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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 22

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-25


Isaiah 22:1-14

A PROPHECY AGAINST JERUSALEM. The prophet, present in Jerusalem, either actually, or at any rate in spirit, sees the inhabitants crowded together upon the housetops, in a state of boisterous merriment (Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:2). Outside the walls is a foreign army threatening the town (Isaiah 22:5-7). Preparations have been made for resistance, which are described (Isaiah 22:8-11); but there has been no turning to God. On the contrary, the danger has but made the bulk of the people reckless. Instead of humbling themselves and putting on sackcloth, and weeping, and appealing to God's mercy, they have determined to drown care in drink and sensual enjoyment (Isaiah 22:12, Isaiah 22:13). Therefore the prophet is bidden to denounce woe upon them, and threaten that Jehovah will not forgive their recklessness until their death (Isaiah 22:14). There is nothing to mark very distinctly the nationality of the foreign army; but it is certainly represented as made up of contingents from many nations. Delitzsch holds that the Assyrian armies were never so made up, or, at any rate, that the nations here mentioned never served in its ranks; but this is, perhaps, assuming that our knowledge on the subject is more complete and exact than is really the case. It is almost impossible to imagine any other army than the Assyrian besieging Jerusalem in Isaiah's time. Moreover, the particulars concerning the preparations made against the enemy (verses 9-11) agree with those mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:3-5 and 2 Chronicles 32:30 as made by Hezekiah against Sennacherib. And the second section of the chapter has certainly reference to this period. It seems, therefore, reasonable to regard the siege intended as that conducted by Sennacherib in his fourth year, of which we have a brief account in his annals.

Isaiah 22:1

The burden of the valley of vision. "The valley of vision" is only mentioned here and in Isaiah 22:5. It must have been one of the deep depressions near Jerusalem troll which there is a good view of the town. The LXX. render, "the burden of the valley of Zion." What aileth thee now? Jerusalem is addressed by the prophet, who assumes the role of a spectator, surprised at what he sees, and asks an explanation. That thou art wholly gone up to the housetops. Partly, no doubt, they went to watch the enemy anti his movements, as Rosenmüller says; but still more for feasting and revelry (Judges 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16). The flat roofs of Oriental houses are often used as places of recreation and entertainment, especially in the evening.

Isaiah 22:2

A joyous city (comp. Isaiah 22:13). Thy slain men are not slain with the sword. It is a blockade rather than a siege. Men die, not of wounds, but of privations (Lamentations 4:9). Sennacherib himself says, "Hezekiah, like a caged bird, within Jerusalem, his royal city, I confined; towers round about him I raised; and the exit of the great gate of his city I shut".

Isaiah 22:3

All thy rulers are fled together; rather, all thy chief men. We must make allowance for Oriental hyperbole. The meaning is that numbers of the principal men, regarding resistance as vain, had endeavored to make their escape from the doomed town, but had been captured and bound by the enemies' archers. All that are found in thee; rather, belonging to thee. The reference is to those who had made their escape and were fleeing far away. The archers seize them, and bind them all together. We often see a number of captives bound together by a single rope in the Egyptian bas-reliefs. Which have fled from far; rather, which were flying far away.

Isaiah 22:4

Therefore said I. The prophet turns from the description of the scene before him to an account of his own feelings. Look away from me, he says; "leave me free to vent my sorrow without restraint; I wish for no consolation—only leave me to myself." Because of the spoiling. The word used sometimes means" destruction;" but" spoiling" is a better rendering here. Sennacherib describes his "spoiling" of Jerusalem on this occasion as follows: "Thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, precious carbuncles, great … stones, couches of ivory, lofty thrones of ivory, skins of buffaloes, horns of buffaloes, weapons, everything, a great treasure, and his daughters, the eunuchs of his palace, male musicians, and female musicians, to Nineveh, the city of my dominion, did Hezekiah send after me". To what straits Hezekiah was reduced in order to collect a sufficient amount of the precious metals we learn from 2Ki 18:15, 2 Kings 18:16.

Isaiah 22:5

It is a day … By the Lord; rather, there is a day to the Lord; or, the Lord has a day. God has in reserve such a day; and it will assuredly arrive in due course. Hence the prophet's grief. In the valley of vision. We may suppose that Hezekiah, before he made the submission recorded in 2 Kings 18:14 and in the 'Cylinder of Sennacherib,' Colossians 4:11. 28, 29, tried the chances of battle against the Assyrians in this valley, and that Isaiah had a prophetic vision of the fight. Breaking down the walls; rather, undermining. The Assyrian sculptures show numerous examples of this practice. Sometimes swords or spears are used to dislodge the stones of the wall, sometimes crow-bars or axes. Crying. Some regard this word, and also that translated "the walls" in the preceding clause, as proper names, and render the passage, "Kir undermineth, and Shoa is at the mount" (Ewald, Cheyne, Luzzatto). But it seems unlikely that "Kit" would be mentioned twice.

Isaiah 22:6

Elam bare the quiver. Elam, the country extending from the Zagros range to the Lower Tigris, and watered by the Choaspes, Eulaeus, Pasitigris, and other rivers, was an independent kingdom from a very early date (Genesis 14:1, Genesis 14:9), and in Isaiah's time was generally hostile to Assyria. Sargon, however, relates that he conquered a portion of the country, planted colonies in it from the more western parts of his empire, and placed both colonists and natives under the governor of Babylon. It is thus quite possible that both Sargon and Sennacherib may have had a contingent of Elamites in their armies. With chariots of men and horsemen; rather, with troops of men (who were) horsemen (comp. Isaiah 21:7). Kir uncovered the shield. "Kir" is mentioned in 2 Kings as the place to which Tiglath-Pileser transported the inhabitants of Damascus (2 Kings 16:9), and by Amos (Amos 9:7) as the original country from which the Syrians were derived. It has been recently identified with Kirkhi, near Diarbekr, or with Kirruri, in the Urumiyah country (Cheyne); but neither identification is marc than possible. (On uncovering shields as a preliminary to engaging in battle, see Caesar, 'Do Bell. Gall.,' 2.21.)

Isaiah 22:7

And it shall come to pass, etc. This verse and the next are closely connected, and introduce the new subject of the preparations which the Jews made for their defense. Translate, And it came to pass, when thy choicest valleys were full of chariots (or, troops), and the horsemen had set themselves in array toward the gate, that then did he draw off the cavorting of Judah, etc.

Isaiah 22:8

The covering of Judah was that which hid their weakness either from themselves or from the enemy—probably the former. God drew this aside, and they suddenly saw their danger, and began to think how they could best defend themselves. Arms were the first things needed. The armor of the house of the forest. "The house of the forest" was probably that portion of the palace of Solomon which he had called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2-5). This was, it would seem, used as an armor (1 Kings 10:17; 1 Kings 14:27; Isaiah 39:2).

Isaiah 22:9

Ye have seen also …. are many; rather, ye saw also were many. The breaches of the city of David. "The city of David" may be here a name for Jerusalem generally, as "the city where David dwelt" (Isaiah 29:1), or it may designate the eastern hill, where David fixed his residence (2 Samuel 5:7; Nehemiah 3:15, Nehemiah 3:16, Nehemiah 3:25; Nehemiah 12:37). In 2 Chronicles 32:5 we read that Hezekiah at this time "built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Mille in the city of David," where a particular part of Jerusalem seems certainly to be meant. Ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. The arrangements made by Hezekiah with respect to the water-supply at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, seem to have been the following: He found on the north of the city, where the Assyrian attack was certain to be delivered, in the vicinity of the Damascus gate, a pool or reservoir (Isaiah 7:3), fed by a conduit from some natural source, which lay open and patent to view. The superfluous water ran off from it by a "brook" (2 Chronicles 32:4), which passed down the Tyropoeon valley, and joined the Kedron to the southeast of Ophel. His first step was to cover over and conceal the open reservoir, and also the" brook" which ran from it, at least as far as the northern city wall, to prevent their use by the Assyrians. He then further made a conduit underground (2 Chronicles 32:30) within the city, along the Tyropoeon depression, to a second reservoir, or "pool," also within the city, which could be freely used by the inhabitants (see 2 Chronicles 32:11; and comp. Ecclesiasticus 48:17). Further, it is probable that he carried a conduit from this second pool, under the temple area, to the" fount of the Virgin" on the eastern side of Ophel, and thence further conveyed the water by a tunnel through Ophel to the "pool of Siloam." The inscription recently discovered at this peel is probably of Hezekiah's time.

Isaiah 22:10

Ye have numbered … have broken down; rather, ye numbered ye broke down. The "numbering" was probably in order to see how many could be spared for pulling down. The repair of the walls with materials thus furnished was a sign of extreme haste and urgency. It would seem from Isaiah 22:7, Isaiah 22:8 that the repairs were not begun until the town was invested.

Isaiah 22:11

Ye made also a ditch; rather, a lake, or reservoir (see the comment on Isaiah 22:9). But ye have not looked unto the maker thereof; i.e. you have not looked to God, who in his eternal counsels foreknew and decreed all the steps that you are taking for your defense (see below, Isaiah 37:26).

Isaiah 22:12

In that day. The day alluded to in Isaiah 22:7, when the choice valleys in the neighborhood of Jerusalem were first seen to be full of a hostile soldiery, and the Assyrian horsemen were observed drawing themselves up opposite the gates. Such a sight constituted an earnest call upon the people for immediate repentance. Baldness (comp. Isaiah 15:2; Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10). It has been said that "baldness" was forbidden by the Law (Cheyne); but this is not so, absolutely. Baldness was wholly forbidden to the priests (Le Isaiah 21:5; comp. Ezekiel 44:20); and certain peculiar modes of shaving the hair, the beard, and the eyebrows, practiced by idolatrous nations, were prohibited to all the people (Leviticus 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:2). But such shaving of the head as was practiced by Job (Job 1:20) and other pious men, was not forbidden to laymen, any more than the wearing of sackcloth. It was regarded as a natural mode of exhibiting grief.

Isaiah 22:13

And behold joy and gladness (comp. Isaiah 22:2). "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is a common sentiment, if not a common expression. It has been supposed to have given rise to the Egyptian practice of carrying round the model of a mummy to the guests at feasts. According to the Greeks, Sardanapalus had a phrase very like it engraved upon his tomb. Sailors have often acted upon it, when they found it impossible to save their ship. On seeing their city invested, a portion of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, despairing of safety, did as sailors have done so frequently.

Isaiah 22:14

It was revealed in mine cars by the Lord of hosts; rather, the Lord of hosts revealed himself in mine ears, saying. This iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die. The sin of turning a call to repentance into an excuse for rioting and drunkenness is one which God will not pardon. It implies a hardness of heart which cannot fail to issue in final impenitence.

Isaiah 22:15-24

PROPHECY ON THE DEPOSITION OF SHEBNA AND THE ELEVATION OF ELIAKIM. In its first and simplest application, this section predicts the fall of one state official and the advancement of an-other—matters, no doubt, of some importance in the court history of the time, but scarcely (with reverence be it said) of such moment as to be worthy either of prophetic announcement or of divinely inspired record. It has, therefore, been generally felt that there must be a secondary application of the passage. According to some, the two officials represent respectively the two cove-hunts, the old and the new; according to others, they stand for the two great parties in the Jewish slate of the time—that which put its trust in Jehovah, and that which leant upon heathen alliances.

Isaiah 22:15

The Lord God of hosts. This form, Adonay Jehovah Tsabaoth—rarely used by Isaiah, but occurring above in verses 5, 12, and 13—seems to show that this section is in its right place, being intended as a sequel to the description of Sennacherib's siege. This treasurer. The word "this" is contemptuous. That translated "treasurer" is of doubtful import. The key to it is probably to be found in the cognate noun, translated "storehouse" in 2 Chronicles 32:28, and "store" in 1 Kings 9:19; 2Ch 8:4, 2 Chronicles 8:6; 2 Chronicles 16:4; 2 Chronicles 17:12. Translate, this storekeeper. Shebna. The name, which is not found elsewhere, is thought to be Syriac rather than Hebrew, and Shebna himself is conjectured to have been a foreign adventurer, perhaps "a refugee from Damascus" (Cheyne). (See the next verse.) Which is over the house. An office like the imperial praefectus palatio" at Rome, or the Frankish "mayor of the palace" (see Genesis 41:40; 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). At this time it seems to have been the highest office that a subject could hold (2Ch 26:21; 2 Kings 18:18, etc.).

Isaiah 22:16

What hast thou here? i.e. what business, or what right? It seems, certainly, to be implied that Shebna was wholly unconnected with Jerusalem. Whom hast thou here? i.e. what relations? what family? To be justified in hewing out a large tomb, Shebna should have had a numerous family for whom graves would be needed. Otherwise, his excavation of a grand sepulcher was merely selfish and ostentatious. As he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high. Jewish tombs of any pretension were generally excavations in the solid rock, on the side of some hill or mountain, and had often a very elevated position. Tombs exist on the slopes of all the hills about Jerusalem, but are most numerous on the eastern side of the temple mount, which slopes steeply to the Kedron valley. A square-topped doorway leads into a chamber, generally square, from which recesses, six or seven feet long, two broad, and three high, are carried into the rock horizontally, either on a level with the floor, or with a platform, or shelf, halfway up one of the walls. These recesses have been called loculi. After a body had been placed in one, it was commonly closed by a stone, which fitted into the end, and thus shut off the body from the chamber. Chambers had sometimes twelve such loculi. An habitation (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). We must not suppose, however, that the Jews, like the Egyptians and Etruscans, regarded the soul as inhabiting the tomb. The soul descended into sheol; the grave was the "habitation" of the body only.

Isaiah 22:17

The Lord win carry thee away with a mighty captivity; rather, the Lord will hurl thee away, O man, with a hurling; i.e. "will hurl thee away to a distance." It is not said that Shebna would be a captive. Will surely cover thee; literally, will cover thee with a covering; i.e. "will make thee obscure" (Rosenmüller)—a fitting punishment for one who aimed at attracting attention and making himself famous (Isaiah 22:16).

Isaiah 22:18

He will surely violently turn and toss thee, etc.; literally, rolling he will roll thee with rolling like a ball, etc. Into a large country. Assyria, or perhaps Egypt. If Shebna was disgraced on account of his recommending the Egyptian alliance, he may not improbably have taken refuge with Tirhakah. There the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house; rather, there shall be the chariots of thy glory, O thou shame of thy lord's house. His chariots, in which he gloried, should accompany him, either as spoil taken by the enemy, or as the instruments of his flight.

Isaiah 22:19

I will drive thee from thy station; rather, from thy post, or office. Shall he pull thee down. Jehovah scorns to be meant in both clauses (comp. Isaiah 34:16). The full accomplishment of this prophecy is nowhere declared to us. We merely find that, by the time of Rabshakeh's arrival at Jerusalem as Sennacherib's envoy (Isaiah 36:2-4), Shebna had lost his post as prefect of the palace, and filled the lower position of scribe or secretary. He may, however, have been subsequently further degraded, and thereupon he may have fled to Egypt, as Jeroboam did (1 Kings 11:40).

Isaiah 22:20

In that day. In the day of Shebna's deposition from his office of prefect of the palace. My servant Eliakim. On the dignity of this title, when given by God himself, see the comment on Isaiah 20:3.

Isaiah 22:21

With thy robe … with thy girdle. The dress of office worn by Shebna would be taken from him, and Eliakim would be invested therewith. The "robe" is the long-sleeved cloak or tunic worn commonly by persons of rank; the "girdle" is probably an ornamental one, like those of the priests (Exodus 28:39), worn over the inner tunic. He shall be a father; i.e. a protector, counselor, guide (comp. Job 29:16, "I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out"). It is, perhaps, implied that Shebna had not conducted himself as a "father."

Isaiah 22:22

The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder. A key would seem to have been the special badge of the prefect's office, which included the control of the stores (Isaiah 22:15), and the general management of the household. It was, perhaps, a part of the form of investiture, that the key should be first laid on the prefect's shoulder and then delivered into his hand. Among the Greeks the priests of Ceres are said to have borne a key on their shoulder, permanently, as a badge of office (Callimach; 'Hymn. ad Cererem,' 1. 45). The reference to this passage in Revelation 3:7 is sufficient to show that Eliakim, the "servant of Jehovah" (Revelation 3:20), is, to a certain extent, a type of Christ; perhaps also of his faithful ministers (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23).

Isaiah 22:23

I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place (comp. Ezra 9:8; Zechariah 10:4). The idea intended to be expressed is firmness and fixity of tenure. He shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house (compare the next verse). All his relations, even the most remote, shall derive honor from him, and bask in the sunshine of his prosperity. So shall all members of the family of God, made sons of God by adoption in Christ, participate in the final glory of Christ in his eternal kingdom.

Isaiah 22:24

All the glory. According to scriptural notions, the "glory" of a family consists very much in its size (Genesis 15:5; Psalms 127:5, etc.). And Christ's glory in his final kingdom will consist greatly in the number of the saved (Revelation 7:4-9). The offspring and the issue; i.e. the flourishing scions, and the despised seedlings alike. The word translated "issue" is a term of contempt (see Ezekiel 4:15). From the vessels of cups; rather, of bowls (comp. Exodus 24:6). To all the vessels of flagons; rather, of pitchers. "A numerous, undistinguished, family connection" seems to be intended (Delitzsch).

Isaiah 22:25

SEQUEL OF THE PROPHECY CONCERNING ELIAKIM. This verse has been truly called "an enigma" (Kay). It is impossible to understand it of Shebna. "The nail that was fastened in a sure place" can only refer to the nail said to have been so fastened in Isaiah 22:23. Are we, then, to understand that Eliakim too will experience a reverse of fortune? But then all the force of the contrast between him and Shebna would be gone. Is it not possible that the prophet, seeing in Eliakim a type of the Messiah, and becoming more and more Messianic in his utterances, has ended by forgetting the type altogether, and being absorbed in the thought of the antitype? He, the nail, so surely fixed in his eternal place, would nevertheless be "removed" for a time, and then "he cut down and fall" (comp. Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:8). At the same time would be "cut off" the burden which Messiah bore (Isaiah 53:12, "He bare the sin of many").

Isaiah 22:25

In that day. Not the day of Shebna's fall, certainly (Isaiah 22:20), but some ether. Is not the day that of Christ's earthly mission, when it seemed as if his people were about to acknowledge him, and his throne to be established, but suddenly Messiah was "cut off" (Daniel 9:26)—stricken for the transgression of his people (Isaiah 53:8)? The burden that was upon it shall be cut off. The great burden upon the Messiah was the load of human sin which he had to bear. "He himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). By his death this burden was "cut off" (1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). For the Lord hath spoken it. The double attestation, at the beginning and at the end of the verse, is a mark of the vast importance of the announcement contained in it, which is, in fact, the germ of the great doctrine of the atonement.


Isaiah 22:4-6

Isaiah weeping for the daughter of his people a type of Christ lamenting over Jerusalem.

Isaiah was in many respects a type of Christ. His name, which sight ties "Salvation of Jehovah," is a near equivalent of "Jesus," which means "Jehovah is Savior." Tradition says that he was of royal lineage, like Jesus. The sphere of his teaching was in the main Jerusalem, where our Lord's principal discourses were delivered. He reproved sin, yet pitied the sinner, like Jesus (see Homiletics on Isaiah 15:5). He was, like Jesus, martyred at Jerusalem. We may, therefore, without impropriety, regard the "bitter weeping" of verse 4 as in some respect the counterpart of our Lord's lament on the day of his triumphal entry into the city, when he beheld it from the brow of Olivet. They were alike in several respects.

I. BOTH WERE CAUSED BY PROPHETIC VISION OF THE HORRORS OF A SIEGE. In Isaiah's time the siege had begun. The enemy was investing the place (verse 7). But his tears flowed on account of the future "spoiling" of his people on that "day of trouble and treading down and perplexity;" when there was to be "breaking down of walls and crying to the mountains" (verse 5), and Elam was to "bear the quiver," and Kir to "uncover the shield." Jesus wept because the days were coming upon Jerusalem, when "her enemies would cast a trench about her, and compass her round, and keep her in on every side, "and at last" lay her even with the ground, and her children within her" (Luke 19:43, Luke 19:44). In the one case Rome was the enemy, in the other Assyria, both equally truculent. In the one case final destruction impended; in the other a punishment far short of final destruction, but still a very severe punishment. In both cases grievous sins had provoked the catastrophe, yet the thought of these did not prevent the tears from being shed on account of it.

II. BOTH DERIVED THEIR BITTERNESS FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUFFERER WAS OF KIN TO THE MOURNER. "I will weep," said Isaiah, "because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people." The woes of other peoples shocked and distressed him to some extent (Isaiah 15:5; Isaiah 16:9-11; Isaiah 21:3, Isaiah 21:4); but not as those of his own nation, his "kinsmen according to the flesh." And so it was with Jesus. Patriotism moved the spirits of both mourners, and rendered their grief especially poignant.

III. BOTH WERE AGGRAVATED BY THE THOUGHT THAT THE SUFFERING WAS UNEXPECTED. Isaiah tells us that at Sennacherib's siege no preparations had been made to resist the foe, until the choice valleys were full of troops, and the horsemen set in array at the gates (verses 7-10). Our Lord gives it as the climax of the horrors at the siege by Titus, that Jerusalem had not "known the day of her visitation" (Luke 19:44). Jerusalem was at the time expecting the Messiah, who would enable them to cast off the Roman yoke. She did not know that her Messiah had come. Just when she was looking for a glorious deliverance, there came a crushing disaster. So Hezekiah was probably looking for victory by the help of Egypt, when he had to make the most abject submission—to strip the temple in order to satisfy the cravings of the conqueror for "spoil," and to see a large part of his people carried into captivity.

Isaiah 22:15-24

Shebna and Eliakim: a moral lesson.

It is a remark of Bishop Butler's, that the moral government of God, though it may be very imperfectly carried out, is at any rate begun, in this world. Many virtues have natural rewards, and many vices natural punishments, attached to them. Again, though undoubtedly the righteous do suffer a large share of affliction, and the ungodly are often seen in great prosperity, yet, on the other hand, very signal instances from time to time manifest themselves, of the punishment of the wicked in this life by a grievous downfall, and the reward of the righteous by an exaltation to worldly greatness and honor. The most signal instance presented to us in Scripture of the double Nemesis is that of Haman and Mordecai in the Book of Esther. In that most striking tale, the whole history of the two men is set before us, and the rise of the one and fall of the other are interconnected in a way that lends peculiar interest to the narrative. Here we have simply a moral contrast, leading to a contrast of result.


1. Shebna, selfish, isolated, vain-glorious; noted for his display of chariots, like Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1); no "father" to the people under his charge; no good adviser of the king his master; chiefly desirous of handing his name down to posterity by a magnificent tomb; perhaps not even a worshipper of Jehovah.

2. Eliakim, God's "servant;" kind and thoughtful for others; regarded as "a father," not only by the people of Jerusalem, but by the entire "house" or tribe of Judah; looked up to by a large body of relations, of whom many were poor and of low rank, and willingly sharing his prosperity with them; an honest and prudent counselor to his king; a faithful worshipper of the One God, whose unity his name proclaimed. No two dwellers at the same court, no two servants of the same king, could well be more different in character, in circumstances, in moral desert.


1. Shebna, degraded from his office, is forced for a time to serve in one of very inferior dignity. Then he is either further degraded or so dissatisfied with his position that he cannot bear to retain it. He becomes a refugee in a distant land, an exile, an outcast.

2. Eliakim, advanced into Shebna's place, has the key of the house of David placed upon his shoulder, becomes his king's most trusty counselor and representative, is a glory and a support to his father's house, and retains his position, if not till his death, at any rate for a long period. In estimating the extent to which God's moral government is carried on in this world, such instances as those of Haman and Mordecai, Shebna and Eliakim, should by no means be omitted from our calculation. History contains very many such cases.

Isaiah 22:15-24

Shebna and Eliakim: an allegory.

Shebna, set over the house of the king by the king himself, but unfaithful in his office, worldly, carnal, fond of grandeur and display, typifies the old covenant, and the priesthood to which it was committed—a priesthood which looked more to the enrichment of the treasury than to the pure service of God (Mark 7:11), and which was not above the weakness of raising up grand sepulchers for its members in a conspicuous place (1 Macc. 13:27-30). This priesthood, found wanting, had to be cast away, and a better priesthood, after a different order, to be instituted. Eliakim typifies this new priesthood—a priesthood "made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16). Primarily, he typifies Christ himself, the true "Servant of the Lord" (Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13, etc.), the perpetual High Priest of his Church, the eternal Possessor of "the key of David, who openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Revelation 3:7), who "hath the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18). Eliakim was "a father" to Judah and Jerusalem; among Christ's names is that of "Everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6). Eliakim was "as a nail fastened in a sure place;" Christ is gone up where he "forever sitteth on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12). Eliakim had a "glorious throne;" Christ's throne is that "great white" one, which is set in heaven (Revelation 20:11), out of which "come lightnings, and thunderings, and voices" (Revelation 4:5). On Eliakim hung all the members of his father's house; on Christ depends, for pardon, for peace, for life, for glory, every true Christian. Secondarily, Eliakim may be regarded as typifying the faithful minister of Christ, to whom the power of the keys is communicated in a certain modified sense (Matthew 16:19), who, binding and loosing according to Christ's ordinance, binds and looses effectively, so that none can undo his work, and, as a faithful steward in the household of Christ, dispenses the good things committed to his charge by his King and Master. The faithful minister will not blench before the powers of evil, any more than Eliakim did before Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:11, Isaiah 36:21); he will be "a father" to the people of God, i.e. a protector, a guide, a friend; and with those who "hang upon him" he will always be ready to share both his material and his spiritual blessings.

Isaiah 22:25

Messiah's burden and Messiah's death.

How Christ's death atones for sin we know not, and need not too curiously inquire. But, if plain words have a plain meaning, it is impossible to doubt that this is the teaching of Scripture. "By his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5); "He is the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2); "One died for all" (2 Corinthians 5:14). It is quite possible that there is something in the nature of things, which we cannot fathom, that made it impossible for man's sins to be forgiven unless God died for them. Our wisdom is to avoid curious speculation, and to view the matter on its practical side. Thus viewed, it manifestly calls on us for three things.

I. INTENSE HATRED OF SIN, ON ACCOUNT OF ITS HAVING CAUSED MESSIAH'S DEATH. If an animate, or even an inanimate, thing has caused the death of one we loved, how bitterly we detest it! Often we cannot bear to look upon it, nay, even to see a thing of the same kind. How, then, should we hate sin—hateful in itself, hateful in its effects, hateful in its origin, most hateful in that it caused the death of the one Man who alone of all that have ever lived did not deserve to die! And he, moreover, One who dearly loved us, who came down from heaven for us, lived a life of privation and suffering for us, at last died for our sakes.

II. INTENSE LOVE OF CHRIST, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS HAVING DIED FOR US. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But Christ died for his enemies. Sin is an insuperable barrier between God and man, sets them at variance, makes them adversaries. And till Christ died man could not be forgiven. So he died for those with whom he was at enmity! And died by what a death!

1. More painful probably than any other.

2. Considered at the time more disgraceful.

3. Aggravated by the insults of lookers-on.

4. Regarded as bringing a man under a curse.

III. INTENSE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS GIVING HIS SON TO DIE FOR US. We cannot realize the love of the Father for the Son; but we cannot doubt that it transcends any love known on earth. Yet he gave him to suffer all that he suffered—and why? For us. Because he loved us. As our Lord himself says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If the knowledge of this fact fail to stir up love towards the Father in our souls, we must be "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19), utterly dead to any high motive, scarcely better than "brute beasts" (Jud Isaiah 1:10).


Isaiah 22:1-14

Judgment upon Jerusalem.

I. THE PROPHET AS SPECTATOR. The valley of vision seems to mean Jerusalem as a whole, round about which are mountains (Psalms 125:2); the city is spoken of, when compared with the surrounding mountains, as the "inhabitant of the valley," otherwise as the "rock of the plain" (Jeremiah 21:13; comp. Jeremiah 17:3). If Isaiah is gazing from his house in the lower town, the city would appear as in a valley in relation to the mountains inside as much as those outside (Delitzsch). He sees the whole population crowded together on the house-tops, and the air is filled with the uproar of merriment. The house-tops were places of resort at festival-time (Judges 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16).

II. THE MIRTH OF DESPAIR. It was famine and pestilence which, forcing the people into despair, had brought about this mad rebound of hollow merriment. The slain of the city had not been slain upon the field; but the crowding in of fugitives from the country had occasioned the plague. The description reminds us of Zephaniah's picture of Nineveh: "This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me" (Zephaniah 2:15). And again we think of scenes in connection with the plagues in the Italian cities of the Middle Ages, when revelry and story-telling are said to have gone on amongst groups who had withdrawn themselves from the horrors around them. How terrible the contrast between the dark background of calamity and this hollow feverish exhibition of merriment in the foreground! "I said of laughter, What is it?" Let us thank God for the precious gift of humor. Its light, lambently playing upon the sternest and most awful scenes and imagery of the mind, was given to relieve the tragedy of life. In melancholy minds the source of humor is deeply seated. But how different the cheerfulness which springs from the sense that the scheme of things is sound and right, that "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," and that which confronts a hopeless future with mad defiance! There is something lurid, ominous, in the latter, full of foreboding; and the scene in Jerusalem may be dwelt upon as typical of the ill-timed mirth of the sinner when danger is impending, soon to be quenched in silence and night. The rulers have fled away from the devoted city; in the face of the enemy they have flung down their bows and yielded themselves prisoners. All is lost.


1. The grief of type prophet. In warm patriotism he identifies himself with his city and his people, and gives way to bitter tears; a prototype of Jesus in later days, looking on the doomed city, perhaps, from some similar point of view. We are reminded also of Jeremiah, whose heart "fainted" under a similar sense of the miseries of the people, and who exclaims, "Oh that my head were full of waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might bewail the slain of my people!" (Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 9:1). These are living examples of compassion, and of true patriotic feeling, including a true Church feeling. "We are altogether unworthy of being reckoned in the number of the children of God, and added to the holy Church, if we do not dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the Church in such a manner that we are not separate from it in any respect. Especially the ministers of the Word ought to be moved by this feeling of grief, because, being appointed to keep watch and to look at a distance, they ought also to groan when they perceive the tokens of approaching ruin" (Calvin).

2. The siege and capture. "We seem to see and hear the last hurrying stages of the siege and capture" (Cheyne). In one of the valleys the hosts of the enemy are seen thickly trampling and spreading dismay and confusion all around. As the undermining of the walls by the siege artillery goes on, cries of woe beat against the surrounding hills, and are echoed back again. The terrible famed bowmen of Elam (comp. Jeremiah 49:35)and the people of Kir, together forming, as it would seem, the vanguard of Assyria, are seen advancing. The valleys about the city, all teeming with associations of the past—Kedron, Gihon, Rephaim, Hinnom—are ploughed by hoofs of horses and wheels of chariots; and the foe is drawn up in column, ready to enter the "great gate," so soon as it shall be broken down by the battering-rams.

3. The state of the inhabitants. Jehovah draws aside the curtain from Judah. This may mean

(1) he exposes their weakness to the enemy; or

(2) he takes away the blindness of the people to their danger.

Probably the former. In either case the hand of an overruling Providence is recognized. The "forest house," or arsenal built by Solomon on Zion, is examined (1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 10:17; cf. Isaiah 39:2). The "city of David," i.e. the fortress on Mount Zion, is inspected by the leading men, and the numerous breaches in the walls are observed. They survey the houses, and take material from them to repair the wall. They concentrate the water-supply in one reservoir—the "lower pool," and form a basin between the two walls. These preparations may be compared with those of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:2-5).

IV. FATAL FORGETFULNESS. All these precautions would be too late! A dreadful word! And why?

1. The Divine counsel has been forgotten. "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass" (Isaiah 37:26). These harpers, and violinists, and tabret-players, and feasters have not "regarded the work of Jehovah, nor considered the operation of his hands" (Isaiah 5:12). Self-reliance may be religious, or it may mean an attempt to be independent of God, and so end in alienation from God. How feeble and how foolish policy must become if from the first it ignores the Divine will, and at the last only comes to acknowledge a destiny above human might and human calculation! The idea of all that will be exists in the mind of God; we may know something of his meaning by constantly consulting the "living oracles," by truthful thinking, by loyal acting—in a word, by communion with the living God. What can attention to ramparts and ditches and reservoirs avail, if men have not found their defense in God? If he be trusted, what is there to fear? If he be denied, what can shield from calamity? "The fate of Jerusalem is said to have been fashioned long ago in God, But Jerusalem might have averted its realization, for it was no absolute decree. It Jerusalem repented, that realization would be averted" (Delitzsch).

2. Divine warnings have been neglected. God had called—in that day; at every critical time. By many ways he speaks—by the living and passionate tones of prophet and brother man, by the general course of events, by the touch of sorrow, by the hints of personal experience. There is a time for everything under the sun; to know our opportunity makes the wisdom of the world; to know the "time of our visitation" is the wisdom of heaven. But, alas! the Jews knew it not; "rushing to the banquet-table with despair in their hearts, and wasting the provisions which ought to have been husbanded for the siege." "Let us cat and drink; for tomorrow we die." The sensualism of despair (Cheyne). When the light of life, bright faith and hope toward God, dies out, what remains but to counterfeit its glow by some artificial illumination, kindled from the tow of physical excitement? A love of life which scoffs at death (Delitzsch). 'Tis dangerous to scoff; to scoff at the great scoffer Death, what is this but the last extreme of self-abandonment? And does not despair imply the last sin we can commit? And is not recklessness its evidence? And follows there not upon all this the shadow of a state unforgiven, a mind eternally unreconciled? Who can but tremble as he meditates on these things? "Probably if the real feeling of the great mass of worldly men were expressed, they could not be better expressed than in the language of Isaiah: 'We must soon die, at all events; we cannot avoid that—it is the common doom of all. And since we have been sent into a dying world; since we have 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 and revelry. While we can, we will take our comfort, and, when death comes, we will submit to it, because we cannot avoid it'" (Barnes). But such argumentation cannot really satisfy the conscience. Blessed the Word which evermore, in the mercy of the Eternal, calls to repentance, and reminds us that "now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!"—J.

Isaiah 22:15-19

Denunciation of Shebna.

I. SHEBNA THE HOUSE STEWARD. He was the steward of the household—a high office, as we may see from the allusion in Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2. Once it was held by a king's son (2Ch 26:21; cf. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). This officer stood nearest the king, and had the domestic affairs of the palace under his superintendence. The office of the mayor of the palace under the Merovingian kings of France has been compared with it. It is thought that Shebna was not a native Israelite, as his father's name is not mentioned. Possibly he was a Syrian from Damascus, and a leader of the Egyptianizing party, whose perverse and crooked policy in collecting the subsidy for Egypt is denounced by the prophet in Isaiah 30:12.

II. HIS PRIDE AND OSTENTATION. He was busy hewing out for himself a family sepulcher in the rock. We realize what is meant when we see figured in works of art the magnificent rock-built tombs of Persia, of Lydia and Phrygia and Lycia, of Phoenicia, and the vast pyramid-tombs of Egypt. There kings desired to "lie in honor, each in his own house" (Isaiah 14:18). So, too, grandees—Eshmunazar King of Sidon, Joseph of Arimathaea, etc.—built themselves sepulchers in their lifetime. At Rome we look upon the famous tomb of Hadrian, now called the Castle St. Angelo, and the tomb of Caecilia Metella upon the Appian Way, the pyramid of Cestius. What may we learn from the habit of tomb-building? It expresses man's protest against the doom of mortality. On the tomb of Sardanapalus is said to have been written, "Eat, drink, and love; for the rest is little worth;" and yet the tomb itself is a witness that there hovers before the mind the thought of the future, in which man would still live and still be remembered by his fellows, even though only by means of the lifeless stone. Thus it expresses man's infinite longings, the cravings of a nature that nothing but eternity can satisfy. There was, then, something great, something even sublime, in this tomb-building instinct. "The power of acting for a distant object, of realizing distant good, and reaching forward to it over an intervening period of labor, has something moral in it." Yet, on the other hand, the motive may be something of a much lower order—vanity, self-exaltation. So the prophet views the undertaking of Shebna. He has no right, as a foreigner, thus to appropriate the soil of the sacred city, the slope of one of its hills.

III. THE DENUNCIATION. In the vehemence of his indignation, the prophet declares that Jehovah will clutch the offender tightly, will roll him as a ball, and toss him into a broad land; thither he, with the chariots on which he has been rolling about the city, shall go to die! Notice the opposition between the might of Jehovah and the weakness of mere man, however exalted. Shall mortal man attempt to rival the Eternal, proudly seeking to perpetuate his memory on earth (compare the thoughts in Job 4:17; Job 10:5; Job 22:2)? The leading Hebrew teaching recurs—the insignificance of ephemeral and frail man in presence of the mighty, just, and ever-living God. "The renown of that sepulcher which Shebna had built is indirectly contrasted with the ignominy which quickly followed it." "That the mask of his high rank might not screen him from the prediction, the prophet expressly states that the office which he holds aggravates his guilt and renders him more detestable. Let princes, therefore, if they do not wish to expose themselves and their houses to reproaches, learn to act with judgment in appointing men to hold office … Infer that God is highly displeased with that ambition by which men seek to obtain undying renown in the world instead of being satisfied with those honors which they enjoy during life. God punishes their haughtiness and presumption, and causes those things which they wished to be the records of their glory to become their disgrace and shame" (Calvin).—J.

Isaiah 22:20-25

Installment of Eliakim.

I. A SERVANT OF JEHOVAH. So he is characterized. The title may be of personal, spiritual, import, or of official; or both may be blended, as in the case of Isaiah himself (Isaiah 20:3); or there may be a separation of the two. Unhappy for a nation or for a Church if the true servants of the Eternal, the true devotees of right and truth, are excluded from the places of honor and influence; or if the "ministers and stewards" of Divine mysteries are so only technically and officially. The true servant must in any case be called. He must not push himself forward, but must be drawn forward by invisible, Divine leading. He does not "achieve greatness," but it is "thrust upon him." "In that day I will call to my servant." The words suggestively remind us of that principle of Divine selection which runs through the order of the world. In this, in every day, the "right men" are wanted for every place. In this day, too, there is much excitement about education. What men can do by the instruction of the intellect is very limited; in quiet places and in hidden ways, unknown to the schools, the Almighty is growing men and training men till the time is ripe for their service, and his call is heard.


1. It is the solemn, symbolical way of transferring an office. We think of Elijah finding the son of Shaphat ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and casting his mantle upon him as he passed by (1 Kings 19:19). That was the prophet's simpler dress; this is the tunic of a man of rank and state. The girdle was an essential article of Oriental dress, worn by all classes and by both sexes. The fineness of its quality denoted the rank of the wearer. Here it was probably similar to that worn by the priests (Exodus 28:39; Exodus 39:29). Josephus describes it as made of linen so fine that it looked like the slough of a snake, and it was embroidered with flowers of scarlet, blue, purple ('Ant.,' 3.7. 2). This is the only place where the word abneth is used for any but a priestly girdle.

2. The girdle is in other ways symbolic. Jehovah "girds kings with a girdle," and "ungirds them according to his pleasure" (Job 12:18). Thus to be "girded with strength" is a symbol of Divine invigoration (1 Samuel 2:4); to be "girded with gladness," of refreshment (Psalms 30:11). "Have your loins girt about with truth" (Ephesians 6:14); "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end"—are noble Christian exhortations, carrying with them all the force of the old Oriental imagery. To be ungirt is a way of describing nervelessness, lack of strength and manhood; and the very picture of the good servant is of one "whose loins are girt about, whose lamp is burning."


1. He is to be like a father to the people. An appropriate term for the chief man of a town or the prime minister of a country (1 Chronicles 2:24; 1 Chronicles 4:5; cf. 1 Chronicles 9:6; Job 29:16; Judges 5:7). So the Roman senators were patres. It speaks of benevolence united with wisdom and experience—a rule both firm and loving. The great Father in heaven must be the sublime ideal before us in all positions of rule and influence on earth.

2. He is to bear the key. This is an ancient badge of office; Callimachus represents the priestess of Demeter as having a key upon her shoulder ('Hymn. ad Cererem,' 1.45), and in the 'Supplices' (291) of AEschylus, in like manner, Io, priestess of Hera, is "key-holder" of the goddess. For illustration the following interesting passage may be cited from Roberts: "How much delighted was I when I first saw the people, especially the Moors, going along the streets, with each his key on his shoulder! The handle is sometimes made of brass, though sometimes of silver, and is often nicely worked in a device of filigree. The way it is carried is to have the corner of a kerchief tied to a 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 largo key on his shoulder, shows at once that he is a person of consequence. 'Roman is in great favor with the modehir, for he now carries the key.' 'Whose key have you got on your shoulder?' 'I shall carry my key on my own shoulder.'" (For the application to the apostles and to the Lord himself, see Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7.)

3. His tenure of office. The nails must be those hooks or spikes which were worked into the mortar of the walls of houses while still soft, answering the purpose of cramp-irons to hold the walls together, and pegs to hang things on. So, in temples, armor, shields, helmets, swords, spoils of war, were hung on such nails. An appropriate image these of stability, of (to use a modern coinage) reliableness. All may depend upon a man such as this; all "know where to find him;" sacred and precious trusts may be reposed on him without fear of disappointment. So in Zechariah 10:4 the "peg" means a prince.

IV. ABUSES OF STATION AND OFFICE. There is "another side" to everything good in human institutions. "All the honor of his father's house" will be found hanging upon Eliakim. All his humble relations—the "small fry," as we say; the "small vessels," as the prophet calls them—will look up to him, and. he will shed luster anti give support to all. The allusion is to vessels of a small kind—basins, leathern bottles, earthen pitchers. We must respect the judgment of the majority of commentators, who see a turn in the prophecy about Eliakim here. There is an impression of nepotism, of favoritism; and it seems that the firm "peg" is, after all, to be loosened from its place. And if so, how instructive the passage! How is it that man, once high in esteem and general confidence, came to be weighed in the balances and found wanting? Some weakness of flesh and blood, some undue leaning to one's kith and kin, some dement of partiality or favoritism, is often the cause. "His family makes a wrong use of him; and he is more yielding than he ought to be, and makes a wrong use of his office to favor them! He therefore falls, and brings down all with him that hung upon the peg, and who have brought him to ruin through the rapacity with which they have grasped at prosperity" (Delitzsch). Whatever view may be taken of the passage, 'twere well to remind ourselves of the old lesson, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." God. raises up and brings low. Let us walk softly, nor boast ourselves if for a time we flourish like a green bay tree. Our own weakness may, like a worm, be gnawing at our root. The "pitted speck" in the "garnered fruit" may be spreading, the "little rift" in the lute be widening.

"More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests sailing overhead."

Let us be content with obscurity, with fallentis semita vitae, seeing that station brings out men's weaknesses no less than their strength, and the loftier the columnar height of the great, the more overwhelming the fall.—J.


Isaiah 22:17

Captivity, and yet safety.

"Behold, the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee." These threatenings of the Almighty had mercy at the heart of them. Captivity was a drastic remedy, but it once and again saved the health of Israel It was a time of home-longing and sickness of heart. It was a time when the old religious memories flooded the heart till they filled it with an aching sense of shame for sin, and supplication for mercy.

I. GOD CARRIED THEM AWAY. The enemies of Israel were but instruments in the hands of Jehovah. He reigned over their interests as truly then as in their more prosperous day. "The day is thine, the night also is thine." And in the Captivity, God was disciplining the people as no other dispensation could. Their lofty looks were changed for penitential tears, and their proud hearts were brought low. God would, in due time "turn again the captivity of Israel;" and the Law would be read again, and not only be read, but be "lived."

II. THE CAPTIVITY WAS A MIGHTY ONE. It occurred to a mighty multitude; it affected mighty interests; and it produced, mighty results. For this people God had formed for himself, to show forth his praise. We have to learn the lesson too. How tremendous are the powers of grief and loss, change and sickness, under which God often brings his children captive now! We are "prisoned" by pain and circumstance. In our hours of solitude and sorrow, God renews our will, separates the chaff from the wheat in our character, and meetens us for service here and for the inheritance of the saints in light hereafter.

III. THE COVERING WAS SURE. They were not cast away; they were only cast down. The almighty wings were still over them. In strange lands, amid strange faces, and listening to strange voices, they could not sing the Lord's song in a strange land. But the time of joy was to return. God was very near them still, and none could really harm them. What a covering! Not the mere roof of the home; not the mere outward raiment; but the Lord himself' was there, spreading his shield over them, when they were away from the munitions of rocks and from the defenses of dear Jerusalem. Sure! That is what we want. He also is our Dwelling-place in all generations and under all skies.—W.M.S.


Isaiah 22:1-14

The sorrow of the world.

We have here a striking picture of that which, in distinction from "godly sorrow," Paul calls "the sorrow of the world."

I. THAT GOD SENDS SORROW TO HUMAN SOULS. These national distresses were to be of his sending; it was to be "a day of trouble … by the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 22:5). The human instrumentality would be visible enough, and both those who inflicted the blow and those who endured it—their enemies and themselves—might fail to discern any Divine hand at work; nevertheless, it was a chastisement that came from heaven, it was sent of God. And to whatever second causes we may trace our troubles in the day of our "treading down and of perplexity," or in the day of our loss, or suffering, or bereavement, we may always go beyond the instrumentality to him "of whom are all things," and feel that what has happened to us is "by the Lord of hosts."

II. THAT HIS PURPOSE THEREIN IS OUR SPIRITUAL AMENDMENT. "In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping," etc. (Isaiah 22:12). God would then invite to a general humiliation—he would draw their minds to a view of their guilt, and lead them to repentance and so to restoration and life. This is always the Divine purpose in adversity. God seeks our spiritual amendment. Other methods of instruction failing, he lays his hand upon us so that we must feel his touch; he speaks to us in tones it is difficult to disregard; and we know that the thing from which he calls us is sin—sin in one or other (or in some) of its many forms; we know also that the thing to which he summons us is rectitude—rightness of heart and life.

III. THAT THIS HIS DIVINE END IS SOMETIMES ENTIRELY DEFEATED. "Behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep," etc. (Isaiah 22:13). Both national history and the biography of individual men prove to us that affliction may produce the very opposite result to that for which it is sent. Never has the city been so abandoned to vice as when the plague was raging and the dead lay unburied in the streets. Many a man allows adversity to drive him to dissolute enjoyments or to ruinous crimes, instead of letting it allure him to a Divine Deliverer. Trouble that was intended to lead to heavenly wisdom and to the service of God only too often hardens a stony heart, makes still ungodlier the man who has forsaken the sanctuary, fastens the fetters of some enslaving vice on the limbs of its wretched victim.

IV. THAT UNSANCTIFIED SORROW LEADS TOWN TO SPIRITUAL DEATH. This iniquity would not be purged until they died (Isaiah 22:14). It would end, not only with, but in death. Death is the penalty of unsanctified sorrow: "The sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). It leads down inevitably to that utter estrangement from God, that unlikeness to God, and that condemnation by God, in which spiritual death is found here; it leads on to that final banishment from his presence and glory in which it will be found hereafter.—C.

Isaiah 22:4

Christian patriotism.

The profound concern which the prophet of the Lord displays for "the daughter of his people," showing us that the reception and the record of the prophetic vision did not interfere with his strong feelings as a Hebrew patriot, may suggest thoughts on Christian patriotism. This is to be clearly distinguished from:

1. The exaggerated self-consciousness or vain-gloriousness which some "patriots" exhibit.

2. The exclusiveness of spirit which others betray.

3. The diseased sensitiveness which leads many to catch at the first apparent international wrong as a valid casus belli. A great deal passes current as patriotism which would have been allowable, if not creditable, under heathenism, but which is simply false and guilty under the Divine teaching we have received who have learned of Christ. That man is the true friend of his country who takes—

I. A DEEP AND PRACTICAL INTEREST IN ITS POLITICAL WELFARE. A part of the "spoiling" to which Isaiah refers is to be found in the threatened seizure of his country's political independence, its being made subcut and tributary to the invader; this could not be other than a calamity of the first consequence in his eyes. The Christian patriot, while he ought to oppose most strenuously all unrighteous projects on the part of his own people, does well to be earnestly concerned for the integrity, the independence, the reputation, of his native land.

II. A PRACTICAL INTEREST IN ITS MATERIAL WELL-BEING. No doubt this "spoiling" included, in the prophet's thought, the destruction of its property and the deportation of its wealth. Considering how all the citizens, the wage-receiving multitudes as welt as the wealthier minority, are affected by the material prosperity of the land, it is right and Christian for us to make this a matter of careful and conscientious effort.


(1) the moral condition of Jerusalem, feasting and making merry on the day of its humiliation (verses 12, 13); and also

(2) its spiritual condition, forgetting its true Deliverer (verse 11), and slighting his discipline (verse 12), which so much distressed the holy prophet.

And it should be the moral and spiritual condition of our country which should create in us and call forth from us our most profound solicitude. And this because

(1) that is the matter of most intrinsic importance;

(2) that is the thing on which the Divine judgment and determination will depend; and

(3) that will be ultimately decisive of our country's political and material interests. If we would do our whole duty in relation thereto, we shall:

1. Join in prayer for Divine mercies.

2. Be careful to exert the influence of a godly and irreproachable example.

3. Exert all our power as individual men and through useful organizations for the guidance and the elevation of the people.—C.

Isaiah 22:15-25

Human reckoning and Divine interruption.

We have one instance, if not two—according to the application we give to the "nail" of the twenty-fifth verse—of ill-founded security. It is a lesson very necessary to teach, for it seems to be one very hard to learn.

I. HUMAN RECKONING. Shebna had carefully and successfully built up his position in the state, and he made sure that he should keep it; he had not only "feathered his nest," but he had made up his mind that he should "die in his nest." He had arranged beforehand the place of his sepulcher (Isaiah 22:16). "The nail was fastened in a sure place" (Isaiah 22:25). All his plans were drawn, and he confidently anticipated that they would be justified by the event. In this respect he was but a type and specimen of mankind; we do the same thing in our turn and in our way.

1. It may seem strange that it should be so. A modest view of our own capacities; the instruction we gain by reading what has happened to men in the past; the lessons we gather from our observation of human life;—all these might save us from the error, but they do not.

2. The fact is that men do indulge in this illusion: the boy counts on the prizes he will win at school, and the young man on the honors he will gain at college; the tradesman reckons on the profits he will make in business, and the professional man on the mark he will make in his vocation; the minister anticipates the work he will accomplish in his sphere, and the statesman indulges the confident expectation that he will carry the measures on which his heart is set. Others, we know, have failed, but we, we think, shall avoid their errors and escape their discomfiture.

II. DIVINE INTERRUPTION. Shebna's calculations were to be entirely overthrown; instead of living on and dying in Jerusalem, and being buried in the sepulcher he had so elaborately prepared, he should be hurled away like a ball by the strong arm of Jehovah into a distant land, where he should live and die in inglorious exile.

1. It may be that Divine judgment will overtake us, as it evidently overtook and overwhelmed this prefect of the palace. His ostentation (Isaiah 22:16), his luxury ("the chariots of thy glory," Isaiah 22:18), his tyranny (implied in characterizing Iris successor "a father to the inhabitants," in contrast to his own severities), brought down upon him the Divine displeasure and the prophetic denunciation. Sooner or later our sin will find us out. If we owe our elevation to our iniquity, or if, on the summit of our success, we fear not God, neither regard the claims of man, we may be sure that at some time and in some way defeat and dishonor will await us.

2. Or it must be that disciplinary changes will affect us. Whatever there is in sorrow which is not judgment is discipline. And of this latter, we must all have our share; we shall find that events will not fill up the outlines we draw, that our future wilt be very different from that which we picture it now: boyhood will not prove to be all that childhood imagines; still less will manhood be what youth supposes; friends will forsake us, schemes will be thwarted, hopes will be extinguished, props will be cut in twain, clouds will come up and rains will pour down, as we little think to-day. The hour will come when the nail that now seems so fast will be removed, and all that hangs upon it be brought to the ground (Isaiah 22:25). (See Luke 12:16-21; James 4:13-16.)


1. Holy service, either in the form of action or endurance.

2. The favor of God, the friendship of Jesus Christ.

3. Eternal blessedness. Between the faithful soul and these high hopes no power can intervene.—C.

Isaiah 22:20-25

Authority and influence.

On the deposition of Shebna, Eliakim was appointed prefect, clothed with the robe and invested with the keys of office; henceforth he should shut and open, should appoint and depose according to his good pleasure. We look at—


1. It satisfies a craving which is both broad and deep. Doubtless his succession to the high office vacated by Shebna brought great gratification to the heart of Elialdm. Men covet office, and the authority which it brings. Many meek and lowly minded ones, indeed, there are who have no such thirst of spirit; but, on the other hand, there are very many who profoundly desire and exceedingly enjoy it. The craving is both broad and general; its satisfaction, consequently, brings an intense and a widespread delight.

2. It conduces to order and to all those activities and pleasures of which order is the first condition.

3. It enables its holder to confer benefits

(1) on those whom he is most desirous of serving—"a glorious throne to his father's house," a source of strength and succor to all those related to him; and also

(2) on those whom he should account it a privilege to serve—he can be "a father to the inhabitants," etc; a source of blessing to his fellow-countrymen;

(3) on those who are specially deserving—a man in authority can admit to office those who are capable and honorable, while he can exclude those who are incapable and undeserving (Isaiah 22:22).

On the other hand, it has to be remembered that authority

(1) often injures its possessor by making him selfish or self-sufficient;

(2) is often grossly and pitifully abused;

(3) is often suddenly and unexpectedly withdrawn, plunging him who holds it into humiliation and distress (Isaiah 22:25).

II. THE GREATER, EXCELLENCE OF HOLY INFLUENCE. Our Lord gave his apostles promise of power; but he distinctly told them that such power would lie, not in the exercise of authority, but in the exertion of influence (Mark 10:42-45). They were to be commissioned to deliver the most vitalizing and transforming truth, and to live a life purified and ennobled by that truth; their utterance and their action together would have a most decisive influence on individual men and on society at large. We inherit the privilege which the Master conferred on them. The truth they taught we teach; the life they lived we live. And this Divine, this redeeming, this everlasting wisdom, thus revealed from God, and thus manifested through us, is a far greater and a far mightier thing than the exercise of any human authority whatever. For by their attitude towards it men determine their destiny; by it they stand or fall (Matthew 21:44; Joh 3:36; 2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 2:16). It "opens, and no man can shut; it shuts, and no man can open." It is not only a mightier, but also a more blessed thing. This holy influence, thus exerted by the wise and good, through lip and life,

(1) shuts men out of evils into the power of which none can thenceforth draw them;

(2) opens the gate into kingdoms from which none can exclude them—those of Divine wisdom, of holiness, of usefulness, of heavenly joy and glory;

(3) has a salutary and elevating effect upon the heart of him who wields it. It blesses him that gives as much as him that takes.

1. Only the minority among mankind can possibly exercise authority; it is to a small fraction only that it will prove a blessing; and from all of these it will soon be removed by the fickleness of man or by the lapse of time.

2. But it is open to every child of man to exert a holy influence; this will confer a true, spiritual, undying good on others, and will leave a lasting, inward blessing on the giver. It is far the better of the two.—C.


Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:2

Ill-timed joy.

The "valley of vision" is, without doubt, Jerusalem, though Mr. Birks thinks Samaria may be meant. The Prophet Isaiah speaks thus poetically of it as the place where he had his visions. Now he sees the people hurrying, in great excitement, on to the fiat roofs of the city, to watch the gathering hosts of Sennacherib's army. The attitude of the people surprised him. At such a time, when pestilence decimated the inhabitants, the leading citizens had fled to secure their personal safety, and the enemy was at the very door, he looked for humiliation before God, or at least the calmness of a noble courage; but alas! even in such an hour it was a "tumultuous city, a joyous city."

I. JOY IS ILL-TIMED WHEN IT EXPRESSES SELF-SECURITY. Foolish notions of the impregnability of their city possessed the Jews, in spite of the fact that it had been taken. Self-reliance blinded them to the elements of weakness in themselves, and to the strength and energy of their foes. We have heard many a man laugh at threatened danger, and say, "I am safe," and show, as Jerusalem did, the folly of joy with no better basis than self-security.

II. JOY IS ILL TIMED WHEN IT EXPRESSES THE RECKLESSNESS OF DESPAIR. Some think that was rather the spirit of Jerusalem at this time—the spirit which says, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (see verses 12, 13). Self-restraint is very dependent on hope. Illustrate by the wild excitement and foolish things done when shipwreck is imminent; or by the riotings of the man who knows he is within an hour of bankruptcy. "I said of laughter, It is mad." There is an old saying which explains such reckless, heartless joy: "Whom the gods would destroy they first dement." All such joy is foolish and perilous, especially because it keeps men from the duty of the hour, the doing of which might be the means of delivering them from the danger.

III. JOY IS ILL TIMED WHENEVER IT HAS NO ROOTAGE OF RELIANCE ON GOD. Joy in God is the foundation of all joy. We can rejoice in what we possess; for it is God-given. We can rejoice in what we lose; for the Lord taketh away. We can rejoice in the future; for "the Lord doth provide." We can rejoice in the darkness and peril; for "he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."—R.T.

Isaiah 22:2

The moral influence of pestilence.

"Thy slain men are not slain with the sword." "The words imply something like a reproach of cowardice. Those who had perished had not died fighting bravely in battle, but by the pestilence which then, as at all times, was prevalent in the crowded streets of a besieged city? The law of epidemic disease is found to be this—the conditions which are peculiarly favorable to the development of vice and immorality are exactly the conditions most favorable to epidemic disease. Illustrative references may be made to overcrowding in houses, and to want of cleanliness, and neglect of adequate sanitary precautions. From the picture given in the passage now before us we gather the following sentences.

I. PESTILENCE CREATES FRIGHT. And this prepares the way for the march of the pestilence; partly because those in whom are the seeds of disease go to other places, carrying the evil with them; and partly because fear lowers vitality, and so limits the power of resistance to disease. Fright in time of pestilence was painfully exhibited in the recent visit of the cholera to the towns in the south of France.

II. PESTILENCE BREAKS UP SOCIAL LIFE. By the flight, from the infected neighborhood, of all whose means permit. By the disturbance of commerce, business, education, etc. Worse than this, danger of life nourishes self-interest, so that men are ready to sacrifice others to save themselves. At such times the worst of humanity is revealed in the many, and the best of humanity in the few.

III. PESTILENCE OFTEN LEADS TO RECKLESSNESS. As was most painfully seen in the time of the great plague of London, and as is indicated by Isaiah in the text. Despair flings the reins on the neck of lust.

IV. PESTILENCE MAKES HEROES. Madame de Genlis tells of an incident in connection with the peste at Marseilles. The true nature of the disease was unknown, and could only be discovered by a post-mortem examination, but that was certain death to the operator. All the doctors drew back. Then a young surgeon, named Guyon, of great celebrity in his profession, devoted himself for the safety of his country. He made the necessary examination, recorded his observations, made his suggestions, placed the papers in a vase Of vinegar, retired to the lazaretto, and in twelve hours was dead—a hero made by the pestilence.—R.T.

Isaiah 22:4

A time to weep.

"Therefore I say, Look away from me; let me weep bitterly." Eastern weeping is excessive, unrestrained. Westerns go to the other extreme, and severely repress all expressions and signs 'of emotion. Eastern grief is often exaggerated, and it is in danger of being conventional and even hypocritical. Public weeping, at least on the part of the prophets, became a testimony and a warning. It belonged to their teaching by signs. Isaiah's weeping here drew public attention, and led to inquiries as to the meaning of such exceeding distress. The following points are sufficiently suggestive to need no more than brief statement.

I. WE MAY WEEP IN ANTICIPATION. If we can see trouble ahead, and our distress can be the means of awakening others who are careless, but who ought to be preparing to meet the trouble, our very griefs may be a "fore-warning."

II. WE MAY WEEP IN TIME OF TROUBLE. Because tears are the natural expressions of feeling, and the natural relief of overcharged feeling. Danger to brain and heart attend undue restraint of tears.

III. WE MAY WEEP IN SYMPATHY WITH OTHERS. Often such silent sympathy is more effective than any words. To feel with another so as to join in the same expression of feeling is most soothing and comforting. The sublime illustration of this is our Redeemer weeping in human sympathy with gentle Mary at the grave of Lazarus.

IV. WE MUST NOT LET OUR WEEPING BECOME A SELF-INDULGENCE. This is a greater peril to us all than we are wont to estimate. There is a luxury of grief; a keeping it up for the sake of the comforting and petting it brings; a pleasant giving way. Weeping is wrong, is mischievous, the moment it passes beyond the bounds of what is necessary for relief. As soon as self comes in, and we will to give way, our weeping becomes sin.

V. WE MAY WEEP AS A TESTIMONY. For this we have the example of our Divine Lord and Master, who" when he beheld the city [of Jerusalem—the very city concerning which Isaiah wept], wept over it, saying, Oh that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things that make for thy peace!" John Howe most suggestively calls this "The Redeemer's tears wept over lost souls."—R.T.

Isaiah 22:8

Man's trust in his weapons.

"Thou didst look in that day to the armor of the house of the forest." A sermon for the times, in which the highest science and inventive skill are devoted to the perfecting of the deadliest engines of war; and when men dare to say that "Providence is always on the side of the largest battalions." "Some trust in horses, and some in chariots, but we will trust in the Name of the Lord;" "A horse is a vain thing for safety;" "God is a Refuge for us."

I. MEN TRUSTING IN WEAPONS ONLY. By the term "weapons" understanding all that belongs to armies, navies, fortifications, and the material forces on which nations depend (see Isaiah 22:9-11). So often we hear that "Her navy is England's defense;" "Her insular position is her security:" Great guns, powerful ships, efficient drill, brave hearts—these, they say, guard Albion's honor. But these are only things, and they have to be continually changed and renewed. We can never be quite sure that we are abreast of the war-engines or the war force of other nations, and trust in mere weapons involves keeping the nation at a perpetual strain. Again and again we are alarmed as somebody argues our insecurity because of the state of our army and navy and coaling-stations.

II. MEN TRUSTING IS GOD ONLY. They should trust in God first and chiefly; but not only, if by that is meant letting the trust keep our hands idle, and put us on an expectation of miraculous deliverance. There have been times in the history of our race when men were required to do nothing, and simply to trust. In face of the Red Sea Moses said, Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." And Sennacherib's army was overthrown without use of man's military forces. But these are exceptional cases, designed to impress one side of truth.

III. MAN MAKING HIS TRUST IN GOD APPEAR THROUGH THE USE OF HIS WEAPONS. This is, in every way, man's most difficult work. It may be dangerous self-confidence to trust weapons only. It may be mere listlessness to trust God only. It is the essence of piety to brace ourselves to all noble and wise endeavor, and keep through all our doings a soul full of trustings in God. This is but illustration in the war-spheres of the universal rule, "Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure."—R.T.

Isaiah 22:12

God's call to penitence.

"In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth." These are the Eastern signs and expressions of penitence and humiliation; as may be illustrated in the case of Nineveh, which repented at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:5-9). God calls on the people to "lament their sins, by which they had brought these judgments upon their land, and to dispose themselves to a reformation of theft lives by a holy seriousness, and a tenderness of heart under the Word of God." God is ever, and has ever been, in various ways, calling men to repentance, because men are sinful, and constantly grieving him and ruining themselves by their willfulness.

I. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE BY HIS PROPHETS. From Enoch (Jud Jonah 1:15), and Noah, to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, etc. It is the burden of prophecy. Their voice is ever crying, "Put away the evil of your doings."

II. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE BY THE SILENT MARCH OF EVENTS. See the plea of Joel on foretelling invasions (Joel 2:12-14). "Coming events cast their shadows before," and those shadows ought to prove calls of God to thought and moral preparation.

III. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE BY THE REVEALED WORD. "When God threatens us with his judgments he expects and requires that we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, that we tremble when the lion roars, and in a day of adversity consider" (Matthew Henry).

IV. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE BY JOHN BAPTIST. A most remarkable person, as standing on the dividing line between the new and old dispensations. He carries forward into the new God's great demand in the old, "Repent." And he shows that moral preparation by repentance is the threshold of the new kingdom of forgiveness, acceptance, and grace.

V. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE BY THE LORD JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES. They still demand repentance. Our Lord sends his apostles out with this message, and the apostles in the Pentecostal time, and in their letters, plead, saying, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you."

VI. GOD'S CALLS TO PENITENCE IN MODERN PREACHING. In this, more than in any other aspect of revealed truth, modern preaching fails. The ministers of the present day have no oppressive burden from the Lord, almost making them run away like Jonah—a burden of demanding "repentance of sin."—R.T.

Isaiah 22:14

Iniquity that cannot be purged in this life.

God is a God of infinite mercy to forgive sin, and yet he will "by no means clear the guilty." He will surely visit iniquity by fixing its consequences upon the sinner, and even also upon others who may be related to him.

I. SIN-PENALTIES THAT CAN BE REMOVED NOW, WHILE WE ARE IN' THIS WORLD. They are such as rest on the soul. Sin has a twofold aspect—it is both an act of transgression and a spirit of self-will. It is the soul that sinneth; the self-will, as opposing God's will, is the fountain and source of all wrong-doing. But the soul finds expression and action through the body, and consequently there will be both spiritual and bodily penalties following upon all sin. The soul will undergo a hardening process: The body will come into disabilities and sufferings. Pharaoh is willful. Then the Lord, in his judgment, wilt harden Pharaoh's heart; smite him in the tenderest part of his family feeling by the death of his firstborn; and bring down the pride of Egypt by an ignominious overthrow in the Red Sea. The soul-penalties attaching to sin are expressed in the sentence, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." Death, spiritual death, is the necessary result of soul-sin. Our first father, Adam, began to die when, in a spirit of self-will and self-pleasing, he ate the forbidden fruit. Every one of us, nowadays, begins to die the "eternal death" when we sin with our souls. The sphere of the atonement made by our Lord Jesus, in his life and in his cross, is precisely this sphere of soul-penalties. Christ removes the penalties of sin which come upon our souls. Christ renews the life of love, and trust, and submission, and joy in God, which effectually prevents any of the hardenings and debasings of sin becoming permanent in our cases.

II. SIN-PENALTIES THAT CANNOT NOW BE REMOVED. The penalties and consequences of sin that come on our bodies, our circumstances, and others who are connected with us. God has appointed the order in which family and social life should be arranged and conducted. If we would carry out that Divine order perfectly, and obey those Divine laws faithfully, heaven, with its eternal purities, its peace passing understanding, and its joy unspeakable, would be begun below. Sin, in its outward aspect, is the infringement of this Divine order, the breaking of those gracious and holy laws. To every such infringement a natural penalty is attached. This is expressed in a figure by the familiar words, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The redemption provided by the Lord Jesus does not immediately and directly touch these natural penalties of sin. There is an important sense in which the forgiving God "by no means clears the guilty." The child of the drunkard or the sensualist will not have the spirit of drink or of passion taken out of him, nor will he be renewed from his physical deterioration, because his father becomes a Christian in his later years. Consequences of wrong reach on until they get altogether beyond hand-grasp. Do any wrong, and for the soul of the wrong there is forgiveness, and full restoration, in the Divine mercy, through the precious blood-shedding; but you may pursue all your life after the natural consequences, and you shall never overtake them, never master them, never remove them. On they go, carrying their burdens of woe to the third and fourth generation. And Isaiah reminds us that there are some special kinds of iniquity to which the rule must more especially apply, for whose consequences there can be no earthly purging. They are such as are:

1. Maintained in a spirit of willfulness.

2. Such as outlast all warnings and corrections.

3. Such as have become a cause of open reproach.

4. And such as have been the means of ruining others.

In all these cases the judgment must come, and the sinner's fellow-men must see it hanging over him as long as he lives. If it were not so, adequate impressions of the evil and hatefulness of sin could not be kept before the eyes of men. Though we should also see that these sin-penalties, lying so heavy on the race, are part of the Divine remedial scheme for finally delivering humanity from its self-serving and its sin.—R.T.

Isaiah 22:16, Isaiah 22:17

Man's plans for himself frustrated by God's plan for him.

The answering New Testament case to this is our Lord's account of the prosperous farmer, who had no room to bestow his fruits and his goods. He said to himself, "I will pull down my barns and build greater." But God said, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee." In the passage before us, Shebna, in the full 'assurance that he will die quietly, and be buried honorably in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, proposes to build a tomb or sepulcher for himself. It would be one of the rock-hewn sepulchers on the slopes of the hills surrounding the holy city. The aristocratic families had their private sepulchers, but this Shebna was a new man, not belonging to any of the ancient families, so he had to begin a sepulcher as one part of his ambition to found a family. God's plan for him was quite different to his plan for himself. He was to be carried away into captivity, and the fair creation of his energies would fall into ruins. "Man proposes, God disposes."

I. MEN OUGHT TO MAKE PLANS. The Bible never opposes foresight, practical wisdom, reasonable ambitions, taking life with a strong hand, or the statesmanlike sagacity, that estimates public movements and prepares for inevitable changes, life man's ship is expected to drift anyhow; the man's hand must be always at the helm, and the man must know for what port he sails.

II. MEN TOO OFTEN MAKE PLANS IN A SPIRIT OF SELF-RELIANCE. As the Apostle James (James 4:13-15) puts it, men say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain." The mistake lies in that will. "Whatever happens, I will." "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare."

III. MEN SHOULD MAKE PLANS IN THE SPIRIT OF DEPENDENCE ON GOD; and with due reference of every case to him. As James says (James 4:15), "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this, or that." Man's will sometimes is strong, and carries him over and through great difficulties; but God is ever stronger than he, and grasps him with effectual restraints.—R.T.

Isaiah 22:18

God's violent providences.

Margin Revised Version, "He will surely wind thee round and round like a ball and toss thee." Generally the figure is assumed to be that of a ball flung violently on a smooth, even plain, where it bounds on and on with nothing to stay its progress. But a gentleman was in the island of Mitylene during a great storm of wind in winter, and observed a peculiar plant, not unlike wormwood, which grows into a compact, globular form, with very stiff stalks and branches. In the winter the plant dies down to the ground, and in its dry and light condition is torn from its roots by the wind, and set bounding over the wide and unenclosed country. He reports having seen five or six of these balls coursing along at once. If such plants were found in the countries familiar to the prophet, they would furnish a vivid emblem of the man who is at the mercy of a higher power, and helpless either to choose his own course or to find rest. The point which is proposed for illustration is that there must be a variety of arrows in the Lord's quiver, and a needs-be sometimes for the severest and most searching dealings. God must sometimes display his sovereign power over men in a crushing and overwhelming way, in order to silence the tongue of pride, to prove that man can never get beyond God's reach, never raise Babel-towers that he cannot overwhelm. The mightiest forces of nature are God's instruments. And man's pride he will utterly abase. Compare the death of the lord who scorned the prophet's assurance of immediate deliverance (2 Kings 7:19, 2 Kings 7:20); Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation in the hour of his boasting (Daniel 4:29-33); and Herod's awful death (Acts 12:20-23), when he permitted men to offer him the honors due alone to God. Man's folly in trying God's power to smite and wound is finely satirized by Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 15:25, Job 15:26): "For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty. He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers."—R.T.

Isaiah 22:20, Isaiah 22:21

The influence of an individual on public policy.

Governments always drift into the control of the most energetic, or most gifted, man. They go astray unless ruled by some master-spirit. It is said, with as much truth as satire, that "committees are always committees of one." They are the comfortable agencies by means of which some strong-willed man gets his own way. And it may be urged that at least as much good as evil attends the arrangement. Eliakim is raised up as a master-spirit, in a time of national anxiety, and he is to prove a "father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah." There recur times in our national history when public ministrations on such a theme as this may wisely guide public opinion. Such topics as the following are suggested.

I. THE GENIUS OF THE PUBLIC LEADER. As much a Divine endowment and trust for the world's use as the gifts of the orator, the artist, or the poet.

II. THE EVIL INFLUENCE OF THE UNPRINCIPLED PUBLIC LEADER. In his permission of wrong things. In his securing of right things by wrong methods. In the public example which encourages unprincipled dealings in private life.

III. THE POWER OF THE GODLY PRINCIPLED LEADER. He elevates the tone of society. Avoids causes of offence to neighboring nations. Aims at the permanent well-being of the whole people. Puts the moral progress of the nation before its material prosperity. Such leaders were Moses and David.

IV. THE DUTY OF THE GIFTED INDIVIDUAL TO TAKE PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY. Illustrate by Cincinnatus. A true man finds a sphere of service for his God in the common affairs of the nation. Joseph served God through years of famine in Egypt. Daniel served his God through important national changes and revolutions. The history of each age in nations is really the biography of the leading individual of the age. The world curses or blesses the memory of its public leaders.—R.T.

Isaiah 22:22

The symbol of authority.

The "key on the shoulder" is no mere badge of the steward's office; it represents delegated authority. Large wooden locks and keys were used in the East, and these keys were heavy enough to need carrying on the shoulder. But the expression is best regarded as a recognized figure of speech. The figure may receive four illustrations.

I. THE KEY OF COURT OFFICE. As in case of Eliakim.

II. THE KEY OF RABBIS, AS TEACHERS. Remember the expression, "The key of knowledge."



Isaiah 22:23

The sure nail as a type.

The idea may be the peg driven into the ground, round which to fasten the tent-ropes. But, more probably, the reference is to a peg in the wall, driven in so securely that things may be safely hung upon it. The word is here used metaphorically in application to the support which Eliakim would yield to all his dependent relations. It is the type of the man on whom others can depend. The following points will be readily worked out and illustrated.



III. THE TYPE REALIZED, IN MEASURE, IN CHRIST-LIKE MEN AND WOMEN. Nothing better can be said of any of us than this—Men trust us. What can be said of woman nobler than this, "The heart of her husband trusteth in her?"—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/isaiah-22.html. 1897.
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