Notes on Isaiah 22
David H. Linden University Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces, NM
Background To interpret this chapter properly, we need
to settle the situation the prophet spoke about. His oracle was not completely obvious.
There was revelry over something, and Isaiah indicated there should not be. The
vision foresaw the walls of
22:1 The sense is “what
do you mean by this?” There is a strange
disconnect here as a party atmosphere is joined to a scene of death. These
things do not fit together and that is the point Isaiah is making. Their celebrating on a rooftop will end in
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). This shows a city under siege. Rather than being defeated after
putting up a fight, they simply capitulated and were slaughtered. Their king
fled, but the Babylonians chased and caught him (2 Kings 25:1-7). This detail makes it clear that the oracle looked
ahead to the time when
22:4 The prophet saw
what was coming, and it was the prophet who took it seriously. Those who are full
of gaiety have no reason for their revelry. Disaster was ahead. If any would
believe the prophet, they too would cease their revelry and repent. Everything
hangs on whether the Word of the Lord is being received and believed. For
Isaiah this was so painful, he told 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 gives a different perspective on what makes for good news or bad. Isaiah
knew of the destruction of ‘the daughter of my people’. Such language fits the
In his vision Isaiah saw the valleys beside
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 spring outside
The defenses of
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 remorse for their sin. Instead they gave themselves to revelry, an important theme in this oracle! Not seeing that their world would crumble, instead of turning to the Lord in godly sorrow, they sought all the pleasure they could squeeze out of life. The phrase words “eat, drink and be merry” (See 1 Corinthians 15:32), are a fitting description of Western decadence. Their misplaced trust let them down but when the results came in and destruction was imminent, they still do 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 could then say “tomorrow we die”. They were godless to the end and “refused to repent” as in Revelation 16:9. God had obviously called Isaiah to preach to hardened rejecters of God’s word (6:9,10).
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 does not originates in the mind of a true prophet. Its origin is God (2 Peter 1:20,21). And so here in v.14, Isaiah speaks of the source of his message.
That message was that this sin will not be atoned for. What sin?: their self-confidence, false confidence, and 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. So 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. 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. We never say God showed us grace because we repented. That is backwards; we repented because God showed us grace. Otherwise we 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 connects to ‘of hosts’, or ‘of armies’; a word stressing His power. This is the Lord, the LORD Almighty they refused to trust and obey.
This is the
only time an oracle is about individuals; these men are mentioned also in
36:3,11 and 37:2. Shebna was a
self-serving, self-confident man, who as an individual characterized the sin
characterized in the oracle of the
22:15-19 Shebna had power; he was in charge of the palace. The question, “What are you doing here?” like v.1 is derogatory. Shebna even wanted to have a king’s tomb so he could parade his prominence. In life, he rode in splendid chariots, but the Lord would depose him from his lofty office. Instead of a grand tomb he would be thrown far away to some unknown place. It would not be surprising if Shebna had coveted the throne, one to which in God’s covenant with David Shebna had no right. He coveted position and possessions, and was a disgrace to his master’s house.
Eliakim, however, was not a disgrace like Shebna, but an honor! (v.23).
God gave him position; he did not seize it for himself. God invested him with
the insignia of office, the special clothes of Shebna. He would be respected as a father to those who
Rather than being a disgrace and a competitor to the house of David, Eliakim was given such rank to serve it that he has the key to the house of David. He knew his place and wielded authority properly.
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 a peg. Yet it will break, sheared off “in that day”. It is easier to see why God puts down the proud Shebna, but God also frustrates faith being placed in a faithful man like Eliakim. Only God, and God alone, is our refuge and strength, and worthy of all trust. All other trusts, even in the very best of men, will crumble.