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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 22

 

 

Verses 1-3

Isaiah 22:1-3. The burden of the valley of vision — Of Judah, and especially of Jerusalem, called a valley, because a great part of it stood in a valley between the opposite hills of Zion and Acra, and between Acra and Moriah; (see Josephus’s Jewish War, 5:13; and 6:6;) and the valley of vision, because it was the seat of divine revelation, the place where chiefly prophetic visions were given, and where God manifested himself visibly in the most holy place. The reader will observe this is the seventh discourse of the second part; and relates to the calamity brought on Jerusalem by the invasion of the Assyrians or Chaldeans, or both, and to the fall of Shebna.

What aileth thee now? — The prophet refers here to the commotion into which the city was, or, he foresaw, would be, thrown upon the report of the approach of the hostile army to besiege it, and to the perturbation of the people’s minds and the general confusion. That thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops — Either to reconnoitre the approaching enemy, or to consult for thine own safety. Thou that art — Or rather, wast, full of stirs — Of great trade, people hurrying to and fro about their business; a tumultuous city — Populous and noisy; a joyous city — Full of revelling and jollity. What ails thee now that the shops and mercantile houses are quitted, and there is no more walking in the streets, but thou art to be seen crowding the housetops? — “The houses in the East were, in ancient times, as they are still generally, built in one and the same uniform manner. The roof, or top of the house, is always flat, covered with broad stones, or a strong plaster of terrace, and guarded on every side with a low parapet wall. The terrace is frequented as much as any part of the house. On this, as the season favours, they walk, they eat, they sleep, they transact business, they perform their devotions. The house is built with a court within, into which chiefly the windows open; those that are open to the street are so obstructed with lattice-work that no one either without or within can see through them. Whenever, therefore, any thing is to be seen or heard in the streets, any public spectacle, any alarm of a public nature, every one immediately goes up to the housetops to satisfy his curiosity. In the same manner, when any one had occasion to make any thing public, the readiest and most effectual way of doing it was, to proclaim it from the house-tops to the people in the streets.” — Bishop Lowth.

Thy slain men are not slain with the sword — But either by famine or pestilence in the siege. Sennacherib’s army having laid the country waste, and destroyed the fruits of the earth, provisions must needs be very scarce and dear in the city, which would be the death of many of the poorer sort of people, who would be constrained to feed on what was unwholesome. But this prediction, with that contained in the next verse, was more eminently fulfilled when the city was besieged by the Chaldeans. See Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 38:2. And Vitringa is of opinion, that the prophet has that calamity in view, as well as the affliction suffered under the Assyrian invasion. All thy rulers are fled together — Zedekiah and his chief commanders, whose flight he foretels. See Jeremiah 39:3-4. They are bound by the archers — Bishop Lowth renders this clause, they are fled from the bow, that is, from the bows and arrows of the Assyrian archers: or, as others translate this former part of the verse, All thy captains are fled together with a wandering flight from the bow. That is, they are fled far and wide; they are bound — Namely, those who could not flee away fast enough to escape the Chaldeans. All that are found in thee — Namely, in the city, with Zedekiah, during the siege; for those who had fled to the Chaldeans saved their lives and liberties. Or, as the words, כל נמצאיךְ, may be rendered, All that are found of thee, or belonging to thee; which have fled from far — Or, have fled a great way off, namely, who fled from Jerusalem, but were pursued and overtaken by the enemy, 2 Kings 25:4-7, and Jeremiah 52:8-11.


Verse 4-5

Isaiah 22:4-5. Therefore said I, &c. — “Behold the prophet here anticipating those lamentations which he was afterward to pour forth, and which Jeremiah so pathetically poured forth, an eye-witness of this calamity. For the expressions here are too strong to be applied to any other calamity than the great and final one, when the Jews were carried captives to Babylon;”

of which the prophet had a clear foresight. Look away from me — Take off your eyes and thoughts from me, and leave me alone, that I may take my fill of sorrow. Labour not to comfort me — For all your labour will be lost. I neither can nor will receive any consolation. Because of the spoiling, &c. — Of that city and nation, whereof I am a member. The title of daughter is often given both to cities and nations, as hath been observed before. For it is a day of treadling down — In which my people are trodden under foot by their insolent enemies; and of perplexity by the Lord of hosts — This is added, partly to show, that this did not happen without God’s providence; and partly to aggravate their calamity, because, not only men, but God himself fought against them; breaking down the walls — Of the strong cities of Judah; which was done both by Sennacherib and by Nebuchadnezzar; and of crying to the mountains — With such loud and dismal outcries as should reach to the neighbouring mountains. “Who does not see,” says Vitringa, “in Isaiah, thus weeping over Jerusalem, a type of Jesus weeping over this same city in its last extremity?”


Verse 6-7

Isaiah 22:6-7. And Elam bare the quiver — This second member of the first part of this prophecy, which begins here, seems evidently to refer to the Assyrian invasion; for the Medes and Elamites, or Persians, were united with the Assyrians in the time of Sennacherib, but not of Nebuchadnezzar. The Persians were expert bowmen, as appears from Jeremiah 49:35, and from Strabo’s testimony. With chariots of men and horsemen — As some of them fought on foot, so others from chariots and horses. And Kir — That is, the Medes, so called, from an eminent city and region of that name in Media, 2 Kings 16:9; Amos 1:5; uncovered the shield — Prepared their defensive and offensive weapons, and themselves, for the battle; for in times of peace arms were wrapped up and covered, to preserve them clean and fit for use. Thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots — Valleys were the most proper places for the use of chariots; and the horsemen at the gate — To assist and defend the footmen, while they made the assault, and to prevent those who endeavoured to escape.


Verses 8-11

Isaiah 22:8-11. And he — Namely, the enemy Sennacherib, of whose invasion he seems to speak; discovered the covering of Judah — Took those fenced cities which were a covering or safeguard, both to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem. Thou didst look — Or, rather, as Dr. Waterland and Bishop Lowth render it, Thou shalt, or wilt look, &c. For the prophet is evidently predicting an invasion which was future, and the behaviour of the Jews on that occasion. He is showing beforehand some of the causes of these judgments, namely, the crimes and vices of the people; and first, in these verses, their inconsideration and want of faith. They would look, he says, to the armour of the house of the forest — But not to God. The history (2 Chronicles 32:2, &c.) best explains this passage. From thence we learn, that the prince and the people were rather solicitous to seek for human defence, by fortifying their city, than for that which was divine, by having respect unto him who was their king and protector. The house of the forest is that mentioned 1 Kings 7:2, where the armory was kept. See the note there. The prophet proceeds to foretel that they would see, that is, observe or consider, the breaches of the city of David — Namely, in order to the reparation of them, and to fortify the city; that they would gather the waters of the lower pool — In order that they might both deprive the enemy of water, and supply the city with it: of which see on 2 Chronicles 32:3-4. That they would number the houses of Jerusalem — Namely, with a view to know their own strength, and the number of their people, that so they might lay the burdens more equally upon them, and make sufficient provision for them; that they would break down the houses — Namely, which stood upon or without the walls of their city, and which therefore would have given their enemies advantage against them, and have hindered the fortifying of the city. But, adds he, ye have not looked, or will not look, into the maker thereof — That is, of Jerusalem, mentioned in the foregoing verse; him that fashioned it — Hebrew, ויצרה, the former, or framer of it. God, who made it a city, and the place of his special presence and worship; which also he had undertaken to protect, on condition that the people would observe his commands; to whom, therefore, they should have had recourse in this time of their distress. The expression מרחוק, of old, or long ago, may be added to aggravate their sin in distrusting that God who had now, for a long time, given proof of his care and kindness in defending that city.


Verses 12-14

Isaiah 22:12-14. And in that day did, or will, the Lord call, &c. — Another fault, which the prophet imputes to the carnal Jews, is impenitence, or carnal security. He foretels that God would call them to weeping and mourning, and other instances and evidences of humiliation and godly sorrow; but that, instead thereof, he should find them given up to joy and gladness, slaying oxen, &c., that is, to levity and luxury, mirth and feasting: saying, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die — The prophet tells us, that we shall certainly and suddenly be destroyed; it concerns us, therefore, to make our best of the present time, and to be merry while we have opportunity: a most perverse and desperate conclusion, proceeding from obstinate profaneness and contempt of God’s judgments. It was revealed in mine ears — God himself hath said to me; Surely this iniquity shall not be purged till you die — This, your hardening your hearts, under and against God’s judgments, and defeating and rendering ineffectual the means provided for bringing you to repentance, shall never be forgiven you, but you shall feel the effects of such conduct, and of God’s displeasure against you for it, as long as you live.


Verse 15

Isaiah 22:15. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, &c. — This second part of the prophet’s discourse, which contains the judgment upon Shebna, seems to be so connected with the former as to give reason to suppose that this man was the chief among the profane nobles of that time, against whom the prophet declaims in the preceding verses; and that, having the first place in the state and palace after the king, he had, by his example, corrupted many others. We know nothing certain concerning him, further than that he was the treasurer, or steward of the king’s household. He seems to have been a different person from that Shebna, the scribe, mentioned Isaiah 37:2. Some have thought that he was not a native Jew, but a foreigner, and a man of low birth; which they infer from “the pride of his desire to ennoble himself by a splendid sepulchre:” but of these things there is no evidence.


Verses 16-19

Isaiah 22:16-19. What hast thou here? — Or, What dost thou here? What right hast thou to this place and office? And whom hast thou here? — What relations or family? That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre — That thou art ambitious of raising a stately sepulchre for thyself and thine heirs? As he that heweth out a sepulchre on high — In a high and eminent place; a habitation for himself in a rock — A monument that shall preserve his memory to all succeeding times. The Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity — Will cause thee to be carried into captivity by a strong hand, or by the hand of a mighty man, from which, therefore, thou shalt not be able to escape. The Hebrew, משׂלשׂלן שׂלשׂלה גבר, is rendered by Dr. Waterland, will throw thee out hence with a mighty throw, and may also be rendered, will cast thee away with the casting of a mighty man, that is, with great force; and will surely cover thee — Namely, with confusion, as is here implied, and as this phrase is more fully expressed Psalms 109:29. Or, this may be an allusion to the condition of mourners in general, and particularly of condemned persons, whose faces were wont to be covered. He will violently turn and toss thee like a ball — Hebrew, צנוŠ יצנפן צנפה כדור, rolling he will roll thee with the rolling of a ball; into a large country — Like a ball which is cast into a large and plain spot of ground, where, being thrown with great force, it runs far and wide. Or, to a far country, meaning probably Assyria. There shalt thou die — After having lived in obscurity. And the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house — The honour thou didst arrive at, and the chariots in which thou didst ride with so much state at Jerusalem, shall turn to thy shame, and to the reproach of those who preferred so unworthy a person. Dr. Waterland translates the verse, He will toss and whirl thee, as he were whirling a ball, &c., and there shall be thy glorious chariots, O thou shame of thy lord’s house. And I will drive thee, &c. — These are the Lord’s words; and from thy state shall he pull thee down — Namely, the Lord shall; such sudden changes of persons being very usual in these writings.


Verses 20-22

Isaiah 22:20-22. I will call my servant Eliakim — By my Spirit fitting him for the work, and moving the heart of Hezekiah to call him to it. And I will clothe him with, thy robe, &c. — There was a peculiar sort of robe and girdle, which was the badge of his office, which should be taken from him and given to Eliakim. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem — He shall not only have the authority of a father, which thou now hast, but he shall govern them with fatherly care and affection. And the key, &c. — As the robe and the girdle or baldric, mentioned in the preceding verse, were the ensigns of power and authority, so likewise was the key; being a significant emblem of the power of opening and shutting, of binding and loosing, of letting inferiors into an office, or putting them out of it; whence the delivering of the keys of a house or city into a person’s hands signifies the giving him the power and possession of it, or the confirming to him such a grant. “To comprehend,” says Bishop Lowth, “how the key could be borne on the shoulder, it will be necessary to observe, that one sort of keys, used by the ancients, was of considerable magnitude, and, as to the shape, very much bent and crooked. Homer (Odyss., 21:6) describes the key of Ulysses’s storehouse as ευκαμπης, a large curvature, which Eustathius explains by saying it was δρεπανοειδης, in shape like a reap-hook. Huetius says, the constellation Cassiopeia answers to this description; the stars to the north making the curve part, that is, the principal part of the key; the southern stars the handle. The curve part was introduced into the key-hole, and, being properly directed by the handle, took hold of the bolts within, and moved them from their places. We may easily collect from this account, that such a key would lie very well upon the shoulder; that it must be of some considerable size and weight, and could hardly be commodiously carried otherwise. In allusion to the key as the ensign of power, the unlimited extent of that power is expressed here with great clearness as well as force by the sole and exclusive authority to open and to shut. Our Saviour, therefore, has, upon a similar occasion, made use of a like manner of expression, Matthew 16:19; and in Revelation 3:7 has applied to himself the very words of the prophet.”


Verse 23

Isaiah 22:23. I will fasten him as a nail — I will establish the power in his hands, as a nail is fixed in the strong walls or solid timber of a house. “In ancient times, and in eastern countries, as the way of life, so the houses were much more simple than ours at present. They had not that quantity and variety of furniture, nor those accommodations of all sorts, with which we abound. It was convenient, and even necessary for them, and it made an essential part in the building of a house, to furnish the inside of the several apartments with sets of spikes, nails, or large pegs, upon which to dispose of, and hang up, the several moveables and utensils in common use, and proper to the apartment. These spikes they worked into the walls at the first erection of them; the walls being of such materials that they could not bear their being driven into them afterward; and they were contrived so as to strengthen the walls by binding the parts together, as well as to serve for convenience. We see, therefore, that these nails were of necessary and common use, and of no small importance in all their apartments; conspicuous, and much exposed to observation; and if they seem to us mean and insignificant, it is because we are not acquainted with the thing itself, and have no name to express it by, but what conveys to us a low and contemptible idea. Grace hath been showed from the Lord our God, says Ezra, (Ezra 9:8,) to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place; that is, as the margin of our Bible explains it, a constant and sure abode.” Bishop Lowth. And he shall be a glorious throne to his father’s house — By his prudent and righteous government he shall procure great glory, not only to himself, but to all that have any relation to him.


Verse 24-25

Isaiah 22:24-25. They shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house — Of his own kindred and family, who shall all depend upon him, and receive glory from him; the offspring and the issue — Great and small, the children and grand-children, of his father’s house. All vessels of small quantity — The meanest of them shall receive a lustre and advantage from their relation to him; from the vessels of cups, &c. — All sorts of vessels, great or small, mean or precious, may be hanged upon him, without any fear of falling. In that day shall the nail, &c. — This must be understood of Shebna, as a repetition and confirmation of the sentence above denounced against him; shall the nail that is fastened — That seemed to be so, both in his own eyes, and in the eyes of others; be removed and fall — As above described; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off — All those wicked officers that were advanced and supported by his power.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 22:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-22.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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