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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 22


This prophecy is against the carnal security and heathenish hilarity of the people in Jerusalem at a time (or at several times, for many believe the prophecy to be generic, appropriate to several perilous conditions) when a serious siege is about to occur. Its place here, among prophecies against the heathen proper, is due to the fact that the people as a whole take on essentially the heathen character.

Verse 1

1. Valley of vision Jerusalem itself, the seat of prophecy, the residence of Isaiah and his school of disciples. It is called a “valley” because, though on hills, it is surrounded by hills higher than itself; and because on three sides valleys steeply sloping to the city run into one running to the Dead Sea eastward.

What aileth thee A question occasioned by revelry resounding from all the housetops in a time of real peril, and this, from a daring, defiant sense of security. The question is a rebuke. The housetops were flat, and used as places of resort.

Verse 2

2. Thy slain men Or, men destined to perish, as the prophet sees a dire siege at hand.

Not slain with the sword Not to have this honour. They will die inside, not in battle; or, they will die as captives, far away.

Verse 3

3. Thy rulers are fled This verse describes conquest and captivity.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. Therefore… Look away from me Advice to let the prophet alone, to obtrude not on his sorrow. No consolation can reach him.

Daughter of my people Inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Trouble… treading down… perplexity Mental anguish extreme to the prophet, while the thoughtless people are insensible to coming woes. Terrible day in prospect, but Jehovah sends it as the last recourse with a view to correction.

Crying Wails which reach to and echo back from the mountains, allusive of the valley whence they come.

Verses 6-7

6, 7. Elam Not Persia, as a whole, but a district within it, supplying soldiers that used the bow.

Kir A province in Assyria on the river Kuros, which furnished men with lances and shields, (shields were in cases when not used.) However, Rawlinson locates “Kir” near the mouths of the Euphrates and of the Tigris.

In either case, the siege of this chapter may be that of Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 605, or it may cover the character of several sieges, then future to Isaiah.

Thy choicest valleys That is, those passable to chariots near Jerusalem. These were Rephaim on the south, and the plateau north.

Verses 8-11

8-11. He discovered the covering of Judah “He” is indefinite, but from the verses following it is quite evident that it refers to the Jews. The expression means, “The covering of Judah was removed.” The Jews become conscious of their own condition, and are alarmed.

Look… to the armour To the arsenal of shields, etc., in the house of the forest, so named from its Lebanon cedars of which it was made.

Breaches They look also to the bad condition of the walls, and to gathering from the outside lower pool adequate water supplies in the city.

Numbered the houses To see which can best be spared to take down, the stone to be used for repairing the walls. Estimating expenses and asserting materials for wall building may have had something to do with this numbering.

Between the two walls Or, pair of walls. This must mean that a basin was formed for collecting additional waters, a parallel wall to one then standing being reared for it.

Old pool The upper Gihon, probably three fourths of a mile outside, west, and higher than the city within the walls. To all these preparations the Jews looked, on awaking to their condition. But unto the maker… him that fashioned, etc. They did not look.

These words are to be taken as poetical equivalents for the Efficient Cause of all things. They were looking to arsenals, etc., but not to God. Long ago had God foreseen this, and ordered such a siege to punish and correct the Jews.

Verses 12-14

12-14. And now God calls to repentance, to weeping… to mourning… to baldness, etc. Signs, all of them, of bitter repentance. But the people have gone too far into error of life to obey. The prophecy seems to touch on the last days of the kingdom; for though repentance is commanded, no promise, no consolation is offered, and the people seem incredulous; certainly they show no desire to obey, for the prophet sees them either confident still of security, or else thinking their situation a lost one, and so they rollic in heathenish revelry, and say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” This piece of prophecy seems thus far really generic, embracing points applicable to all the sieges the Jews endured. Yet the 14th verse can scarcely apply to any other than the last one suffered by that people as a kingdom.

Verses 15-16

15, 16. The “Burden” now passes from the character of the people to that of chief individuals, and of their characters in contrast.

Unto Shebna This is not a person’s name, but an official title; not that of treasurer, for the original means, dear friend, but that of prefect of the palace over the house. The name appears again in Isaiah 36:3, thus making this prophecy to apply in part to Hezekiah’s time. What hast thou here… whom, etc. What right, what claims, for making a family sepulchre in Jerusalem? The tone of the questions implies that this officer was a foreigner as well as a wicked man, using also, quite probably, the public funds for a personal object.

Sepulchre on high At a height in a cliff, to be secure from depredation; hence an extravagant and presumptuous use of public funds.

Verses 17-19

17-19. Behold The doom of this faithless heathen officer, also a leader away of the people, now follows.

Carry thee… mighty captivity The words of these verses are violent words, and indicate sharp, indignant, violent feeling and action in executing punishment upon this man. There is scarce power in any language to translate them.

Cover thee Wrap thee up, (as by straps and thongs.)

Violently turn and toss thee Some translate: “Bind thee with head band into a ball, then whirl thee round and round and cast thee away.”

Into a large country Perhaps Assyria; there is nothing certain as to what country is meant. The Jewish comment is, that Shebna was tied, as a traitor, to horses’ tails in Assyria, and so died.

Verses 20-23

20-23. I will call my servant A very different character enters Shebna’s place in the person of Eliakim, a native Jew, because his father’s name is given, which was not done in the other case. He is invested with the robe badge of authority; and the girdle in which was the purse, and from which the sword was suspended; also the key hung over the shoulder denoting civil authority next to the king himself. Isaiah 9:6. In his administration he is truly father to all the people.

Verse 24

24. I will fasten… as a nail As a peg or spike fastened in the wall in Oriental houses, on which family ornaments were suspended. The sense is, all that is valuable to the nation rests on him.

Glorious throne to his father’s house It seems idle to suppose, with Delitzsch, that here begins an intimation of Eliakim’s gradual fall from his integrity to the government by observing nepotism in appointing his relatives only to offices. The expression rather indicates fidelity. He is to the government as the tentpin in a strong setting, or nail firmly fixed in the wall. He is the faithful prefect of the house, the palace; the seat whence issue all government advices.

Verse 25

25. Shall the nail… fall Delitzsch, of course, supposes the reference here is to Eliakim, and grammatical considerations are on his side. But the altogether better logical view is, that of an abrupt return (not without like examples with Isaiah) to the treasurer, who was a failure in the government, a heathen, without doubt, smuggled into office probably by the heathenish Ahaz, and unfortunately retained in office by pious Hezekiah, till, in the order of divine providence, he was ignominiously thrust out.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.