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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 22

 

 

Verses 1-14

Isaiah 22:1-14. Jerusalem's Inexcusable Frivolity.—The prophecy apparently belongs to the time of Sennacherib's invasion. Its menacing tone contrasts with that of some other prophecies of the time. The people had provoked Isaiah's sternest anger by giving themselves up to festivity. Probably this was after the siege had been raised, either temporarily or when Sennacherib's army had been withdrawn after the disaster recorded in Isaiah 37:36. In the reaction caused by this relief the inhabitants recklessly surrendered themselves to riotous merriment, recognising (Isaiah 22:13) that they might still be doomed to die. The valley of vision cannot be Jerusalem itself, for it was no valley, but must be some valley in the neighbourhood. It seems to mean the valley concerning which the vision was seen.

The prophet is amazed at the manifestations of festivity. The people are on the house-tops, perhaps watching the retreat of the Assyrians or some spectacle in the streets. But another vision passes before the prophet's inward eye in strange contrast to their riotous exultation. Her slain have met no honourable death in battle, her rulers have fled before the Assyrians and been made prisoners by the archers. The slain have been killed in flight or executed. The prophet therefore cannot share in the mirth of the citizens and refuses to be comforted, for Yahweh has sent a day of crushing defeat: in the valley of vision they are shattering the walls, and a cry of distress goes up to the mountains. Elam (Jeremiah 49:34-39*) sent a contingent of archers with chariots and horsemen, and Kir (Amos 9:7*) took the shields from the cases in preparation for battle. The valleys were crowded with chariots, and the cavalry were set in array to assault the gates. Then the defencelessness of the city was laid bare, and the Jews made hasty attempts to atone for their former blindness by putting it in a state of defence. They examined the armour in the arsenal (1 Kings 10:17), found the walls of Zion in a ruinous condition; they retained the waters of the lower pool (situation unknown) in the city by stopping the outlets, to secure an adequate water supply during the siege. They numbered the houses to see which furnished the most suitable material, and could most easily be spared. They used these to mend and strengthen the walls. They stored the water of the old pool in a reservoir. But in all these preparations they had left God out of their reckoning. Yet all that had occurred was but the working out of His long-premeditated scheme, but they had not the insight to see His hand in history. Yahweh had called to mourning and humiliation, but they had given themselves to mirth and feasting, probably on the sacrifices of thank-offering for deliverance But in their festivity there was a tragic undertone; they may well have realised that their position might soon be desperate again, and have drowned in reckless gaiety all care for the uncertain future. Sins so heinous must be punished by death.

Isaiah 22:5. Remove the semi-colon from "vision" to "hosts."

Isaiah 22:6. The Elamites were famous archers.—Omit "of men."

Isaiah 22:9 b - Isaiah 22:11 a. Possibly a prosaic interpolation: if omitted, we get a finer connexion between Isaiah 22:9 a and Isaiah 22:11 b—you looked to the breaches of the city, but you did not look to Yahweh.

Isaiah 22:11. the old pool: perhaps the pool of Siloam.

Isaiah 22:12. baldness: shaving of the head in token of sorrow.


Verses 15-25

Isaiah 22:15-25. Shebna to be Deposed and Eliakim Installed in his Office.—This denunciation of Shebna, who seems to have been a foreigner, was probably due to the obnoxious character of his policy. Presumably he favoured the Egyptian alliance. The sarcastic description of the abuse of Eliakim's position by his relatives, and their subsequent downfall with him, can hardly be due to the author of the remarkable eulogy that has just preceded. Accordingly Isaiah 22:24 f., at least, must be regarded as a later addition, probably by a scribe unfriendly to Eliakim's family. On the other hand, it is not likely that Isaiah 22:19-23 is also an appendix. Isaiah's address to Shebna may have stopped with Isaiah 22:18 or Isaiah 22:19, but in issuing the prophecy he may well have added this prediction of Eliakim's elevation. The theory of two appendices is intrinsically improbable, and why should a late writer have composed this glorification of Eliakim? In 701 Eliakim appears as house-steward (Isaiah 36:3), while Shebna, if the same person, is secretary. The date is probably somewhat earlier than Sennacherib's invasion. The office of house-steward (cf. mg.) was one of great importance and influence. Isaiah not only detested Shebna's policy, but he seems to have resented the elevation of a foreigner to such a position.

This invective is apparently uttered at the site of the sepulchre which Shebna was having hewn out for him. He had no ancestry in Jerusalem and no inherited possession, yet he was hewing out a grave on high in the rock, apparently in a distinguished position where members of old Jerusalem families alone had a right to be buried. Shebna aspired to found a family, perhaps by making his sepulchre there, just as now a man who has risen from the ranks might try to found an aristocratic house by accepting a peerage. Isaiah tells him that he will be flung into a foreign land and die there, where his sepulchre in Jerusalem will be of no use to him. In Isaiah 22:16 b, where he speaks of Shebna with scornful anger in the third person, he seems to be addressing the bystanders. Then in language of tremendous energy he utters the upstart's doom. Yahweh lays firm hold upon him (mg.), winds him round and round like a ball (mg.), and flings him violently into a foreign land (probably Assyria) so large, that there will be room for him to go a long way before he stops. In contrast to the glory of his chariots, Isaiah reviles the man himself as a disgrace to the court. That Yahweh deposes him from his office seems to be a subsequent modification of the original judgment. It may, however, simply prepare the way for the prophecy of Eliakim's elevation to Shebna's office. Yahweh s servant Eliakim, who now sympathises with Isaiah's point of view, and whose appointment would imply a change in the king's policy, is to be invested with Shebna's robe and office, and will worthily use his high position, one of almost absolute authority. He will be firmly fixed in his position like a nail firmly driven into the wall. His family will derive advancement from his dignity; he will be like a throne of glory on which they will be seated. From this glowing eulogy we pass to a sarcastic enumeration (by a later writer) of the people who reap advantage from their kinsman's elevation. The nail fastened in a sure place, bearing the burden hung upon it, gives way under the strain. Eliakim falls through the favouritism to his relatives which he has displayed in his office.

Isaiah 22:18. To use chariots in the early period was a method of claiming the crown, as we see from the stories of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1) and Adonijah (1 Kings 1:5). No doubt it had lost this significance in Isaiah's time, but it was probably still a dignity reserved for those of high rank (cf. Jeremiah 17:25).

Isaiah 22:22. The key is the symbol of authority (cf. Matthew 16:19, Revelation 1:18). Its holder was the king or king's deputy. The keys were of great size and weight, and carried on the shoulder (cf. Isaiah 9:6). The passage is practically quoted in Revelation 3:7.

Isaiah 22:25. It is a mistake to suppose that this verse refers to Shebna.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 22:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-22.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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