Isaiah 22
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?


This chapter interrupts the series of prophecies against foreign nations. On account of its emblematic superscription, it is incorporated in the little book (סֵפֶר) that is distinguished by such superscriptions (21 and 22). Hence its present place. It contains two parts of almost equal length. In both, presumption is rebuked; in Isa 22:1–7, the presumption of the secure and reckless Jerusalem; in Isa 22:8–14, its incorrigible obstinacy, which even a perception of danger cannot overcome. In the second part of the chapter (Isa 22:15–25) the Prophet declares the punishment of the haughtiness of Shebna, the steward of the palace, involving his deposition and the calling of a worthier successor, who, however, would be likewise in danger of abusing his high office. Touching the time of the composition of the first part, we have to observe that it forms a whole. But in Isa 22:8–14 the Prophet sets the wicked obstinacy of the present time in opposition to the inconsideration of an earlier. The time referred to (Isa 22:8–12) is ascertained without difficulty from a study of these verses. It was the period of Hezekiah, and just when the Assyrians were threatening the city (xxxvi. and xxxvii.), which was by no means secured against all danger by the measures which Hezekiah took for its defence (2 Chron. 32:2 sqq. 30). There must have been then in Jerusalem persons, who in opposition to the blind, thoughtless presumption of former times (Isa 22:1–7), saw clearly the danger, yet in their wicked obstinacy would not seek the LORD, but desired only to satisfy their low carnal passions. The second part of the chapter belongs to the same time. It is directed against Shebna, the proud steward of the palace. In consequence of the divine displeasure here declared, he was actually deprived of his high office, and Eliakim, the person indicated by Isaiah, was appointed his successor. In chapters 36 and 37 we find Eliakim acting as steward of the palace and Shebna only a scribe. The latter had, it is clear, repented and submitted to the judgment of God. Therefore the punishment with which he was threatened was mitigated. But since Eliakim appears in 36 and 37 as already steward of the palace, this prophecy must belong to a somewhat earlier time.



CHAPTER 22:1–14

a) The punishment of blind presumption

CHAPTER 22:1–7


What aileth thee now,

That thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?

2     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.

3     All thy rulers are fled together,

They are bound12 by the archers;

All that are found in thee are bound together,

Which have fled3 from far.

4     Therefore said I, Look away from me;

4 I will weep bitterly,

Labour not to comfort me,

Because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.

5     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.

6     And Elam bare the quiver

With chariots of men and horsemen,

And Kir5 uncovered the shield.

7     And it shall come to pass,

That6 thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots,

And the horsemen shall set themselves in array7 at the gate.


Isa 22:1. The question מה־לד (comp. Isa 22:16 and on 3:15) is intensified by אֵפוֹא (19:12). כֻּלָּדְ for כֻּלֵּדְ comp. Micah 2:12.

Isa 22:2. In תשׁאיִת מלאה (apposition to כלך) the accusative stands first for the sake of emphasis.

Isa 22:3. On מרחוק, i.e., far off, comp. on 17:13.

Isa 22:4. אמרר בבכי properly: I will with weeping bring forth what is bitter. The Piel (in Isaiah only here, comp. Gen. 49:23; Exod. 1:14) is here, as often, employed like Hiphil in the causative sense. In this sense the Hiphil actually occurs Zech. 12:10. הֵאִיץ (comp. Gen. 19:15) insistere is found only here in Isaiah.

Isa 22:5. מהומה, tumultus, perturbatio, Deut. 7:23; 28:20; in Isaiah only here. מבוסה, conculcatio, besides only 18:2, 7. מבוכה implicatio, entangling, confusion, besides only Micah 7:4. Notice the assonance in these three words.——מקרקר is to be taken neither as verb. denominativum, nor as substantive (demolition) nor as apposition to יוֹם. It is the participle Pilpel from קוּר fodere, effodere, of which the Kal occurs 37:25 and the perf. Pilpel, Numb. 24:17. As to its construction it is in apposition to לַאדֹנָי י׳. Grammar does not require the repetition of the preposition. Notice here how the sound is an echo to the sense.——שׁוֹעַ is clamor, vociferatio, especially a cry for help. The word occurs only here.

Isa 22:6. אשׁפה quiver, in Isaiah besides 49:2. The בְּ before רכב is the בְּ of concomitance = with. רכב אדם are chariots equipped with men—manned chariots in opposition to wagons for lading (עֲגָלוֹת). פרשׁים (comp. on 21:7) stands ἀσυνδέτως, but yet is governed by בְּ. The meaning, therefore, is: Elam has seized the quiver in the midst of chariots and horsemen, i. e., has furnished an army of bowmen together with chariots and horsemen.

Isa 22:7. שִׁית without object = aciem struere , Ps. 3:7. Comp. Isa. 49:15. Notice, too, the alliteration.


1. In this first half of the discourse directed to the whole of Jerusalem, the Prophet assails the presumption with which the inhabitants formerly witnessed the approach of the enemy on an occasion not more closely specified. He asks the meaning of their going up to the roofs of the houses. It was plainly in order to see the approaching foe, although the Prophet does not expressly say this (Isa 22:1). But the noise which prevailed in the streets, and the universal gaiety prove that the enemy was not regarded with apprehension, but with proud defiance (Isa 22:2). In contrast with this presumption stands the result which the Prophet proceeds to depict. He sees the slain and prisoners of all ranks who fell into the hands of the enemy, not in manly conflict, but in cowardly flight (Isa 22:3). A second contrast to that insolent gaiety, is formed by the profound sorrow which the Prophet Himself now feels as he looks upon the ruin of the daughter of his people (Isa 22:4). For the LORD Himself brings the day of destruction on Jerusalem, while he employs as His instruments for this purpose distant nations terribly equipped for war, as whose representatives only Elam and Kir are named (Isa 22:6 and 7).

2. The burden—fled from far.

Isa 22:1-3. The expression “the valley of vision” is taken from Isa 22:5. Consult the Commentary on that verse for further particulars. That the title is formed after the analogy of the superscriptions, 21:1, 11, 13, and that the prophecy is placed here for that reason is self-evident. A hostile army advances against Jerusalem. But the inhabitants of Jerusalem are not afraid of the enemy. They ascend the roofs of the houses to see the foe. This is in itself quite natural. But yet the Prophet asks in a tone of displeasure, What is the matter with thee that thou in a body goest upon the roofs? The party addressed is plainly the personified Jerusalem. It is no good sign that all Jerusalem goes up on the house-tops. For this looks as if the coming of the enemy was regarded in Jerusalem as a spectacle for the amusement of all the people. It is yet worse that the accustomed noise prevails in the streets, and this noise is a joyous one. The city is called עַלִּיזָה which epithet includes the idea of haughtiness as well as joy, as we see from 13:3; Zeph. 3:11. (Comp. Isa. 23:12; Ps. 94:3; Jer. 50:11; 51:39; 2 Sam. 1:20). It is uncertain to what particular occasion the Prophet here alludes. He cannot have in view what is related 2 Kings 16:5; Isa. 7:1; for great despondency then reigned. This can be said too of chapter 36; 2 Chron. 28:20 is too doubtful. (Comp.EWALD,History III. p. 667 note). It was probably some event of less importance, perhaps the appearance of a predatory troop. The indignation of the Prophet would befit such an occurrence. The insolence at sight of a seemingly slight danger annoyed him, inasmuch as the appearance before Jerusalem of a single soldier belonging to the army of a power aiming at universal sovereignty, should have made them sensible of the danger threatening them from that quarter. This danger passes into fact before the Prophet’s eye. He sees a hostile army before the walls of Jerusalem. It is of course a different one from that whose appearance so little discomposed the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Now things take quite another turn. Insolence is changed into its opposite, into base cowardice; security, into the greatest distress. The Prophet sees the ground covered with dead bodies of his people. They have perished miserably, have died an inglorious death. And those very rulers (קצינים comp. 1:10; 3:6 sq.), who, on the occasion referred to in Isa 22:1 and 2, had doubtless set the example of proud defiance, are now found to be the most cowardly. They flee all together, and are, without the drawing of a bow on their part or on that of the enemy (on מִן in the signification “without” see on 14:19) taken and bound. But not only the chief men behaved with cowardice. All the Jews who fell into the power of the enemy (נמצאיך “thy found ones” not “those found in thee) were taken in their flight. They fled afar, not from far (comp. 17:13). They had sought in their timidity to flee far away, for they thought themselves safe only at the farthest possible distance from their endangered home. We here readily call to mind what is related 2 Kings 25:4 sqq.; Jer. 39:4 sqq. Comp. Lam. 4:17–20 of the flight of king Zedekiah and all his soldiers.

3. Therefore said I—my people.

Isa 22:4. In opposition to that blind presumption (Isa 22:2) the Prophet, who clearly perceives what will be hereafter, experiences profound grief. His sorrow is unintelligible to the people. They seek to comfort him. He refuses to be comforted, and asks only to be permitted to give vent to his grief. “Look away from me,” recalls vividly to mind Job 7:19; 14:6; Ps. 39:14; but in these places the LORD is entreated to turn away His holy, and, therefore, judging eye from sinful men. The expression, “the daughter of my people” first occurs here. It is not to be taken as the partitive genitive, but as the genitive of apposition, or more accurately, the genitive of identity. The daughter of my people is a daughter, i. e., a female who is my people in so far as she represents, or personifies my people. The expression, as the analogous one “daughter of Zion,” corresponds to our expressions, Germany, Prussia, Bavaria, etc. These expressions with us likewise denote the personified unity of a people under the representation of a female. Observe further how the Prophet depicts the punishment of their presumption in words which afterwards served as a model for the lamentation over Jerusalem’s destruction by the Chaldaeans (Lam. 2:11; 3:48).

4. For it is a day——the gate.

Isa 22:5-7. The conduct of the Prophet is determined by the procedure of the LORD. As He has decreed a day of destruction on Jerusalem, the sorrow of the Prophet is not without a cause. The expression יוֹם לַאדֹנָי is peculiar to Isaiah. It occurs 2:12 (34:8). What it means is learnt from 63:4 where it is called “a day of vengeance in my heart.” The expression in a somewhat modified form is used by Jeremiah (46:10) and Ezekiel (30:3). The scene of this act of judgment is to be “the valley of vision.” That Jerusalem is thus denoted is most clearly determined by the context. KNOBEL’S view that the expression does not mark the city itself, but only one of the valleys surrounding it, is very strange. Not to speak of other things, how would a judgment falling on only one of the valleys surrounding Jerusalem, correspond to the words of Isa 22:2? I believe that light is thrown on the expression “the valley of vision” by Joel. 3:12 sqq. The expression “the day of the LORD” is found first in Joel. While then Isaiah speaks of “a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity” which the LORD has, he is led to think on the place which, according to Joel, should be the scene of “the day of the LORD.” This place is “the valley of Jehoshaphat,” or, as it is termed a little after, (Joel. 3:14) “the valley of decision.” The place of judgment is thus denoted in Joel by symbolical names. He speaks of the judgment on the heathen which does not touch Israel. Isaiah speaks of the judgment on Jerusalem alone, and therefore does not call the place of judgment “the valley of decision,” but chooses instead of it another symbolical name. He calls it “the valley of vision.” Too much stress has been laid on the representation of a “valley,” both here and in Joel 3:12, 14. The valley of Jehoshaphat is not the valley of Kidron, which from this passage was afterwards called the valley of Jehoshaphat; but it is an ideal plain spread out at the foot of mount Zion, not called a valley from its lying between two mountains (compare also the valley, plain of Jezreel Josh. 17:16; Jud. 6:33; Hos. 1:5), but in opposition to the lofty height from which Jehovah descends. We have then neither to think on the situation of Jerusalem between mountains (Ps. 125:2), nor on the low street in a valley in which the Prophet is supposed to have dwelt. But Jerusalem is called a valley as being on this lower earth in opposition to the heavenly height from which the Judge comes. There are, besides, not wanting traces of the use of גיא in the wider signification of planities, plain. (Comp. 2 Sam. 8:13; Ps. 60:2; Num. 21:2). But why “the valley of vision?” To me it seems that we must not overlook the fact, that in Isa 22:1–14 seeing is so much spoken of. The inhabitants of Jerusalem go up on the roofs to see (Isa 22:1). But they do not see as they ought. Then the LORD removes partially the covering from their eyes, and they look to their armory (Isa 22:8). They look also to the breaches in their walls (Isa 22:9), and to the lower pool; but alas! they do not look to Him who formed all this long ago (Isa 22:11). The Prophet, on the other hand, whose eye the LORD had entirely opened, sees accurately (Isa 22:14). Might not then Jerusalem be called the valley of (prophetic) vision, because in it the true God-imparted seeing has its place, in opposition to the defective and often quite perverse seeing? The Prophet would therefore mean: In the place where the divine seeing has indeed its home, but on account of false human seeing is not regarded, the LORD will appear to hold judgment. The breaking down of the wall took place at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans (Jer. 39:2). Crying to the mountain.—It seems to me to suit the context better, if we (with EWALD, DRECHSLER) under ההר understand not the neighboring mountain sides, but the mountain on which the LORD dwells, whence He, according to Joel 3:16 sq., roars and utters His judgment, and to which the prayers of the suppliants are directed (Ps. 2:6; 3:5; 99:9; 121:1; Isa. 2:3; 8:18; 10:12, 32; 11:9, etc.). Isa 22:6 and 7 explain what is said in Isa 22:5. The general, indefinite “and” before Elam involves in this connection the notion “and truly, namely.” (Comp. GESEN.Thes. p. 394 c). Elam (comp. 11:11; 21:2) is the Persian Uvaja, i. e., the Susiana of the Greeks (SCHRADER,Cuneif. Inscr. p. 31). That the Elamites were renowned as archers appears from Jer. 49:30 (comp. HERZOG,R. Encycl. III. p. 748). Kir is described by Amos (9:7) as the earlier dwelling of the Syrians. He also predicts that the Syrians should be brought back thither (1:5), a prophecy whose fulfilment is attested 2 Kings 16:9. It has been almost universally assumed since J. D. Michaelis (opposed to this view are KNOBEL,Voelkertafel (Ethnological Table) p. 151. KEIL on 2 Kings 16:9; VAIHINGER in HERZOG,R. Encycl. XV., p. 394) that this Kir is the region near the river Κῦρος, a tributary of the Araxes, which falls into the Caspian Sea (comp. EWALD,Hist. III., p. 638). DELITZSCH properly observes that the river Κῦρος is written not with ק but with כ. The name has not yet been found in the Assyrian inscriptions. That the Prophet named Elam and Kir as representatives of the Assyrian host is certainly possible. Only we must understand the matter thus: For the Prophet who always beheld Assyria in the foreground of his field of vision, Assyria signifies the worldly power in general, for which reason he elsewhere includes even Babylon under the name of Assyria (7:20; 8:7). He mentions Elam and Kir, because they were remote and unknown nations. For the prophets frequently render their announcements of judgment more dreadful, by the threatening that distant people, entirely unknown, and therefore quite reckless and pitiless, should be the instrument of the judgment (comp. Deut. 28:49; Isa. 33:19; Jer. 5:15). The uncovering of the shield (comp. Cœsar Bell. Gall., 11, 21) is proper for infantry, so that all the constituents of an army—archers, chariots of war, cavalry, infantry, will be represented. In Isa 22:7 the exact rendering is “And it came to pass; thy best valleys were full,” etc. But the past tense is not to be understood absolutely. The Prophet does not pass suddenly from the description of future things to depict what had already taken place. He is to be understood relatively. He marks only a progress in the picture of the future which he beholds. He sees the chariots and horsemen (Isa 22:6) not merely at rest. He sees them in motion, he marks how they fill the environs of Jerusalem. This movement which belongs to the future, he describes as if it took place before his eyes. Thy choicest valleys, lit., the choice of thy valleys, thy best, most fruitful valleys, chief of these the valley of Rephaim (17:5), are filled and overrun with chariots and horsemen, they are so numerous. But they not merely threaten from a distance. They approach close to Jerusalem. The horsemen have taken their stand right before the gate in order to make a dash the moment they are required.


[1]Heb. of the bow.

[2]without bow.


[4]Heb. I will be bitter in weeping.

[5]Heb. made naked.

[6]Heb. the choice of thy valleys.

[7]Or. toward.

And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.
b) The punishment of defiance in sight of danger

CHAPTER 22:8–14

8          And he [8]discovered the covering of Judah,

And thou didst look in that day

To the armour of the house of the forest.

9     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.

10     And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem,

And the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.

11     Ye made also a 9dicth 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.

12     And in that day did the LORD God of hosts call

To weeping, and to mourning,

And to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth;

13     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.

14     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.


Isa 22:11. The feminine suffixes in עִֹשֶיהָ (regarding the form comp. EWALD, § 256 b) and יֹצְרָהּ are to be regarded as neuters. יָצַר is the forming, shaping in idea, to which then עָשָׂה comes as the execution. In analogous places יצר stands therefore before עָשָׂה: 43:7; 45:18; 46:11. However in 37:26; Jer. 33:2, the order is as here. We could say that the succession of ideas is conceived in the one case analytically, in the other, synthetically.

Isa 22:13. On these infinitive constructions comp. 5:5; 21:5.——The abnormal form שָׁתוֹת is in imitation of שָׁחֹט, comp. Hos. 10:4.


1. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are now no longer inspired by thoughtless presumption. They see themselves compelled by this new emergency to consider seriously their means of defence. First, they inspect the store of weapons in the arsenal (Isa 22:8). They examine the fortifications, and collect water in the lower pool (Isa 22:9). They pull down houses in order to repair the walls (Isa 22:10), and they form a new reservoir. But to Him who has caused this distress, and who alone can remove it, they do not turn their eyes (Isa 22:11). And when He brings upon them bitter misery (Isa 22:12), the only effect of it is that, with the recklessness of despair, they give themselves eagerly to pleasure, because all will soon be over (Isa 22:13). But this defiant spirit exhibited no longer in blindness, but in sight of danger, the LORD will not pardon. They must expiate it with their life (Isa 22:14).

2. And he discovered—long ago.

Isa 22:8–11. This section is closely connected with the preceding one, as the construction shows.—And he discovered. The subject of the verb is the LORD God of hosts in Isa 22:5. But, though the connection of the two sections is so intimate, a considerable interval of time must lie between them, as the transition from that blind presumption to the defiance in sight of danger here described, was hardly quite sudden. But for this close grammatical connection of the two sections one might be tempted to refer the first part (Isa 22:1–7) as a separate prediction to an earlier time. It would, in fact, have been possible for the Prophet to have combined in one prophecy this earlier prediction with a later one on account of a correspondence in subject-matter between the two. But it is most natural to regard the whole piece, Isa 22:1–14, as a single composition, and to suppose that the Prophet in the first part (Isa 22:1–7) transported himself back to an earlier juncture, because it served admirably as a foil to the later crisis which he describes (Isa 22:8–14). This later situation, which was the occasion of this whole prophecy before us, is here described by him as a basis for the complaints and denunciations of punishment which he utters, Isa 22:11b and Isa 22:13 sq. We have therefore to understand the aorists, Isa 22:8 sqq., not as praeterita prophetica, but in their proper signification. We perceive from Isa 22:8a, that the LORD at last took from the eyes of Judah the covering that caused blindness. גלה is here applied not to that which is hidden, but to that which hides, as frequently. Comp. 47:2; Nah. 3:5; Job 41:5. Judah then saw the necessity of preparing for war. They proceed therefore to the armory built by Solomon, of cedars, called the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2; 10:17, 21), which is probably identical with the בֵּית כֵּלִים39:2, in order to see how it stood with the apparatus bellicus. The primary meaning of נֶשֶׁק is tela. They next examine the fortifications of the city of David, and discover that there are many breaches in them. I do not think that under “the city of David” we are to understand the whole of Jerusalem, as Arnold appealing to 29:1 maintains (HERZOGR. Enc. XVIII., p. 593). “The city of David” is always the South-western elevated part of Jerusalem; and if this part alone is mentioned here, this need not surprise us, as we cannot expect that the Prophet should give an enumeration historically complete. We learn, moreover, from 2 Chron. 32:5, that Hezekiah fortified especially the proper city of David, or Zion. Another matter, which must be particularly attended to by those who defend a city, is to provide themselves with water, and to cut off the supply of it from the enemy. This is what the inhabitants of Jerusalem do. They collect, draw inwards the waters of the lower pool. In the valley of Gihon which borders Jerusalem on the west there are still two old pools; the upper (now Birket-el-Mamilla) and the lower (now Birket es-Sultân). Compare what is said on 7:3. The account in 2 Chron. 32:3 sq., and that in the place before us supplement one another. In the former, mention is made only of the stopping of the reservoirs. Here, prominence is given to the other necessary step, the turning into the city of the water cut off from the enemy. קִבֵּץ cannot here denote merely collecting in the pool by hindering it from flowing away. For, first, the water, without flowing off, would have risen and been soon remarked by the enemy. Secondly, the water was needed in the city. I take, therefore, קִבֵּץ in the signification in which it is employed Joel 2:6; Nah. 2:11, where it is said that faces קִבְּצוּ פָארוּר, i. e., draw in their brightness. Here, then, the meaning is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem drew the water into their city. In reference to DELITZSCH’S remark that this must rather be expressed by אסף, I call attention to the fact that Joel expresses, 2:10 and 4:15, by אסף the same thought which he had in 2:6 expressed by קבץ, whence it follows that in this place, too, קבץ can be used in the signification אסף. It may occasion surprise that Isa 22:10 interrupts the account regarding the reservoirs. But the Prophet evidently proceeds from the easier to the more difficult. The breaking down of the houses for the purpose of repairing the walls, was a greater work than drawing off the water of the lower pool into the wells or reservoirs already existing in the city. And the formation of a new pool between the walls, in order to empty the old one, might well appear the grandest work of all. The opinion of DRECHSLER, that the numbering of the houses was with a view to quartering the soldiers, is very strange. In Jer. 33:4 it is supposed that houses were demolished in order to repair the fortifications. The מִקְוָה (only here, elsewhere מִקְוֶה) which (Isa 22:11) was prepared for the waters of “the old pool,” is very probably still in existence in the Birket-el-Batrak (the pool of the patriarchs) which the Franks after this passage and 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30; Sirach 48:19, call the pool of Hezekiah. It lies within the present wall of the city east of the Yafa (Joppa) gate. It still receives its water from the Mamilla pool by means of a canal which enters the city south of the Yafa gate. (Comp. ARNOLD in HERZ.,R. Enc. XVIII., p. 619, and especially C. W. WILSON’SOrdnance Survey of Jerusalem, 1865, and WARREN’SRecovery of Jerusalem, 1872). In opposition to the new pool, the pool whose waters it received was called “the old pool.” The former name of the old pool was “the upper pool,” which is twice mentioned by Isaiah (7:3; 36:2). The expression חֹמוֹתַיִם occurs besides only in Jer. 39:4, and in the parallel passages Jer. 52:7; 2 Kings 25:4. In these places in the books of Jeremiah and Kings a double wall seems to be meant, which connected Zion and Ophel at the end of the Tyropœon. This does not suit well the situation of the pool of Hezekiah as before mentioned. It is uncertain whether we are to understand in the place before us a corner of a wall between the north wall of Zion and the wall going north-eastwards round Akra (DELITZSCH after ROBINSON), or a second double wall situated near the Yafa gate. This precaution was certainly not in itself wrong. What was wrong in their conduct was that they fixed their eyes only on these measures of human prudence, and omitted to look with confidence to Him who had made all this, i. e., the whole situation, and had arranged it long ago. [The common view, which supposes God to be here described as the maker and fashioner of Jerusalem, has against it the analogy of 37:26.—D. M.].

3. And in that day—of hosts.

Isa 22:12-14. We may ask how the LORD then called the inhabitants of Jerusalem to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness (3:24), and to girding with sackcloth (20:2). The language is probably taken from the proclamations by which a general fast, a day of humiliation and prayer was ordained (1 Kings 21:9, 12). Such proclamations proceed proximately from the rulers, but ultimately from the LORD, who by the course of His providence renders them necessary. It is now also the LORD who so “makes and forms” everything that Israel, if it would give heed, would be called thereby to repentance. One thinks here very naturally of 37:1 sqq., where it is related that Hezekiah, in consequence of the message of Rabshakeh, rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and sent deputies clothed with sackcloth to Isaiah. I would say that as Isa 22:8–11 recall to mind the defensive measures taken by Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:2 sqq.), so what is said in Isa 22:12 reminds us of Isa. 37:1 sqq. Hezekiah was better than the majority of his people. His own father was Ahaz, and his son was Manasseh. He formed between the two only a short episode, which stemmed indeed for a short time the flood of corruption, but which rendered the inundation under Manasseh all the more impetuous. We can therefore reasonably assume that at the very time when Hezekiah and his immediate attendants were exhibiting these signs of penitence there were very many people in Jerusalem who were doing that wherewith the Prophet (Isa 22:13) reproaches the Jews. They saw the danger. They were no longer blind as in Isa 22:1 sqq. They did not, however, let the perception of the danger move them to lay hold of the only hand that could save them, but in defiant resignation they refused this help. They made up their mind to go to destruction, but first they would enjoy life right heartily (Isa 22:13). The words אכול ושׁתו I prefer, with DRECHSLER, KNOBEL, and others, to take as words of the Jews, rather than with DELITZSCH ascribe them to the Prophet. For, as words of the Prophet they are superfluous, while as words of the Jews they round off their speech. Moreover the form שָׁתוֹ makes the impression of being an abbreviation borrowed from popular usage. Isa 22:14. The perfect ונגלה cannot be taken as the aorist. It marks rather, as DRECHSLER correctly observes, the revelation as an abiding one, continuing to echo in the inner ear of the Prophet. כִּפֶּר (comp. 6:7; 27:9) properly to cover. According to the way in which this covering takes place the word denotes forgive, or atone. Here it seems to me to signify to forgive, for the mode of threatening excludes the thought of atonement. A recompense after death is not yet taught in the Old Testament. Punishments are inflicted in this life. If a man has to suffer punishment for guilt unpardoned, he has to bear the burden till it has destroyed him, till he is dead. עד till, declares, therefore, that up to death, all through life, they will have to bear the punishment of that sin. After death follows only Sheol in which there is no more life. [Isaiah himself seems clearly to teach the doctrine of a punishment after death, 33:14; 66:24. And in chapter 14 the Prophet represents the dwellers of Sheol as meeting the king of Babylon with taunts on his appearance among them. This supposes that there is life there. Though the inhabitants of Sheol are prevented from taking part in the affairs of the present life on earth, as Scripture affectingly testifies, this does not hinder their possession of consciousness and activity in the invisible world.—D. M.].


[8]uncovered, took away.


Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,

CHAPTER 22:15–25

15          Thus saith the LORD God of hosts;

Go, get thee unto this 10treasurer,

Even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,

16     What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here,

That thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here,

11As he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high,

And that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?

17     Behold, the LORD [12]will carry thee away with a mighty captivity,

And will surely cover thee.

18     He will surely violently turn,

And toss thee like a ball into a 13large country;

There shalt thou die,

And there the chariots of thy glory

Shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.

19     And I will drive thee from thy station,

And from thy state shall he pull thee down.

20     And it shall come to pass in that day,

That I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah;

21     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.

22     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.

23     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.

24     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.

25     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.


Isa 22:15. לֶךְ־בּא comp. 26:20; Ezek. 3:4, 11; 2 Ki. 5:5. The change of אֵל and עַל without any perceptible difference of meaning, which is very common in Jeremiah (comp. on Jer. 10:3) occurs also in Isaiah not unfrequently (comp. on 10:3).

Isa 22:16. מרום is accusative of the place.

Isa 22:17. Grammar forbids our considering טלטלה (it and Pilp. טלטל only here in Isaiah) as in the construct state. For in all cases where this anomaly appears to occur, the second word is in apposition. To take גבר as a vocative (as after the Syriac version many do, also CHEYNE and DIESTEL), is still harder than to regard it as in apposition to יהוה. For though a tolerable irony might lie in גבר, yet there is no example of the word so standing alone as vocative. The subst. טלטלה stands instead of the customary infinitive absolute. I do not understand why it is said that עטה cannot have the signification “wrap up,” “inwrap,” for it signifies induere in 1 Sam. 28:14; Ps. 104:2; Ps. 71:13. Comp. Ps. 109:19, 29; Isa. 59:17; Jer. 43:12; and this induere cannot be understood in many of these places as merely covering, but must denote an inwrapping or enveloping one’s self tightly. It might be said that עָטָה then signifies “to inwrap one’s self,” and stands with the accusative of the thing which is put on or in which a person wraps himself, while in the passage before us עטה is joined with the accusative of the person. But it is well known that the Hebrew verbal stems are by no means clearly discriminated in respect to transitive and intransitive use, and besides, Isaiah employs here only rare verbal forms. It appears to me that the Prophet by עטה indicates the laying together of the coverings on the person of Shebna. צנף denotes the rolling together into a ball, טלטל the casting forth. צנף is to wrap round, obvolvere (the verb only here and Lev. 16:4). Thence comes צְנֵפָה, what is rolled or wound together (ἅπ. λεγ.). כַּדּוּר is not דּוּר with the prefix, but כּ belongs to the stem. Comp. 29:3 and כִּידוֹר Job 15:24. The signification is pila, sphaera, globus, ball. It is to be construed in apposition to צְנֵפָה. The word קָלוִֹן is found only here in Isaiah. מַצָּב ,הָדַף and מַֽעֲמָד only here in Isaiah; הָרַם is found besides 14:17 and in Piel 49:17.

Isa 22:21. חִזֵּק (with double accusative after the analogy of verbs of clothing) is to make fast, strengthen (Nah. 2:2).


1. The prophecy, which chastises the haughty and defiant spirit of the inhabitants of Jerusalem is followed by another which has for its subject the pride of a single person. Shebna, the steward of the palace, and first minister of the king, was a haughty, insolent man. He went so far in his arrogance that he caused a sepulchre to be hewn out for himself in a rock on high (probably on the height of Mount Zion). He was standing beside his new sepulchre, which was yet in course of construction, when Isaiah, by God’s command, came to him and asked him by what right and title he was hewing for himself here a sepulchre in the rock on the height (Isa 22:15 and 16)? Jehovah will cast him away as a ball into a distant, level country. There shall he die, and the disgrace of the house of David will be there his funeral pomp. But before that, the Lord will remove him from his office (Isa 22:17–19). The LORD will call to his place as steward of the palace Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who will prove a father to Jerusalem and Judah, and the key of authority over the realm shall be put into his hand (Isa 22:20–22). Eliakim will thereby raise his family also to high honors. As one hangs on a nail all vessels of the house, so will he elevate and bear all the descendants of his house; but this procedure will not remain unpunished—for the nail will break, and the vessels hanging on it will fall down and be dashed to pieces (Isa 22:23–25).

2. Thus saith—over the house.

Isa 22:15. סֹכֵן occurs only here. The feminine סֹכֶנֶת is applied as a predicate to the Shunammite Abishag (1 Kings 1:2, 4). A סֹכֶנֶת [Margin of English BibleBHS: a cherisher] is there sought for the king and also found in the person of Abishag. That in this connection the signification: “intimate friend,” amica intima, familiarissima, suits, is obvious. The signification “intimate friend” is favored by the related root, שׁכן, to dwell, with the additional signification, to dwell together (σύγκοιτος. Comp. Prov. 8:12; GES.Thes. p. 1408), and the Arabic sakan, friend, and the Hiphil. הִסְכִּין, to form acquaintance (Job 22:21), cognitum habere (Ps. 139:3) consuevisse (Numb. 22:30). That this was in the East a title of office is well known. (Comp. the LEXICONS and GESENIUS on this place). I therefore translate סֹכֵן by “privy counsellor.” The pronoun הַזֶּהthis, involves, like the Latin iste, the idea of contempt. The name שֶׁבְנָא (written שֶׁבְנָה, 2 Kings 18:18, 26; comp. ibid. Isa 22:37 and 19:2; Isa. 36:3, 11, 22; 37:2) is in the O. T. applied only to this one individual. From the circumstance that his genealogy is not given, some have been inclined to infer that he was a novus homo, an upstart, perhaps not even an Israelite. Neither conclusion seems to me to be justified. For, that Isaiah does not name the father of Shebna because he was a homo ignobilis, or quite unknown, is so unlikely, that we must rather on the contrary say, if the father of Shebna had been a man of base, or not even of Israelitish origin, or a person quite unknown, Isaiah would have given prominence to this circumstance, because it would serve to set the haughtiness of Shebna in the moreglaring light. It is therefore more probable that Isaiah, contrary to the approved custom of the East, omitted the name of the father, because he would not show this respect to the son. The fact that Shebna is further described as placed “over the house,” indicates that סֹכֵן was only a general title. He belonged, in general, to the friends of the king, but he was, in particular, the highest among them, viz.: major domus, maire du palais. He filled at the same time the first office at court and in the state. Comp. 1 Kings 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5. From 2 Kings 15:5 we learn that even the son of the king and subsequently his successor on the throne filled this office.

3. What hast thou——pull thee down.

Isa 22:16-19. The question “What hast thou here?” evidently means: What entities thee to make thy grave here? While the question “Whom hast thou here?” intimates that Shebna will not succeed in burying here even one of his kindred. The thrice-repeated פה, here, intimates that the place was a select one, not standing open to every person. The following words חצבי מרים to the end of the verse, make on one the impression that they are a quotation from some poem unknown to us. For 1) the third person does not suit the connection here; 2) the parallelism, consisting of two members, and the forms חצבי and חקקי indicate a poetic origin. What height is meant appears from the statement in many passages (1 Kings 2:10; 11:43, etc.;2 Chron. 16:14, etc.) that the sepulchres of the kings were in the city of David, i. e., on Zion, and according to 2 Chr. 32:33, on the height of Zion. [Eng. Ver. there runs “in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David;” but “height” should be substituted for “chiefest.”—D. M.]. In this quarter, although not in the proper sepulchres of the kings, those kings also were interred who did not appear worthy of the full honor of a kingly burial (2 Chron. 24:16). Comp. HERZOG,R.- Enc. I., p. 773 sqq. In the neighborhood of the royal sepulchres on the height of Zion, Shebna also seems to have laid out for himself a tomb hewn in a rock. An honor which was voluntarily accorded to such a man as Jehoiada he arrogates to himself. The last member of verse 16 bears evidently the character of poetic parallelism, for it repeats for the sake of rhetorical effect the thought of the preceding clause, though somewhat modified (the grave is described as a habitation for the dead). Comp. Obad. 3; Hab. 2:19. Shebna believes that he is able to secure for himself and his family, even after death, a permanent dwelling for all times. But the Prophet announces to him that the LORD will cast him forth, will whirl him out with a whirl as a man, i. e., with the force of a strong man. Isa 22:18. We have here a pregnant construction. צנף besides meaning to roll together, must have latent in it the idea of rolling forth, as it is connected with אֵל. צְנֵפָה is then not the act of rolling, but that which is rolled together. The expression רחבת ידים, widely extended on both sides, is found further only in Gen. 34:21; Judges 18:10; 1 Chron. 4:40; Neh. 7:4. The Prophet evidently means by this large country Mesopotamia, which then still belonged to the Assyrian empire. It seems to me that there is also an antithesis in this expression. As being cast forth stands in opposition to the peaceful staying at home which Shebna hoped for, so the broad country is in contrast to the elevated rock-hewn sepulchre above the narrow valley. There, consequently, in a place which is the very opposite of the place where Shebna wished to build his grave, there shall he die, and there shall he be buried. But even the burial ceremonies will contrast strangely with those which Shebna had anticipated. Almost all interpreters take קלון ב׳ א׳ as vocative. But then the sentence “and there the chariots, etc.,” would be without a predicate; or we must supply an unmeaning predicate such as crunt, venient, or an arbitrary one such as peribunt. The VULGATE and the Peshito have taken the words ושׁמה to אדניך together as subject and predicate. But when they translate “et ibi erit currus gloriae tuae ignominia domus domini tui” we must not think that they take currus as the subject; for this construction yields no tolerable sense. But ignominia, etc. (קלון ב׳ א׳) is the subject. We have, indeed, so far as I know, no express statements respecting the use of chariots at the funerals of the Hebrews. Only in 2 Kings 23:30 we read that the dead body of king Josiah was brought in a chariot (comp. 2 Chron. 35:24) from Megiddo to Jerusalem. But the thing is in itself probable, and in the passage before us the mention of chariots would be well explained if we durst assume that Isaiah thought of the magnificent funeral with chariots which Shebna might expect. In this supposition I translate “and there will thy state-carriages be—the shame of the house of thy lord;” that is, the shame which the house of thy lord will suffer, and that, too, chiefly through thy fault, this shame will be the escort of thy dead body, it will serve thee instead of the chariots with which they would have furnished thy funeral here, suitably to thy dignity as placed over the palace, it will constitute thy obsequies and accompany thee to the grave. That in the expression “shame of thy lord’s house,” there is an allusion to the house of the king over which Shebna was placed, is self-evident. There is no hysteron proteron when the Prophet announces the deposition of Shebna from his office. For, in fact, this deposition is only the consequence of the judgment which was to come on Shebna on account of his presumption in building himself a vault. How can a man, against whom such a sentence has been published, remain steward of the palace? He displeases the King of kings. How can the earthly king, if he will not draw on himself the wrath of the heavenly King, retain him? He must dismiss the man to whom Jehovah Himself has given notice of dismissal. Isa 22:19. The change of person in the two verbs is best explained, after what has been remarked, in this way: the first person refers to the LORD as the Supreme Ruler; the third person, to the human authority, by means of which the divine will is executed on Shebna. This third person is not mentioned by name, and is to be rendered by “he” or “one.” Shebna’s pride was certainly only one symptom of a spirit displeasing to God. He was assuredly no “servant of the LORD;” he therefore did not employ his power to promote the cause of Jehovah, and he must give way to a better man.

4. And it shall come—hath spoken it.

Isa 22:20-25. On the day when Shebna must quit his post, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah will occupy his place. We know of this Eliakim nothing except what we learn from the present passage and from 36 and 37. He was in all probability of the priestly race. For Hilkiah, as his father was called, was a common name of priests. At all events, all persons called Hilkiah mentioned in the O. T. are, with a single doubtful exception (Jer. 29:3) of priestly, or at least of Levitical origin, Jer. 1:1; 2 Kings 22:4 sqq.; 1 Chron. 5:39; 6:30; 26:11; Ezra. 7:1; Neh. 8:4; 11:11; 12:7. It seems to follow from Isa 22:21, that the steward of the house had an official dress, with the putting on of which his installation was connected. The כְֹתנֶת, tunic was one of the principal parts of the dress of the priests. (Ex. 28:40; 29:5, 8, etc.). The girdle (אַבְנֵט) also belonged to the dress of the priests (Ex. 28:29; Lev. 8). מֶמְשֶׁלֶת in the sense of sphere of rule, jurisdiction, in Isaiah besides only 39:2. Where the paternal authority stands so high as among the Jews the expression, “to be a father to one” denotes a right to rule, which has no other limits than those which nature itself imposes on a father in relation to his child (Gen. 45:8; Judges 17:10; 18:19). The expression “the house of Judah” is found in Isaiah besides only 37:31. It occurs first in Hosea (1:7; 5:12, 14); and is especially frequent in the older parts of Jeremiah (3:18; 5:11; 11:10, 17, etc.), and in Ezekiel (4:6; 8:17; 9:9, etc.). Respecting the distinction between Judah and Jerusalem comp. on 2:1; 5:3. Isa 22:22. The power over the house is essentially a power of the keys. For the key opens the entrance to the house, to the apartments and to all that is in them. He, therefore, who alone has this key, has alone also the highest power. The expression reminds us on the one hand of 9:5 (“on his shoulder” is a symbolical representation of the office as a burden to be carried), on the other hand of Job 12:14. The LORD Himself is in Rev. 3:7 represented after the present passage as He who has “the key of David.” Eliakim is not only to possess the highest authority at court and in the State, he is also to use his position for advancing all his house to high honor. This will not happen without abuse of power and evil consequences. A double image is used to express what Eliakim will be to his house. First, he shall be fastened as a nail (יָתֵד33:20; 54:2) in a sure place (i. e., in a place where it sticks fast). I do not think that יָתֵד is here to be taken as a tent-peg; for that would not suit Isa 22:25. The figure is intended first of all to convey the idea that Eliakim’s influential position will be firmly established and secure. The word of the LORD has called him to it. In this secure and influential place Eliakim will be for his own family a throne of honor (1 Sam. 2:8; Jer. 14:21; 17:12), i. e., he will bear his whole family, it will honorably rest on him, as upon a throne. We see that the two figures come substantially to the same thing. But the figure of a nail is in itself a less honorable one than that of a throne. For the nail is only a common article serving simply for the hanging up of vessels. It happens then to Eliakim that he is a nail to which all that belongs to the house of Hilkiah attaches itself, in order to attain to honor by him (Isa 22:24a). They hang on Eliakim the offspring (צאצאים an expression which occurs only Job 5:25; 21:8; 27:14; 31:8 and Isa. 34:1; 42:5; 44:3; 48:19; 61:9; 65:23) and the issue; the two expressions, denote the direct and collateral issue. צְפִעוִֹת properly parasite plants, hangers-on. צפיעה, ἅπ. λεγ., is a contemptuous expression, as we can see from צפיע (Ezek. 4:15). All vessels of small quantity, of smallness (36:9, comp. Ex. 15:16) from the basins (Ex. 24:6) to the skin bottles, or vessels like skin bags or bottles. Thus his entire kindred will fasten themselves on him. The proper, literal expressions “the offspring and the issue” are illustrated by the figurative expressions which follow. Isa 22:25. In that day (with significant allusion to Isa 22:20) i. e., at the time when this nepotism will be at its height, and be ripe for judgment, the nail which was fastened in a sure place will give way, break and fall, and the burden hanging on it will be dashed to pieces. Many interpreters take offence at this turn of the prophecy, which unexpectedly betokens disaster, and HITZIG pronounces Isa 22:24 sq. a later addition. But as the prophecy directed against Shebna had the effect that he actually resigned his post in favor of Eliakim, and was content with the lower office of a scribe (36:3 sqq.), in like manner the unexpected statement, Isa 22:24 sq., can have had the salutary design, and effect of warning Eliakim. If this result followed, then the words were not, in fact, pregnant with disaster, but with profit. If Eliakim did not let himelf be admonished, he deserved what is threatened.


[10]privy counsellor.

[11]Or, O he.

[12]will whirl thee out with a whirl as a man.

[13]Heb. large of spaces.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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