Isaiah Chapter 22 Notes

Isaiah Ch 22 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Some notes on Isaiah 22…

vs. 1-2: Oxford describes this behavior as “misplaced rejoicing…perhaps after the withdrawal of Sennacherib’s army in 701 [B.C.].”  Barnes, however, describes the behavior as that of a city in fear.  I agree with Barnes and would paraphrase these verses with a slightly sarcastic tone as, “What’s the matter?  What are you so afraid of that you run to the rooftops in terror?  I thought you were a proud city, full of self-confidence and exultation.”

v. 3: Barnes seemed inclined to believe this prophecy refers to Sennacherib’s invasion, so I guess that he believed these events took place at that time.  Oxford presumably places the events of this verse after the withdrawal of Sennacherib’s army but does not explain what would be responsible for destroying the cowardly Jewish rulers after the Assyrian retreat.

v. 5: This verse could be used to argue against the claim that these events take place during the Assyrian invasion; it reads, “in the valley of vision [Jerusalem] a battering down of walls,” but there is no record that the Assyrians battered down any section of the walls of Jerusalem.  Indeed, they never even properly laid siege to the city. (See 2nd Kings notes for mychronological summary of Hezekiah’s reign.  See also 2nd Kings 19:32-34 where God announces that Assyria will not be permitted to attack Jerusalem at all.)  I suppose, however, that this “battering down of walls” could be a poetic way of announcing that war would threaten Jerusalem via the Assyrians, but this seems like a stretch to me.

v. 6: Nevertheless, there are several reasons to agree with Barnes’ claim that the events of this prophecy take place during the Assyrian invasion.  This verse is one reason.  Elam, which both the Oxford Commentary (Isaiah 11:11) and Barnes (365) identify with Persia, is attacking Judah in this verse, but I do not believe that the Persians, as an independent power, ever attacked Judah; they simply inherited it from the Babylonians as a result of the Persian conquest of Babylon.  Barnes, however, citing 2nd Kings 16:9 and 17:6, claims that the Persians and Medes were subject to Assyria during the time of the Assyrian invasion of Judah; thus, they could be present in the Assyrian army as conscripts (365).

v. 8: The tense of the verses in this chapter confuses their exact reference for me.  Verse 5 says the Lord “hasa day” (present tense), but verse 8 says, “On that day you [the Jews]looked,” (past tense).  Either “the day” of v. 5 refers to some future punishment (perhaps the same punishment referred to in v. 14) or “the day” of v. 5 is the same as that of v. 8 and the references to time are blurred, perhaps as a literary device of some type and/or as a result of the prophet’s supernatural experience of time. It may also be like when we tell others about a dream we have had.  Often we use the past tense to refer to the events of the dream simply because we had the dream in the past tense.  However, if our dream were a prophecy of the future, then the use of the past tense could be a little misleading.[1]

The description of Judah’s actions given from this verse through verse 11 is an undeniable reference to the time of the Assyrian invasion (described in detail in Isaiah 36-37, 2ndChronicles 32, 2nd Kings 18-19); it is the primary reason I am willing to believe the rest of the prophecy in this chapter also refers to those events.

Vs. 12-14: The call to repentance in these verses may have been directed toward the Assyrians or toward the Jews.[2] If the latter is true, and this is still a description of the events of the Assyrian invasion, then these verses depict the Jewish attitude toward that invasion in a way that is not included in any other biblical account.  (See Isaiah 36-37, 2nd Chronicles 32, and 2ndKings 18-19.)  On the contrary, in these other accounts the Jews are fearful and show no sign whatsoever of the sort of shallow, cavalier fatalism of v. 13.

I do not agree with it, but the Oxford Commentary suggests that these verses describe the Jewish attitude after the events after the Babylonian Captivity.[3] If they do, however, I do not understand why the prophet (or later compiler/editor of the prophecies) would mix up the historical references like that.  It seems like there should be some continuity (either historical or thematic) to the prophecy; maybe there is and I am simply missing it.

v. 15: A Shebna is mentioned in Isaiah 36-37 and in 2nd Kings 18-19, which are narratives of the Assyrian invasion.  Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, is also mentioned in these same narratives.  Therefore, I believe this verse and those following (Isaiah 22:15-25) are another historical reference to the time of the Assyrian invasion.

Shebna’s notable sins were pride and presumption, but these were probably not his only sins:  Barnes notes that Jewish tradition claims that Shebna planned to betray the Jews to the Assyrians (371).

v. 25: Barnes believes this peg refers back to Shebna.  I agree with him because it makes more sense to see this as another reference to Shebna than as an abrupt, unexplained and disconnected, one-verse prophecy of Eliakim’s future punishment.

[1] See also notes on 3:4 and 43:3.

[2] The fatalism of v. 13 could describe soldiers, whose lives are constantly at risk in war, and it could also describe the people of Jerusalem as they anticipated their deaths in a siege.

[3] I disagree because the attitude of v. 13 seems more like the sort of thing (ungrateful fatalism) that the prophet would point to as a reason for the punishment of the Babylonian Captivity, not a result of it.


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