The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?
Verses 1-14. - A PROPHECY AGAINST JERUSALEM. The prophet, present in Jerusalem, either actually, or at any rate in spirit, sees the inhabitants crowded together upon the housetops, in a state of boisterous merriment (vers. 1, 2). Outside the walls is a foreign army threatening the town (vers. 5-7). Preparations have been made for resistance, which are described (vers. 8-11); but there has been no turning to God. On the contrary, the danger has but made the bulk of the people reckless. Instead of humbling themselves and putting on sackcloth, and weeping, and appealing to God's mercy, they have determined to drown care in drink and sensual enjoyment (vers. 12, 13). Therefore the prophet is bidden to denounce woe upon them, and threaten that Jehovah will not forgive their recklessness until their death (ver. 14). There is nothing to mark very distinctly the nationality of the foreign army; but it is certainly represented as made up of contingents from many nations. Delitzsch holds that the Assyrian armies were never so made up, or, at any rate, that the nations here mentioned never served in its ranks ('Site of Paradise,' p. 237); but this is, perhaps, assuming that our knowledge on the subject is more complete and exact than is really the case. It is almost impossible to imagine any other army than the Assyrian besieging Jerusalem in Isaiah's time. Moreover, the particulars concerning the preparations made against the enemy (vers. 9-11) agree with those mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:3-5 and 30 as made by Hezekiah against Sennacherib. And the second section of the chapter has certainly reference to this period. It seems, therefore, reasonable to regard the siege intended as that conducted by Sennacherib in his fourth year ( B.C. 701), of which we have a brief account in his annals (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 135, 11. 15-18). Verse 1. - The burden of the valley of vision. "The valley of vision" is only mentioned here and in ver. 5. It must have been one of the deep depressions near Jerusalem troll which there is a good view of the town. The LXX. render, "the burden of the valley of Zion." What aileth thee now? Jerusalem is addressed by the prophet, who assumes the role of a spectator, surprised at what he sees, and asks an explanation. That thou art wholly gone up to the housetops. Partly, no doubt, they went to watch the enemy and his movements, as Rosenmüller says; but still more for feasting and revelry (Judges 16:27; Nehemiah 8:16). The flat roofs of Oriental houses are often used as places of recreation and entertainment, especially in the evening (Shaw, 'Travels,' p. 211; Chardin, 'Voyages en Perse,' vol. 4. p. 116; Layard, 'Nineveh,' vol. 1. p. 177, etc.).
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.
Verse 2. - A joyous city (comp. ver. 13). Thy slain men are not slain with the sword. It is a blockade rather than a siege. Men die, not of wounds, but of privations (Lamentations 4:9). Sennacherib himself says, "Hezekiah, like a caged bird, within Jerusalem, his royal city, I confined; towers round about him I raised; and the exit of the great gate of his city I shut" (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 135, II. 15-18).
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.
Verse 3. - All thy rulers are fled together; rather, all thy chief men. We must make allowance for Oriental hyperbole. The meaning is that numbers of the principal men, regarding resistance as vain, had endeavored to make their escape from the doomed town, but had been captured and bound by the enemies' archers. All that are found in thee; rather, belonging to thee. The reference is to those who had made their escape and were fleeing far away. The archers seize them, and bind them all together. We often see a number of captives bound together by a single rope in the Egyptian bas-reliefs. Which have fled from far; rather, which were flying far away.
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.
Verse 4. - Therefore said I. The prophet turns from the description of the scene before him to an account of his own feelings. Look away from me, he says; "leave me free to vent my sorrow without restraint; I wish for no consolation - only leave me to myself." Because of the spoiling. The word used sometimes means" destruction;" but" spoiling" is a better rendering here. Sennacherib describes his "spoiling" of Jerusalem on this occasion as follows: "Thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, precious carbuncles, great... stones, couches of ivory, lofty thrones of ivory, skins of buffaloes, horns of buffaloes, weapons, everything, a great treasure, and his daughters, the eunuchs of his palace, male musicians, and female musicians, to Nineveh, the city of my dominion, did Hezekiah send after me" (G. Smith, 'Eponym Canon,' p. 135, II. 29-37). To what straits Hezekiah was reduced in order to collect a sufficient amount of the precious metals we learn from 2 Kings 18:15, 16.
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.
Verse 5. - It is a day... By the Lord; rather, there is a day to the Lord; or, the Lord has a day. God has in reserve such a day; and it will assuredly arrive in due course. Hence the prophet's grief. In the valley of vision. We may suppose that Hezekiah, before he made the submission recorded in 2 Kings 18:14 and in the 'Cylinder of Sennacherib,' col. 4:11. 28, 29, tried the chances of battle against the Assyrians in this valley, and that Isaiah had a prophetic vision of the fight. Breaking down the walls; rather, undermining. The Assyrian sculptures show numerous examples of this practice. Sometimes swords or spears are used to dislodge the stones of the wall, sometimes crow-bars or axes (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 82). Crying. Some regard this word, and also that translated "the walls" in the preceding clause, as proper names, and render the passage, "Kir undermineth, and Shoa is at the mount" (Ewald, Cheyne, Luzzatto). But it seems unlikely that "Kit" would be mentioned twice.
And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.
Verse 6. - Elam bare the quiver. Elam, the country extending from the Zagros range to the Lower Tigris, and watered by the Choaspes, Eulaeus, Pasitigris, and other rivers, was an independent kingdom from a very early date (Genesis 14:1, 9), and in Isaiah's time was generally hostile to Assyria. Sargon, however, relates that he conquered a portion of the country, planted colonies in it from the more western parts of his empire, and placed both colonists and natives under the governor of Babylon ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9. p. 16). It is thus quite possible that both Sargon and Sennacherib may have had a contingent of Elamites in their armies. With chariots of men and horsemen; rather, with troops of men (who were) horsemen (comp. Isaiah 21:7). Kir uncovered the shield. "Kir" is mentioned in 2 Kings as the place to which Tiglath-Pileser transported the inhabitants of Damascus (2 Kings 16:9), and by Amos (Amos 9:7) as the original country from which the Syrians were derived. It has been recently identified with Kirkhi, near Diarbekr, or with Kirruri, in the Urumiyah country (Cheyne); but neither identification is marc than possible. (On uncovering shields as a preliminary to engaging in battle, see Caesar, 'Do Bell. Gall.,' 2:21.)
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.
Verse 7. - And it shall come to pass, etc. This verse and the next are closely connected, and introduce the new subject of the preparations which the Jews made for their defense. Translate, And it came to pass, when thy choicest valleys were full of chariots (or, troops), and the horsemen had set themselves in array toward the gate, that then did he draw off the cavorting of Judah, etc.
And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.
Verse 8. - The covering of Judah was that which hid their weakness either from themselves or from the enemy - probably the former. God drew this aside, and they suddenly saw their danger, and began to think how they could best defend themselves. Arms were the first things needed. The armor of the house of the forest. "The house of the forest" was probably that portion of the palace of Solomon which he had called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2-5). This was, it would seem, used as an armor (1 Kings 10:17; 1 Kings 14:27; Isaiah 39:2).
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.
Verse 9. - Ye have seen also.... are many; rather, ye saw also were many. The breaches of the city of David. "The city of David" may be here a name for Jerusalem generally, as "the city where David dwelt" (Isaiah 29:1), or it may designate the eastern hill, where David fixed his residence (2 Samuel 5:7; Nehemiah 3:15, 16, 25; Nehemiah 12:37). In 2 Chronicles 32:5 we read that Hezekiah at this time "built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Mille in the city of David," where a particular part of Jerusalem seems certainly to be meant. Ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. The arrangements made by Hezekiah with respect to the water-supply at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, seem to have been the following: He found on the north of the city, where the Assyrian attack was certain to be delivered, in the vicinity of the Damascus gate, a pool or reservoir (Isaiah 7:3), fed by a conduit from some natural source, which lay open and patent to view. The superfluous water ran off from it by a "brook" (2 Chronicles 32:4), which passed down the Tyropoeon valley, and joined the Kedron to the southeast of Ophel. His first step was to cover over and conceal the open reservoir, and also the" brook" which ran from it, at least as far as the northern city wall, to prevent their use by the Assyrians. He then further made a conduit underground (2 Chronicles 32:30) within the city, along the Tyropoeon depression, to a second reservoir, or "pool," also within the city, which could be freely used by the inhabitants (see ver. 11; and comp. Ecclus. 48:17). Further, it is probable that he carried a conduit from this second pool, under the temple area, to the" fount of the Virgin" on the eastern side of Ophel, and thence further conveyed the water by a tunnel through Ophel to the "pool of Siloam." (This last may be the work here alluded to.) The inscription recently discovered at this peel is probably of Hezekiah's time (see 'Quarterly Statement' of Palest. Expl. Fund for April, 1881, p. 70).
And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.
Verse 10. - Ye have numbered... have broken down; rather, ye numbered... ye broke down. The "numbering" was probably in order to see how many could be spared for pulling down. The repair of the walls with materials thus furnished was a sign of extreme haste and urgency. It would seem from vers. 7, 8 that the repairs were not begun until the town was invested.
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.
Verse 11. - Ye made also a ditch; rather, a lake, or reservoir (see the comment on ver. 9). But ye have not looked unto the maker thereof; i.e. you have not looked to God, who in his eternal counsels foreknew and decreed all the steps that you are taking for your defense (see below, Isaiah 37:26).
And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
Verse 12. - In that day. The day alluded to in ver. 7, when the choice valleys in the neighborhood of Jerusalem were first seen to be full of a hostile soldiery, and the Assyrian horsemen were observed drawing themselves up opposite the gates. Such a sight constituted an earnest call upon the people for immediate repentance. Baldness (comp. Isaiah 15:2; Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10). It has been said that "baldness" was forbidden by the Law (Cheyne); but this is not so, absolutely. Baldness was wholly forbidden to the priests (Leviticus 21:5; comp. Ezekiel 44:20); and certain peculiar modes of shaving the hair, the beard, and the eyebrows, practiced by idolatrous nations, were prohibited to all the people (Leviticus 19:27; Deuteronomy 14:2). But such shaving of the head as was practiced by Job (Job 1:20) and other pious men, was not forbidden to laymen, any more than the wearing of sackcloth. It was regarded as a natural mode of exhibiting grief.
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.
Verse 13. - And behold joy and gladness (comp. ver. 2). "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is a common sentiment, if not a common expression. It has been supposed to have given rise to the Egyptian practice of carrying round the model of a mummy to the guests at feasts. According to the Greeks, Sardanapalus had a phrase very like it engraved upon his tomb ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 500). Sailors have often acted upon it, when they found it impossible to save their ship. On seeing their city invested, a portion of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, despairing of safety, did as sailors have done so frequently.
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.
Verse 14. - It was revealed in mine cars by the Lord of hosts; rather, the Lord of hosts revealed himself in mine ears, saying. This iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die. The sin of turning a call to repentance into an excuse for rioting and drunkenness is one which God will not pardon. It implies a hardness of heart which cannot fail to issue in final impenitence.
Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,
Verses 15-24. - PROPHECY ON THE DEPOSITION OF SHEBNA AND THE ELEVATION OF ELIAKIM. In its first and simplest application, this section predicts the fall of one state official and the advancement of an-other - matters, no doubt, of some importance in the court history of the time, but scarcely (with reverence be it said) of such moment as to be worthy either of prophetic announcement or of divinely inspired record. It has, therefore, been generally felt that there must be a secondary application of the passage. According to some, the two officials represent respectively the two cove-hunts, the old and the new; according to others, they stand for the two great parties in the Jewish slate of the time - that which put its trust in Jehovah, and that which leant upon heathen alliances. Verse 15. - The Lord God of hosts. This form, Adonay Jehovah Tsabaoth - rarely used by Isaiah, but occurring above in vers. 5, 12, and 13 - seems to show that this section is in its right place, being intended as a sequel to the description of Sennacherib's siege. This treasurer. The word "this" is contemptuous. That translated "treasurer" is of doubtful import. The key to it is probably to be found in the cognate noun, translated "storehouse" in 2 Chronicles 32:28, and "store" in 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4, 6; 2 Chronicles 16:4; 2 Chronicles 17:12. Translate, this storekeeper. Shebna (see below, Isaiah 36:2, 11, 22; Isaiah 37:2; and comp. 2 Kings 18:18, etc.). The name, which is not found elsewhere, is thought to be Syriac rather than Hebrew, and Shebna himself is conjectured to have been a foreign adventurer, perhaps "a refugee from Damascus" (Cheyne). (See the next verse.) Which is over the house. An office like the imperial praefectus palatio" at Rome, or the Frankish "mayor of the palace" (see Genesis 41:40; 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3). At this time it seems to have been the highest office that a subject could hold (2 Chronicles 26:21; 2 Kings 18:18, etc.).
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?
Verse 16. - What hast thou here? i.e. what business, or what right? It seems, certainly, to be implied that Shebna was wholly unconnected with Jerusalem. Whom hast thou here? i.e. what relations? what family? To be justified in hewing out a large tomb, Shebna should have had a numerous family for whom graves would be needed. Otherwise, his excavation of a grand sepulcher was merely selfish and ostentatious. As he that heweth him out a sepulcher on high. Jewish tombs of any pretension were generally excavations in the solid rock, on the side of some hill or mountain, and had often a very elevated position. Tombs exist on the slopes of all the hills about Jerusalem, but are most numerous on the eastern side of the temple mount, which slopes steeply to the Kedron valley. A square-topped doorway leads into a chamber, generally square, from which recesses, six or seven feet long, two broad, and three high, are carried into the rock horizontally, either on a level with the floor, or with a platform, or shelf, halfway up one of the walls. These recesses have been called loculi. After a body had been placed in one, it was commonly closed by a stone, which fitted into the end, and thus shut off the body from the chamber. Chambers had sometimes twelve such loculi. An habitation (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:5). We must not suppose, however, that the Jews, like the Egyptians and Etruscans, regarded the soul as inhabiting the tomb. The soul descended into sheol; the grave was the "habitation" of the body only.
Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.
Verse 17. - The Lord win carry thee away with a mighty captivity; rather, the Lord will hurl thee away, O man, with a hurling; i.e. "will hurl thee away to a distance." It is not said that Shebna would be a captive. Will surely cover thee; literally, will cover thee with a covering; i.e. "will make thee obscure" (Rosenmüller) - a fitting punishment for one who aimed at attracting attention and making himself famous (ver. 16).
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.
Verse 18. - He will surely violently turn and toss thee, etc.; literally, rolling he will roll thee with rolling like a ball, etc. Into a large country. Assyria, or perhaps Egypt. If Shebna was disgraced on account of his recommending the Egyptian alliance, he may not improbably have taken refuge with Tirhakah. There the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house; rather, there shall be the chariots of thy glory, O thou shame of thy lord's house. His chariots, in which he gloried, should accompany him, either as spoil taken by the enemy, or as the instruments of his flight.
And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.
Verse 19. - I will drive thee from thy station; rather, from thy post, or office (comp. 1 Chronicles 23:28). Shall he pull thee down. Jehovah scorns to be meant in both clauses (comp. Isaiah 34:16). The full accomplishment of this prophecy is nowhere declared to us. We merely find that, by the time of Rabshakeh's arrival at Jerusalem as Sennacherib's envoy (Isaiah 36:2-4), Shebna had lost his post as prefect of the palace, and filled the lower position of scribe or secretary. He may, however, have been subsequently further degraded, and thereupon he may have fled to Egypt, as Jeroboam did (1 Kings 11:40).
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
Verse 20. - In that day. In the day of Shebna's deposition from his office of prefect of the palace. My servant Eliakim. On the dignity of this title, when given by God himself, see the comment on Isaiah 20:3.
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.
Verse 21. - With thy robe... with thy girdle. The dress of office worn by Shebna would be taken from him, and Eliakim would be invested therewith. The "robe" is the long-sleeved cloak or tunic worn commonly by persons of rank; the "girdle" is probably an ornamental one, like those of the priests (Exodus 28:39), worn over the inner tunic. He shall be a father; i.e. a protector, counselor, guide (comp. Job 29:16, "I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out"). It is, perhaps, implied that Shebna had not conducted himself as a "father."
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.
Verse 22. - The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder. A key would seem to have been the special badge of the prefect's office, which included the control of the stores (ver. 15), and the general management of the household. It was, perhaps, a part of the form of investiture, that the key should be first laid on the prefect's shoulder and then delivered into his hand. Among the Greeks the priests of Ceres are said to have borne a key on their shoulder, permanently, as a badge of office (Callimach., 'Hymn. ad Cererem,' 1. 45). The reference to this passage in Revelation 3:7 is sufficient to show that Eliakim, the "servant of Jehovah" (ver. 20), is, to a certain extent, a type of Christ; perhaps also of his faithful ministers (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23).
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.
Verse 23. - I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place (comp. Ezra 9:8; Zechariah 10:4). The idea intended to be expressed is firmness and fixity of tenure. He shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house (compare the next verse). All his relations, even the most remote, shall derive honor from him, and bask in the sunshine of his prosperity. So shall all members of the family of God, made sons of God by adoption in Christ, participate in the final glory of Christ in his eternal kingdom.
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.
Verse 24. - All the glory. According to scriptural notions, the "glory" of a family consists very much in its size (Genesis 15:5; Psalm 127:5, etc.). And Christ's glory in his final kingdom will consist greatly in the number of the saved (Revelation 7:4-9). The offspring and the issue; i.e. the flourishing scions, and the despised seedlings alike. The word translated "issue" is a term of contempt (see Ezekiel 4:15). From the vessels of cups; rather, of bowls (comp. Exodus 24:6). To all the vessels of flagons; rather, of pitchers. "A numerous, undistinguished, family connection" seems to be intended (Delitzsch).
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.
Verse 25. - SEQUEL OF THE PROPHECY CONCERNING ELIAKIM. This verse has been truly called "an enigma" (Kay). It is impossible to understand it of Shebna. "The nail that was fastened in a sure place" can only refer to the nail said to have been so fastened in ver. 23. Are we, then, to understand that Eliakim too will experience a reverse of fortune? But then all the force of the contrast between him and Shebna would be gone. Is it not possible that the prophet, seeing in Eliakim a type of the Messiah, and becoming more and more Messianic in his utterances, has ended by forgetting the type altogether, and being absorbed in the thought of the antitype? He, the nail, so surely fixed in his eternal place, would nevertheless be "removed" for a time, and then "he cut down and fall" (comp. Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:8). At the same time would be "cut off" the burden which Messiah bore (Isaiah 53:12, "He bare the sin of many"). Verse 25. - In that day. Not the day of Shebna's fall, certainly (ver. 20), but some ether. Is not the day that of Christ's earthly mission, when it seemed as if his people were about to acknowledge him (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40), and his throne to be established, but suddenly Messiah was "cut off" (Daniel 9:26) - stricken for the transgression of his people (Isaiah 53:8)? The burden that was upon it shall be cut off. The great burden upon the Messiah was the load of human sin which he had to bear. "He himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). By his death this burden was "cut off" (1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). For the Lord hath spoken it. The double attestation, at the beginning and at the end of the verse, is a mark of the vast importance of the announcement contained in it, which is, in fact, the germ of the great doctrine of the atonement.