Isaiah 22 divides best into two parts: Isaiah 22:1-14 and Isaiah 22:15-25. Both parts concern Jerusalem and Judea, but the time frames are different. The first division occurs just over one hundred years after the second
I. Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and Exile
CLUES that Reveal Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerns Babylon
Isaiah 22:2 … your slain are not slain with swords, nor are your dead those who have died in battle. 3 All your princes have fled, and your captives are tightly bound, and the mighty men in you have fled far away. (CAB, LXE)
- 2 Kings 25 describes the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 4 describes how the “whole army ran away at night…Zedekiah [the king] and his men ran toward the Jordan Valley.” There, abandoned by his scattered army, the hostile forces captured the king and took him bound to Babylon. He spent the remainder of his life a prisoner there. Nebuzaradan (Nebuchadnezzar’s commander) took captive nearly everyone else, as well. A few years later, 2 Kings 25:26 describes how “all the people [who were left behind after the first wave of captivity], from the least important to the most important, ran away to Egypt. The army leaders also went. This was because they were afraid of the Babylonians.” (ICB)
Isaiah 22:6 And the Elamites took their quivers, and there were men mounted on horses, and there was a gathering for battle.
- The World History Encyclopedia tells how Elam cooperated with the Medes and the Babylonians to dismantle the former Assyrian Empire (Elam – World History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu)). This occurred during the approximate time period when Babylon conquered Judea.
Isaiah 22:4 Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (ESV)
- The Babylonian invasion was the first successful invasion of Jerusalem since King David established the city and Solomon built the temple. The Assyrians, a century before, turned back at the outer wall and were miraculously destroyed (2 Kings 19:35-36). This passage does not describe that event.
- The phrase “daughter of my people” also reveals the time frame toward which Isaiah’s prophecy was aimed: that is, the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. The reasoning follows. First, this phrase occurs 13 times in all of Scripture. We see it once in Isaiah 22:4, seven times in Jeremiah, and five times in Lamentations (also written by Jeremiah). Second, each and every occurrence refers to the wounding, chastisement, or destruction of this daughter. Finally, Jeremiah 1:1-3 defines the time during which Jeremiah prophesied to be a good 80 years after Isaiah and up until the captivity of Jerusalem. This use of language supports the reckoning that Isaiah 22:1-14 refers to the Babylonian invasion, rather than the Assyrian.
Isaiah 22:12 And the Lord, the Lord of hosts, called in that day for weeping, and lamentation, and baldness, and for girding with sackcloth; 13 but they engaged in joy and gladness, slaying calves, and killing sheep, so as to eat flesh, and drink wine; saying, Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. (CAB, LXE)
- Verses 12-13 describe behaviors that are opposite those of King Hezekiah and the people under his leadership during the Assyrian military challenge. Hezekiah responded to the insulting words of Assyria’s Rabshakeh with tears, lamentation, prayer, and a petition to Isaiah, God’s prophet, for help (2 Kings 18:3, 5, 19 and forward, 36; 19:1-2). Israel’s response to the Babylonians, however, was entirely different (see 2 Kings 24-25). This first portion of Isaiah 22 prophesies the Babylonian attack, not the Assyrian.
Isaiah’s text reveals how greatly God loved Jerusalem and Judea. While Jeremiah claims the title, “The Weeping Prophet,” Isaiah, and God through him, weeps in this portion.
First, in verse 4 above, Isaiah cries out, “Let me alone, I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me for the breach of the daughter of my people.” (Brenton, LXE). This is the only place in all of Isaiah in which the prophet refers to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people.” The word “daughter” is used several times in the phrase “daughter of Zion,” but never, except here, the “daughter of my people.” This is very personal to Isaiah and to God. This is his child.
Second, having just spoken of Jerusalem as the daughter of his people, Isaiah twice uses the word “uncover.” In verse 8 of the Septuagint he writes, “they shall uncover the gates of Juda, and they shall look in that day on the choice houses of the city.” Again in verse 9, he says, “And they shall uncover the secret places of the houses of the citadel of David.” In good times, these things ought not to be. There is great shame here. Neither Isaiah nor God are exulting in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem the city, its people, and its temple, once the house of worship of God Almighty.
In Isaiah 22:11, God uncovers his own heart, and the ears of faith can hear the anguish in the voice that cries out–
And ye procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool: but ye looked not to him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not him that created it. (Isaiah 22:11 LXE)
This verse needs some explaining. Approximately 100 years earlier, Assyria came very close to overwhelming Jerusalem. 2 Kings 20:20 records how King Hezekiah had altered the water conduits that fed the city. He had blocked off the spring located outside the city wall. He dug a tunnel through rock and channeled this water into the city. He did this to withstand the privation a prolonged siege would cause. The tunnel is accessible in Jerusalem to this day. Isaiah 22:9 also mentions Hezekiah’s tunnel, “… one had turned the water of the old pool into the city;” This had been an amazing feat of engineering and a wonderful thing to do.
King Hezekiah was one of Judah’s few good kings. He followed the Lord’s commands diligently and loved him. He did turn to the Lord. He himself prayed, and he also called upon Isaiah, as the Lord’s prophet, for help.
However, during the days of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, no one remained who called upon the Lord’s name. Verse 11 makes reference to how they gladly relied upon the water from the ancient pool (King Hezekiah’s conduit). But they failed to call upon the eternal God. God had helped Hezekiah mightily. And more than that, God is he who exists from the beginning. He created the water. God does not begrudge them their water. But, the people should not have neglected to call upon God. God made the water in the first place and helped King Hezekiah build the conduit that carried it. It’s about gladly using the blessings of God but failing even to acknowledge the giver.
This verse mostly emphasizes how God desires relationship with his people. Isaiah describes Israel as God’s beloved vineyard and his people God’s choice vines (Isaiah 5:1-4). He refers to Israel as his God’s wife (Isaiah 54:6; see also Jeremiah 3:20). It’s the heart of faith, not imagination, that hears the anguished cries of a spurned lover in Isaiah 22:11. The verses following expound the depth of disappointment in God’s heart concerning his people.
Isaiah 22:12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!” 14 The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (NIV)
It wasn’t just anyone whom Judah had spurned. It was the Lord, the Lord of hosts (LXE), the Lord Almighty. He greatly desired that they would recognize their tragedy and call upon him in repentance and for help. But they would not. Instead, they pretended that God did not even exist.
This is the end. God’s patience has run out. “‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 22:14; See also 2 Kings 24:20a, “… he finally threw them out of his presence.” NET).
This is the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonians killed many, but spared those taken into captivity (Revelation 13:10).
… for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (Isaiah 22:14 CAB, LXE)
- The first division ends with the words above. They speak of lack of forgiveness and death. Although God had exercised extreme and extended patience with his people, it was time to move on. The next division is considered by many to be a messianic passage. What Israel failed to do for itself, God will do for them.
- God initially called his people through Abraham, Israel’s first father. Abraham was born in Ur (Genesis 15:7). The map shows that Ur lies to the southeast of Babylon. Haran, where Abraham’s father had settled on his way to Canaan, lies to the northwest (Genesis 11:31). Babylon lies in the middle.
Notice how God sent his people back to their point of origin. It’s as though he were saying, “Let’s start this all over again.”
- The captivity marks God’s second great judgmental destruction. The first was the flood in Noah’s day. That flood took humanity back to its beginnings. By choosing a special people, God limited the scope of his second judgment. But he took those people back to the beginning, as well.
- Isaiah prophesies a third and final judgment (Isaiah 24). This last judgment will be the final judgment of the entire world.
- Between the record of the second and third judgments, that of Israel God’s special people (Isaiah 22:1-14) and the judgment of the whole world (Isaiah 24), God speaks of his answer to the sinfulness of all people. He shall appoint the one who holds “the key to the house of David,” (Isaiah 22:22).
II. Shebna and Eliakim during Hezekiah’s Reign–To Be Continued