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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 22

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Verses 1-7


Isaiah 21 speaks about the appearance of Christ. Both Babylon (Europe) and Assyria (the king of the North) are destroyed in a supernatural way in the north of Israel, near Megiddo or Har-Magedon. Then Isaiah 22 takes us to the establishment of the throne of David in Jerusalem by Christ. But first we see how the antichrist, who is the king of Israel during the great tribulation, is dethroned (Isaiah 22:19; cf. Zechariah 11:17) during the destruction of Israel by the king of the North.

These end-time prophecies are illustrated by their pre-fulfillment when Jerusalem is destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar at the time of King Zedekiah. We also see this pre-fulfillment in this chapter in the deposition of Shebna, prophetically a type of antichrist, for whom then Eliakim, prophetically a type of Christ, Who then starts to reigns in Jerusalem, takes his place.

Ignoring the Coming Judgment

We can only understand the burden of Jerusalem, here called “the valley of vision” (Isaiah 22:1; cf. Jeremiah 21:13), in this chapter if we see its prophetic fulfillment. Otherwise, this prophecy of Jerusalem, after Isaiah 7-12, seems superfluous and inappropriate in the midst of the judgments on the nations. Although the city is not literally in a valley, it is surrounded by mountains (Psalms 125:2). The name is connected with the Kidron valley near Jerusalem.

A spectacle makes the inhabitants climb on the rooftops, so as not to miss anything of the spectacle. Horrified, Isaiah wonders what they have, of which they are inspired. Can’t they see that judgment is coming? However, they do not want to know about an impending judgment. The danger is ignored and washed away by amusement and that while, Isaiah assures the inhabitants of Jerusalem, there will come judgments on the city (Isaiah 22:2).

As is so often the case, these are both judgments that are soon coming and judgments that will take place in the end time. In the short term the king of Assyria will enter Judah, but without conquering Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13). Later on Babylon will destroy Jerusalem as a pre-fulfillment of this prophecy. The full fulfillment will take place when the prophetic Assyrians, the king of the North, come to destroy Jerusalem. The humiliation will be great. Rulers will flee so that the army is adrift (Isaiah 22:3). No one will escape, no matter how far they have fled.

Isaiah is appalled when he sees the destruction of the city before his mind (Isaiah 22:4). Jerusalem was not taken by Assyria in his days, the days of Hezekiah. By a miracle of God’s merciful intervention the city was spared. However, it did not bring the inhabitants of the city to repent and return to God. Therefore, the city will be destroyed, which will be done by Nebuchadnezzar. Isaiah is so deeply impressed by this that he does not want to be comforted. His sorrow is so great that he cannot let anyone share in it. He knows that this destruction comes from the LORD (Isaiah 22:5) and is therefore righteous, but also so fierce.

We see here that God has no joy in the judgment He has to bring on anyone of His creatures. He must certainly judge, but at the same time it is His strange work (Isaiah 28:21). The same Spirit through whom the prophet sees the suffering to come leads him to weep over it.

We also see this in Him, Who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature. He sheds tears when He sees the suffering that will come over Jerusalem and is saddened by the hardness of heart that makes the city refuse to hide under His wings (Luke 19:41-:; Matthew 23:37). And we too must never speak with a cold heart or dry eyes about the terrible eternal punishment that will be inflicted on anyone who refuses to repent.

Isaiah sees the enemy preparing to invade the land (Isaiah 22:6). The weapons are taken up and the fighting force is assembled. From strategically located areas such as Elam, in southwest of Persia, and Kir, in north of Persia, the Medes, the armies of Assyria will enter Judah. There they will fill the most beautiful valleys of Judah with their armies (Isaiah 22:7). The beautiful sight will turn into a scene full of menace. They will take up fixed positions at the gate of Jerusalem.

As with the king of the North in the future, the army of Assyria that attacks Jerusalem consists of an alliance of many peoples. Elam and Kir are also part of this alliance (Isaiah 22:6-Judges :). Elam (Persia) is known for his archers, while Kir (Medes) with uncovered shields is ready for battle.

Verses 8-11

The LORD Ignored

What is described in this section took place in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:12-Ecclesiastes :; 2 Chronicles 32:2-Judges :; 2 Chronicles 32:30). This section describes how all kinds of precautions are taken to defend against a possible attack from Assyria. A city that foresees a long siege has much to arrange. They have to provide weapon supplies (Isaiah 22:8), water supplies (Isaiah 22:9) and reinforcement of the walls (Isaiah 22:10).

Their precautions are good and appropriate. The wrong thing is that they only “depend” on that, only look out for that (Isaiah 22:8), instead of trusting in God. With the people there is no faith, they do “not depend on Him who made it” (Isaiah 22:11). They do not think that all this comes over them from His hand, to bring them to repentance. They look to human certainties and not to the LORD. They simply do not see Him.

This last part applies especially to the antichrist, the coming leader of Israel, who has to defend his land against the Assyrians, the coming king of the North. This antichrist will put his trust in an alliance with the beast, the powerful leader of the united Europe. But it is in vain. What protects Jerusalem will be removed (Isaiah 22:8), but they do not depend on Him who made it (Isaiah 22:11). The people do not listen to the rod and to Him Who has destined it for them. Ultimately, the LORD will use the king of the North as an instrument to remove the antichrist, the false king of Israel (Isaiah 22:15-Psalms :).

The lesson of these verses is important. What we want to do in our own strength is useless and devastating. Only what we do in God’s power and guided by Him has a good effect. Evil can never be countered with means we have acquired through human wisdom. Forgetting God leads to a reliance on human resources and means, which will inevitably end in disappointment and misery.

Verses 12-13

The Call to Repentance Ignored

When they are so besieged, the LORD calls for humility, repentance and conversion (Isaiah 22:12). But what do they do? They surrender themselves to feasting, eating and drinking (Isaiah 22:13). They are utterly carefree in the face of imminent danger. In this they resemble Babylon who also feasts so frivolous, while the enemy stands at the gate (Isaiah 21:5; cf. Luke 17:26-Daniel :). They even face death.

Instead of being expelled to the LORD by this, their defiant reaction is: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.” It is a description of today’s society where people also live like this. It is also the spiritual state of the people of Israel under the reign of the antichrist at the time of the invasion of the king of the North.

A person can only speak in this way if he does not believe in a resurrection, in an afterlife. Paul quotes these words to demonstrate the folly of people who say they are believers but deny the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:32). If Christ would not have risen, go ahead, because then everything is over and out with death. It is the pinnacle of foolishness for any thinking person to believe that, for “now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means that one day a human being will have to account for himself for Him. It also means that all the suffering and defamation that believers now endure for the sake of their connection to Him one day will be rewarded by Him.

Verse 14

Not Forgiven

Even if people cannot get rid of the thought of an impending judgment, they will experience the thought of it as an incentive to still enjoy what there is to enjoy. There is no turning to God with repentance for their sins.

Then comes the moment when it is forever too late. That is also the case with the people. The people are in such a state of apostacy, that the LORD cannot forgive their iniquity (Isaiah 22:14). They will then die in their sins (cf. John 8:24).

This is one of the most terrible judgments in the Old Testament. It corresponds to sinning willfully, sinning defiantly, with a clenched fist to heaven (Hebrews 10:26; Numbers 15:30-Obadiah :). There is no longer a sin offering for this. This is how seriously the LORD takes the indifferent attitude of the people.

Verses 15-19

Prophecy About Shebna

Amidst the many prophecies about peoples and cities, Isaiah, in this and the next section, prophesies exceptionally about a few people. Why is that? One of the main reasons why God uses the king of the North to discipline Israel is to remove the antichrist, the false king of Israel, from the throne. That’s why the prophecies about Shebna and Eliakim belong to the burden of the valley of the vision, which is about … Jerusalem!

First Isaiah writes about Shebna (Isaiah 22:15-Psalms :). The frivolity of Jerusalem, described in the previous verses, includes a figure like Shebna (Isaiah 22:15). With an undertone of contempt the LORD speaks of him as “this steward”. He is in charge of the royal household. That is an important job, to which a lot of power is attached. But Isaiah is not impressed by it and goes to him at the command of the LORD. Although only the commission is mentioned and not its execution, it is clear that the prophet also fulfills the commission in obedience (cf. Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:1).

Shebna lives according to his standards. He lives for “here”, a word that appears three times in Isaiah 22:16. By using it three times and questioning it, the LORD emphasizes the folly of Shebna to connect everything only with the earth and the here and now. In his pride he even took care of a rock tomb. It is a mausoleum, carved between the graves of the kings (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:33). Also at his death he wants to be treated with honor.

However, nothing of his plans will come to pass (cf. Luke 12:20-Ecclesiastes :) because the LORD will throw him away like a ball of rope (Isaiah 22:17-Job :; cf. 2 Samuel 18:17-Job :). He will not be placed in the tomb he carved out. He will come to his end in a foreign country. In that country nothing of his arrogance will remain. His splendid chariots will be a disgrace to the house of his master, that is Hezekiah.

In Isaiah 22:19 the LORD says that He will forcibly remove Shebna – who, like Ahaz in Isaiah 7, is a foreshadow of the antichrist – from his function. Shebna will be driven from his high post. In the same way the LORD will make short work of the antichrist by the king of the North and expel him from his high post as king of Israel.

Shebna will leave life the way he lived it: without God and without hope. Thus it will happen to anyone who has had a high place in the world, but did not take God into account and died without faith in Christ. He will be cast like a ball into a vast country. The same will be done with the antichrist.

Verses 20-22

Prophecy About Eliakim

When the false king of Israel, the antichrist, is dethroned, the rightful King comes to His throne. That is why Isaiah has not yet finished his message for Shebna. The second person he writes about is Eliakim. The LORD says to Shebna that Eliakim will take his place (Isaiah 22:20). He calls Eliakim “My servant”. We come across the title “My servant” several times in the second part of Isaiah as a title of the Messiah (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:3Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11). Therefore, Eliakim is a clear type of Christ, the Messiah. Eliakim, the servant of the LORD, shall receive all the clothing of Shebna, which means that he takes over all his dignity and dominion (Isaiah 22:21).

The mention of these two persons is done here because Shebna is a type of the antichrist and Eliakim of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem by the king of the North was allowed by the LORD to remove the antichrist from Jerusalem to make way for Christ. That is the first phase of the judgment on the antichrist. The second phase starts at the appearance of Christ. Then the Lord Jesus will throw the antichrist (just like Shebna), together with the beast, like a ball to a vast place, namely the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Eliakim “will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah”. This is a wonderful description for this servant of the LORD. Everything that Shebna should have been, but was not, Eliakim will be. What Eliakim takes over from Shebna shows the great power of this position. Just as Eliakim replaces Shebna, so Christ will replace the antichrist.

The key power lies with Eliakim (Isaiah 22:22). Whoever has the key is in possession of everything behind the door that can be opened with this key. It is a large key, which he carries on his shoulder. The key gives him access to all the rooms and treasure chambers of the king. The supreme powers lie in the hand of Eliakim.

That Eliakim is a clear type of Christ can be seen in the way Christ presents Himself to the church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7; cf. Revelation 1:18). The key is the key of the house of David. In the hands of Christ lies the power to fulfill all the promises made to the house of David. In the end, only Christ will fully fulfill what is entrusted to Eliakim and said of him.

The key gives access to the treasure house of God’s truth. Christ is the key to all the precious things God has stored in His Word. All who look to Christ as the God-given Leader and Protector will have access to that treasure house. For this purpose, He uses “heads of a household” who brings out of his treasure things new and old (Matthew 13:52). The condition is that the mind of the church in Philadelphia is there, the mind of brotherly love – Philadelphia means ‘brotherly love’.

Verses 23-24

A Peg in a Firm Place

Christ is the “peg” that is fixed “in a firm place” (Isaiah 22:23). He takes the place of honor in the midst of His “family”, which are all those who are born of God through faith in His Name (Romans 8:29; John 1:12). When He appears in glory, His glory will be seen in all who are firmly attached to Him (2 Thessalonians 1:10). He who is connected to Him, “offspring and issue”, that is what comes out of Him, need not be afraid to ever become detached from Him. He can carry the whole weight (Isaiah 22:24; John 10:28-Joel :). So He will be as the King of Israel.

All kinds of objects needed for the lives of those living in tents, for pilgrims, are hung on the peg. This shows that all means of refreshment and comfort that God has for His people are under the sure care of Christ.

Verse 25

The Peg Broken off and Fallen

This verse is a summary of the prophecy about Shebna which is introduced with the words “in that day”. It is again about Shebna as a picture of the antichrist. He is the peg that seemed to be driven in a firm place, but it has been broken off. All those who hung on him, who believed in him and followed him, will perish with him. “The LORD has spoken”, therefore it will surely happen. It is again a warning for every Israelite not to bow down before the antichrist.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 22". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-22.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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