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The view of Egypt’s future in the preceding chapter extending far into its better ages is here followed by a view of some prior calamities that are to befall Egypt and Ethiopia.
1. In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod There is uncertainty as to date, but it lay probably between B.C. 727 and 720. “Tartan” is an official name, like captain-general. Of the Assyrian kings mentioned in the Bible, Sargon’s name occurs only here. According to the present state of decipherments of the Assyrian texts, it is probable that Sargon was a usurper of the throne during the three years’ siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser. 2 Kings 18:9-12. It is likewise probable that he completed that siege and himself took Samaria; that he was the father and predecessor of Sennacherib; that his reign began in the same year (B.C.
721) with that of Merodach-Baladan in the then subordinate province of Babylon, and that his reign was long and prosperous. “Ashdod” was the key to Egypt, and when laid waste only Lachish lay much in the way of unhindered passage into that country; hence Sennacherib afterward laid siege to and took that city. See these facts stated more fully at chapters xxxvi-xxxix.
2. Loose the sackcloth An outward garment, and not unfrequently worn as a badge of humiliation, and symbol of unwelcome tidings. It was the habitual covering of the prophet, especially in the dark days of those sieges in the vicinity of Jerusalem on the Philistine plains below. Isaiah, divesting himself of this and of his sandals thus stripped of all clothing save his undergarment or tunic was a symbolic prediction, or picture of some unusual suffering. The “sackcloth” was probably of goats’ hair; it was the covering of Elijah, and usually of other even of false prophets. Zechariah 13:4.
3. Like as my servant “My servant” was a term of honour applied to Abraham, Job, Moses, David; afterward to regenerate Israel; then to Messiah, in the latter chapters of this book.
Walked… barefoot three years This time of Isaiah’s imposed extra humiliation on public occasions, was intended as an impressive portending spectacle before the people.
For a sign and wonder Especially in relation to Egypt and Ethiopia, on which the people of Judah relied for defence, whenever Assyria’s armies, moving Egyptward, should also menace Jerusalem.
4, 5. So Thus, in like manner, as the prophet in his comparative nakedness.
Shall the king of Assyria In this expedition Assyria’s success is assured by the prophet. Precisely when this occurred is not easy to settle, as some imagine. Not even Rawlinson, in his Five Great Monarchies, vol. ii, page 416, (which see,) does this satisfactorily. Nor is it, as regards prophecy, very material.
Lead away the Egyptians prisoners… Ethiopians captives This picture of naked captives taken in war, is found on the monuments in Egypt. See Isaiah 47:2-3; also Nahum 3:5; Nahum 3:8-9. The doctrine of the prophecy is: Vain is the reliance of Judah on Egypt and Ethiopia.
6. Of this isle This coastland from Gaza to Phenicia, and northward, how insignificant this compared with the thousand miles up the Nile covered by the great powers of Egypt and Ethiopia combined, on which Judah depended for help. Judah can now see her land all open as a foraging highway region for the conquering Assyrians, who are only too ready to take revenge for her alliance with the conquered countries. Well may the people cry out, How shall we escape? “We?” “We know the barbarities of war. We know the retributions laid on conquered dependants.” Nevertheless, during these direful wars, Jehovah did in considerable measure interfere for Jerusalem, on account of the theocratic fidelity of pious Hezekiah. See chapter 37.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter