Notes on Isaiah 22, 23
David H. Linden,
University Presbyterian Church,
I think the best explanation is that it speaks of a time well in the future. Many think a prophecy is always a prediction – always about some future event. That is wrong; a prophecy is a word from the Lord about anything! In early Isaiah so many of his oracles have been about things near in time, that we may forget that God may have a message of a more distant time.
22:1 The sense is “what do you mean by this?” There is a strange disconnect here. Their celebration is oblivious to the death coming upon them. These things do not fit together and that is the point Isaiah is making. Their celebration happiness will end in agony.
22:2,3 The defeat was so terrible that many died
without being slain in battle. They
perished of other things like starvation (Jeremiah 14:18). Rather than being
defeated they capitulated without a fight, then the slaughter happened. Their king fled and the Babylonians chased
and caught him (2 Kings 25:1-7). This
specific incident, tied to v.3, helps make it more clear that the oracle is about
the time when
22:4 It is the prophet who sees what is coming and takes it seriously. Those who are full of gaiety, have no reason for their revelry. Disaster is ahead. If any would believe the prophet, they too would cease the revelry and take the matter seriously. Everything hangs on whether the Word of the Lord is being received and believed. For Isaiah this is so painful, he tells the party-goers to leave him because of his grief. This is what happens with the people of God. We believe what God says, and that very often gives us a totally different perspective on what makes others happy and us sad. Isaiah knows of the destruction of ‘the daughter of my people’.
22:5-7 Isaiah speaks of the valleys beside
They “looked to” weapons, their strengthened city walls, and
they made great efforts to have a good supply of water. The water supply was a
major issue. Covering over and
protecting the supply from a spring outside
2 Chronicles 32:1-5,30.
The defenses of
It was the Lord who made it (i.e.
22:12-13 These words written in a past tense are still part of a prophecy of the future. Isaiah speaks as if present 150 years later. The call of the Lord is to repent in dejection for their sin. Instead they give themselves to revelry, a very important theme in this oracle! Even when they saw things crumbling, instead of turning to the Lord they sought all the pleasure they could get out of life. The response to God’s judgment was “eat, drink and be merry” (1 Corinthians 15:32), a very fitting description of Western decadence. Their misplaced trust let them down. When the results were in and the fulfillment of the word of the Lord was upon them, they still did not repent. Repentance is a wonderful gift of God (Acts 11:18). God was left out of their plans. Their hope was in other things and when it all went wrong, they partied knowing “tomorrow we die”. They were godless to the end and “refused to repent”, as in Revelation 16:9.
22:14 A play on words is the uncovered of v.8 (God’s protective covering removed) is matched by another uncovering. What is brought out into the open or revealed in v.14 is a statement from God to Isaiah. The prophet does not make up his message; it is not a cleverly invented story (2 Peter 1:16). Prophecy is never the prophet’s original thought (2 Peter 1:20,21). True prophecy has its origin in God. And so here in v.14 Isaiah speaks of the source of his message.
That message is that this sin will not be atoned for. What sin? Their self-confidence and false confidence, their rejection of God’s promise of protection, and His fidelity to His covenant with His people. This sin stretched over generations in the face of the many appeals of God’s prophets. They would bear the horrible consequences themselves. It is true that God is a God of mercy, yet He has no obligation to show mercy to anyone (Romans 9:14-18). His appeals were to people to repent so they could have mercy. They rejected mercy and God left them in their unrepentant state. He may extend or withhold grace; He always exercises justice. I will never say God showed me grace because I repented. That is backwards; I repented because God showed me grace. Otherwise I would be right in there with the unrepentant ones we read about in Isaiah 22.
Sin not atoned for, is a simple way to say it will not be forgiven. There is an unbreakable link between atonement and forgiveness. Not all sin is atoned for according to v.14. Had it been atoned for by the sacrifice of Christ, they would not have endured the wrath of God. His wrath cannot fall on the Redeemer and also on the sinner for whom atonement was made.
Isaiah says, “the Lord, the LORD Almighty”. This precise combination appears 4 times here and 4 times in chapter 10 (plus 1:24; 3:1,15; 19:4; 28:22). Lord (Adonai) shows He is sovereign; only persons in authority are called Adonai. LORD is His name Yahweh, the Lord who saves and redeems, the covenant keeping faithful One. Almighty is used to translate ‘of hosts’, or ‘of armies’; a word stressing His power. This is the Lord, the LORD Almighty they refused to trust and obey.
22:15-19 Shebna has power; he is in charge of the palace. The question, “What are you doing here?” (like v.1) is derogatory. Shebna wanted a royal tomb to show his prominence. In life he rode in splendid chariots, but the Lord would depose him from his lofty office. Instead of a grand tomb his corpse would be thrown off in some unknown place. It would not be surprising if Shebna had coveted the throne – one to which, in God’s covenant with David, he had no right. Shebna coveted position and possessions. He is called a disgrace to his master’s house.
22:20-25 Eliakim is not a disgrace like Shebna, but
an honor! (v.23). It was God who gave him position; he did not seize it for
himself. God invested him with the insignia of office. He would be respected as a father to those
who live in
Why the big disappointment? God had given Eliakim position, making him a peg in a firm place. The glory of his family rested on him. The picture is of all these breakable dishes hanging on this peg. It will break, sheared off “in that day”. It is easier to see that God puts down the proud Shebna, but God also frustrates faith being placed in a faithful man like Eliakim. Only God is our refuge and strength; all other trusts, even in the best of men, will crumble.
23:4,5 The sea speaks; it has no children
any more to sail on it from
23:6-9 To cross over is to flee as refugees where once they traveled for trade. The lively world-class city that once set up colonies and princes has been brought low by the Lord. He humbles all the famous of the earth.
23:10-12 With Tyre gone Tarshish would be free to do
as it pleases. God has stretched out His hand to make kingdoms tremble. This oracle is about
23:12b-13 Refugees will not be very welcome in
23:14 Tarshish had freedom from
A very sudden change of theme happens. (Isaiah does this
many times.) It appears that
The profit of prostitution cannot be given to the Lord
(Deuteronomy 23:18). Since her profits
will be set apart for the Lord according to v.18, this prophecy must have in
mind a wonderful change.
This is one more indication that the salvation of the Lord will extend to the nations. This theme came up in chapter 2 and keeps being repeated.
The glory and honor of nations like