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KD Old Testament Lesson 37: Isaiah 22

Posted by Karl D. on September 21, 2010

Gospel Doctrine
Lesson: Isaiah (#37)
Reading: Isaiah 22,24-26,28-30

PDF Version of Notes

1 Approach

These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.

2 Introduction

2.1 A Theme Revisited

I was tempted to start my notes with chapter 24, but I decided not to after rereading chapter 22. The thing that jumped out was how Isaianic themes manifest themselves in chapter 22.

For example, I think an important theme of Isaiah is that Israel needs to learn how to be a servant. Israel and Jerusalem must relearn this role. It is not a new role for Israel but rather the typical role applied to a changing national status. The LORD will teach Israel to be a servant one way or another. This theme in Isaiah always reminds me of the words of Alma to the impoverished Zoramites (Alma 34:12-13):

(12) I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. (13) And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and bendureth to the end the same shall be saved.

  • Do you think the situation of Israel during this historical period is comparable? In what ways is there overlap? What are the important differences?
  • Can you think of stories or parts of the Old or New Testament that emphasize the importance of Israel being a servant?
  • Does Israel often triumph through servitude?

2.2 Background for Chapter 22

My reading of the literature is that the majority of scholars believe that the historical backdrop for this chapter is the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. Remember, Hezekiah rebels against the Assyrians in 705 BCE and Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, responds to the rebellion by conquering everything but Jerusalem. To avoid conquest of Jerusalem Hezekiah agrees to pay tribute.1

Some scholars believe that the situation in 701 BCE doesn’t entirely fit the details of chapter 22. John Oswalt, in the New International Commentary, argues for a slightly earlier situation:2

However, one or two elements suggest that some other event is in focus … There is no indication in this chapter that a siege had been undertaken; the enemy is not surrounding the city … Finally, Eliakim, not Shebna, was steward in 701 (2 K. 18:37). Thus it may be that the event referred to had occurred during Sargon’s attack on Ashdod in 711. On balance, the latter position seems more likely. The Assyrian army took Azekiah, which certainly must have looked ominous to the Judeans, but then left. What a cause for rejoicing and revelry: “Isaiah was wrong. Babylon was right. We need not fear Assyria.”

3 Valley of Vision

3.1 Valley of Vision and Mount Zion

Read Isaiah 22:1 (first sentence):

1 The burden of the valley of vision.

1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision (NRSV)

The first question the may come to mind is (1) what is the “valley of vision?”

  • Well the title of this pronouncement or revelation by Isaiah appears to come from verse 5:

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.

  • Since the revelation talks mostly about Jerusalem it seems likely that Jerusalem is being called the “valley of vision.”
  • Does it seem strange to call something the “valley of vision?” Could the designation be sarcastic?
  • Suppose Jerusalem is the “valley of vision.” Is this meant as a direct contrast to Jerusalem’s usual or at least more common title of “Mount Zion?”
  • Suppose Isaiah is trying to contrast “valley of vision” with “Mount Zion.” What does this contrast convey to you? What things or ideas does it make you think about?

3.2 Looked Unto the Maker

We get some explanation of the situation in verses 8-11 so I want to skip to those verses first. I think it helps to have these verses in mind when one dives into the chapter:

8 And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. 9 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. 10 And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. 11 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.

  • The House of the Forest is probably an armory and its name comes from the cedar columns that supported it (1 Kings 7:2-5, 10:17)3
  • Do verses 8-11 give us insight into what Jerusalem is doing wrong? Why they are condemned?
  • Is there anything surprising about these verses?
  • Don’t the Kings actions seem pretty sensible here? Why are these actions condemned so harshly?

4 What is Wrong With You?

Read Isaiah 22:1-4:

(1) The burden of the valley of vision.
What aileth thee now,
that thou art wholly gone up
to the housetops?

(2) 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.

(3) 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.

(4) 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.

4.1 Shouting

What is going on in verses 1-2? What are the people doing? look at the language:

What aileth thee now,
that thou art wholly gone up
to the housetops?

(2) Thou that art full of stirs,
a tumultuous city, a joyous city:

  • Notice the parallel structure. How does the parallel structure both intensify and clarify?
  • It appears that the people went up literally to the housetops but is Isaiah condemning them for physically going up to the housetops? What are they likely doing on the flat rooftops? Could going up to the housetops be the wrong thing to do in this situation? Or is “going up” a metaphor?
  • Why are the people shouting? Why is the city both tumultuous and exultant at the same time? What does the parallelism tell us about the nature of the people’s joy?

Take a look at the second half of verse 2:

Your slain are not slain by the sword,
nor are they dead in battle.

  • What is going on here? Could this be a literal description of what happened to the city’s residents? Have people in Jerusalem died yet or is it being used metaphorically?
  • How could the people actually die if they didn’t die in battle?

Do the followup lines in verse 3 shed light on the situation described in the first two verses?

Your rulers have all fled together;
they were captured without the use of a bow.

All of you who were found were captured
though they had fled far away

It seems to suggest betrayal and desertion. Jerusalem has been betrayed by its leaders and deserted by its army. Their policies are flawed and their behavor corrupt. Jerusalem believes they will be delivered from the Assyrian siege. But this is not God’s deliverance or redemption. Jerusalem does not understand how they will be saved, and the nationalistic fervor of verse 1 shows how much Israel does not understand the LORD’s plan.

4.2 Let Me Weep Bitter Tears

Let’s take a closer look at verse 4:

Therefore I said:
Look away from me,
let me weep bitter tears;

do not try to comfort me
for the destruction of my people.

  • Who is speaking in verse 4? Is the identity of the speaker ambiguous? Have we shifted from the Lord speaking to someone else?
  • Suppose Isaiah is speaking. In that case we have a contrast between the people of the city trying to escape from the reality of the situation (through a bit of partying) and Isaiah resolutely refusing to do the same. Can we learn anything from this contrast?

5 Foreign Armies

Read Isaiah 22:5-8 (up to the first comma):

(5) 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.

(6) And Elam bare the quiver with
chariots of men and horsemen,
and Kir uncovered the shield.

(7) 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.
(8) And he discovered the covering of Judah,

  • Elam and Kir refer to foreign countries but not necessarily countries that were likely attacking Judah (at least if a date around 700 BCE is appropriate for this chapter).4 These countries are more likely to have been involved in a siege of Jerusalem if were the Babylonians attacking (as they did much later). Mentioning Elam does specifically link these verses with chapter 21 which is a revelation regrading Babylon, the desert of the sea (see 21:2). At the very least the imagery here emphasizes Jerusalem being surrounded and attacked by an international force.
  • Judah’s covering was its circle of border fort-cities.5 They have been smashed (discovered) and now Jerusalem is exposed (uncovered).
  • Do you see any important themes in these verses? Big themes that show up in all of Isaiah?
  • Well, the idea of The Day of the LORD shows up throughout Isaiah. We usually think of this as a future event but here it is connected with something that has already happened: the crushing of Judah’s borders. Why is the day of the LORD connected with the destruction of Judah’s border? What do they have in common?
  • Do you think these verses are telling Israel that they must be conquered and become servants? Is that what makes the destruction of Judah’s border part of the Day of the Lord?
  • “Crying to the mountains?” Who is crying and what does it mean to cry to the mountains?

6 Tomorrow We die

Read Isaiah 22:8-14

8 And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. 9 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. 10 And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. 11 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.

12 And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping,
and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:

13 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.

14 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.

  • Modernize the situation here. What do you think the modern equivalent to this situation would be? Is it an expected nuclear attack?6
  • How are verses 12 and 13 related to each other? What are we supposed to learn from the contrast of the Lord’s/prophet’s plan and the people’s response to the plan?
  • Is there anything ironic about the fact that the reaction of the people to this situation is to kill their cattle?
  • Do these verses remind you of the story of Jonah?
  • What do these verses tell us about how Jerusalem should behave toward Assyria?
  • Why is submitting or humbling oneself linked with piety? With worship? With the symbols of the covenant?

7 Isaiah Gets Personal

Read Isiah 22:15-19

15 Thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say, 16 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? 17 Behold, the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee. 18 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. 19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.

  • Modern translations don’t use treasurer here: steward (of the palace) is more common. Is this an important position? Yes, it is pretty similar to Joseph’s position while in Egypt. Some commentators have suggested that the position is most like that of prime minister.
  • What do you think of the organization of the whole chapter? It moves from the aggregate level to the individual level in these last 11 verses. Does that make the overall message here more powerful? Do these verses help explain the behavior of the people in the first 14 verses?
  • Why is Shebna condemned? Are you surprised the LORD is upset over this in light of Genesis 23 where Abraham goes out of his way to obtain a burial place?
  • Suppose it is a matter timing. I think it suggests lack of caring by the leaders of Jerusalem. Shebna is more concerned with completing his super nice mausoleum than leading the people. It strikes me as a pretty ironic imagery as well: “Nero fiddled while Rome burned?”
  • Does the super nice mausoleum suggest a particularly foreign influence? Does Shebna represent a flawed foreign policy that looks to Egypt rather than Jehovah? Is this a link with Isaiah 20?

8 Eliakim

Read 22:2-25:

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hulk: 21 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. 22 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. 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. 24 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. 25 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.

  • These verses contain imagery that is familiar and is usually viewed messianically by most Christians. However, let’s try to understand how the imagery is used in the situation at hand. Ultimately, maybe that will help us understand better or give us a better appreciation for the Messianic imagery.
  • Notice how Eliakim is addressed by Lord compared to Shebna. Eliakim is call “my servant.” Is this important?
  • Eliakim is also told he “shall be a father to Jerusalem.” Does the combination of servant and father here provide context for the kind of leadership that the Lord wants for Judah and why he is so angry with Shebna?
  • Why is Eliakim called the “nail in the sure place?” What is the metaphor here in the context of Eliakim?
  • Is the idea in the context of Eliakim that he will be able to bear heavy weight or burdens safely and securely? Could the nail be a tent peg in the context of Eliakim? If so, explain the metaphor. Does the metaphor suggest that ultimately it is inevitable that Eliakim fails?
  • Will Eliakim be different than Shebna? Is Eliakim viewed positively or negatively in verse 25? Are you surprised that the tone reverses so quickly in verse 25?
  • Does it make sense that Eliakim will ultimately fail as a leader? Do the first 14 verses of this chapter help us understand why Eliakim success will be temporary? Is this an applicable message to us today in our leadership roles?
  • What is the burden that will be cut off of Eliakim?
  • Is verse 24 actually speaking positively of Eliakim given verse 25?

Footnotes:

1 New Oxford Annotated Bible

2 Oswalt, John N., 1986, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39, Eerdmans, 407-408.

3 Blenkinsopp, Joseph, 2000, Isaiah 1-39: A New Translation and Commentary, Doubleday, 333-334.

4 Oswalt, John N., 1986, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39, Eerdmans, 407-408.

5 Watts, John D.W., 1985, Isaiah 1-33, Word Books, 281.

6 Oswalt, John N., 1986, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters Isaiah 1-39, Eerdmans, 414.

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