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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 20

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



A type prefiguring the shameful captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Before Christ 714.

Verse 1

Isaiah 20:1. In the year that Tartan came, &c.— We have in this chapter an addition to the 5th discourse, in which the prophet is said to have shewn himself, by the divine command, naked and barefooted to the Jews, to teach them by this sign, which also he explains, that the Egyptians and Ethiopians, on whose assistance the Ephraimites and Jews, together with the Philistines, confided in their distress, should be afflicted by the Assyrian king Sargon, and should be led away captive, naked, and barefoot, to their own extreme shame, and the utter disappointment and mortification of their confederates. The chapter contains an inscription, which informs us of the time of the delivery of the prophesy, and of the circumstances, (Isaiah 20:1.) and the prophesy; in which two things are to be observed; namely, first, the revelation, which contains a command to the prophet, wherein he is enjoined to do something, Isa 20:2 and to say something, Isaiah 20:3-4. Secondly, the scope and consequence of the prophesy, Isaiah 20:5-6. Tartan is mentioned 2Ki 18:17 as one of the generals of Sennacherib, who is commonly supposed to be here called Sargon, according to an ancient custom, whereby the eastern kings had usually several names; though Vitringa is of opinion, that Salmanezer is here meant, and that the year which the prophet here marks out was the 7th year of king Hezekiah; that immediately following the taking of Samaria by this same Salmanezer. See 2 Kings 18:9-10. Vitringa, and the Univ. Hist. vol. 18: p. 254.

Verse 2

Isaiah 20:2. Spake the Lord by Isaiah, &c.— Or, To Isaiah, &c. By sackcloth is meant the hairy garment usually worn by prophets. By naked is meant, no more than that the prophet went without his upper garment: It was customary for captives to go about in this manner. See 1 Samuel 19:24. 2 Samuel 6:14-15.Matthew 3:4; Matthew 3:4. This action was agreeable to the mode of instruction made use of in those times; and, as it was intended to excite the attention of the Israelites, was not only consistent with the custom of the times, but likewise very well adapted to promote that intention. See Divine Leg. vol. 3: and Vitringa.

Verse 3

Isaiah 20:3. Three years for a sign. A three years' sign. The meaning seems to be, not that Isaiah walked three years naked and barefooted, but that he walked naked and barefoot for a sign of what should happen three years afterwards.

Verses 5-6

Isaiah 20:5-6. And they shall be afraid, &c.— We have, in these words, the consequence of the divine judgment upon the Egyptians and Cushites; and the scope of the prophesy, namely, to convince the inhabitants of Palestine, and, among these, some factious persons in Jerusalem, of the vanity of the confidence which they placed in the Egyptians and Cushites, as their tutelar deity; for when they should see the completion of this prophesy, they would then condemn their own folly, for placing their expectations on so feeble a defence. All the maritime places, or places on the sea-coast, are called by the word אי ai, isle; the prophet therefore may here mean the seacoasts of Palestine, where was the city of Ashdod, or Azotus. Some, who imagine that the Scriptures call any place or country an isle, suppose that the prophet means Judah, or Jerusalem; but the truth seems to be, that he is to be understood as speaking largely and generally of the inhabitants of Palestine. See Vitringa.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. The date of the prophesy. See the Critical Annotations.
2. The sign given of the destruction to be brought on Egypt and Ethiopia. Isaiah is commanded to take off his habit of sackcloth, (which, as a prophet, he wore to signify his deadness to the ornaments of dress, or as mourning over the desolations of Judah and Israel,) to put his shoes, and to walk naked, probably not absolutely so, but stripped of his upper garment, and barefoot. How long he continued to go thus is not certain; whether once, or three days, a day for a year, or possibly three years, as our English translation seems to imply; though the three years rather refer to the prophesy, which should be accomplished after that time; or imply that so long a time the Assyrian king would employ in subduing them. See the Notes. The prophet, without hesitation, as a faithful servant, obeys the divine command, dangerous as it might be to his health, and however much it exposed his person to contempt. And God explains the sign, as prefiguring the miserable and shameful captivity of the Egyptians and Ethiopians, who should thus be led away prisoners by the Assyrians. Note; (1.) When duty calls, we must trust health, character, and all into God's hands. If he says, Well done, good and faithful servant, it will infinitely overbalance every inconvenience or insult that we may have received. (2.) Miserable is the condition of these poor captives; but how much more miserable those slaves of sin, who are led captive by the devil at his will! What confusion will cover them, when, in the presence of God, his saints and angels, the shame of their nakedness shall appear, and no eye pity them!

3. The warning given the Jews of the folly of depending on these nations. Ethiopia was their trust, and Egypt the ally in which they gloried; but now, afraid at the ruin of these potent neighbours, and confounded at seeing their supports thus removed, the inhabitants of this isle, Palestine, so called, shall say, Behold such is our expectation, so vain, so foolish, whither we flee for help, even to those who cannot help themselves; and how then shall we escape, when mightier foes are unable to withstand the victorious arms of the Assyrian army? Note; Creature-confidences will assuredly fail us; and they who have neglected to make God their refuge in the day of calamity, will be abandoned to despair, and too late bewail their folly.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 20". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/isaiah-20.html. 1801-1803.
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