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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 20

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia represented, to take off the Jews from seeking to them for help.

Verse 1

Tartan; a great commander in Sennacherib’s army, 2 Kings 18:17.

Ashdod; an eminent and strong city of the Philistines, Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 5:1, in the utmost part of the land of Canaan, towards Egypt.

Sargon: what king of Assyria this was is much disputed. It is well known, and confessed, that one and the same person hath frequently several names, both in Scripture, as hath been observed again and again, and in other authors. And therefore this may be either,

1. Shalmaneser, who, when he took Samaria, might also by Tartan take this place. Or,

2. Sennacherib, who, before he came to Jerusalem, came up against and took all the fenced cities of Judah, 2 Kings 18:13, of which Ashdod might be reckoned one, as being in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 13:3; Joshua 15:47, and taken by Hezekiah from the Philistines, as it seems very probable from that passage, 2 Kings 18:8, He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. Or,

3. Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s son, who, by cutting off the first letter, is called Sarchedon, Tob 1:21, and thence possibly, by abbreviation, Sargon; who might do this thing in Hezekiah’s time, some years after his father’s death, and his coming to the empire, although it be not recorded in Scripture; for no man doubts that there were many great actions in those times which are wholly omitted in the sacred writings.

Verse 2

Loose the sackcloth; ungird it and put it off; the antecedent put for the consequent, which is very usual, as hath been often noted. God would sometimes have his prophets to add to their word a visible sign, to awaken people’s minds to a more serious consideration of the matters proposed to them.

The sackcloth; either,

1. His coarse and hairy garment, which the prophets used to wear, 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4, as many understand it. But that is expressed by another word in the places quoted, and never, to my knowledge, by this word. Or,

2. His mournful habit, which was commonly made of sackcloth, and which he wore in token of his hearty grief for the great calamities which were already come upon Israel, and were either come or coming upon Judah.

From off thy loins; upon which the upper garments were commonly girt, 1 Kings 20:32; 2 Kings 9:0.


Walking naked; not wholly naked, which had been indecent and scandalous, and withal very dangerous, at least to do so for three years, as he did, Isaiah 20:3; but without his upper garment, as slaves and prisoners used to do, whose posture he was to represent, Isaiah 20:4. And so the word naked is used 1 Samuel 19:24; 2 Samuel 6:20; John 21:7. Thus also men are said to be naked when they are ill clothed, as Job 22:6; Matthew 25:36; 1 Corinthians 4:11; James 2:15.

Barefoot; after the manner of mourners, 2 Samuel 15:30, and captives, Jeremiah 2:25.

Verse 3

Walked naked and barefoot three years; not constantly, but when he went abroad among the people, to whom this was appointed for a sign. Some think it was only three days, a day being usually put for a year in prophetical scriptures, as Numbers 14:33,Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:4-6. But although a day be put for a year, yet a year is never put for a day.

A sign; either,

1. When this judgment should come, to wit, three years after this prophecy. Or,

2. How long it should continue, for three years; for some have observed that the Chaldeans spent so much time in conquering Egypt and Ethiopia.

Verse 4

Lead away, like beasts, of which this word is commonly used.

Their buttocks uncovered; having their garments cut off by the middle, to the discovery of their buttocks and their secret parts. Compare 2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 47:2.

Verse 5

They; all they that shall trust to them, and glory in them, as appears from the following words; the pronoun they being put indefinitely here, as it is Isaiah 2:19, and elsewhere. But under this general expression the Israelites not only are comprehended, but seem to be principally intended, because to them this prophecy was delivered, and they were eminently guilty of this sin; of which see Isaiah 30:2; Isaiah 31:1.

Verse 6

Of this isle; of this land, in which the prophet was, and to whose inhabitants these words were uttered. For the title of isles or islands in Scripture is frequently given not only to lands encompassed with the sea, but also to such countries as lay upon the sea-coasts, as Psalms 72:10; Ezekiel 26:15,Ezekiel 26:18, as Palestine or Canaan did, yea, to such countries as are remote or separated from that place in or of which the words are spoken, as Esther 10:1; Isaiah 24:15; Isaiah 42:4,Isaiah 42:10, &c, as Canaan was from Egypt, or at least from Ethiopia. Add to this, that Canaan had some resemblance with an isle, either because it was almost encompassed with the Midland Sea on one side, and with the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee or Tiberius and Jordan on the other side; or because, as isles are separated from other lands by the sea, so this land and people were seoarated from all the rest of the world by God’s special providence, and presence, and worship.

Such is our expectation; so vain is our hope placed upon such a people as are unable to deliver themselves, and much more to deliver us.

Whither we flee for help; to whom we now and usually trust; for this was the common disease of the people of Israel, although Hezekiah was in a good measure free from it, as we read, 2 Kings 18:5.

How shall we escape? either by their help, who cannot defend themselves; or by our own strength, seeing they who were much more potent than we are could not escape.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 20". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/isaiah-20.html. 1685.
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