Isaiah 22
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?

Isa 22:1-14. Prophecy as to an Attack on Jerusalem.

That by Sennacherib, in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah; Isa 22:8-11, the preparations for defense and securing of water exactly answer to those in 2Ch 32:4, 5, 30. "Shebna," too (Isa 22:15), was scribe at this time (Isa 36:3) [Maurer]. The language of Isa 22:12-14, as to the infidelity and consequent utter ruin of the Jews, seems rather to foreshadow the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in Zedekiah's reign, and cannot be restricted to Hezekiah's time [Lowth].

1. of … valley of vision—rather, "respecting the valley of visions"; namely, Jerusalem, the seat of divine revelations and visions, "the nursery of prophets" [Jerome], (Isa 2:3; 29:1; Eze 23:4, Margin; Lu 13:33). It lay in a "valley" surrounded by hills higher than Zion and Moriah (Ps 125:2; Jer 21:13).

thee—the people of Jerusalem personified.

housetops—Panic-struck, they went up on the flat balustraded roofs to look forth and see whether the enemy was near, and partly to defend themselves from the roofs (Jud 9:51, &c.).

Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.
2. art—rather, "wert"; for it could not now be said to be "a joyous city" (Isa 32:13). The cause of their joy (Isa 22:13) may have been because Sennacherib had accepted Hezekiah's offer to renew the payment of tribute, and they were glad to have peace on any terms, however humiliating (2Ki 18:14-16), or on account of the alliance with Egypt. If the reference be to Zedekiah's time, the joy and feasting are not inapplicable, for this recklessness was a general characteristic of the unbelieving Jews (Isa 56:12).

not slain with the sword—but with the famine and pestilence about to be caused by the coming siege (La 4:9). Maurer refers this to the plague by which he thinks Sennacherib's army was destroyed, and Hezekiah was made sick (Isa 37:36; 38:1). But there is no authority for supposing that the Jews in the city suffered such extremities of plague at this time, when God destroyed their foes. Barnes refers it to those slain in flight, not in open honorable "battle"; Isa 22:3 favors this.

All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.
3. rulers—rather, "generals" (Jos 10:24; Jud 11:6, 11).

bound—rather, "are taken."

by the archers—literally, "by the bow"; so Isa 21:17. Bowmen were the light troops, whose province it was to skirmish in front and (2Ki 6:22) pursue fugitives (2Ki 25:5); this verse applies better to the attack of Nebuchadnezzar than that of Sennacherib.

all … in thee—all found in the city (Isa 13:15), not merely the "rulers" or generals.

fled from far—those who had fled from distant parts to Jerusalem as a place of safety; rather, fled afar.

Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.
4. Look … from me—Deep grief seeks to be alone; while others feast joyously, Isaiah mourns in prospect of the disaster coming on Jerusalem (Mic 1:8, 9).

daughter, &c.—(see on [720]Isa 1:8; [721]La 2:11).

For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.
5. trouble … by the Lord—that is, sent by or from the Lord (see on [722]Isa 19:15; Lu 21:22-24).

valley of vision—(See on [723]Isa 22:1). Some think a valley near Ophel is meant as about to be the scene of devastation (compare see on [724]Isa 32:13,14).

breaking … walls—that is, "a day of breaking the walls" of the city.

crying to the mountains—the mournful cry of the townsmen "reaches" to (Maurer translates, towards) the mountains, and is echoed back by them. Josephus describes in the very same language the scene at the assault of Jerusalem under Titus. To this the prophecy, probably, refers ultimately. If, as some think, the "cry" is that of those escaping to the mountains, compare Mt 13:14; 24:16, with this.

And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.
6. Elam—the country stretching east from the Lower Tigris, answering to what was afterwards called Persia (see on [725]Isa 21:2). Later, Elam was a province of Persia (Ezr 4:9). In Sennacherib's time, Elam was subject to Assyria (2Ki 18:11), and so furnished a contingent to its invading armies. Famed for the bow (Isa 13:18; Jer 49:35), in which the Ethiopians alone excelled them.

with chariots of men and horsemen—that is, they used the bow both in chariots and on horseback. "Chariots of men," that is, chariots in which men are borne, war chariots (compare see on [726]Isa 21:7; [727]Isa 21:9).

Kir—another people subject to Assyria (2Ki 16:9); the region about the river Kur, between the Caspian and Black Seas.

uncovered—took off for the battle the leather covering of the shield, intended to protect the embossed figures on it from dust or injury during the march. "The quiver" and "the shield" express two classes—light and heavy armed troops.

And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.
7. valleys—east, north, and south of Jerusalem: Hinnom on the south side was the richest valley.

in array at the gate—Rab-shakeh stood at the upper pool close to the city (Isa 36:11-13).

And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.
8. he discovered the covering—rather, "the veil of Judah shall be taken off" [Horsley]: figuratively for, exposing to shame as a captive (Isa 47:3; Na 3:5). Sennacherib dismantled all "the defensed cities of Judah" (Isa 36:1).

thou didst look—rather, "thou shalt look."

house of … forest—The house of armory built of cedar from the forest of Lebanon by Solomon, on a slope of Zion called Ophel (1Ki 7:2; 10:17; Ne 3:19). Isaiah says (Isa 22:8-13) his countrymen will look to their own strength to defend themselves, while others of them will drown their sorrows as to their country in feasting, but none will look to Jehovah.

Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.
9. Ye have seen—rather, "Ye shall see."

city of David—the upper city, on Zion, the south side of Jerusalem (2Sa 5:7, 9; 1Ki 8:1); surrounded by a wall of its own; but even in it there shall be "breaches." Hezekiah's preparations for defense accord with this (2Ch 32:5).

ye gathered—rather, "ye shall gather."

lower pool—(See on [728]Isa 22:11). Ye shall bring together into the city by subterranean passages cut in the rock of Zion, the fountain from which the lower pool (only mentioned here) is supplied. See on [729]Isa 7:3; 2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:3-5, represent Hezekiah as having stopped the fountains to prevent the Assyrians getting water. But this is consistent with the passage here. The superfluous waters of the lower pool usually flowed into Hinnom valley, and so through that of Jehoshaphat to the brook Kedron. Hezekiah built a wall round it, stopped the outflowing of its waters to debar the foe from the use of them, and turned them into the city.

And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.
10. numbered—rather, "ye shall number," namely, in order to see which of them may be pulled down with the least loss to the city, and with most advantage for the repair of the walls and rearing of towers (2Ch 32:5).

have ye broken down—rather, "ye shall break down."

Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.
11. Ye made … a ditch—rather, "Ye shall make a reservoir" for receiving the water. Hezekiah surrounded Siloah, from which the old (or king's, or upper) pool took its rise, with a wall joined to the wall of Zion on both sides; between these two walls he made a new pool, into which he directed the waters of the former, thus cutting off the foe from his supply of water also. The opening from which the upper pool received its water was nearer Zion than the other from which the lower pool took its rise, so that the water which flowed from the former could easily be shut in by a wall, whereas that which flowed from the latter could only be brought in by subterranean conduits (compare see on [730]Isa 22:9; Isa 7:3; 2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:3-5, 30; Ecclesiasticus 48:17). Both were southwest of Jerusalem.

have not looked … neither had respect—answering by contrast to "Thou didst look to the armor, ye have seen ('had respect', or 'regard to') the breaches" (Isa 22:8, 9).

maker thereof—God, by whose command and aid these defenses were made, and who gave this fountain "long ago." G. V. Smith translates, "Him who doeth it," that is, has brought this danger on you—"Him who hath prepared it from afar," that is, planned it even from a distant time.

And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
12. did the Lord God call—Usually the priests gave the summons to national mourning (Joe 1:14); now Jehovah Himself shall give it; the "call" shall consist in the presence of a terrible foe. Translate, "shall call."

baldness—emblem of grief (Job 1:20; Mic 1:16).

And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
13. Notwithstanding Jehovah's "call to mourning" (Isa 22:12), many shall make the desperate state of affairs a reason for reckless revelry (Isa 5:11, 12, 14; Jer 18:12; 1Co 15:32).
And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,
Isa 22:15-25. Prophecy That Shebna Should Be Deposed from Being Prefect of the Palace, and Eliakim Promoted to the Office.

In Isa 36:3, 22; 37:2, we find Shebna "a scribe," and no longer prefect of the palace ("over the household"), and Eliakim in that office, as is here foretold. Shebna is singled out as the subject of prophecy (the only instance of an individual being so in Isaiah), as being one of the irreligious faction that set at naught the prophet's warnings (Isa 28:1-33:24); perhaps it was he who advised the temporary ignominious submission of Hezekiah to Sennacherib.

15. Go, get thee unto—rather, "Go in to" (that is, into the house to).

treasurer—"him who dwells in the tabernacle" [Jerome]; namely, in a room of the temple set apart for the treasurer. Rather, "the king's friend," or "principal officer of the court" (1Ki 4:5; 18:3; 1Ch 27:33, "the king's counsellor") [Maurer]. "This" is prefixed contemptuously (Ex 32:1).

unto Shebna—The Hebrew for "unto" indicates an accosting of Shebna with an unwelcome message.

What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?
16. What … whom—The prophet accosts Shebna at the very place where he was building a grand sepulcher for himself and his family (compare Isa 14:18; Ge 23:1-20; 49:29; 50:13). "What (business) hast thou here, and whom hast thou (of thy family, who is likely to be buried) here, that thou buildest," &c., seeing that thou art soon to be deposed from office and carried into captivity? [Maurer].

on high—Sepulchres were made in the highest rocks (2Ch 32:33, Margin).

habitation for himself—compare "his own house" (Isa 14:18).

Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.
17. carry … away with … captivity—rather, "will cast thee away with a mighty throw" [Maurer]. "Mighty," literally, "of a man" (so Job 38:3).

surely cover—namely, with shame, where thou art rearing a monument to perpetuate thy fame [Vitringa]. "Rolling will roll thee," that is, will continually roll thee on, as a ball to be tossed away [Maurer]. Compare Isa 22:18.

He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house.
18. violently turn and toss—literally, "whirling He will whirl thee," that is, He will, without intermission, whirl thee [Maurer]. "He will whirl thee round and round, and (then) cast thee away," as a stone in a sling is first whirled round repeatedly, before the string is let go [Lowth].

large country—perhaps Assyria.

chariots … shall be the shame of thy lord's house—rather, "thy splendid chariots shall be there, O thou disgrace of thy lord's house" [Noyes]; "chariots of thy glory" mean "thy magnificent chariots." It is not meant that he would have these in a distant land, as he had in Jerusalem, but that he would be borne thither in ignominy instead of in his magnificent chariots. The Jews say that he was tied to the tails of horses by the enemy, to whom he had designed to betray Jerusalem, as they thought he was mocking them; and so he died.

And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.
19. state—office.

he—God. A similar change of persons occurs in Isa 34:16.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
20. son of Hilkiah—supposed by Kimchi to be the same as Azariah, son of Hilkiah, who perhaps had two names, and who was "over the household" in Hezekiah's time (1Ch 6:13).
And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
21. thy robe—of office.

girdle—in which the purse was carried, and to it was attached the sword; often adorned with gold and jewels.

father—that is, a counsellor and friend.

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
22. key—emblem of his office over the house; to "open" or "shut"; access rested with him.

upon … shoulder—So keys are carried sometimes in the East, hanging from the kerchief on the shoulder. But the phrase is rather figurative for sustaining the government on one's shoulders. Eliakim, as his name implies, is here plainly a type of the God-man Christ, the son of "David," of whom Isaiah (Isa 9:6) uses the same language as the former clause of this verse. In Re 3:7, the same language as the latter clause is found (compare Job 12:14).

And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.
23. nail … sure place—Large nails or pegs stood in ancient houses on which were suspended the ornaments of the family. The sense is: all that is valuable to the nation shall rest securely on him. In Ezr 9:8 "nail" is used of the large spike driven into the ground to fasten the cords of the tent to.

throne—resting-place to his family, as applied to Eliakim; but "throne," in the strict sense, as applied to Messiah, the antitype (Lu 1:32, 33).

And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
24. Same image as in Isa 22:23. It was customary to "hang" the valuables of a house on nails (1Ki 10:16, 17, 21; So 4:4).

offspring and the issue—rather, "the offshoots of the family, high and low" [Vitringa]. Eliakim would reflect honor even on the latter.

vessels of cups—of small capacity: answering to the low and humble offshoots.

vessels of flagons—larger vessels: answering to the high offshoots.

In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.
25. nail … fastened—Shebna, who was supposed to be firmly fixed in his post.

burden … upon it—All that were dependent on Shebna, all his emoluments and rank will fail, as when a peg is suddenly "cut down," the ornaments on it fall with it. Sin reaches in its effects even to the family of the guilty (Ex 20:5).

A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown [1882]

Bible Hub
Isaiah 21
Top of Page
Top of Page