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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 22

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXII.

The prophet lamenteth the invasion of Jewry by the Persians: he reproveth their human wisdom, and worldly joy: he prophesieth Sheba's deprivation, and Eliakim's substitution, prefiguring the kingdom of Christ.

Before Christ 714.


Verse 1

Isaiah 22:1. The burden of the valley of vision The seventh discourse of the second book, contained in this chapter, relates to the calamity of the people of Jerusalem, and to the fall of Shebna. Besides the inscription, it contains first, an account of the calamity and perturbation of the people of Jerusalem at the time of the irruption of their enemies upon Judaea; Isaiah 22:1-14. And secondly, the judgment upon Shebna; Isaiah 22:15-25. In the former part of the prophesy we have, first, a mystical delineation of the fatal calamity which should bring destruction upon the city under king Zedekiah, set forth under the figure of an exprobatory address directed to the people of Jerusalem, secure and exulting in the prosperity of the present times. Secondly, the calamity and fear of the approaching time, in which the Assyrians should invade and possess themselves of a great part of Judaea, which should be the forerunner, as it were, of a latter and more grievous calamity; Isaiah 22:6 to the middle of Isaiah 22:11. Thirdly, the crimes of the people, which provoked God's indignation against them; inconsideration, impenitence, and carnal security: Isaiah 22:11-14. Vitringa is of opinion, that Jerusalem is here called the valley of vision, because it was the seat of prophesy, the place where God revealed himself in prophetic visions; and it might be called the valley, with respect to the hills wherewith it is surrounded. He conjectures, that possibly there were schools of the prophets in that valley which was beneath the temple. The reader should observe, that as a two-fold calamity to come upon Jerusalem is foretold in this chapter; so the latter, and the more grievous, is placed first; and after it, that which in order should precede, and be as it were the forerunner of it. See a similar example, chap. Isaiah 14:28, &c.


Verses 1-3

Isaiah 22:1-3. What aileth thee now, &c.— The former part of this discourse sets forth the distress of Jerusalem from the Chaldees and Assyrians; and in these verses we have, first, the fate of the city; the commotion and perturbation thereof upon the report of the hostile army approaching to besiege it, and the sad circumstances of that calamity, and of that time. Vitringa thinks that the beginning of the second verse should be connected with the first, and thus read and understood; What aileth thee now, that thou art all of thee gone up to the house-tops,—Thou city, full of acclamations, tumultuous, exulting? "Whence comes it, that thou, who wast lately so full of joy and exultation, now in terror and silence ascendest the house-tops, either to reconnoitre the approaching enemy, or to consult for thine own safety?" The prophet by this mode of address means severely to rebuke the people. He goes on to relate four circumstances of this time; the first is, That the city, before it should be taken by the Chaldeans, should lose numbers of its people by a severe famine. Thy deceased men are not pierced through with the sword, nor dead in battle. See 1 Samuel 4:9. The second is, that it should be deserted by the rulers and chief men; All thy rulers are fled together; which was the case. See Jeremiah 39:3-4. The third is, that these rulers, thus flying away, should be taken and bound by the enemy. See 2 Kings 25:6-7. Jeremiah 39:6. Lamentations 4:19. The fourth circumstance is, that the people who remained in Jerusalem after the flight of the rulers, but especially the soldiers who were set over the defence of the lower city, should also be bound. See 2 Chronicles 32:4-5; 2 Chronicles 32:33. 2 Kings 25:11. Jeremiah 40:1 and Vitringa.


Verse 4-5

Isaiah 22:4-5. Therefore said I, Look away Behold the prophet here anticipating those lamentations which he was afterwards to pour forth, and which Jeremiah afterwards so pathetically poured forth, an eye-witness of this calamity. See his Lamentations. The expressions here are too strong to be applied to any other calamity than that great one, when the Jews were carried to Babylon. Who does not see, says Vitringa, in Isaiah thus weeping over Jerusalem, a type of Jesus weeping over the same city in its last extremity? See Luke 19:41.


Verse 6-7

Isaiah 22:6-7. And Elam, &c.— And Elam beareth the quiver; with chariots cometh the Syrian, and with horsemen; and Kir uncovereth the shield. Lowth. The second member of the first part of this prophesy begins here, setting forth the Assyrian calamity, which was the forerunner of the greater one described in the former verses: And the first distress here foretold is, that the Assyrians, Medes, and Elamites should enter into Judaea in great multitudes, and possess the valleys near to Jerusalem. See on ch. Isaiah 21:2 and Isaiah 15:1. There is no doubt that the Medes and Elamites were united with the Assyrians in the time of Sennacherib, but not in that of Nebuchadnezzar; so that this prophesy must certainly refer to the former.


Verse 8

Isaiah 22:8. And he discovered, &c.— And the barrier of Judah shall be laid open. Lowth. This might be rendered, "And he shall dismantle the fortified cities of Judah." The meaning of the metaphor is, that the fortified cities covered Judaea as with a veil. What the prophet here expresses figuratively, is expressed literally in the history, ch. Isaiah 36:1 and 2 Chronicles 32:1.


Verses 8-11

Isaiah 22:8-11. And thou didst look in that day, &c.— Or, And thou shalt look, &c. The verbs may be rendered throughout in the future. The third member of the former part contains the causes of these judgments; namely, the crimes and vices of the people; and, in these verses, their inconsideration and want of faith. This passage is best explained by the history, 2 Chronicles 32:2; 2 Chronicles 32:33. Whence we learn, that the prince and the people were rather solicitous to seek for human defence by fortifying their city, than to have respect unto Him who was their king and defence. The house of the forest is that mentioned 1 Kings 7:2 where the armory was laid: see also 1 Kings 10:17 and Nehemiah 3:19.


Verses 12-14

Isaiah 22:12-14. And in that day did, &c.— Or, And in that day will, &c. Another fault which the prophet imputes to the carnal Jews, is manifest and hardened epicurism, or carnal security, founded in impious and profane principles, by which, giving up the hopes of a better life, they indulged themselves in the voluptuous use of present good things; a wickedness which, as most offensive to him, God here denounces by his prophet that he will punish to the last degree. See ch. Isaiah 3:14 where the iniquity of the princes is spoken of, among whom it is likely from what follows that Shebna was remarkable.


Verse 15

Isaiah 22:15. Thus saith the Lord God of Hosts The other part of this discourse, which contains the judgment upon Shebna, the overseer of the palace, is so connected with the former, as plainly to shew that this man was the chief and most eminent among the profane nobles of that time, against whom the prophet declaims in the preceding period; who, having the first place in the state and palace after the king, had corrupted many, himself the head and chief of the profane and irreligious. This period contains, first, a command given to the prophet, concerning a judgment to be denounced on Shebna, in the name of the Lord, Isaiah 22:15. Secondly, the sum of that judicial denunciation, which is two-fold; convictive, and penal. Convictive, wherein the security and confidence conceived in his mind, concerning the liability of his fortune and estate, is very sharply rebuked, Isaiah 22:16. Penal, which sets forth the sentence passed against him, or the punishments determined by the divine judgment, and the confirmation of this sentence added as a clause to this penal denunciation. The punishments are, his being carried away from the land of Canaan into a distant country, and as is probable into Assyria, Isaiah 22:17-18. A deprivation from his high state and dignity, Isaiah 22:19 and the substitution of Eliakim, his rival, in his place, with the high authority and prosperity of his house, Isaiah 22:20-24. Then follows in the 25th verse the confirmation, and, as it were, recapitulation of the whole sentence. We know nothing certain concerning this Shebna; it is hardly probable that he was the same person with that mentioned, 2 Kings 18:18. And it has been thought by some, that he was not a native Jew, but a foreigner, and a man of low birth; which they would collect from the pride of his desire to ennoble himself by a splendid sepulchre, Isaiah 22:16.


Verse 17-18

Isaiah 22:17-18. Behold, &c.— Or, Behold, the Lord will throw thee out hence with a mighty throw, &c. Isaiah 22:18. He will toss and whirl thee, as if he were whirling a ball, &c. and there [shall be] thy glorious chariots, O thou shame of thy Lord's house.


Verse 22

Isaiah 22:22. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder In the former verses the prophet declares the investiture of Eliakim with the office and dignities of Shebna, as well as the goodness of Eliakim's disposition. He here says metaphorically, that the keys of the house of David shall be upon his shoulder: i.e. the entire government and administration of the house: so the Chaldee paraphrast explains it. This has been often and justly applied to the Lord JESUS. See Revelation 3:7 and Isaiah 9:6.


Verse 23-24

Isaiah 22:23-24. And I will fasten him as a nail See Ezra 9:8. The word יתד iathed, rendered a nail, signifies a pole, or post, fixed in the earth, in the middle of a tent, to support the top, which, being full of hooks, serves likewise to hang vessels, garments, and the like, upon. See Zechariah 10:4. The meaning is, that God would confirm and establish Eliakim, as a nail or pole which remains fixed and immoveable in the earth, and which, moreover, is useful for the support of those things which are hung upon it for the use and ornament of the house. We may just observe, that while from the darkness of history respecting these persons, the literal completion of this prophesy is hard to be known; there seems no doubt that it has a spiritual reference to that true and faithful steward who is figured out by Eliakim, who is said to have the key of the house of David, who openeth, and no man shutteth, and who shutteth, and no man openeth. The meaning of the word Eliakim is, The mighty God will cause to arise. But for a fuller account of this matter we refer to Vitringa. Bishop Lowth reads the second member of the 24th verse, The offspring of high and low degree.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The title of this prophesy is the burden of the valley of vision, alluding to the name of Jerusalem, which signifies the vision of peace; or because that was the place where God made known his will in visions to the prophets. It is called a valley, the hills surrounding it on every side; and the vision is a burden, a heavy calamity, though not utterly consuming, yet greatly terrifying them.

1. Their consternation at the approach of the Assyrian army is great; running to the tops of their houses, to see if any help was at hand, or to observe the approaches of the enemy; full of stirs or noises, preparing to oppose their invaders; or thou wast full of stirs, the streets crowded with people; a tumultuous city, populous and noisy with the din of trade, a joyous city, rich and revelling. But now the voice of mirth has ceased, the horrid sound of war is heard alone, and fear and consternation are spread abroad. Though the sword had not reached them, the famine was felt; or the fright they were put into sunk them spiritless, as if thrust through with a sword. Nor was this panic among the people only; their rulers increased it, flying from all the neighbouring cities to Jerusalem, without attempting to defend them, (see chap. 36:) or many of Jerusalem, instead of encouraging the people, thought only how to secure themselves by flight: instead of preparing for a vigorous defence, they surrendered themselves to bonds, or were so disheartened, that they had not courage to make an arrow, as it may be rendered, bound from the bow. Note; The alarm of war is terrible: May we never, by our abuse of the blessings of peace, provoke God to bring the scourge upon us; for, if under his wrath, our fleets and armies could yield us small protection!

2. Great is the prophet's grief at the scene of desolation before him. He desires his friend not to attempt to comfort him, but to leave him to weep bitterly over the spoiling of the daughter of his people; and abundant cause there is for his tears, when trouble is on every side, the people as mire in the streets trodden down by the Assyrians, the walls of the fortified cities battered into dust, all the land full of distress and perplexity; and the Lord's correcting hand seen in the judgment adds bitterness to the affliction. Note; (1.) Every good man is a patriot, and when he can do no more to save his country will weep over its ruins. (2.) Whatever we feel of afflictions from man, we must look farther to the hand of God who sends or permits them.

3. The vast hosts, composed of different nations, Persians, and Medes, which were in Sennacherib's army, fill the country with chariots and horsemen, and prepare for the siege of Jerusalem: they make ready their shields, and place their advanced guard, to intercept any going in, or coming out of the gates of the city. How melancholy a change, to see those valleys, once so thick with corn, now yield an iron harvest of erected spears.

2nd, When recovered a little from their terrors, they began to think what was to be done. He discovered the covering of Judah; either Hezekiah opened his magazines, or God detected their hypocrisy in this time of danger, by the temper they discovered; or rather Sennacherib, having taken the surrounding fortresses which covered the city, came in full view of it, ready to begin the siege. Hereupon we are told,

1. The steps they took to put Jerusalem in a posture of defence. Their first concern was, to arm the people; for which purpose, the armoury of the house of the forest of Lebanon, built by Solomon, is opened; they next surveyed the fortifications, and set themselves to repair the breaches of the fortress, called the city of David, 2 Samuel 5:7 which in times of peace had been greatly neglected. To secure plenty of water, they collected together those of the lower pool; and, having raised an outer wall, drew the water out of the old pool into the ditch between the walls, to strengthen the place, as well as to distress the enemy for want of it. The houses are numbered, that each may furnish its quota of men, money, or provisions; for the use of the soldiery; and those in the suburbs, which might facilitate the approaches of the besiegers, or which were too near the wall within, so as to prevent an easy communication from one part to another, are demolished, and the materials applied to strengthen the wall. Note; (1.) In times of danger we must exert our utmost efforts, and trust God with the issue. (2.) Times of peace are often times of waste; because war seems distant, a provision against it is neglected, and that is a temptation to the enemy to attack us unprepared.

2. Amid their warlike preparations they neglected the God of war: they fortified the city, but forgot the Maker of it, without whom the watchman waketh in vain.

Their king indeed looked up to him, 2 Kings 18:5. 2 Chronicles 32:8 but his irreligious courtiers, with Shebna at their head, seemed to have no thought of divine assistance, and trusted only to the arm of flesh. Note; Though kings may make religion fashionable by espousing the profession of it, it is not in their power to convert the heart. A greater king than they must work, or their courtiers, though complaisantly submissive, will be mere outward conformists, not internal converts.

3. Their unhumbled temper under this visitation is remarked to their shame. God called to weeping and mourning, &c. the expressive signs of true penitential sorrow; to produce which, was the great end of their affliction; and his prophets seconded the providence with their preaching; but vain was the call. Having, as they thought, secured the city, they set danger at defiance, and mirth, jollity, and riot reigned; they treated the prophetic warnings with contempt; and since the prophet urged their danger, and death at their door, as an argument to humble their souls in sorrow for their sins before God, they, with infidel disregard, made it a plea for their impiety, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die; if it be a short life, let it be a merry one; and, disbelieving the doctrine of a future state, appeared fearless of the consequences of their sins, 1 Corinthians 15:32. Note; (1.) A life of pleasure naturally leads to a state of infidelity. (2.) They who risk eternity on the miserable hope that at death their being is at an end, will find too late their dreadful delusion.

4. God, in displeasure against such impiety, denounces his wrath on these proud mockers. They contemned the prophet's warning, but they shall feel the wrath which they despised.

3rdly, We have a prophesy of a domestic occurrence in the household of Hezekiah, which foretells the disgrace of Shebna, and the advancement of Eliakim. What was Shebna's particular crime, which occasioned his being degraded, does not appear: the Jews say he was a traitor, and had agreed to give up the city to the Assyrians; but, being disappointed in the attempt, was carried away captive by them, and severely used for deceiving them.

1. His fall is declared to him by Isaiah. Though a great man, and high in office, both treasurer and steward of the household, he is not too great to be faithfully admonished. What hast thou here? what estate, or what business? being, it is supposed, a foreigner promoted by Ahaz, and continued in office by Hezekiah, to whose reformation he conformed; and whom hast thou here? or what friends to prevent thy ruin, or what family, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre? a habitation in a rock, with a stately monument erected over it, where his remains might be deposited with pomp: vain preparations, when doomed to captivity, sudden and terrible, and covered as a criminal led to execution! Tossed to and fro as a ball in a strange land, he should lead a wearisome life, and lie there, destitute of all his former splendor, a shame to his master's house, to Ahaz, who promoted him. Suspected, probably before, and now degraded by Hezekiah, he shall fall from his high station, in which he seemed fixed as a nail in a sure place; and all his dependants and followers, as is the case when favourites are disgraced, sink with him. Note; (1.) High places are slippery; they who seem most firmly fixed, are often nearest the precipice of ruin. (2.) Pride looks even to the tomb, and the lying monument is taught to flatter, when the corpse is turning to putrefaction. (3.) A faithful minister of God must not fear to deliver his message boldly to the greatest, however offensive it may appear.

2. Eliakim's advancement is foretold; a faithful servant of God, promoted at the prophet's instigation, who inclined Hezekiah to put so worthy a man in Shebna's stead; and it would be a deep mortification to the disgraced minister, to see the ensigns of office that he wore now transferred to another; the robe, the girdle, and the key. A worthy magistrate would he prove, a father to the people, strengthened of God to discharge the trust reposed in him, having the entire management of affairs committed to him, fixed in his office, and, through God's blessing, an honour to his family. Note; (1.) When preferment comes, not hunted down by solicitation in the way of pride and covetousness, but unsought for from the hand of Providence, and conferred as the wages of desert, then it is truly honourable. (2.) When God calls us into office, we may expect from him strength to discharge it. (3.) They who would rule well, must regard their subjects as children, display parental affection with authority, and shew that the great end of all they do is the public good: and then Pater patriae, the father of their country, will be their most honourable title. (4.) The higher the office, the heavier the burden; and the greater diligence, fidelity, and zeal are required to discharge it. (5.) Eliakim was herein the type of the Lord Jesus, the servant of God, emphatically so called, chap. Isaiah 42:1 appointed by his Father to the office of Ruler in his church, and upheld by him in the discharge of his arduous undertaking, invested with the ensigns of royalty, and possessed of all power; having the keys of wisdom and grace to unlock the treasures of his word; the keys of heaven, to open the kingdom to all believers; and of death and hell, which he shuts, and none can open; he opens, and none shut. His government is fixed and established for ever; he is the brightness of his Father's glory; his people's happiness and honour are derived from him; and, careful of the interest of his faithful subjects, from the least to the greatest they receive out of his fulness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 22:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-22.html. 1801-1803.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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