in some part of the royal burying place in Jerusalem.

And whom hast thou here? - Who among the dead that are entombed here are connected with you, that you should deem yourself entitled to lie with them? If this was the royal cemetery, these words might be designed to intimate that he had no connection with the royal family; and thus his building a tomb there was an evidence of vain glory, and of an attempt to occupy a place, even in death, to which he had no title.

That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here - Sepulchres were hewn or cut out of rocks (see the note at Isaiah 14:9). It was usual also for princes and rich people to have their sepulchres or tombs constructed while they were themselves alive (see Matthew 27:60). Shebna was doubtless a man of humble birth, none of whose ancestors or family had been honored with a burial in the royal cemetery, and hence, the prophet reproves his pride in expecting to repose with the royal dead.

He that heweth him out a sepulchre on high - On some elevated place, that it might be more conspicuous. Thus Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 32:33 was buried ‘in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David.’ Hebrew, במעלה bema‛ălēh - ‘In the highest.’ Septuagint, Ἐν ἀναβάσει en anabasei. Such sepulchres are still found in Persia. They consist of several tombs, each hewn in a high rock near the top, the front of the rock being adorned with figures in relievo. ‘Sepulchres of this kind are remarkably exemplified in the very ancient tombs excavated in the cliffs of the mountain of sepulchres at Naksh-i-Roustan, a full description of which may be found in Sir Robert Ker Porter’s “Travels.” They are excavated in an almost perpendicular cliff of about 300 feet high. There are two rows, of which the uppermost are the most ancient and interesting, presenting highly sculptured fronts about fifty-three feet broad, crowned by a representation of an act of Sabean worship. To the lowest of them, which, however, he describes as not less than sixty feet from the ground, Sir Robert could gain access only by being drawn up by means of a rope fastened around his waist, by some active natives who had contrived to clamber up to the ledge in front of the tomb. These appear to be royal sepulchres, and probably not later than the time of the kings of Persia mentioned in Scripture.’ (“Pict. Bible.”) Two objects were probably contemplated by such sepulchres. One was security from desecration. The other was ostentation - sepulchres thus excavated furnishing an opportunity for the display of architectural taste in front, and being conspicuous objects. Such sepulchres are found at Petra (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1), and it is probable that Shebna sought this kind of immortality. - Many a man who has done nothing to deserve celebrity by his noble deeds while living, seeks it by the magnificence of his tomb.

Verse 17

Behold, the Lord will carry thee away - Of the historical fact here referred to we have no other information. To what place he was to be carried, we know not. It is probable, however, that it was to Assyria.

With a mighty captivity - Hebrew, גבר geber - ‘Of a man,’ or perhaps, ‘O man.’ If it means ‘the captivity of a man,’ the sense is, a strong, irresistible, mighty captivity where the word “man” is emphatic, and means such as a mighty man would make. Compare Job 38:3 : ‘Gird up now thy loins like a man.’ The margin reads this, he ‘who covered thee with an excellent covering, and clothed thee gorgeously, shall surely turn and toss thee.’ But the text conveys more nearly the idea of the Hebrew word, which denotes the action of “casting away, or throwing” from one as a man throws a stone. See the same use of the word טול ṭûl in 1Sa 18:2; 1 Samuel 20:33; Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 22:26, Jeremiah 22:28; Jonah 1:5, Jonah 1:12, Jonah 1:16. “And will surely cover thee.” ‘Thy face,’ says Lowth, for this was the condition of mourners. The Chaldee is, ‘Shall cover thee with confusion.’ So Vitringa, who supposes that it means that although Shebna was endeavoring to rear a monument that should perpetuate his name and that of his family, God would cover them with ignominy, and reduce them to their primitive, obscure, and humble condition.

Verse 18

He will surely violently turn - Lowth has well expressed the sense of this:

He will whirl thee round and round, and cast thee away.

Thus it refers to the action of throwing a stone with a “sling,” when the sling is whirled round and round several times before the string is let go, in order to increase the velocity of the stone. The idea is here, that God designed to cast him into a distant land, and that he would give such an “impulse” to him that he would be sent afar, so far that he would not be able to return again.

Like a ball - A stone, ball, or other projectile that is cast from a sling.

Into a large country - Probably Assyria. When this was done we have no means of determining.

And there the chariots of glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house - Lowth renders this,

- And there shall thy glorious chariots

Become the shame of the house of thy lord.

Noyes renders it,

There shall thy splendid chariots perish,

Thou disgrace of the house of thy lord.

The Chaldee renders it, ‘And there the chariots of thy glory shall be converted into ignominy, because thou didst not preserve the glory of the house of thy lord.’ Probably the correct interpretation is that which regards the latter part of the verse, ‘the shame of thy lord’s house,’ as an address to him as the shame or disgrace of Ahaz, who had appointed him to that office, and of Hezekiah, who had continued him in it. The phrase ‘the chariots of thy glory,’ means splendid or magnificent chariots; and refers doubtless to the fact that in Jerusalem he had affected great pride and display, and had, like many weak minds, sought distinction by the splendor of his equipage. The idea here is, that the ‘chariot of his glory,’ that is, the vehicle in which he would ride, would be in a distant land, not meaning that in that land he would ride in chariots as magnificent as those which he had in Jerusalem, but that he would be conveyed there, and probably be borne in an ignominous manner, instead of the splendid mode in which he was carried in Jerusalem. The Jews say that when he left Jerusalem to deliver it into the hands of the enemy, they asked him where his army was; and when he said that they had turned back, they said, ‘thou hast mocked us;’ and that there-upon they bored his heels, and tied him to the tails of horses, and that thus he died.

Verse 19

And from thy state - From thy office; thy place of trust and responsibility.

Shall he pull thee down - That is, “God” shall do it. The prophet here uses the third person instead of the first. Such a change of person is very common in the writings of the prophets (see Stuart’s “Heb. Gram.” 563-565, sixth Ed.)

Verse 20

My servant Eliakim - A man who will be faithful to me; who will be trustworthy, and to whom the interests of the city may be safely confided; a man who will not seek to betray it into the hands of the enemy. Of Eliakim we know nothing more than what is stated here, and in Isaiah 36:0. From that account it appears that he was prefect of the palace; that he was employed in a negotiation with the leader of the army of the Assyrians; and that he was in all things faithful to the trust reposed in him.

The son of Hilkiah - Kimchi supposes that this was the same as Azariah the son of Hilkiah, who might have had two names, and who was a ruler over the house of God in the time of Hezekiah 1 Chronicles 6:13.

Verse 21

And I will clothe him with thy robe - He shall succeed thee in the office, and wear the garments which are appropriate to it.

And strengthen him with thy girdle - That is, he shall wear the same girdle that thou didst (see the note at Isaiah 3:24). In that girdle was usually the purse, and to it was attached the sword. Often, among the Orientals, the girdle was adorned with gold and precious stones, and was regarded as the principal embellishment of the dress.

And he shall be a father ... - A counselor; a guide; one who can be trusted in time of danger and difficulty. We use, the word “father” in the same sense, when we speak of the ‘father of his country.’

Verse 22

And the key - A key is that by which a house is locked or opened. To possess that is, therefore, to have free access to it, or control over it. Thus we give possession of a house by giving the “key” into the hands of a purchaser, implying that it is his; that he has free access to it; that he can close it when he pleases, and that no other one, without his permission, has the right of access to it.

Of the house of David - Of the house which David built for his royal residence; that is, of the palace. This house was on Mount Zion; and to have the key of that house was to have the chief authority at court, or to be prime minister (see the note at Isaiah 22:15). To be put in possession of that key, therefore, was the mark of office, or was a sign that he was entrusted with the chief authority in the government.

Will I lay upon his shoulder - (see Isaiah 9:6). This seems to have been designed as an emblem of office. But in what way it was done is unknown. Lowth supposes that the key was of considerable magnitude, and was made crooked, and that thus it would lie readily on the shoulder. He has observed also, that this was a well-known badge or emblem of office. Thus the priestess of Ceres is described as having a key on the shoulder (Callim. “Ceres,” ver. 45); and thus in AEschyl. “Supp.” 299, a female high in office is described as having a key. But it is not known in what way the key was borne. It may have been borne on the shoulder, being so made as to be easily carried there; or it may have been attached to the shoulder by a belt or strap, as a sword is; or it may have been a mere emblem or figure fashioned into the robe, and worn as a sign of office; or the figure of a key may have been worn on the shoulder as an epaulet is now, as a sign of office and authority. If the locks were made of wood, as we have reason to suppose, then the key was probably large, and would answer well for a sign of office. ‘How much was I delighted when I first saw the people, especially the Moors, going along the streets with each his key on his shoulder. The handle is generally made of brass (though sometimes of silver), and is often nicely worked in a device of filigrane. The way it is carried is to have the corner of a kerchief tied to the ring; the key is then placed on the shoulder, and the kerchief hangs down in front. At other times they have a bunch of large keys, and then they have half on one side of the shoulder, and half on the other. For a man thus to march along with a large key on his shoulder, shows at once that he is a person of consequence. “Raman is in great favor with the Modeliar, for he now carries the key.” “Whose key have you got on your shoulder?” “I shall carry my key on my own shoulder.”’ - (Roberts)

So he shall open ... - This phrase means, that he should have the highest authority in the government, and is a promise of unlimited power. Our Saviour has made use of the same expression to denote the unlimited power conferred on his apostles in his church Matthew 16:19; and has applied it also to himself in Revelation 3:7.

Verse 23

And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place - The word ‘nail’ here (יתד yâtēd) means properly a peg, pin, or spike; and is applied often to the pins or large spikes which were used to drive into the ground to fasten the cords of tents. It is also applied to the nails or spikes which are driven into walls, and on which are suspended the garments or the utensils of a family. In ancient times, every house was furnished with a large number of these pegs, or nails. They were not “driven” into the walls after the house was made, but they were “worked in” while the walls were going up. The houses were usually made of stone; and strong iron hooks, or spikes, were worked into the mortar while soft, and they answered the double purpose of nails to hang things on, and of cramp-irons, as they were so bent as to hold the walls together. These spikes are described by Sir John Chardin (Harmer’s “Observations,” vol. i. p. 191) as ‘large nails with square heads like dice, well made, the ends being so bent as to make them cramp-irons. They commonly,’ says he, ‘place them at the windows and doors, in order to hang upon them, when they like, veils and curtains.’ It was also the custom to suspend in houses, and especially temples, suits of armor, shields, helmets, swords, etc., that had been taken in war as spoils of victory, or which had been used by illustrious ancestors, and these spikes were used for that purpose also. The word is here applied to a leader, or officer; and it means that he would be fixed and permanent in his plans and office; and that as a pin in the wall sustained the ornaments of the house “safely,” so all the glory of the house of David, all that was dear and valuable to the nation, might be reposed on him Isaiah 22:24.

And he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house - A glorious seat; that is, all his family and kindred would be sustained, and honored by him; or their honor and reputation might rest securely on him, and his deeds would diffuse a luster and a glory over them all. Every virtuous, patriotic, benevolent, and pious son diffuses a luster on all his kindred; and this is one of the incitements to virtuous and elevated deeds which God has presented in the government of the world.

Verse 24

And they shall hang upon him - This figure is a continuation of that commenced in the previous verse; and is derived from the custom of “hanging” clothes or ornaments on the spikes that were fixed in the walls; and, perhaps, more particularly from the custom of suspending shields, swords, suits of armor, etc., taken in battle, around the walls of a temple. A great portion of the wealth of the ancients consisted in gold and silver vessels, and in changes of raiment. These would be hung around a house in no inconsiderable degree for ostentation and parade. ‘Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold; and all the vessels of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver’ 1 Kings 10:21. ‘The vessels in the house of the forest of Lebanon were two hundred targets and three hundred shields of beaten gold’ 1 Kings 10:16-11.10.17. That these were hung on spikes or pins around the house is apparent from Song of Solomon 4:4 : ‘Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an armory, whereon there bans a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.’ Eliakim is considered as a principal support like this, whereon would be suspended all the glory of his father’s family, and all the honor of his house; that is, he would be the principal support of the whole civil and ecclesiastical polity.

The offspring and the issue - All that proceeded from the family; all that were connected with it. Kimchi and Aben Ezra render it, ‘Sons and daughters.’ The Septuagint: ‘From the least to the greatest.’ The Chaldee, ‘Sons and grandsons, youth and children.’ The idea is, that all the prosperity, near and remote, would depend on him; and that his character would sustain and give dignity to them all. The word which is rendered ‘issue’ (הצפעות hatsepi‛ôt), according to Vitringa and Rosenmuller, denotes those that were of humble condition; and the passage means that honor would be conferred even on these by the virtues of Eliakim.

From the vessels of cups - literally, goblets, or bowls (אגנות 'āgânôt). The idea probably is, simply that of vessels of “small capacity,” whatever was the material of which they were composed; and hence, the reference here is to those of the family of Eliakim who were of humble rank, or who were poor.

To all the vessels of flagons - Margin, ‘Instruments of viols.’ Hebrew, נבלים nebâliym. This word is often applied to instruments of musica the נבל nebel, viol (see it described in the notes at Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 14:11); but it properly denotes a bottle made of skin for holding wine, and which, being made of the whole skin of a goat or sheep, indicated the vessels of large dimensions. Here it refers to the members of the family of Eliakim who were more wealthy and influential than those denoted by the small vessels. The glory of the whole family would depend on him. His virtues, wisdom, integrity, and valor in defending and saving the Hebrew commonwealth, would diffuse honor over the whole family connection, and render the name illustrious.

Verse 25

In that day shall the nail - Not Eliakim, but Shebna. Eliakim was to be fastened, that is, confirmed in office. But Shebna was to be removed.

That is fastened in the sure place - Or, that was once fastened, or was supposed to be fastened - a phrase appropriate to an office which the incumbent supposed to be firm or secure. It here refers to Shebna. He was regarded as haying a permanent hold on the office, and was making provisions for ending his days in it.

Be removed - To a distant land Isaiah 22:17-23.22.18, or simply taken down.

And be cut down, and fall - As a spike, pin, or peg would be taken away from the wall of a house.

And the burden that was upon it - All that it sustained - as the spikes in the wall of a house sustained the cups of gold, the raiment, or the armor that belonged to the family. Here it means, all that was dependent on Shebna - the honor of his family, his emoluments, his hope of future fame, or of an honored burial. All these would fail as a matter of course, when he was removed from his office. This is one instance of the usual mode of the divine administration. The errors of a man entrusted with office entail poverty, disgrace, and misery on all who are connected with him. Not only is his own name disgraced, but his sin “diffuses itself,” as it were, on all connected wit him. It involves them in want, and shame, and tears; and the design is to deter those in office from sin, by the fact that their crimes and errors “will” thus involve the innocent in calamiry, and shed disgrace and woe on those whom they love.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 22". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.