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Thursday, December 7th, 2023
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 20

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;

In the reign of Sargon (722 BC - 715 BC), the successor of Shalmaneser, an Assyrian invasion of Egypt took place. Its success is here foretold; and hence a party among the Jews are warned of the folly of their "expectation" of aid from Egypt or Ethiopia. At a later period (Isaiah 18:1-7), when Tirhakah of Ethiopia was their ally, the Ethiopians are treated as friends, to whom God announces the overthrow of the common Assyrian foe, Sennacherib. Egypt and Ethiopia in this chapter (Isaiah 20:3-4) are represented as allied together, the result, no doubt, of fear of the common foe. Previously they had been at strife (Isaiah 19:2), and the Ethiopian king had, just before Sethos' usurpation, withdrawn from occupation of part of Lower Egypt. Hence, "Egypt" is mentioned alone in Isaiah 19:1-25, which refers to a somewhat earlier stage of the same event-a delicate mark of truth. Sargon seems to have been the king who finished the capture of Samaria, which Shalmaneser began.

The alliance of Hoshea with So, or Sabacho II, of Ethiopia, and his refusal to pay the usual tribute, provoked Shalmaneser to the invasion. On clay cylindrical seals, found in Sennacherib's palace at Kouyunjik, the name of Sabacho is deciphered. The two seals are thought, from the inscriptions, to have been attached to the treaty of peace between Egypt and Assyria, which resulted from the invasion of Egypt by Sargon, described in this chapter. 2 Kings 17:10 curiously confirms the view derived from Assyrian inscriptions, that though Shalmaneser began, Sargon finished the conquest of Samaria: 'they took it' (Samaria). Compare 2 Kings 17:4-6, "came up Shalmaneser ... Then the king of Assyria went up." In Sargon's palace at Khorsabad the inscriptions state that 27,280 Israelites were led captive by the founder of the palace. While Shalmaneser was engaged in the siege of Samaria, Sargon probably usurped the supreme power and destroyed him.

The siege began in 723 BC, and ended in 721 BC-the first year of Sargon's reign. Hence, arises the paucity of inscriptions of the two predecessors of Sargon, Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser. The usurper destroyed them, just as Tiglath-pileser destroyed those of Pul (Sardanapalus), the last of the old line of Ninus. The names of his father and grandfather, which have been deciphered in the palace of his son Sennacherib, do not appear in the list of Assyrian kings, which confirms the view that he was a satrap who usurped the throne. He was so able a general that Hezekiah made no attempt to shake off the tribute until the reign of Sennacherib; hence, Judah was not invaded now, as the land of the Philistines and Egypt were. After conquering Israel, he sent his general, Tartan, to attack the Philistine cities, "Ashdod," etc., preliminary to his invasion of Egypt and Ethiopia; because the line of march to Egypt lay along the southwest coast of Palestine. The inscriptions confirm the prophecy: they tell us he received tribute from a Pharaoh of "Egypt," besides destroying in part the Ethiopian 'No-Ammon,' or Thebes (Nahum 3:8); also that he warred with the kings of "Ashdod," Gaza, etc., in harmony with Isaiah here. A memorial tablet of him is found in Cyprus also, showing that he extended his arms to that island. His reign was six or seven years in duration-722 BC - 715 BC (G.V. Smith.)

Tartan - probably the same general as was sent by Sennacherib against Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:17). Gesenius takes "Tartan" as a title.

Came unto Ashdod - called by the Greeks Azotus (Acts 8:40); on the Mediterranean: one of the 'five' cities of the Philistines. The taking of it was a necessary preliminary to the invasion of Egypt, to which it was the key in that quarter, the Philistines being allies of Egypt. So strongly did the Assyrians fortify it that it stood a twenty-nine years' siege, when it was retaken by the Egyptian Psammitichus.

(When Sargon the king of Assyria sent him.) Sargon himself remained behind, engaged with the Phoenician cities, or else led the main force more directly into Egypt out of Judah (G.V. Smith).

Verse 2

At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

Spake the Lord by Isaiah - literally, by the hand of (cf. Ezekiel 3:14).

Loose the sackcloth - the loose outer garment of coarse dark hair-cloth worn by mourners (2 Samuel 3:31) and by prophets, fastened at the waist by a girdle (Matthew 3:4; 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4).

He did so walking naked - rather, uncovered. He merely put off the outer sackcloth, retaining still the tunic, or inner vest (1 Samuel 19:24; Amos 2:16; John 21:7): an emblem to show that Egypt should be stripped of its possessions. The very dress of Isaiah was a silent exhortation to repentance.

Verse 3

And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;

Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years (for) a sign. Isaiah's symbolical action did not continue all this time, but at intervals, to keep it before the people's mind during that period (Rosenmuller). This is the only instance of a strictly symbolical act performed by Isaiah. With later prophets, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, such acts were common. In some cases they were performed, not literally, but only in prophetic vision.

Wonder - rather, a portent; an omen: conveying a threat as to the future.

Upon - in reference to; against. As Isaiah my servant walked naked and barefoot at certain seasons and occasions from time to time, for the space of three years.

Verse 4

So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

So - within the space of three years.

Shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners ... with (their) buttocks uncovered. Belzoni says that captives are found represented thus on Egyptian monuments (Isaiah 47:2-3; Nahum 3:5; Nahum 3:8-9), where, as here, Egypt and Ethiopia are mentioned as in alliance. 'The monuments represent Sargon as warring with Egypt, and forcing the Pharaoh of the time to become tributary. They also represent Egypt at this time in that close connection with Ethiopia which the prophet implies' (G. Rawlinson).

Verse 5

And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.

They - the Philistine allies of Egypt, who trusted in it for help against Assyria.

Shall be ... ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory - a warning to the party among the Jews who, though Judah was then the subordinate ally of Assyria, were looking to Egypt as a preferable ally (Isaiah 30:7). Ethiopia was their "expectation," for Palestina had not yet obtained, but hoped for alliance with it. Egypt was their "glory" - i:e., boast (Isaiah 13:19), because the alliance with it was completed.

Verse 6

And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

The inhabitant of this isle - i:e., coast on the Mediterranean-Philistia, perhaps Phoenicia (cf. Isaiah 23:2; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 13:22; Psalms 72:10).

Shall say ... Behold, such is our expectation, where we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape? "We," emphatic. If Egypt, in which we trusted, was overcome-if such has been the fate of that strong empire, whence we had our expectation of deliverance from Assyria, how shall we, a small weak state, escape?

Remarks: The minister's aspect and bearing ought to be a living commentary and exemplification of that which he preaches. Whatever the Lord wills concerning him, however the world may charge him with singularity, should be his will. The dress is often the index of the character; and it is true wisdom, while avoiding the ostentation of spurious humility, to cultivate real simplicity and humility in externals, as well as in the heart.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-20.html. 1871-8.
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